These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century - We Are The Mighty
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These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century

Today’s most sophisticated aircraft are like something out of science fiction.


In a few years, drones that can fit in the palm of a person’s hand and 117-foot-wingspan behemoths capable of launching satellites into space will both be a reality.

At the same time, drone and advanced-fighter technologies will spread beyond the US and Europe, and countries including China, Russia, and Iran will have even more highly advanced aerial capabilities.

Here’s our look at the most game-changing aircraft of the past few years — and the next few to come.

F-35 Lightning II

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: Lockheed Martin

The F-35 program may cost as much as $1.5 trillion over its lifetime. But the fifth-generation fighter jet is also supposed to be the most fearsome military aircraft ever built, a plane that can dogfight, provide close air support, and carry out bombing runs, all with stealth capabilities, a high degree of maneuverability, and the ability to take off and land on aircraft carriers.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way so far, and problems with everything from the plane’s software system to its engines has both delayed its deployment and contributed to its astronomical price tag. And it isn’t nearly as effective in some of its roles as existing aircraft. For instance, the F-35 is notably worse at close air support than the A-10, which is slated for retirement.

But the US has more than 1,700 F-35s on order. Like it or not, the F-35 will be the US’ workhorse warplane for decades to come.

F-22 Raptor

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: Staff Sgt. Jim Araos/USAF

The predecessor to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II is the single-seat, twin-engine F-22 Raptor, currently the most advanced combat-ready jet on earth.

The US is the only country in the world that flies the F-22s thanks to a federal law that prohibits the jet from being exported. Lockheed Martin built 195 F-22s before the last one was delivered to the US Air Force in May 2012.

Despite the program’s cost and the jet’s advanced features, it saw combat for the first time relatively recently, during the opening phase of the bombing campaign against the Islamic State in late 2014.

T-50

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Photo: Wikipedia/Alex Beltyukov

Russia’s Su-50, also known under the prototype name of the T-50 PAK-FA, is the Kremlin’s fifth-generation fighter and Russia’s response to the F-35.

Though still in prototype, Moscow thinks the Su-50 will ultimately be able to outperform the F-35 on key metrics including speed and maneuverability. The stealth capabilities of the Su-50, however, are believed to be below those of the F-22 and the F-35.

The Kremlin plans to introduce the Su-50 into service by 2016. Once the plane is combat-ready, it will serve as a base model for the construction of further variants intended for export. India is already co-designing an Su-50 variant with Russia, and Iran and South Korea are possible candidates to buy future models of the plane.

Chengdu J-20

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: Alexandr Chechin/en.wikipedia.org

The Chengdu J-20, which is currently in development, is China’s second fifth-generation fighter and a potential strategic game changer in East Asia.

The J-20 bears striking resemblance to the F-35 because of Chinese reverse engineering and extensive theft of F-35-related data. Once completed, the J-20 will possess stealth capability along with the range needed to reach targets within Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam after taking off from mainland China.

As of January 2015, Beijing had developed six functional prototypes of the aircraft, with new prototypes being released at an increasingly quick pace. Production of the aircraft reportedly began in late 2015, and the final iteration of the aircraft is expected to be released and combat-ready sometime around 2018.

Eurofighter Typhoon

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: Peter Gronemann/Flickr

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine multirole fighter that was originally developed to be the Europe and NATO’s primary warplane.

The fighter jet is Europe’s largest military program and was started by Germany, Spain, Italy, and the UK.

In 2011 the Eurofighter was deployed to its first combat mission, to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya during the NATO bombing campaign in the country. There are 402 Eurofighter jets designed for the Austrian, Italian, German, Spanish, UK, Omani, and Saudi Air Forces.

The Eurofighter has been called Europe’s version of America’s most expensive weapons system, the F-35 Lightning II.

MG-X Silent Hawk

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Imagined model of the MH-X Silent Hawk from the set of Zero Dark Thirty. (Image: Zero Dark Thirty/Universal Pictures)

The military’s secret MH-X Silent Hawk program was publicly disclosed only after one of the helicopters crashed during the US Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 1, 2011.

It is unclear when the US Army Operations Security’s top-secret helicopter program began and how many of these stealthy aircraft are in service.

While the Silent Hawk appears to be a highly modified version of the widely known UH-60 Black Hawk, there are few unclassified details out there about this secret helicopter.

X-47B

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: Northrop Grumman

The Navy’s X-47B is a strike-fighter-size unmanned aircraft with the potential to change aerial warfare.

Northrop Grumman’s drone is capable of aerial refueling, 360-degree rolls, and offensive weapons deployment. It carried out the first autonomous aerial refueling in aviation history and has taken off from and landed on an aircraft carrier.

It cruises at half the speed of sound and has a wingspan of 62 feet — as well as a range of at least 2,400 miles, more than twice that of the Reaper drone.

Stratolaunch

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: Stratolaunch Systems

The Stratolaunch will be one of the most astounding planes ever built.

Now in construction, the plane will serve as a midair launch platform for vehicles that is capable of carrying satellites into orbit. The aircraft, whose 117-foot wingspan will be the largest of any plane ever built, will fly to an altitude of 30,000 feet and then angle upward before blasting its payload into space.

The plane would be a relatively cheap and reusable launch vehicle for satellites and has the potential to revolutionize how hardware and possibly even human beings can access orbital space. It could fly as early as 2016, although the project has faced some setbacks over the past year.

Here’s a video of how it’ll all work:.

X-37B

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Wikimedia Commons

The Air Force’s secretive space drone returned from a two-year mission in October of 2014. It wasn’t clear exactly what the X-37B was doing up there, but it was relaunched on May 20, 2015 for another extended stint in orbit.

With the X-37B, the Air Force essentially has a reusable satellite that it can control and call back to earth. The ability to re-equip an orbital platform for specific mission types gives the US military unprecedented flexibility in how it can use outer space — and its long periods in orbit and reusability are also just impressive engineering feats.

Nano Hummingbird

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Photo: Youtube

These tiny Darpa-developed surveillance drones could become future military staples. Small enough to evade enemy detection or fire, the Nano Hummingbird can fit in the palm of your hand and relay images and intelligence from the air.

Most surveillance drones, such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk, are large aircraft that fly at altitudes of 60,000 feet. Drones such as the Nano Hummingbird, which is light, stealthy, and easy to launch, could be a routine part of a future soldier’s inventory.

Watch it in action here:

Iran’s drones

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Image: IRNA

Iran has been under sanctions and a Western arms embargo for much of the past 30 years, something that has denied Tehran the chance to obtain high-quality European or American arms. But it has forced Iran to build its own domestic capabilities, and in 2013 Iran debuted an armed drone eerily similar to the US’ Reaper, called the Fotros.

It’s unclear whether the Fotros is battle-ready, but Iran and Hezbollah, Tehran’s proxy militia in Lebanon — along with the Sudanese military — already fly Iran’s Ababil-3 surveillance drone.

Iran’s drones aren’t game changers because of their high quality but because of what they represent: Even countries chafing under international sanctions can develop their own drone technology with enough patience and technological expertise. The Fotros and Ababil-3 suggest that an era of widespread drone proliferation is just around the corner.

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Get your tissues — The Rock just surprised a combat vet

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a big supporter of the troops, and this isn’t the first time he’s surprised a vet, but his sincerity and flare always make for a heart-catching watch.


He partnered with Ford to unveil the 2018 Ford Mustang, and he decided to take it one step further by giving the car to combat Army veteran Marlene Rodriguez, who earned the Purple Heart for injuries received from an RPG while serving in Mosul.

Her reaction was stunned as she said, “I don’t deserve all this.” Johnson replied with, “You deserve more,” and we all lost our sh**.

His Instagram caption of the reveal was perfect (including the emojis–we’ve kept them intact for you):

This one felt good. Very good. ?? Our Ford partners asked me to unveil the never seen before, brand new 2018 FORD MUSTANG to the world. As their Ambassador, I’m happy to do.

With a twist.

Myself and Ford compiled a big list of US veterans and from that list, I chose Army combat vet Purple Heart recipient, Marlene Rodriguez to surprise and give it away to her.

It was such a cool moment that all of us in the room will never forget.

When Marlene, stopped and just looked at me and asked “Why?”, well that’s when I may or may not have gotten a lil’ emotional with my answer – in a bad ass manly way of course.

Why? Because of the boundless gratitude and respect I have for you, Marlene and all our men and women who’ve served our country. Just a small way of myself and the good people of FORD of saying THANK YOU.

A HUGE thank you to FORD, our SEVEN BUCKS PRODUCTIONS and everyone who was involved in making this awesome surprise come true.

Finally, thank you FORD for making the new 2018 Mustang straight ?, completely customizable for the world to enjoy. Thanks also for making sure I fit in it as well.

Marlene, fits better. ?. Enjoy your ride mama. Enjoy that Dodger game. You deserve it. 

It’s okay if you get a little misty-eyed over this one. We did.

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China is exploiting weakness in the South China Sea with its deceptive ‘second navy’

A recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies exposed a troubling tactic used by China to harass and intimidate neighboring nations into steering clear of their unlawful claims to militarized islands in the South China Sea.


In short, China has turned their coast guard into a sort of paramilitary force, the largest of it’s kind in the world. In some cases, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels have simply been painted white and repurposed for maritime “law enforcement.”

Sometimes, the .50 caliber machine guns still hang over the sides of vessels once used for war and now used to intimidate neighboring nations.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
The crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell trains with the China coast guard. | US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Jonathan R. Cilley

But unlike military disputes, where internationally agreed-upon accords regulate standard operating procedures, these coast guard ships fall in a legal gray zone that China has come to exploit.

“What we have is a situation in East Asia where China in particular is not using naval vessels to intimidate, not using [traditional] force, but they’re taking actions that are below that line of triggering any kind of military confrontation, and yet intimidating other actors,” Bonnie Glasser, an expert on security in the Pacific from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider in a phone interview.

Glasser, who headed up the report on China’s coast guard, compiled 45 incidents in the South China Sea and found China’s coast guard involvement in two thirds of them.

But according to Glasser, “what we have been able to compile is just a fraction of the number of incidents in the South China Sea,” where China’s larger ships have repeatedly rammed, harassed, and used water cannons on fishing vessels from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and others.

“In my conversations in the Philippines — Chinese ramming of other ships is considered to be part of their acceptable rules of engagement. That’s just what they do,” said Glasser.

Nothing stopping them

Recently, China touted an agreement they reached with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on a Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), which provides a legal framework for how the navies of different nations should interact at sea.

According to Glasser, the legal framework marks a step in the right direction, but does nothing to stop the harassing actions of China’s coast guard, which operates as a navy in all but name. What’s more, the majority of signatories to the recent ASEAN CUES agreement had already signed a similar agreement in April 2014, rendering the agreement even more empty.

“China’s ASEAN CUES agreement is not new, and was already agreed upon. [Chinese state media] portrayed it as some breakthrough… Everyone is applauding, and it’s nice to have, but it doesn’t address the problem,” said Glasser. The real problem, of course, is that no meaningful laws regulate their paramilitary coast guard.

According to Glasser, there have been fatal incidents at sea, and not all involving China. Unlike in the Persian Gulf, where Business Insider previously reported that a hypothetically fatal incident between Iran and the US would touch off a major international incident, belligerent behavior like China’s is the norm in the South China Sea.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
A boarding team from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Haikou makes way toward the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche July, 16, 2014, during a Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. | U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery

Looming conflict

“China is building very large coast guard vessels,” and lots of them in a “quantity as well as quality” approach, said Glasser. The sheer size of the ships, usually weighing more than 1,000 tons, as well as the way they’re armed, make other nation’s law enforcement craft “pale in comparison.”

Essentially, the Chinese bully civilian craft with hulking boats that intimidate on sight. Only Japan even comes close to having the capability to defend itself, with 105,000 total tonnage of coast guard ships to China’s 190,000. But Glasser says that actual military capability should come second to infrastructure, in the form of internationally agreed-upon law.

“Putting in place acceptable procedures of behavior and other confidence building measures is the way to go, rather than everyone having the ships the size of China’s,” said Glasser, nodding to the potential arms race that could result from China’s unilateral military buildup.

Glasser suggests that extending CUES to coast guard ships, as well as naval ships, could be a good model going forward. US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly discussed this topic in a recent meeting.

But it’s hard to imagine China agreeing to something that would limit its influence. Japan recently loaned some ships to the Philippines to monitor the Scarborough Shoal, where China continues to visit despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling against their claims to the land mass.

China has completely ignored this ruling, and should they go as far as militarizing that shoal, which Obama has warned against, the US would be forced to act or risk losing all leverage in the region.

“Many different risks are posed if China goes ahead and develops the Scarborough Shoal… it would undermine US credibility, cause the Chinese to continue to test the US, and push forward a greater agenda of seeking control of the air and sea space,” Glasser said.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
US Senator Dan Sullivan

Furthermore, China undermining the US would cause “enormous anxiety in the region, with the US seen as weakening in it’s ability and will,” Glasser said.

“Reverberating effects, as well as security threats eventually posed by China having capability near main bases (the Subic Bay) would be a threat to the Philippines and the US.”

So for now, China has found a loophole in international law that allows its paramilitary “second navy” of a coast guard to muscle smaller nations out of their rightful claims. China has shown a persistent will to militarize and enforce its claims in the South China Sea. Unless the US, and its allies in the Pacific, can get China to agree to a legal framework, Beijing appears ready to continue pushing its claims by force.

There is a perceived weakness in the way international law is enforced at sea, and China is exploiting it handily. As Donald Rumsfeld said, “weakness is provocative.”

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Here’s what you didn’t know about the Queen’s Guards

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  If you’ve ever been to Buckingham Palace, you’ve probably noticed the armed guards wearing the bearskin caps standing sentry. These aren’t your average security guards roaming through shopping malls. They are Queen’s Guards and are fully-trained operational soldiers — and most have been deployed to combat zones.

The guards are hand picked from five different infantry regiments and identified by the various details of their uniform such as button spacing, color badges, and the plumes in the bearskin caps.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century

Since 1660, the guards have been responsible for protecting the British royal residents of St. James and Buckingham Palace.

Every morning at 11:30 during the summer and every other day during the winter, the changing of the guard commences in the forecourt of Buckingham.

During an hour long ceremony, the detachments slowly pass over the guard responsibilities to the incoming troops marching in from their barracks. While on duty, the guards may not eat, sleep, smoke, stand easy, sit or lay down during their shift.

Today, most sentry posts have been moved away from the public to avoid confrontation with curious tourists — the guards carry rifles with live ammunition.

Watch more Elite Forces:

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This is how Rome’s Praetorian Guard held so much power

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This is the legend of the Knights of the Round Table

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The Army is close to fielding a weapon sight straight out of science fiction

In the next 18 months or so, the Army expects to field two new systems to dismounted Soldiers that will allow for more rapid acquisition of targets, even those hidden by darkness, smoke, or fog.


First out of the gate will be the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III, expected to be fielded sometime between April and June of 2018. Shortly after, the Army hopes to field the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual, between January and March of 2019.

The FWS-I and ENVG III are unique in that the FWS-I, which would be mounted on a Soldier’s weapon, wirelessly transmits its sight picture to the ENVG III, which a Soldier wears on his helmet.

Additionally, the ENVG combines thermal imaging with more common night vision image intensification technology, which is recognizable by the green image it creates.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Photo from US Army

Under starlight, targets may blend in with the background. But with the thermal capability overlaid on night vision, targets can’t hide in smoke or fog. They “really pop out with that contrast,” said Dean Kissinger, an electronics engineer who is currently assigned to Program Product Manger Soldier Maneuver Sensors at Program Executive Office Soldier.

Lt. Col. Anthony Douglas, who serves as product manager for Soldier Maneuver Sensors at PEO Soldier, said the two sensors have benefits beyond helping dismounted Soldiers better visualize targets. By paring the two systems wirelessly — allowing what the weapon-mounted sight is seeing to be beamed directly to the Soldier’s eye — these systems also help the Soldier acquire a target faster.

Rapid Target Acquisition

“The capability gap that we were tasked with [closing] by developing this was the rapid target acquisition capability,” Douglas said. “We are allowing the Soldier to actually see what is on their weapons sight, saving them time from having to bring the weapon to his eye.”

Master Sgt. Lashon Wilson, the senior enlisted advisor for product manager Soldier Maneuver Sensors, explained how the system will work and make it easier for a Soldier to acquire a target.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Photo Credit: PEO Soldier

“This weapon-mounted system talks wirelessly to the smart battery pack that is on the Soldier’s head, that then transmits a signal to the ENVG III, which now displays a reticle onto the Soldier’s optic,” Wilson explained. “So now what this does is, while the Soldier is on patrol and he has his ENVG III on and he is looking, he has a greater field of view of what is going on in the battlefield.”

Soldiers wearing the ENVG III, which is mounted on their helmet, can choose to see both night-vision imagery and thermal imaging as well in their goggle. But they can also choose to see the image coming off the FWS-I that is mounted on their rifle.

A variety of modes allows Soldiers to see in their goggles only the image from the ENVG III itself, only the image from the FWS-I, or a combination of the two. Using a “picture-in-picture” mode, for instance, the image from their FWS-I is displayed at the bottom right of the image that is coming from the goggle.

In another mode, however, if the FWS-I on the rifle and the ENVG III on the Soldier’s helmet are both pointed in the same direction and seeing essentially the same thing, then the image from the FWS-I can project a reticle into the goggle. The Soldier can see the full image of what his goggle normally sees, but a circle representing the reticle from the FWS-I is overlaid onto that image, letting the Soldier know where his rifle is pointed. What this means is the Soldier doesn’t need to actually shoulder his weapon to acquire a target. That saves time for the Soldier in acquiring that target.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Army photo by Jalen Brown

“We are saving him three to five seconds, and increasing their situational awareness on the battlefield,” Douglas said.

Additionally, because the reticle is projected onto what the Soldier is already seeing in his goggle — a much wider view of his environment than what he would see if he looked through his rifle scope — he is able to acquire a target while maintaining situational awareness of what else is going on around him.

Steep Learning Curve

At Fort Belvoir, members of the press were allowed to shoot an M-4 rifle that was equipped with the FWS-I, while wearing a helmet equipped with the ENVG III.

Several man-shaped targets were spaced out in the firing lane, each equipped with thermal blankets to simulate body heat. A pair of fog machines simulated battlefield smoke to make it difficult to acquire those targets using only day optics. Using night vision goggles alone, some of the targets could not be seen. But when combined with the thermal imaging capabilities built into the ENVG III and FWS-I, those targets were easily visible.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Army photo by Jalen Brown

Using the system proved a bit challenging, however. When looking through the goggle, which was at one point displaying the image transmitted from the rifle-mounted FWS-I, it was hard to tell if it was the helmet that was crooked, the ENVG III that was crooked, or the shooter’s own head that wasn’t on quite straight.

“The gun is tilted,” Wilson confirmed. He served as a trainer for members of the press who were allowed to shoot.

Maj. Kevin Smith, who serves as the assistant product manager for FWS-I, said there is a “steep learning curve,” for the system.

“We just got through with the tests with the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado, back in June,” he said. “We only spent about 40 hours of in-classroom training. But we also spent about a week on the range or so. That’s where the Soldiers were really starting to get it and understand it and feel it, on the range.”

Smith said one such training event was held at Fort Carson, and two were held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
USMC photo by Cpl. AaronJames B. Vinculado

“Once they get comfortable with it, they really love it,” Smith said. “One Soldier, a noncommissioned officer who didn’t like it at first, later on during the last test we did, asked me when are we getting this fielded. He said he wanted it now. They want to take them to war and they want to use them.”

A Family of Sights

The soon-to-field FWS-I is meant for the M4 and M16 rifles, and can mount on those rifles in front of day sights that have already been bore-sighted, Kissinger said. What this means is that Soldiers can pop the FWS-I onto and off of their rifle without having to remove their day sights first.

The FWS-I will also work with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, and the M136 AT4 Light Anti-Tank Weapon.

Kissinger said the FWS-I actually provides capability to both light and medium weapons. In the past, there had been sights fielded for both types of weapons. Now that FWS-I provides capability to both, he said, there will be less variations in weapons sights, and a smaller logistics trail.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander

More capability is also coming to this “family” of weapons sights, Douglas said. There will be a crew-served variant and a sniper variant as well. Both are still under development, he said.

Both the FWS-I and the ENVG III are currently in low-rate initial production. The Army hopes to buy 36,000 of the FWS-I, and about 64,000 of the ENVG III, Smith said. He also said that the new gear is targeted squarely at dismounted Soldiers with infantry brigade combat teams and special operations forces.

For now, he said, he expects it will be squad leaders and two team leaders within a squad that might first see the FWS-I.

“This is a day or night capability,” Douglas said. “We’re talking about dismounted Soldiers who would use this. For our mounted soldiers, those on the Stryker or Bradleys … they do not operate without their thermal on all the time. So we are giving the dismounted Soldier the same capability the mounted Soldiers have.”

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The US military may soon get an R2-D2 of its own to help fix combat equipment

With the advent of “net-centric” warfare — highly-integrated and extremely complex next-generation aircraft, warships, and even infantry soldier systems — the US military has invested a good deal of effort into finding something that eases the workload and burden on troops tasked with maintaining these processes and systems, and fixes issues as they appear.


SparkCognition, a startup in Texas with a rapidly growing funding base and ties with big-name defense contractors like Boeing, aims to put a speedy end to this search with the development of an artificial intelligence “fixer” with a broad range of functions, from diagnosing complex issues with military hardware to preventing ships from colliding at sea.

Much like everybody’s favorite Star Wars robot mechanic, R2D2, this new AI system will be able to function on its own, learning the mechanical ins and outs of warships, fighter jets and everything in-between. When something goes wrong — a glitch, a software failure, or a hardware malfunction — the AI can pinpoint the exact problem, then direct maintainers and technicians on solving the issue at hand.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
R2D2 fixing a spaceship in Star Wars Episode I (Photo Star Wars via YouTube screengrab)

Pilots, don’t get your hopes up just yet… the AI probably won’t look anything like the beeping white and blue barrel on wheels from Star Wars, nor will it come with a cattle prod that can somehow do anything from fixing a busted spaceship to picking the lock on a door. And it definitely won’t slot into a compartment behind the cockpit of your aircraft to keep you company on extended sorties.

Instead, it’ll likely be a series of servers and computers that stream information from sensors planted at critical locations around vehicles and other machines, keeping a watchful eye out for any red alerts or potential causes for concern, and reporting it back to a centralized system overseen by a maintenance team.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
A group of USAF F-35As in formation near Hill AFB, Utah (Photo US Air Force)

The US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will soon begin fully fielding a far-less involved diagnostics system for the F-35 Lightning II stealth strike fighter known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System. ALIS, for short, is designed to give ground crews and support personnel a wide range of metrics and data on the functionality of the F-35.

If new parts are needed, or something is damaged, inoperable, etc., ALIS lets support crew know quickly and efficiently in order to keep the F-35 out of the hangars and in the skies.

SparkCognition hopes that they can also put their AI to sea with the Navy’s surface warfare fleet, especially aboard Littoral Combat Ships which have been experiencing a plethora of engineering troubles over the past few years. By observing and storing information on LCS powerplants, the AI would be able to accurately predict the failure of an engine component before it even happens, allowing for preventative maintenance to keep the ships combat-ready and deployable.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) pulls away from harbor in Singapore in 2016 (Photo US Navy)

Self-diagnosing and healing systems have already been predicted as an integral part of the future of military aviation, especially as the Air Force and Navy both look towards designing and developing a 6th generation fighter to begin replacing its current air superiority fleet some 15 to 20 years down the road.

By fielding AI systems and hardware which allow an aircraft to fix itself or re-optimize its configuration while in-flight after sustaining damage, fighters and other types with the technology built-in can remain on mission longer, or can promise a safe return of the pilots and other aircrew in the event that the aircraft needs to return to base. While we’re a ways off from these ultra-advanced systems, however, SparkCognition’s AI is still fairly achievable within the next five to seven years.

Let’s just hope that, should the DoD decide to pick up SparkCognition’s AI, it stays more like R2D2 and doesn’t turn into something along the lines of Skynet from the Terminator movies.

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These Afghan moms are taking up arms to fight the Taliban and ISIS

As radical terrorist groups continue to wreak havoc around Afghanistan, a group of women are taking up arms against them.


The Afghan National Police have resorted to arming and training local women to fight the Taliban and Islamic State militants. In many cases, the women had lost their sons, husbands, and other loved ones to the ongoing violence.

“If we fear [ISIS] and the Taliban today, our future will be ruined tomorrow,” one unnamed woman told Al Jazeera.

Female members of the Afghan National Police train the local women in small arms and basic tactics, specifically in the northern reaches of Afghanistan.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.

“Every week, around 40 or 50 people join,” said Najiba, a female police officer.

Some Afghans do not approve of women fighting in the army or police, but the increasingly desperate situation has forced the security forces to take desperate measures. Afghan forces only control or influence approximately 60 percent of the country’s districts, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

ISIS’s Afghan branch, known as Islamic State-Khorasan province, holds significantly less territory, but the group has been able to engage in several deadly terrorist attacks across the country.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.

“It’s been forced on us,” Gen. Rahmat of the Jowzjan province police told Al Jazeera in an interview. “It’s not a woman’s job to fight. But that’s the situation now. Women have joined the police and army, too.”

Fighting the Taliban and ISIS is a risky proposition for the women, but many see it as their duty. Sara Khala, one of the women training to fight the militants, lost her son to the Taliban, forcing her to care for his orphaned children.

“I have to take revenge for him,” she told Al-Jazeera. “I’ll cook dinner and give it to them. Then I’ll go wherever the Taliban and Daesh are. I’ll take my gun and fight them.”

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Global Strike Command marks Women’s History Month with all-female crews

On March 22, 2016, all of the United States’ alert intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) missileers and B-52 Stratofortress crews within the United States were crewed by women as part of Air Force Global Strike Command’s recognition of Women’s History Month.


These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century

Air Force Global Strike Command is the direct descendant unit of the Cold War-era Strategic Air Command (SAC). It holds the lineage, history and honors of SAC. Its mission is to develop and provide combat-ready forces for nuclear deterrence and global strike operations. The SAC was deactivated in 1992.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
All women missileer crews from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., gather for a pre-departure briefing before heading in the 13,800 square mile missile complex to complete their 24-hour alert. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Collin Schmidt)

Following two nuclear weapons-related incidents in 2007 , former Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger (who served under Presidents Nixon and Ford) recommended a single major command under which all Air Force nuclear assets should be placed for better accountability. That new command was the Air Force Global Strike Command.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Second Lt. Alexandra Rea, 490th Missile Squadron ICBM combat crew deputy director, left, and 1st Lt. Elizabeth Guidara, 12th Missile Squadron combat crew deputy director, perform training at the Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Building 500 Missile Procedures Trainer March, 21, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Collin Schmidt)

The Global Strike Command began operations in August 2009, combining the nuclear-capable strategic bomber force previously operated byAir Combat Command (ACC) and the land-based ICBM force previously operated by Air Force Space Command (AFSPC).

The all-female nuclear force is to honor Women’s History Month. 90 female missileers based out of Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming and Malmstrom AFB, Mont. completed a 24-hour alert. In addition, B-52 aircrews from Minot and Barksdale AFB, Louisiana participated by fielding all-female flight crews.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Second Lt. Alexandra Rea, 490th Missile Squadron ICBM combat crew deputy director, left, and 1st Lt. Elizabeth Guidara, 12th Missile Squadron combat crew deputy director, perform training at the Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Building 500 Missile Procedures Trainer March, 21, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Collin Schmidt)

During their assignment, the all-female crews of missileers maintained a 24-hour alert shift to sustain an active alert status of the U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile force.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
An all-female alert missile crew from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., poses for a photograph March 22, 2016, after a pre-departure briefing at the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Collin Schmidt)

 

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Ukraine rocket maker denies leaking know-how to North Korea

The head of Ukraine’s top rocket-making company on August 15 rejected claims that its technologies might have been shipped to North Korea, helping the pariah nation achieve a quantum leap in its missile program.


KB Yuzhnoye chief Alexander Degtyarev voiced confidence that employees haven’t been leaking know-how to Pyongyang, according to remarks published August 15 by the online site Strana.ua.

While denying any illicit technology transfers from the plant in the city of Dnipro, Degtyarev conceded the possibility that the plant’s products could have been copied.

“Our engines have been highly appraised and used around the world,” he said. “Maybe they have managed to build some copies somewhere.”

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile. Photo from KCNA

The New York Times reported August 14 that North Korea’s rapid progress in making ballistic missiles potentially capable of reaching the United States was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful rocket engines, probably from KB Yuzhnoye’s plant. Ukrainian officials angrily rejected the claim.

Pyongyang had displayed a keen interest in the plant before.

Degtyarev mentioned a 2011 incident, in which two North Koreans posing as trade representatives tried to steal technologies from the plant, but were arrested. In 2012, they were convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison each.

KB Yuzhnoye and its Yuzhmash plant in Dnipro has been a leading maker of intercontinental ballistic missiles since the 1950s and produced some of the most formidable weapons in the Soviet inventory.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Russian SS-18 ‘Satan.’ Photo by Clay Gilliland.

Its designs included the heavy R-36M, code-named Satan in the West, which is still the most powerful ICBM in the Russian nuclear arsenal.

After Ukraine shipped all Soviet-era nuclear weapons to Russia after the Soviet collapse under agreements brokered by the United States, the plant in Dnipro has relied on cooperation with Russia’s space program to stay afloat.

But the collaboration ended as the two ex-Soviet neighbors plunged into a bitter conflict. Moscow responded to the ouster of Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president in 2014 by annexing the Crimean Peninsula and supporting a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

The termination of ties with Moscow has left the Dnipro plant struggling to secure orders.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Heavy R-36M ‘Satan’ missile. Photo from Flickr user dmytrok

Earlier this summer, a report in Popular Mechanics alleged that the Chinese expressed interest in a propulsion module designed by KB Yuzhnoye for the Soviet lunar program.

KB Yuzhnoye angrily dismissed the claim, insisting that it hasn’t transferred any rocket technologies to China.

Despite official denials, Ukraine’s past record with the illicit transfer of sensitive technologies have raised concerns.

Shortly before the 2003 war in Iraq, the United States accused the Ukrainian government of selling sophisticated Kolchuga military radars to Saddam Hussein’s military.

Ukrainian officials acknowledged in 2005 that six Kh-55 Soviet-built cruise missiles were transferred to China in 2000 while another six were shipped to Iran in 2001.

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These 6 photos show how 21 countries invaded Jordan

The Eager Lion exercise doesn’t have the long history of Cobra Gold or Team Spirit, nor does it have the immense scale of RIMPAC. But is still important, particularly with the Syrian Civil War raging – not to mention having to deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.


According to a CENTCOM release, 21 countries, including the United States, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and Poland are invading Jordan for the Eager Lion 2017 exercise.

“As brothers in arms, we fully understand how much our nations have paid in blood and treasure over the years to address security, particularly in this region,” Maj. Gen. William B. Hickman, deputy commanding general of operations for U.S. Central Command, told reporters at a press event launching the exercise. “For much of the past two decades our militaries have operated in the grey zones of military confrontation … where misunderstanding and miscalculation can easily escalate into a larger conflict.”

Here are some photos showing just what is going on with this friendly multi-national invasion:

1. They travel there by sea and air

It is said that half the fun is getting there. It’s a safe bet that the CO of USS Bataan (LHD 5) got tired of hearing 2,000 Marines ask, “Are we there yet?”

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
A U.S. Marine V-22 Osprey ascends the USS Bataan in Aqaba, Jordan, to begin a demo flight in support of Eager Lion 2017. Eager Lion is an annual U.S. Central Command exercise in Jordan designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships between the U.S., Jordan and other international partners. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mickey A. Miller)

2. The gear gets set up

Exercises like Eager Lion are not thrown together on a whim. Support troops like these help make the multi-national wargame run smoothly.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
The 67th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, out of Camp Buehring, Kuwait, is participating in Exercise Eager Lion 2017 at the Joint Training Center in Jordan. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Zoe Morris)

3. They prepare for the worst

This includes being sure that the medevac people are fully spun up in case there is an accident during the training. Hopefully, they are very, very bored during Eager Lion 2017.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
US Navy and Jordanian Armed Forces service members evacuate a simulated casualty into a AS332 Super Puma Helicopter during a medical evacuation drill during Eager Lion 2017 at King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center Amman, Jordan on May 6, 2017. Eager Lion provides bilateral forces with an opportunity to promote cooperation and interoperability among participating units, build functional capacity, practice crisis management and strengthen our relationship with potential regional threats. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jessica Y. Lucio)

4. They hit the ground running

Fast-roping from helicopters helps to secure the LZ.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Airmen secure a landing pad during a fast-roping exercise as part of Eager Lion 2017 in Amman, Jordan, May 7, 2017. The airmen are assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron. (US Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Lange)

5. They move out to their objectives

Now that their way out has been secured, the troops are off to happily go about the day’s work of dropping tangos.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Members of the Air Force Special Operation’s 23rd Special Tactics Squad and Jordanian Special Forces participate in small unit tactics at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in Amman, Jordan during Eager Lion 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Lange/Released)

6. They achieve the objective…

…Which is for the last thing the bad guy sees to be something like this:

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
A member of the Italian Special Forces participates in small unit tactics at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in Amman, Jordan during Eager Lion 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Lange/Released)

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The Marine Corps goes back to the future with new military strategy

QUANTICO, Va. — The Marine Corps has released a bold new operational document that projects a future fight against a high-end adversary that could nullify many of the advantages U.S. forces have enjoyed for decades, and proscribes an extensive series of actions the Marines must take to prepare for that conflict.


The Marine Corps Operating Concept is subtitled “How an Expeditionary Force Operates in the 21st Century,” and strongly reaffirms the Corps’ traditional ties with the Navy.

It also revitalizes the post-Vietnam concept of “maneuver warfare,” but modernizes it by adding cyber and information operations to the use of rapid movement around enemy strong points and employment of kinetic force to confound the adversary’s command and control.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
U.S. Marines with Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Europe laugh during down-time, after completing an M240B machine gun range as part of Exercise Platinum Lynx at Babadag Training Area, Romania, Sept. 27, 2016. Multiple nations from across Eastern Europe, and the U.S., participated in the exercise designed to enhance warfighting capabilities and build relationships from an international level, all the way down to a platoon level. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Marine Corps Commandant Robert Neller ordered the new strategic look, which was released Sept. 28 at the 2016 Modern Day Marine Expo here, and said its primary goal was to assure that any future Marine “doesn’t have a fair fight,” but is dominant.

The MOC is a replacement for the Expeditionary Force 21 operational guide released in 2014 under then-Commandant Gen. James Amos. But the officers at the forward-looking Ellis Group who crafted it and those who will have to implement it said it goes far beyond EF21.

It envisions a Marine Corps that is able to operate in what Neller called the “six domains,” of land, sea, air, space, cyberspace and information, is prepared to help the Navy retain sea control and the ability to project power in contested littoral regions and makes extensive use of unmanned systems.

“My goal by next year is, every deployed infantry squad will have a quad copter” unmanned aircraft, Neller told a packed audience at the Modern Day Marine exposition.

Neller assured the assembled Marines that the new document does not mean they are “fixing something” or the Corps is “broken.”

But, he reminded them, since 2001 “we have been fighting an insurgency.” Although those insurgents were brave and tenacious, they did not have electronic warfare capabilities, or an air force or armor. And “they didn’t have the ability to take down our networks, to deny our comms” and they “didn’t have a sophisticated information operations plan to deceive not only us, but our citizens.”

“What we’re trying to do with the MOC,” Neller said, is to look at their organization, training and warfighting doctrine and make the changes so “if we’re going to fight somebody that has this capabilities set” the individual Marine has what is needed “to make sure it’s not a fair fight.”

The MOC contains a lengthy list of future capabilities the Corps is expected to require for that future high-end fight. It includes the ability to fight in “complex terrain,” which includes congested urban settings; can match the global technology proliferation; can use information as a weapon and can win the “battle of signatures,” which means controlling its own electronic emissions to avoid being detected and finding and countering the enemy’s.

The MOC supports a point Neller has stressed, that future Marines be prepared to operate without sophisticated long-range communications, intelligence support and navigation aids because a high-tech enemy could disrupt them.

That could complicate some of the missions the MOC, including distributed operations by small units, or using landing forces to seize and hold “expeditionary advanced bases” on an enemy’s coast line to disrupt the sensors and weapons that could deny naval forces access.

The document also emphasizes the need to integrate Marine capabilities and operations with the Navy, Special Operations Command and the joint force.

And it sets out a list of “critical tasks” required to prepare the Corps for the future.

Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, said his command, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, the training and education and acquisition commands all will have major challenges in executing the MOC’s vision.

Neller urged the Marines in the audience to read the MOC and provide feedback and criticism. He acknowledged that the document may not have all the right answers and he expects they will have to make changes to it.

But, he said: “What we won’t do is stay the same. The world is changing too fast.”

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This veteran buried treasure in the Rockies and left hidden clues for hunters

When veterans retire, they often set out to pursue the hobbies they never had time to do in service. For Forrest Fenn, that meant the hunt for buried treasure.


But this Air Force veteran didn’t want to go looking for others’ valuables, so he buried his own.

A decorated war hero, Fenn flew 300 missions over Vietnam and was awarded the Silver Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

After he retired from the Air Force in 1970, he started an art gallery with his wife Peggy in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

He successfully battled cancer, but vowed if it ever came back, he’d hike into the desert with a chest full of booty and wait for treasure hunters to find him and his loot.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century

“If it comes back, I’m going to grab a pocketful of sleeping pills, take a treasure chest filled with treasure and a copy of my bio, and I’m going to walk out into the desert,” Fenn told writer Margie Goldsmith. “Sometime they’ll find my bones and the treasure, but my bio will be inside the box, so at least they’ll know who I was.”

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Forrest Fenn in his home. (Photo from Visit New Mexico)

But the cancer never came back. So Fenn, “tired of waiting,” went ahead and buried the treasure in the Rocky Mountains near his home.

“It’s difficult so it won’t be found right away, but it’s easy enough so that it’s not impossible to find it,” Fenn told Goldsmith who wrote about the treasure for the Huffington Post. “I want sweaty bodies out there looking for my treasure — they just have to find the clues.”
The treasure is buried in an honest-to-God treasure chest and contains gold nuggets, gold animal figurines, and gold coins, as well as some gems and valuable historical artifacts.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Forrest Fenn’s treasure. No joke. This is buried somewhere. (Forrest Fenn)

Before you lace up your hiking boots, note that the search may not be an easy one. More than one hiker has gone missing looking for the treasure and digging on public lands could be problematic.
One of those treasure hunters, Randy Bilyeu of Colorado, died in his search.
As of this writing, the treasure has not yet been found. Fenn, now 80 years old, advises people to wait until after the snow melts in spring to begin their search.
“The treasure is not hidden in a dangerous place,” Fenn told the Daily Mail UK. “I’ve said many times not to look for the treasure any place where an 80-year-old man couldn’t put it.”

Clues to the treasure’s location can be found in Fenn’s book about his life. “The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir” is only available at the Collected Works Bookstore in downtown Santa Fe. Proceeds from the book benefit cancer patients who can’t pay for treatments.

Fenn says the following poem contains at least nine clues. Good luck!

As I have gone alone in there

And with my treasures bold,

I can keep my secret where,

And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters halt

And take it in the canyon down,

Not far, but too far to walk.

Put in below the home of Brown.

From there it’s no place for the meek,

The end is drawing ever nigh;

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,

Just heavy loads and water high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,

Look quickly down, your quest to cease

But tarry scant with marvel gaze,

Just take the chest and go in peace.

So why is it that I must go

And leave my trove for all to seek?

The answers I already know

I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak

So hear me all and listen good,

Your effort will be worth the cold.

If you are brave and in the wood

I give you title to the gold.

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Just a few more hours until LIBO. To help you keep your noses clean until then, here are 13 funny military memes:


1. Do not leave privates unsupervised for even a moment (via The Salty Soldier).

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Now he has to go to the aid station. Better have a specialist escort him.

2. Marine assaults aren’t what they used to be (via Sh-t my LPO says).

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
At least negligent discharges aren’t a big deal anymore.

SEE ALSO: Forget ‘Suicide Squad,’ this was America’s ‘Suicide Division’

3. Learn some discipline, boot (via Linda Glocke Will Destroy ISIS).

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Also, hope you had insurance.

4. There are certain situations where it’s okay to correct your buddies (via Coast Guard Memes).

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Or, wait till formation. He’ll figure it out.

5. Ermagerd!

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Seriously, join the Air Force.

6. When you really wish the dog would take point …

(via Military Memes)

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
… but he’s too smart for that.

7. Meanwhile, cats are not okay with ground pounding (via Air Force Nation).

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
They prefer the sky.

8. “No sergeant, I haven’t gained any weight.”

(via Air Force Nation)

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
The humidity probably shrank it.

9. All privates are suddenly doctoral students when the regs come up:

(via The Salty Soldier)

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century

10. It’s called improvisation, and the Marine Corps prides itself on it (via The Salty Soldier).

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
If you wanted factory pillows, you should’ve joined the Air Force.

11. Bet you wish you had the desert camouflage uniform now, huh?

(via The Salty Soldier)

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Maybe throw a poncho or woobie over yourself.

12. It’s all “Chair Force” jokes until someone needs an A-10 gun run.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
Just remember to thank CCP after you thank God.

13. Pretty sure all other branches get most of their recruits when the Air Force is out of office.

These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century
The Army recruiter gets his when literally all other recruiters are out of office.

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