A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development - We Are The Mighty
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A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

Lockheed Martin is developing a successor to the storied U-2 spy plane, Flightglobal reports.


Lockeed Martin’s “Skunk Works,” the office in charge of developing the company’s high-end future defense systems, is in the planning stages for a spy plane that combines the best features of both Lockheed’s U-2 and Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk drone.

The RQ-4 and the U-2 already perform similar operational roles. But the Global Hawk is more difficult to detect than a U-2 and is unmanned.

Ideally, Skunk Works would combine the best features of the Global Hawk with the U-2 to create an optionally-manned high-altitude surveillance aircraft with the latest sensors.

The U-2 is a high-altitude manned surveillance plane. With a service ceiling of up to nearly 85,000 feet, the plane is capable of flying for 8 hours at a time at speeds of 500 miles per hour.

The RQ-4 is also a high-altitude surveillance craft, although it is unmanned and flown by a team of remote operators. It was originally designed to complement manned surveillance craft such as the U-2, although US military planners have long intended to replace the U-2 with the Global Hawk.

The Air Force has determined that its U-2s can be kept capable of flying until 2045. But due to a shrinking budget, the U-2 is slated to be retired by 2019. This looming deadline has prompted Lockheed to try to develop an updated version of its iconic spy plane.

“Think of a low-observable U-2,” Lockheed’s U-2 strategic development manager, Scott Winstead, told Flightglobal. “It’s pretty much where the U-2 is today, but add a low-observable body and more endurance.”

By being optionally manned, Lockheed hopes that the U-2 successor could offer a wider mission range than either a solely manned or unmanned aircraft, Winstead told Flightglobal.

Alongside the B-52, the U-2 is the longest serving aircraft in the US Air Force. Both planes were introduced in 1955 and have been in the US fleet ever since.

Because of the plane’s ability to operate at extremely high altitudes, the Air Force maintains that the U-2 is one of the most effective reconnaissance platforms ever built. The U-2 is generally cheaper to operate than surveillance drones, and it has become a staple aircraft in the monitoring of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

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

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The Army has just declassified how the PT belt works (and it’s amazing)

In a stunning reversal after years of tight-lipped silence, Army officials have revealed the capabilities of the “physical training belt,” a reflective band soldiers wear around themselves to ward off everything from bullets to badgers to STDs.


“The Department of Defense has previously hidden the details of this lifesaving technology for fear of it falling into the wrong hands,” an Army spokesman said in a conference. “But our NATO allies and the American people deserve to know the simple fact: PT belts save lives.”

PT Belt

The PT Belt, also known as the “glow” or “reflective” belt, is worn around the chest or waist. According to newly released documents, it bends gravity. Here’s what it can do:

1. Fatigue

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

The PT Belt’s ability to manipulate gravity allows it to reduce the weight of any item it is wrapped around. This means that soldiers carrying a 100-pound ruck and 40-pounds of armor can reduce that load to about 50 “effective pounds” if they use two reflective belts.

2. Bullets

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

The gravity reduction from the combat load can be redirected into an extremely small black hole that guides the bullet away from the soldier. An incoming round headed for center mass won’t be pulled away, but can be guided to hit an extremity. A shot originally headed for an extremity will usually miss.

3. Healing

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
This man is basically Wolverine at this point.

The reflective layer in a PT belt is actually a mesh of microscopic crystals that provide constant holistic healing and realign the service members’ chakras. Different PT belts align the chakra in different ways to allow for different benefits:

Yellow PT belts reduce upper brain function, allowing junior troops to act without question.

Green PT belts prevent the buildup of certain pathogens and parasites.

Blue PT belts increase muscular strength but reduce cardiovascular endurance.

4. Animal attacks

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

PT Belts can reach into the primal part of animal brains to allow the wearer limited control of the creature. Typically this is just enough for troops to more effectively “shoo” animals away, but those with innate beastmaster powers may be able to command the forces of nature. They are typically recruited into the previously top-secret “Camel Spider Corps.”

5. Lasers

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

The microscopic crystals in a PT belt reflect the laser beam and break it up, rendering it useless.

6. Vehicles

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

Pretty straight forward, the belt increases the visibility of the soldier, allowing vehicles to avoid hitting troops.

7. STDs

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
Does anything in this photo look attractive? Exactly. PT Belts! Photo: US Army

It’s a simple fact that military uniforms increase the chances that a citizen or fellow service member will approach an individual for sexual relations. Like the classic BCG eyewear, the PT Belt not only wipes out the increase afforded by the uniform but also erodes the original appeal of the soldier. Basically, it’s anti-sexy.

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These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
Merrill’s Marauders trudging through the Burmese jungle. (Photo: Life Magazine)


When it comes to sheer hardship under appalling combat conditions, it is hard to match what the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), better known as Merrill’s Marauders, endured in the China-India-Burma campaign.

When the Japanese had overrun and taken Burma from its colonial master Great Britain in 1942, it had cut the only real overland route for military supplies heading to Chinese forces fighting the Japanese in mainland China. The famed Allied air transport route “over the hump” of the Himalayas was no substitute for a reliable road considering the amount of supplies needed.

U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided at a conference in August 1943 to form special American units for infiltrating Burma, modeled after the British Army Chindits, a long-range penetration unit that had already operated in Burma under Brigadier Ord Wingate. The plan was to disrupt Japanese communications and supply lines and capturing key points, the reopening of the Burma Road could be accelerated.

An Army-wide call for those interested in volunteering was put out under presidential authority, drawing about 3,000 recruits from stateside units. Many were specifically drawn from soldiers who already had experience in jungle fighting from earlier in the war. After assembly in India, they received months of intensive training in jungle warfare under the instruction of Wingate, including extended exercises with the Chindits. The 5307th was placed under the command of Brig. General Frank Merrill, the source of the name ‘Merrill’s Marauders’ eventually given to the unit by the press.

Conceived as a mobile raiding force, the Marauders were lightly equipped by conventional infantry standards, with no heavy weapons beyond light mortars, bazookas, and machine guns. Dense jungle and mountains made ground vehicles impossible, so supplies were to be carried by the soldiers themselves and hundreds of mules and horses. Resupply was limited to airdrops and whatever the unit could forage off the countryside in trade with indigenous locals.

Embarking on Feb. 24, 1944, the Marauders mission began with 2,750 men marching over a thousand miles through the Patkai region of the Himalayas, in order to get behind Japanese lines in Burma. Operating with indigenous Kachin scouts and Chinese forces, they began a series of raids against Japanese patrols, supply lines, and garrisons. Their ultimate goal was to capture the strategic Burmese town of Myitkynia, which had an important airfield and was along the route for an alternate road to China.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
Brig. Gen. Merrill accepts a goat from village elders. (Photo: Nat’l WW2 Museum)

The Marauders were almost always outnumbered and outgunned by the Japanese 18th Division, which formed their primary opposition. Lacking artillery and out of range of any serious air support, they had to rely on surprise, training, and mobility to outfight the Japanese regulars, and they often found themselves on the defense because they were ill-equipped for fighting against larger forces.

But their greatest enemy, which inflicted more damage than even superior Japanese forces could, was the jungle. Malaria, amoebic dysentery, and typhus took an awful toll, inflicting more casualties than Japanese fire did. Soldiers shaking from fever and tormented by diarrhea had to force themselves through dense jungle and intense close quarters combat. Torrential rains, stinging insects, and snakes only added to their misery.

The issued K-rations were relatively light and compact, but at 2,900 calories per day were wholly inadequate for heavily loaded men marching, sweating, and fighting in the jungle. Even for men facing hunger, many components of the rations were so widely detested that they were often thrown away, and failed air drops only made the situation worse. Malnourishment and its accompanying weakness and exhaustion made the troops more vulnerable to already endemic diseases, and many of them were reduced to little more than walking skeletons.

Despite the enormous challenges, the Marauders managed to inflict far greater casualties on the Japanese then they suffered, and used their mobility and seeming ability to strike anywhere to throw Japanese forces into confusion. After dozens of skirmishes and several major actions, the 5307th managed to take the airfield at Myitkynia in August 1944 alongside elements of the Chinese Army, and the town itself after reinforcements arrived.

So decimated were the Marauders by disease and combat that only 200 men of the original task force were still present at the end of the campaign. Frank Merrill, who suffered a heart attack before being stricken with malaria by the end of the mission. Every last member was evacuated to hospitals to recuperate from months of hunger, disease, and exhaustion.

The 5307th was disbanded shortly thereafter, and in a very rare distinction every single member of the commando force received the Bronze Star for staying and fighting. They fought five major actions and dozens of smaller ones while marching over 750 miles through enemy territory, all the while fighting a different but even more deadly battle against hunger and disease. The unit was eventually redesignated as the 75th Infantry Regiment, from which today’s 75th Ranger Regiment descended.

 

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This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

The 1970 movie “Waterloo” was one of the most intricately filmed war movies of all time. A story about Napoleon’s famous last stand could not be told accurately without battle scenes on a grand scale. But these were the days before CGI and other computer wizardry, so Dino De Laurentiis had to get the extras — lots of them.


To save on production costs, necessary to build everything seen in the movies – from palaces to artillery – De Laurentiis decided to film the movie in the Soviet Union, at the height of the Cold War. The USSR agreed to allow the filming of the movie in Ukraine and also gave access to Soviet men and equipment.
The Red Army offered up some 16,000 men to the filmmakers, along with honest-to-Lenin cavalry and civil engineers.  The civil engineers recreated the entire Waterloo battlefield, including roads, thousands of trees, and Belgian farmhouses. They even bulldozed a few hills, cultivated rye, barley, and wildflower fields, and piped in water via an irrigation system to recreate the mud of the battlefield.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

Russian director Sergei Bondarchuk housed the troops in tents near the battlefield and trained them in the infantry tactics and weapons of the time, 1815. The men were able to grow their facial hair and live like Napoleonic-era troops. They were more than just glorified battle re-enactors, they became bona fide Napoleonic Warriors, learning drills as well as saber and bayonet tactics.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

The total price tag of the film came to a whopping $40 million – $247 million adjusted for inflation. The resulting battle scenes are worth every penny. Aside from a few anachronisms, the battles are epic depictions of the French Empereur’s last 100 days.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

Take that, Peter Jackson.

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The Pentagon’s inside info on North Korea’s true military strength

It’s almost springtime, that special time of year where the weather starts to turn, the flowers bloom, and the United States and South Korea hold the massive combined Foal Eagle and Key Resolve (formerly known as “Reception, Staging, Onward movement, and Integration” or RSOI). The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) rattles its saber for two reasons. First, it will raise tensions whenever it needs something; money, food aid, or concessions from the United Nations, things of that nature. The second reason is the Foal Eagle/Key Resolve exercise.


A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd SBCT, 25th Infantry Division, fire M795 projectile 155 mm rounds on Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, South Korea, March 22, 2015. U.S. Army Solders run a live-fire exercise during joint training exercise Foal Eagle 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Samantha Van Winkle)

These exercises serve the dual purpose of preparing for a potential North Korean invasion while reminding the North of just how devastating an invasion would be for them. This reminder has become more important than ever in recent years, as the North nullified its agreement to the 1953 armistice, which ended the Korean War. Since then, it had grown its military force and nuclear arsenal and become ever more belligerent toward the West. The war never ended, only the shooting. Now the North claims it has the authority to start shooting again.

Related: The ten worst armies in the world

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

The isolated North lives (ostensibly) under Songun, a policy of putting their limited resources toward the military first, before any other person or institution. It also prioritizes the military in the affairs of state, which is a partial explanation of why they accept the sanctions that come with their development of nuclear weapons. The DPRK currently boasts the fourth largest army on Earth, but is that really a formidable force? Ask Saddam Hussein if a large army makes the difference between winning and losing a war.

Related: 21 Facts about the First Gulf War

A 2015 Congressional report from the Pentagon says the Korean People’s Army (the land component of the North Korean Armed Forces) fields 950,000 troops, 4,200 tanks, 2,200 armored vehicles, 8,600 pieces of field artillery, and 5,500 multiple rocket launchers. The report reads “North Korea fields a large, conventional, forward-deployed military that retains the capability to inflict serious damage on the ROK, despite significant resource shortfalls and aging hardware.” Simply put, the North can rain death and destruction on the South, and it doesn’t even have to cross the 38th Parallel (the current land border) to hit the South Korean capital.

Korean People’s Army

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

4-5% of the DPRK’s 24 million people are in the Korean People’s Army, with another 25 to 30 percent are assigned to a reserve or paramilitary unit. 70% of its ground forces and 50% of its air and naval forces are deployed within 100 kilometers of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). The report says that few of its weapons systems are modern and some are as old as the 1950s.

Korean People’s Navy

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

The North Korean Navy floats  60,000 sailors, 430 patrol combatant ships, 260 amphibious landing craft, 20 mine warfare vessels, about 70 submarines, 40 support ships between two seas, the Yellow Sea to the West and the Sea of Japan to the East. Its specialty is amphibious landings and the DPRK has the largest submarine force in the world as well, though many are coastal subs and midget subs. The DPRK is working on developing a homegrown design for a ballistic missile submarine.

It’s also important to note that North Korea does not have a blue water navy. The navy is centered around an aging fleet of coastal defense forces. They might still be a little nervous about the Inchon Landing, also known as General MacArthur’s Rope-A-Dope.

Korean People’s Air Force

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
Glorious People’s Revolutionary Top Gun.

With 110,000 troops, over 800 combat aircraft, 300 helicopters, and more than 300 transport planes North Korea boasts the OLDEST fleet of aircraft in the world. Its fighters are 1980s MiG-29s bought from the Soviet Union and some MiG-23 and SU-25 ground attack aircraft. The pilots are not well trained because training burns fuel and fuel is definitely one thing North Korea does not have. Its oldest aircraft are 1940s An-2 COLT aircraft, a single-engine biplane.

Its air defense systems are mostly aging but with the deteriorating air force, the North relies on its ground-base air defense systems. In a 2010 military parade, it showed off a surface-to-air SAM system that looked a lot like the formidable Russian s-300, which Iran sought so desperately to bolster its own air defense systems.

Related: Here’s how a war with Iran would go

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

Special Forces

The most highly trained, most well-equipped, best fed forces the Korean People’s Army can muster (only with North Korea would you have to mention how well-fed they are). Asymmetric warfare will grow to be a cornerstone of the DPRK’s armed forces, especially as its conventional forces continue to decline in strength and quality.

Nuclear Weapons and Ballistic Missiles

As previously mentioned, the North wants the ability to launch ballistic missiles from its submarine fleet, but so far those attempts have failed. Still, the North also pursues intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the continental U.S. Those two types are the Hwasong- 13 and Taepodong-2. Testing on these missiles is forbidden by UN Security Council Resolution 1718, which forbids the country from using ballistic missile technology. The North is likely using satellite launches to cover for its missile testing, its most recent test was February 7th, 2016, launching a Kwangmyongsong satellite into orbit.

North Korea also fields a cyber army as a cost-effective, low-risk way to disrupt enemy operations.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
Or to stop bad movies from being released. Where were you when Eagle Eye was coming to theaters, North Korea??

They have extensive external and internal intelligence and security agencies, as well as special units that infiltrate the South to establish pro-North Korea groups and political parties to foment unrest.

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3 major ways Bob Hope helped veterans

Bob Hope’s support for our military was so prolific and enduring that he is one of only two civilians who have received honorary veteran status.

In 1997, Congress passed a measure to make Hope an honorary veteran of the U.S. military in recognition of his continued support for the troops. At the time, Hope was the only civilian to be recognized in such a way (he now shares the honor with philanthropist Zachary Fisher who, in 1999, would become the second honorary veteran).

He has so many accolades to his name that it’s nearly impossible to track, but these are some of our favorites:

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

1. He entertained the troops from 1941-1991

On May 6, 1941, he performed his first USO Show at March Field in Riverside, California, which was a radio show for the airmen stationed there. He went on to headline for the USO 57 times during more than 50 years of appearances, providing entertainment for the troops from World War II through the Persian Gulf War.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

Letter from prisoner of war, Frederic Flom, written on back of wrapper, Feb. 24, 1973.

(Bob Hope Collection, Library of Congress)

2. He advocated for the release of POWs during the Vietnam War

During his 1971 Christmas tour, Hope met with a North Vietnamese official in Laos to try to secure the release of American POWs. When F-105 pilot Frederic Flom heard about this, it lifted his spirits and prompted him to write Mr. Hope a letter of thanks.

On his last day in office, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Bob Hope the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

The Bob Hope Veterans Support Program was launched in 2014 with a generous seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy

3. His legacy continues to improve the lives of America’s military community

The Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program provides one-on-one employment services, as well as referrals to other resources, to meet the unique needs of military personnel and veterans transitioning out of the military into a civilian job, starting their own small business or pursuing higher education.

Since launching in 2014, the program has served nearly 1,100 veterans and families with employment support and referrals to other resources, placing more than 600 into civilian positions and 83 pursuing education degrees. Free to veterans, who do not need to have a disability to participate, the program was launched with a generous seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, a division of The Bob Dolores Hope Foundation, which supports organizations that bring HOPE to those in need and those who served to protect our nation consistent with the legacy of Bob Hope.

To date, The Bob Hope Legacy has donated more than million dollars in support of Easterseals’ military and veteran services.

During a week-long campaign in observation of Memorial Day this year (May 23-29), Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions shoppers throughout Southern California can make donations in support of the program via the pin pad at registers, with 100 percent of the donations going directly to Easterseals Southern California’s Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.


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This World War I ace went on to survive two plane crashes and 22 days lost at sea

Capt. Edward Rickenbacker was a hero of World War I who earned the title, “Ace of Aces,” a French Croix de Guerre, and a Medal of Honor despite joining the flying corps at 27, two years over the then-maximum age of 25.


A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

After the close of the Great War, the former race-car driver got into business. At first, it was automobiles and racing but he returned to aviation and ran Eastern Air Lines. In Feb. 1941, he was riding on one of the company’s planes when it crashed on a hill near Atlanta.

Rickenbacker was severely injured in the crash. His pelvic bone, a leg, and multiple ribs were broken and an eyelid was torn.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
Edward Rickenbacker escorts a lady off one of his Eastern Air Lines planes in 1935. Photo: Public Domain/Harris Ewing via Wikipedia

In spite of his injuries and the fact he was pinned down by a dead body and the wreckage, he took control of the situation and sent a group to call for help. He kept everyone safe and calm for the nine hours it took for rescue workers to arrive and get him out of the wreckage.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t done with plane crashes. In 1942 Rickenbacker had mostly recovered from his earlier crash, though he continued to limp. The Army Air Force asked the aviation pioneer, then 52 years old, to consult on operations in the Pacific theater.

With a $1 a day salary, he set out for a tour of the Pacific. He first visited Hawaii en route to bases from Australia to Guadalcanal. On a B-17 with 7 other men, Rickenbacker departed Hawaii for Canton Island, but the B-17 got lost en route.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
A B-17 like the one Edward Rickenbacker crash-landed in. Photo: Tony Hisgett via Wikipedia

No one is quite sure how the B-17 got off course, though the navigator later suggested the octant may have been jarred during an aborted takeoff attempt. Regardless of how it happened, the B-17 found searched for Canton Island for hours without ever finding it and was eventually forced to ditch at sea.

Rickenbacker again took command, even though he was technically outranked by a colonel who was accompanying him as an aide. Floating in the ocean on three smalls rafts, the Army airmen were subjected to extreme cold at night and blistering heat in the day.

Rickenbacker oversaw the distribution of the four oranges the men managed to escape the sinking plane with, making them last six days. They had stored water for the crash landing, but it was lost in their hasty evacuation of the plane.

The eight men caught a small break two days later when Rickenbacker, who was sleeping with his hat protecting his face from the sun, woke up and realized that a sea gull was sitting on his head.

He managed to grab the gull and wring its neck. The men ate everything but the feathers and intestines raw, even the bones. The intestines were used as bait, allowing them to catch a few fish.

The audio is a bit hard to make out, but Rickenbacker told the story of the sea gull capture himself at a press conference:

(Note: The video erroneously identifies Rickenbacker as an admiral. He actually left the Army as a major but preferred to be referred to as a captain, the last rank he held in combat.)

That night, they got a second break when a storm hit. They spread all the fabric they could across the raft, socks, shirts, and handkerchiefs, and continuously wrung them out over a bucket, collecting a small quantity of water.

Despite these small successes, Sgt. Alexander Kaczmarczyk died on the 13th day. He had been returning to Australia after recovering from illness and had drank a large quantity of seawater on the escape from the plane. The added toll being soaked with sea water and exposed to extreme temperatures for nearly two weeks overcame him.

A few days later, on the 17th day, the group spotted a scout plane flying about 5 miles away. Efforts to flag it down failed, as did attempt to flag down the next six planes that appeared over the the two days after that.

Tired of waiting for rescue and believing that their chances would be better if they split up, two rafts left the flotilla, leaving Rickenbacker alone with two sick survivors.

Luckily, the plan worked. One raft found land where the natives and an English missionary nursed them while waiting on doctors to arrive. The other dispatched raft was spotted by a Navy patrol plane who picked them up. The survivors told the Navy where to look for Rickenbacker’s raft.

A Kingfisher plane then found Rickenbacker’s raft using the information from the other survivors and delivered Rickenbacker and another man to a Navy PT boat where they drank pineapple juice, soup, and water en route to an island medical facility.

One survivor, too sick to be moved, remained on the plane which delivered him to the same island.

Rickenbacker had lost 40 pounds, developed a number of sores from the salt water, and was severely dehydrated, but he spent only two weeks recovering in a Navy hospital before insisting on completing his mission.

He visited Australia, New Guinea, Guadalcanal, and Samoa, riding to each destination in planes at night while he slept, apparently unconcerned about the possibility of a third crash. When he arrived in Washington and spoke to Secretary of War Henry Stimson, he added into his report some suggestion for how to improve the survival kits installed in planes.

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Navy to triple attack submarine missile power

The Navy will soon finish initial prototyping of new weapons tubes for its Virginia-Class submarines designed to massively increase missile firepower, bring the platform well into future decades and increase the range of payloads launched or fired from the attack boats.


The new missile tubes, called the Virginia Payload Modules, will rev up the submarines’ Tomahawk missile firing ability from 12 to 40 by adding an additional 28 payload tubes – more than tripling the offensive strike capability of the platforms.

Prototyping of the new submarines amounts to early construction, meaning the missile tubes now being engineered and assembled will be those which will ultimately integrate into the completed boat. In essence, construction and metal bending for elements of what will become the first VPM are underway.

“Prototyping is underway,” Rear Adm. Charles Richard, Director of Undersea Warfare, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Increasing undersea strike capability is a key element of the strategic calculus for the Navy as it continues to navigate its way into an increasingly high-tech and threatening global environment; potential adversaries are not only rapidly developing new quieting weapons and sonar detection technologies but also fielding long-range, precision-guided anti-ship missiles designed to target surface ships at long ranges.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
The nation’s newest and most advanced nuclear-powered attack submarine and the lead ship of its class, PCU Virginia. | U.S. Navy photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat

The Chinese DF-21D and subsequent follow-on weapons in development are engineered to destroy carriers, destroyers and other surface vessels from distances as far as 900-miles off shore; if there is not a suitable defense for these kinds of long-range “anti-access/area-denial” weapons, the Navy’s ability to project power and launch attacks could be significantly limited. Carriers, for example, could be forced to operate further from the coastline at ranges which greatly complicate the aerial reach of many fighter aircraft which would launch from a carrier air-wing. If carriers are forced by the threat environment to operate at ranges further than fighter aircraft can travel, then new potentially dangerous aerial refueling options become much more complicated and challenging.

Navy strategy is therefore looking much more closely at the size and mission scope of its submarine fleet moving into the future, as undersea assets will most likely have an ability to conduct reconnaissance or strike missions far closer to an enemy shoreline – locations where it may be much harder for surface ships to operate given the fast-increasing threat environment. While the service is, of course, massively revving up its surface-ship offensive and defensive weaponry designed to allow vessels to better operate in so-called “contested” or high-threat areas, submarines are expected to increasingly play a vital role in a wide range of anticipated future mission requirements.

For example, improved increased sonar and quieting technologies referred to as Navy “acoustic superiority” are expected to allow submarines to conduct undersea reconnaissance missions much closer to enemy forces – and possibly behind defended areas.  Such an ability could prove to be particularly relevant in coastal waters, shallow areas or islands such as portions of the South China Sea. These are precisely the kinds of areas where deeper draft surface ships may have trouble operating.

 Building Virginia payload modules

The Navy plans to engineer a new 84-foot long module into the length of the submarine in order to add four 87-inch launch tubes into the body of the ship.

The tooling and initial castings are now nearing completion in preparation for the first prototyping of the VPM tubes which will be finished in 2017, developers explained. Construction of the first VPM boat is slated for 2019 en route to being finished and operational by 2024 or early 2025.  Initial work is underway at an Electric Boat facility in Quonset Point, R.I.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
US Navy photo

“The first tube fabrication begins next April,” Ken Blomstedt, Vice President of the Virginia-Class Program here at Electric Boat, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The second submarine construction among the planned Block V Virginia-class attack submarine will be engineered with integrated VPM. It is called SSN 803, Blomstedt explained. The last 20 ships of the class, in Blocks V, VI and VII, will have VPM integrated.

A new massive module will be emerging from an Electric Boat manufacturing facility in Quonset Point, R.I.

“We are able to add that amount of strike capability in for a 15 percent increase in the price of the vessel – all on-track coming in very nicely. We are excited about the progress of the design. We are finishing up the castings of the integrated tube and hull,” Richard said.

 “Tube and hull” forging

Electric Boat developers tell Scout Warrior the VPM technical baseline has now been approved by the Navy, clearing the way for initial construction.

“The module consists of four 87-inch vertical payload tubes. The module is broken up into three sections – a forward support base, center section with four vertical payload tubes and an internal ballast tank to preserve or restore buoyancy for increasing the length of the ship,”

The technical baseline, which was informed by 39 key decisions, has been formally submitted and approved by the Navy as of February of this year.

“Will be exciting to see that first 184-foot module with VPM installed. Key to the module is using an integrated tube and hull approach,” Blomstedt added.

Electric Boat is using an emerging construction technique, called “tube and hull forging” design to expedite building and lower costs. The tactic involves connecting the top section of the tube to the pressure hull as one monolithic piece, he said.

“From a technology standpoint, we are broadening the base with a one-piece casting. That piece comes into the missile tube fabricator,” Blomstedt said.

Along with firing Tomahawk missiles, the additional 87-inch payload tubes are being engineered to accommodate new weapons as they emerge and possibly launch other assets such as unmanned underwater vehicles.

The Navy will likely use the pace for a whole bunch of future payloads that they are just starting to think about,” Blomstedt said.

While it is certainly conceivable that Torpedoes and other weapons could eventually be fired from VPM tubes, Virginia-Class boats currently have a separate torpedo room with four torpedoes able to launch horizontally

A ballast tank has a pressure hull where the crew can operate, water levels inside the boat are adjusted to raise or lower the boat within the ocean; the weapons are designed to fire out of the launch tubes from a variety of different depths.

“When you submerge the ship, there is normally sea water all around the tubes,” he said.

Need for more undersea fire power

The reason for the Virginia Payload Modules is clear; beginning in the 2020s, the Navy will start retiring four large Ohio-class guided-missile submarines able to fire up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. This will result in the Navy losing a massive amount of undersea fire power capability, Navy developers have explained.

From 2002 to 2008 the U.S. Navy modified four of its oldest nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines by turning them into ships armed with only conventional missiles —  the USS Ohio, USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia. They are called SSGNs, with the “G” designation for “guided missile.” These boats were among US military assets that provided firepower during action against Libya in 2011 – by firing Tomahawks from undersea at key locations such as enemy air defenses designed to clear the way for strike aircraft.

If the VPM action is not taken, the Navy will lose about 60-percent of its undersea strike launchers when the SSGNs retire in the 2020s. When VPM construction begins in 2019, that 60-percent shortfall will become a 40-percent shortfall in the 2028 timeframe.

Accordingly, building VPMs is designed to eliminate the loss of firepower. The rationale for accelerating VPM is to potentially mitigate that 40-percent to a lower number, Navy developers have said.

Virginia-class submarines, engineered to replace the 1980s-era Los Angeles-class attack submarines, are being built in block increments. Blocks I and II, totaling 10 ships, have already been delivered to the Navy. Block III boats are currently under construction. In fact the first Block III boat, the USS North Dakota, was delivered ahead of schedule in August of 2014.

The first several Block IV Virginia-class submarines are under construction as well — the USS Vermont and the USS Oregon.  Last April, the Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding a $17.6 billion deal to build 10 Block IV subs with the final boat procured in 2023.

Also, design changes to the ship, including a change in the materials used for the submarines’ propulsor, will enable Block IV boats to serve for as long as 96-months between depots visits or scheduled maintenance availabilities, Navy developers explained.

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These US Marine veterans are trying to help Afghanistan earn Olympic gold

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development


Three veterans of the war in Afghanistan are returning to the country later this month with the hopes of unifying Afghans around international competition.

While working as a civilian contractor in 2008, Jeremy Piasecki — who grew up playing water polo in Fallbrook, California — took on the nearly impossible task of establishing a men’s national water polo team in Afghanistan. It wasn’t easy, especially considering most Afghans don’t know how to swim and there are just 12 pools in the entire country.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

From The Military Times:

Water polo is a physically aggressive game. Teams work to throw a ball into their opponent’s goal, while preventing their opponent from doing likewise. Piasecki first got the idea to teach locals about it while working near Kabul as a civilian about seven years ago.

While aboard a military base, he recalled seeing a swimming pool devoid of water and filled with trash. He convinced the Afghan base commander to clean it up, and began teaching Afghans how to swim and play the game.

“It was the first ever water polo team in Afghanistan,” Piasecki told The Times.

Today, the team is officially sanctioned by the Afghanistan Olympic Committee and is currently training under American coaches. They continue to train and “will take their first steps toward representing their country — one deserving of more positive athlete role models — in international competition,” according to its official website.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

Afghanistan was banned from the Olympics in 1999 while under Taliban rule. It was reinstated in 2002, but has had only a few athletes make it onto the world stage since, where they have competed in sprinting and Taekwondo (Afghan Rohullah Nikpai won Bronze in 2008 and 2012).

In 2010, Piasecki met Dan Huvane and Lydia Davey while on joint duty in Stuttgart, Germany for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe, and bonded over a shared desire to help the Afghan people. Now all three are trying to bring together a new team — of Afghan women.

“I promised myself that someday we would launch a women’s team,” Piasecki said in a statement. “I’m glad to start delivering on that promise.”

Joined by American Water Polo Coach Robbie Bova, the three Marine veterans will fly to Kabul next week and hold tryouts for 125 Afghan women, select and begin training a core group of 30 promising athletes, and — if all goes to plan — establish a network of teams throughout Afghanistan while building a team that can compete internationally by 2020.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

The group faces a variety of challenges. Kabul only has one pool that women can use, and the country is still very dangerous, especially for women wanting to engage in any kind of sport.

“During my deployments in Afghanistan, I have witnessed sport played out on the international stage serve as a tremendous rally point for the people of all factions and ethnicities – a desperately needed sign of hope and pride,” Dan Huvane, a U.S. Marine reserve lieutenant colonel and communications consultant who is participating in the project, said in a statement. “Alongside those stories, I have seen the women of Afghanistan defy systematic oppression and outright death threats in order to be bold pioneers.”

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development

To fund travel for coaches, provide uniforms and equipment, and help with weekly training sessions, the team established an IndieGoGo campaign. You can check it out here.

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This incredible rap song perfectly captures life in Marine Corps infantry

Serving in the Marine Corps infantry is one of the most taxing occupations the military has to offer. Whether you’re out patrolling in a hot zone, calling in mortars on an enemy position or just humping hundreds of pounds of gear, it’s tough.


For one former Marine, military service fuels his music and reflects his experiences in the Corps.

“So you’re the newest PFC? Well, welcome to the infantry. Around here we like to do things a little differently. I know your drill instructor taught you those morals and ethics, but you got to put that to the side to kill more efficiently. ”

These are the opening lyrics of “Welcome to the Infantry” performed by Marine rapper, Fitzy Mess, and they couldn’t be more truthful.

Related: 7 things you should know before joining the infantry

Check out Fitzy Mess‘ video below for his cathartic rap song about life in the Marine infantry. And turn your sound up!

(Fitzy Mess, YouTube)
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This is how ‘trial by combat’ is totally legal in New York State

In August 2015, Staten Island attorney Richard A. Luthmann motioned a New York State court to allow “Game of Thrones” style trial by combat to decide one of his cases. During a lawsuit, Luthmann allegedly advised a client to liquidate his assets and move the funds to where the people suing him couldn’t get to them.


So those people decided to sue Luthmann, who wasn’t happy about it. He asked a judge to sanction an official trial by combat.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
I know someone who’d go for it…

His intent was to settle the civil case in “a fight to the death between either party or champions of the party” while highlighting how silly the plaintiff’s lawyers were. And less than six months later, the right to a trial by combat was upheld by the New York State Supreme Court.

In a 10-page brief, Luthmann details the rights of trial by combat in Medieval England and England’s American colonies. The motion to ban the practice was blocked by Parliament in 1774 and was not restricted by the Constitution.

Luthman also contends the practice is protected by the Ninth Amendment, which protects the rights mentioned specifically elsewhere in the Constitution.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
Pictured: Justice.

Luthmann wrote in a brief to the New York State Supreme Court:

“The allegations made by plaintiffs, aided and abetted by their counsel, border upon the criminal, as such, the undersigned respectfully requests that the court permit the undersigned to dispatch plaintiffs and their counsel to the Divine Providence of the Maker for Him to exact His divine judgment once the undersigned has released the souls of the plaintiffs and their counsel from their corporeal bodies, personally and or by way of a champion.”

The idea of the request was to initially highlight how ridiculous it was for the party suing Luthmann’s client to then sue the counsel for his client for offering legal advice for $500,000.

In March 2016, Supreme Court Justice Philip G. Minardo upheld not just Luthmann’s right to request a trial by combat to settle the dispute, but also the legality of trial by combat and its protection under the Constitution of the United States.

Sadly for the entertainment world, Justice Minardo resolved that Luthmann’s civil suit would be settled in court, either by a judge or jury.

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
Richard Luthmann may be a Baratheon. (photo via Facebook)

“I believe that the court’s ruling is based upon my adversaries’ unequivocal statement that they would not fight me,” Luthmann told Staten Island Live. “Under my reading of the law, the other side has forfeited because they have not met the call of battle. They have declared themselves as cowards in the face of my honorable challenge, and I should go to inquest on my claims.”

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This chart proves there are already way more contractors in Afghanistan than US troops

President Donald Trump said he plans to increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan in a speech August 21 and continue the longest-running war in American history.


Currently, there are about 9,800 US troops stationed in Afghanistan and more than 26,000 contractors.

The Pentagon defines a defense contractor as “any individual, firm, corporation, partnership, or other legal non-federal entity that enters into a contract directly with the DOD to furnish services, supplies, or construction.”

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
US defense contractors versus US troops deployed to Afghanistan in last decade. Image by Skye Gould via Business Insider.

This also includes intelligence analysis, translation and interpretation, as well as private-security contractors — who began taking over roles once held by uniformed soldiers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The defense industry has also made incredible profits since 2001, including nearly $100 billion in Afghanistan since 2007.

The graphic above compares the number of US troops and defense contractors in Afghanistan over the last decade.

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The Air Force wants cyber weapons that can knock out Russia’s air defenses

A successor to the storied U-2 spy plane is reportedly in development
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Ajvol


As foreign air defenses become more and more sophisticated, Air Force planners are working solutions to keep America’s technical edge, an edge that has been narrowing for the past few years. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh wants cyber solutions to enemy systems like the Russian Buk, the probable weapon that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. He’s looking for cyber weapons that do things like filling an operator’s screen with false contacts, stopping a missile from launching or, the ultimate solution, allowing a missile to launch before redirecting it to attack its own launcher.

For the full rundown, check out this article at Defense One 

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