US military explores more anti-drone technology - We Are The Mighty
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US military explores more anti-drone technology

The U.S. military has considered training with DroneDefender, a point-and-shoot, electromagnetic, rifle-shaped weapon that disrupts communications of a remote-controlled drone and its operator.


The system provides a safer and more accurate alternative than other methods, such as shooting drones with a rifle. “Pull the trigger and it falls out of the sky,” said Capt. Michael Torre, an electronic warfare officer for the 29th Infantry Division.

 

US military explores more anti-drone technology
A captured ISIS drone on the battlefield. (Photo from Iraq Ministry of Defense)

“It reminds me of playing Duck Hunt. It’s like using a video game controller with a real-world application,” he added.

DroneDefender can target a drones’ control signal. The drone controller can be a hand-held device operated by a person or a command module attached to the drone itself.

Staff Sgt. Richard Recupero, a cyberspace electromagnetic activities noncommissioned officer with the 29th Infantry Division, shared his expertise in disrupting drone operations when discussing enemy devices currently in the Middle East.

“Yes, it can affect drones used by ISIS,” Recupero said.

Drones are classified by weight and range from light commercial-off-the-shelf to heavier, military grade varieties.

Counter-drone technologies can have a variety of effects besides dropping them from the sky.

Also read: This company can ‘hack’ enemy drones for the US military

“You know it’s working because the system is no longer responding appropriately to the operator and doing something the operator doesn’t expect it to do,” Torre said, describing multiple visual disruption indicators.

“From the time I pulled the trigger, it was almost instantaneous,” Torre added.

Operation Spartan Shield subordinate units such as the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, have also gone through the training as part of an effort to provide commanders with increased force protection options.

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A Navy SEAL is now governor of Missouri

Eric Greitens — a Navy SEAL; Rhodes scholar; White House Fellow; founder of the veterans organization The Mission Continues;  author; and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People —  was elected governor of Missouri Nov. 8.


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(Facebook photo)

It was an uphill battle, according to Kaj Larsen, a fellow SEAL and friend of WATM who helped campaign for Greitens. The outgoing governor, Jay Nixon, was ineligible to run for re-election due to the state’s term limits, but Greitens nevertheless faced a tough challenger in current Missouri Attorney Gen. Chris Koster.

“We started with nothing against our opponent’s $11 million,” Larsen wrote on Facebook as Greitens claimed victory in the state. “But when your buddy is in a gunfight, you show up with ammunition to help. For three months straight we outworked our opponent.”

US military explores more anti-drone technology
Kaj Larsen introduces Eric Greitens for his victory speech at a hotel in the Chesterfield suburb of  St. Louis. (Facebook photo)

Greitens is a Republican who ran against what he saw as corrupt establishment politics; called for banning gifts from lobbyists; advocated instituting term limits for every elected office in Missouri; wants to cut government spending; supports the Second Amendment, and called for more backing of local firefighters and law enforcement officers in the state.

Also read: 10 tips on raising resilient kids from an Al Qaeda-fighting Rhodes Scholar

At 42, Greitens is the youngest governor in the United States. This is his first attempt at public office. Republicans have only won the Missouri Governor’s seat once since 1992.

According to his book, “The Heart and the Fist,” Greitens went to Naval Officer Candidate School in January 2001, then went to BUD/S — the basic training course for Navy SEAL candidates — in February 2002.

He deployed four times in support of the Global War on Terror, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. He then joined the Naval Reserve in 2005. His service was attacked during the campaign, but his staff released 225 pages of his military records before the election, according to the St. Louis Dispatch.

His awards include the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, among many Achievement and Commendation Medals.

US military explores more anti-drone technology
Eric Greitens as a SEAL in Iraq.

“We’re going to take on the special interests and clean up Jefferson City,” Greitens said in his victory speech as recorded by the Kansas City Star. “Our mission in this campaign was to build a stronger and better Missouri we can take in a new direction.”

Not everyone is thrilled with Greitens’ victory. The most controversial issue surrounding his campaign is his support of making Missouri a “Right-to-Work” state, sapping power from local labor unions.

“It was one of the high honors of my life to introduce my friend and swim buddy last night as he took the stage to give his victory speech,” Larsen wrote on Facebook.
Winning the governorship is a big deal, but as the BUD/S motto goes: The only easy day was yesterday.
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Dog paratroopers jumped into combat on D-Day

Brian (military callsign “Bing”) entered service in World War II as a young family dog loaned to the British government; he served for about 18 months, jumping into Normandy and leading his fellow paratroopers across Nazi-held Europe and the Rhine River before returning to his civilian family after Germany’s surrender.


Bing jumped into Normandy on D-Day with the British 13th Parachute Battalion and two other airborne canines, Monty and Ranee. Bing, Montee, and Ranee were specially chosen and trained to jump from planes wearing parachutes designed for bicycles.

US military explores more anti-drone technology
Bing the dog joined the British service in 1944 and jumped into Normandy later that year. (Photo: Jack1956 CC BY 3.0)

But Bing actually stumbled on his combat jump. He was supposed to be the “stick pusher,” the last one out of the plane. But he refused to jump into the flak-filled clouds over Normandy and one of the onboard jumpmasters had to throw him from the plane.

The 13th Parachute Battalion later found their dog hanging from a tree with two deep cuts to his face that they estimated were from German mortar fire.

US military explores more anti-drone technology
Salvo the U.S. parachuting dog executes a jump during training in 1943. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

Worse, Monty suffered severe wounds on D-Day that ended his involvement in the war and Ranee was lost soon after the jump. Bing stayed with the paratroopers and two captured German Shepherds (German by both breed and national service) who replaced Monty and Ranee.

Together, the dogs led the paratroopers during their advance across Europe, sniffing for minefields and other traps and pointing out probable ambushes.

US military explores more anti-drone technology
Rob the Paradog was another heroic parachuting dog of World War II awarded the Dickin Medal. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

Just like a pointer drawing a hunter’s attention to game, Bing would freeze up and point with his nose when he found a potential batch of Germans expected to make trouble for his paratroopers.

Other British forces, including the SAS (Special Air Service), took dogs on airborne operations — as did a small number of American troops.

After the war, Bing returned to his civilian life as Brian the family dog, but was recognized in 1947 with a Dickin Medal — an award for animal valor — bestowed by Air Chief Marshall Sir Frederick Bowhill. He lived to the age of 13 before dying in 1955.

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This Army vet is crazy motivated

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  Former NFL player and Army Veteran Daniel Rodriguez seeks out battlefields.

Enlisting after the untimely death of his father, Rodriguez served grueling deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, survived heavy action and the loss of comrades, and returned stateside with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star — all by age 19.

Battling PTSD, Rodriguez reinvented himself as a college football player, joining the Clemson University team and eventually going on to play pro with the St. Louis Rams. Continuing to master the improbable, he wrote a bestselling autobiography about his experience entitled “Rise: A soldier, a dream and a promise kept.”

And now he’s reinventing himself again, having just signed to play pro soccer in Europe. You might think you’re motivated, but sorry, not like this dude.

“If I had any one of my friends that could be here today that were killed, what excuse would they make to not want to be with their loved one, to not want to be productive, to not want to do something one more day if they had the opportunity to.”

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Dust, and where to eat it. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Rodriguez invited Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis to spend a day with him on the off-season training pitch, a battlefield that would soon test the limits of Curtis’ athletic prowess. Not content to merely survive a session in the sh*t in Rodriguez Boot Camp, Curtis attempted to recapture some manhood by asserting his prerogative to throw down the now familiar Oscar Mike Challenge.

The results were all too typical.

US military explores more anti-drone technology
For a brief moment, things looked promising for Curtis. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Watch as Rodriguez shows Curtis how to put some twinkle in his toes and where he can shove his “spinning cartwheel block” in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

Watch this Vietnam War vet school a young soldier in stunt driving

This is what happens when you put a sailor in a stock car

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5 things I wish I knew before deployment

My wife and I were watching TV and I received a phone call saying I will be going on a deployment, details will be given at a later date. Instantly, I thought, “finally, it’s here! Now it’s my turn!” What I didn’t think about was all the preparation to leave. I, like other many young soldiers, was in a naïve mindset where I believed the Army would handle everything down to the last piece of paper I have to touch.


I was very wrong. I had so many questions rise, and that went unanswered, that at times I felt more worried about the couple months before deploying than I did about the deployment itself.

I Googled long and hard to find some information that would help me out. To my surprise there wasn’t a lot online that was helping. Most of the time when I searched “pre-deployment help” I got information for spouses of a soldier who was deploying. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it didn’t help me any.

Also read: 6 military-life problems that don’t go away when you get out

I eventually got my answers whether through calling around to friends, from my leadership, or figuring it out on the fly. So, now I would like to put this information out, in a very simple format, to where any other young soldier who is in the same boat I was, can get his/her mindset and ready for their mission.

US military explores more anti-drone technology
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis

1. Gear/Pack

Obviously, a huge focus point will be your gear. Are you getting new issued gear? Using what you have? What exactly do you need? Luckily this should get answered by your leadership, if not, just think about things you use now and what you need. Most of your training taking place in X-Y-Z? You should probably bring that then. Never used the blow up sleeping mat (yeah me neither)? You can probably do without that then.

The big idea I want to hit on for gear those is to pack early and not around your loved ones. It will make it harder for you as you’re packing for your big trip and see your wife/husband/kids watching you with a sad look on their face. Plus, if they are out of your way it’ll make it easier to spread your inventory out and visually see what you have and don’t have.

Packing early will make you feel at ease as you’re spending time with family and friends. You don’t want to be at dinner with your wife and the only thought in your head is about packing. It also gives you time to think about what you packed and double check it. If you have that, “I think I forgot something” feeling in your stomach, then you probably did. If you get that feeling early enough, you’ll remember what you forgot early enough too.

Pack early, and save yourself the headache.

US military explores more anti-drone technology
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika

2. Get your finances/documents together

Again, your leadership will most likely help with this, especially the paperwork side, but there’s a few things I didn’t hear about or fully get to finishing before I left that I wish I had.

First, look into all your payments. Most companies will lower, or I’ve even heard completely get rid of, interest fees for a deployed servicemember. This I didn’t hear about until I had already got to where I was going, so there wasn’t much I could do from there. Ask around and do some research see if you can save some extra money while you’re raking in the deployment money.

Next, set up automatic payments, too. I set that up last minute which wasn’t a smart idea because I didn’t have any test run months. My first month of being gone from home I realized I hadn’t set up one payment, and another I didn’t finish successfully but never read the notice telling me that. I ended up scrambling to get onto a crappy wifi connection and fixing it, but if it wasn’t for the wifi I would’ve had some extra headaches that weren’t needed.

3. Get your quality time in

This was preached to me a lot, and luckily, I listened. I’m listing this not because I didn’t know, but because it was definitely helpful and I’m glad I listened. Even if it’s just a friend or a few friends, take some time to sit down and relax with them. You will thank yourself for it.

If you’re active duty, take whatever extra leave you can. Get home see you family, friends, and simply catch up. If you’re reserve, make your last day at your civilian work a couple weeks before you head out. If you have kids, take a night or two where you can sit down on a nice date and be romantic.

Related: How to stay connected with your kids, from deployments to business trips

Also, take some time to yourself. Be alone with your thoughts for a bit, think them out. Personally, I got so caught up in my training, visiting friends/family, and other pre-deployment activities I never actually thought fully through how I felt. It didn’t hit me until I was on the plane what was going on, and that wasn’t a good time for that to sink in. This leads me to my next point…

4. Accept what is coming

This is a really deep one that takes some reflection and personal time to sort out in your head. Realize you’re about to be gone from home for a while, and things are going to be different while you’re at your designation and when you get home. You won’t be in the loop and in all the inside jokes, and you for sure will be missing out on something. From a birthday for a child or something as simple as your friends going out and having great nights. Just do your best to stay in touch and up-to-date so you don’t feel as out of touch.

US military explores more anti-drone technology
U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena

The big one: you might make the ultimate sacrifice. Yeah, dying. For some, they don’t even worry about it, others it keeps them up at night. You don’t know what could happen, and you sure as hell have read/seen all the horror stories from those before you. The way I thought through it to help ease my mind was very strange, but very helpful, and I thank a good friend for this thought process.

“If, and IF, you die. You won’t even know it. Yeah it sucks, but you won’t feel it, you won’t be sad or mad, you’ll just be gone. As shitty as that is to think about, it’s the truth. And at least you died fighting and serving.”

So, if you worry all day about dying, and at the end of deployment you come home fine, then you wasted all that time and energy worrying about something that didn’t even happen, and if you do die, you won’t even know! I know, this sounds very straight to the point and too simple, but really this helps people out.

US military explores more anti-drone technology
DoD photo

5. Missing home

 This I came to learn from my time on deployment. At first the thought of being away from my wife, and home, would really hit me hard. Someone I spent every day with is now suddenly gone from me for over nine months. How do I do this? Then, I came across a weird realization.The time zone switch, and me being busy, was enough that it was too hard to talk that I ended up not talking a lot, and it felt better that way. Some troops can pull off calling home multiple times a day, and I don’t know how they do that. Besides scheduling it and finding the time, the more you call back home the more you’ll be reminded of what you’re missing.

Some soldiers that have deployed before will specifically tell you not to call every day to help your emotions and thoughts. Just remember to let your significant other, or whoever, know that you might not talk every day, and if you miss a day to not start worrying immediately. There’s so many variable that go into when you can get in contact don’t even fully plan on conversations happening.

Also, end your conversations on the most positive note you can. If you argued any, resolve it before you hang up, don’t let that simmer. This will just eat at your emotions, and you’re already all the way in another country, you don’t need the extra emotions.

That’s all I have for now. I hope this reaches someone who was in the same spot I was, and I really hope it helps answer some questions, and set some minds at ease.

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The search for the rumored Nazi ghost train is back on

The search for a lost Nazi gold train is back on.


Last August, two amateur treasure hunters said they had “irrefutable proof” of the existence of a World War II-era Nazi train, rumored to be filled with stolen gold.

Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper claimed they used ground-penetrating radar to locate the train, which is somewhere alongside a railway between the towns of Wroclaw and Walbrzych in southwestern Poland.

“The train isn’t a needle in a haystack,” Andrzej Gaik, a retired teacher and spokesman for the renewed effort to search for the train, told Agence France-Presse.

“If it’s there, we’ll find it,” Gaik said.

‘There may be a tunnel. There is no train.’

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Artist’s rendering of the Nazi ghost train | We Are The Mighty

In December, after analyzing mining data, Polish experts said there was no evidence of the buried train.

Janusz Madej, from Krakow’s Academy of Mining, said the geological survey of the site showed that there was no evidence of a train after using magnetic and gravitation methods.

“There may be a tunnel. There is no train,” Madej said at a news conference in Walbrzych, according to the BBC.

Koper insists that “there is a tunnel and there is a train,” and that the results are skewed because of different technology used, The Telegraph reports.

Local folklore

According to a local myth, the train is believed to have vanished in 1945 with stolen gold, gems, and weapons when the Nazis retreated from the Russia.

During the war, the Germans were building headquarters for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in Walbrzych’s medieval Ksiaz Castle, then called the Furstenstein Castle.

Below the castle, the Germans built a system of secret tunnels and bunkers, called “Project Riese.”

The train is in one of these hidden passages, says Tadeusz Slowikowski, the main living source of the train legend. Slowikowski, a retired miner who searched for the train in 2001, believes the Nazis blew up the entrance to the train’s tunnel.

“I have lived with this mystery for 40 years, but each time I went to the authorities they always silenced it,” Slowikowski told The Associated Press. “For so many years. Unbelievable!”

Slowikowski believes it is near the 65th kilometer of railway tracks from Wroclaw to Walbrzych.

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The Army Wants to Know About Your Athlete’s Foot And Jock Itch

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Army officials admitted the service doesn’t know as much as it should about its soldiers’ personal hygiene in the field even after Army programs have created antimicrobial treatments for socks and shirts.

The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center wants to change that. In response, the center’s Consumer Research Team issued a survey for soldiers to figure how soldiers combat common afflictions in the field like jock itch, athlete’s foot and body odor.

The Army wants to know what works and what doesn’t so it can better develop future solutions for items like sleeping bag liners, t-shirts, socks and boots.

Here is a link to the survey although a computer connected to a CAC identification is required to open and fill it out.

“Currently, the military doesn’t have any requirements for (antimicrobial treatments),” said Wendy Johnson of the Consumer Research Team. “And so the question is, should the military have requirements? What should they be? How do we know that this stuff is good enough, is doing what it’s supposed to do?”

Johnson did make a puzzling comment later in the survey announcement.

“We think that some of these things are going to get very low incidence rates, so we want thousands of Soldiers to answer this questionnaire for us,” Johnson said in the press release.

Also at Military.com:

Volunteers Bring Santa To Remote Alaska Village

2015 Military Pay Pinch Could Become 2016 Punch

New Spouse’s Group Tailored To Men

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28 rarely seen photos from the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was gritty and painful. These 28 photos from the U.S. National Archives provide another glimpse of what U.S. Marines and their South Vietnamese partners went through in that long war:


1. A U.S. Marine officer teaches a Vietnamese recruit to use a grenade launcher.

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Marine Maj. Hubert G. Duncan, operations officer with the 4th Combined Action Group, instructs a Vietnamese Popular Force soldier in the use of the M-79 grenade launcher. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. R. D. Lucas)

2. Vietnamese Rangers move across the landing zone as a Marine helicopter takes off.

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An ARVN Ranger and a CH-46D helicopter from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 are silhouetted against the early morning sky near An Hoa. The Rangers were participating in Operation Durham Peak. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Bob Jordan)

3. Vietnamese armor soldiers try to get their gun into operation.

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4th Army of the Republic of Vietnam armor at Quangi Nai in January 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Pavey)

4. A U.S. Marine and a Vietnamese Ranger search for enemy weapons.

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A Marine from the FLC’s Provisional Rifle Company and an ARVN Ranger probe for enemy weapons during a search of Xuan Thiue village near FLC on March 11, 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. A. Wiegand.)

5. American Marines enjoy food and mail during a short stayover in their base village.

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Combined Action Program Marines receive mail and an occasional hot meal upon returning to their base village. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. R.F. Ruis)

6. Vietnamese rangers practice inserting into and exfiltrating from the jungle on special purpose ladders from a Marine helicopter.

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View of CH-46 helicopter passing over photographer as it carries nine ARVN Rangers hanging on an insertion ladder. The rangers are undergoing training in recon ladder insertion-extraction methods at first recon battalion area. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

7. Vietnamese and U.S. troops get ready for a night ambush.

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American and Vietnamese Marines are assigned their positions before departing for their night ambush site in 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. R. F. Ruiz)

8. A Marine trainer assists a Vietnamese student.

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A Vietnamese Popular Force trainee is aided through a barbed wire entanglement on the infiltration course at Mobile Training Team-1 located just outside Tam Ky on July 28, 1968, by Sgt. William C. Gandy. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Joe Collins)

9. A soldier shot by a sniper smokes a cigarette as another soldier looks at the carbine magazine that caught the incoming round, preventing further injury.

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A Popular Force soldier from the village of Hoa Vang steadies himself against a hut after receiving an enemy sniper bullet in his ammunition belt. He received a minor burn as a result of the bullet, which lodged in a carbine magazine. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Bartlett)

10. Marines conducting a joint operation with the Vietnamese catch a break on armored personnel carriers.

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Marines on sweep with ARVNs on amphibious personnel carriers about 7 miles southwest of Danang on Jan. 8, 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. R.D. Bell)

11. A joint force rushes to remove supplies from a U.S. helicopter.

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April 16, 1964. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

12. A U.S.-Vietnamese patrol moves through sand dunes during a mission.

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A patrol of Vietnamese Popular Forces and U.S. Marines of Combined Action Program, 3rd Marines, 3rd Regiment and 3rd Battalion, move out across dunes bordering Quang Xuyen village to the south of Danang on March 28, 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. H.M. Smith)

13. A Vietnamese trainee practices ambushing North Vietnamese forces during a training activity with the U.S.

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A Vietnamese Popular Force soldier and U.S. Marine Cpl. Gilbert J. Davis practice ambush techniques outside the compound of Mobile Training Team-1 near Tam Ky on July 28, 1968. The Vietnamese received two weeks of Marine training. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Joe Collins)

14. A Marine shows a Vietnamese soldier how to operate the M-60 machine gun during training.

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Lance Cpl. Larry W. Elen and an ARVN soldier prepare to fire the M-60 machine gun in mid-December 1969. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. G. J. Vojack)

15. American and Vietnamese troops rush into position as Viet Cong fighters attempt to escape.

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A Popular Force automatic rifleman and his assistant provide cover while a U.S. Marine advances and a Popular Force riflemen leaps over a row of cactus to pursue fleeing Viet Cong. The action occurred during a joint search and sweep operation near Chu Lai on Aug. 24, 1966. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Mincemoyer)

16. American and Vietnamese troops share the map during a clearing operation.

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Elements of companies A and C of the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, joined forces with the 72nd Regional Forces Recon Co., and the 196th Regional Forces co. in a three-day operation near Ky Tra, 40 miles south of Danang. The operation was designed to destroy Viet Cong base camps. Several camps were found along with numerous documents, food, and weapons. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

17. A U.S. Marine checks a local citizen’s identification.

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Marine Sgt. Williams ‘Budda’ Biller of the Combat Action Program makes a routine check of a villager’s ID Card. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. H.M. Smith)

18. Troops patrol a village destroyed by the Viet Cong after the locals refused to give aid to the fighters.

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During the night of June 10, 1970, Viet Cong terrorist units attacked the villages of Phanh-Ban and Phanh-My near Danang for two hours. More than half of the villages were totally destroyed by fire and explosives used by sapper attackers because the villagers were loyal to the Saigon government and refused to support local Viet Cong activities or give rice to Communists. The few Popular Force Troops were surprised by the attack and more than 150 villagers were killed. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Berkowits)

19. A U.S. Marine rests during operations.

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Private First Class Russell R. Widdifield of 3rd Platoon, Company M, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, takes a break during a ground movement 25 miles north of An Hoa, North Vietnam. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

20. A U.S. Marine on patrol.

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Marines of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Cross an open field while on patrol 8 miles south of the city of Da Nang. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

21. A U.S. Marine teaches a Popular Force soldier to operate the PRC-25.

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Marine Cpl. J. R. Stien gives a Popular Force soldier an instruction on the operation of the PRC-25 in late-November 1969. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. G. J. Voljack).

22. A U.S. Marine NCO teaches a firefighter how to properly use his new gas mask.

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Marine Sgt. Lawrence J. Marchlewski instructs Vietnamese fire fighters in the proper use of their gas mask. The device allows firemen to combat flames in heavy smoke. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. G.W. Heikkinen)

23. A Marine instructor helps a Vietnamese student after an underwater exercise.

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24. Marines and Vietnamese troops offload rice confiscated from a Viet Cong cache.

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American Marines assist two Vietnamese Popular Force soldiers unloading rice from a small sampan. The rice was confiscated from a Viet Cong cache in the walls of a hut in Phu Bai village on Oct. 23, 1966. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Highland)

25. Vietnamese Rangers load onto Marine helicopters for a multi-battalion air assault mission.

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Army of the Republic of Vietnam Rangers board CH-46D helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263. The ARVN Rangers spearheaded a multi-battalion Allied helicopter assault. Operation Durham Peak got underway as the first rays of sunlight glinted from the whirling rotor blades. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Bob Jordan)

26. Reconnaissance Marines ride to a new insertion point.

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Marines of Company C, 1st Recon Battalion, ride in a CH-46 helicopter to their next insertion point in May 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. W. P. Barger)

27. A Marine checks out the home of local pigeons used by the Viet Cong to communicate without the Americans intercepting their messages.

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Marine Cpl. Donald L. Carlson, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, examines a pigeon coop used by the Viet Cong for carrier pigeons on Oct. 24, 1965, in the 28-structure Viet Cong compound discovered during Operation Trailblazer. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Costello)

28. A Joint U.S.-Vietnamese flag raising ceremony.

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Marines and Popular Forces of TANGO-1 Combined Unit Pacification Program perform a joint flag raising ceremony in Le Soa Village on Sep. 3, 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. R. F. Rappel)

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US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

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The guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) is assisted by a tug boat as it pulls away from the pier at Naval Station Norfolk. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Amber O’Donovan)


An investigation into events that led to the reliefs of the commanding officer, former executive officer and command master chief of the guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge earlier this month implicated 15 other officers and senior leaders on the ship in the scandal.

Cmdr. Sean Rongers, Cmdr. Brandon Murray, and Command Master Chief Richard Holmes, were relieved April 7 by Destroyer Squadron 28 commander Capt. Richard Brawley after an investigation found fireworks were being stored aboard the Bainbridge in violation of Navy instructions and unlawful gambling was taking place among officers, officials said.

A 149-page preliminary inquiry report released to Military.com through a Freedom of Information Act request found the ship’s leaders also failed to get a pregnant officer transferred off the ship in keeping with Navy policy, conducted certain ship maneuvers that endangered gear, and encouraged relaxed uniform guidelines under long underway periods with the sale of “no-shave chits.”

A command climate survey also obtained by Military.com dating from February also found that the ship’s top officers presided over a command marked by exeptionally poor trust in leadership and leadership and organizational cohesion.

According to the February investigation, Rongers, the commanding officer, directed the purchase of just under $1,500 worth of fireworks for a July 4 display aboard the Bainbridge, using funds from the ship’s morale, welfare and recreation account. In April 2015, Rongers directed a subordinate to purchase the fireworks, knowing that the ship had conducted a similar fireworks display in 2013.

The subordinate, whose name is redacted in the report, negotiated a deal with the company Phantom Fireworks to buy the pyrotechnics. An overnight trip was made to purchase the goods, which included fireworks with names like “The Beast Unleashed” and “Swashbuckler 72-shot.”

Some of the fireworks purchased were not available for sale in Virginia, the investigation shows. Then, while the ship was operating in the Virginia Capes area, near Virginia Beach, Rongers dispatched rigid-hulled inflatable boats to pick the fireworks up at Rudee Inlet in a late-night operation.

Rongers told investigators that the fireworks were brought aboard via late-night boat operations in order to avoid force protection measures or other regulations that might have prohibited them coming through the main gate when the ship was pierside in Norfolk, Virginia. He also said he checked with another officer about the legality of using MWR funds for fireworks and got the all-clear. The officer, whose name is redacted in the investigation, denied that Rongers had checked with her.

The fireworks were stored in black trash bags in the ship’s pyro locker, near its barbershop. Ultimately, however, officials from Destroyer Squadron 28 got wind of the fireworks plan when a prospective weapons officer from the Bainbridge raised concerns, saying he had already confronted Rongers and Murray, the executive officer about having them stored aboard ship.

Rongers had the fireworks removed from the ship and loaded into his own car. The MWR funds used to purchase them were never reimbursed, however.

Investigators found that Rongers and Murray failed to do the research needed to ensure the fireworks purchase and display were legal. They violated MWR policy prohibiting funds from being used to pay for “hazardous activities,” according to the report, and Rongers “rationalized” his actions because a fireworks display had taken place before, even though Navy policy prohibits fireworks being stored aboard ship and transported the way that they were.

Rongers did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Military.com.

The gambling accusations stem from a weekly Friday night officers’ poker game that took place in the Bainbridge officers’ wardroom with Rongers and Murray’s consent and participation during the ship’s 2015 deployment. There was a $10 buy-in, and participants played with chips in lieu of money and kept scores and money owed written on a piece of paper.

Concerns arose after an officer was asked to pay a buy-in fee she claimed she was never informed about. A legal officer approached Rongers and Murray with doubts about the legality of the command-sanctioned game, according to the report, but they dismissed these concerns, saying no one was forced to play.

Ultimately, the game was temporarily closed down and replaced by a non-gambling game night with activities like Uno and Risk. However, the game started up again later in the deployment, investigators found.

The investigation also revealed a booming business: the purchase of “no-shave chits” which allowed Navy personnel to grow facial hair or, if female, to wear their hair in a ponytail during long periods underway. At $30 a pop, the MWR raised nearly $12,700 on a single deployment from sale of the chits, the investigation found. The ship’s leaders sanctioned this practice, and Rongers even purchased a chit at one point, documents show. While the practice of selling the chits is fairly common, investigators found, it is not permitted by policy.

Bainbridge leadership also fell afoul of policy when an officer became pregnant. Though regulations stipulate that pregnant sailors need to be transferred off-ship by the 20th week of pregnancy, she was not transferred until some five weeks after that deadline, even though the report shows she repeatedly brought the matter to the attention of her chain of command. Moreover, Murray waited until January 2016 — past the pregnancy’s 20-week point — to inform the ship’s placement officer of the need to transfer the officer, even though he was aware of the situation in November, the investigation found.

Finally, Rongers’ handling of the Bainbridge on breakaways following underway replenishment caused alarm among sailors and led to the loss of some gear, the investigation found. On multiple occasions, witnesses testified, Rongers would conduct the breakaways at high speed, before personnel and gear were secured. In one case, sailors ordered to clear the deck could hear items tumbling around as the ship broke away. Two aluminum drip pans were lost over the course of the deployment, and one “killer tomato” or inflatable naval gunnery target, was struck loose by the wind, but was ultimately recovered.

Investigators faulted many other officers for failing to take appropriate action in light of the improper behavior taking place aboard the Bainbridge. While Rongers and Murray were advised they were suspected of violating articles 92 and 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, violation of a general order and conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman, respectively, 16 others were cited on suspicion of dereliction of duty or violation of a general order.

These include the ship’s chief engineer, the supply corps officer, the weapons officer, the force protection officer, the recreational services officer, the Tomahawk leading chief petty officer and others, though the names of these individuals were redacted.

Investigators recommended that Rongers face non-judicial punishment for directing a subordinate to illegally transport and store fireworks. They also recommended that the ship’s chief petty officers ensure sailors are taught lessons on “misplaced loyalty” with regards to the fireworks incident, since many aboard ship were found to have covered for leadership, rather than adhered to policy.

While the investigation does not cover how problems with the ship’s command affected the rank-and-file, a command climate survey from the time reveals troubling trends. Fifty-three percent of sailors on the Bainbridge rated their trust in leadership unfavorably, according to the survey. On leadership cohesion, 63 percent of sailors gave unfavorable ratings, and 47 percent of sailors rated organizational cohesion unfavorably. Organizational processes received a 52 percent unfavorable rating, and 42 percent of sailors rated their job satisfaction unfavorably.

A spokesman for Naval Surface Force Atlantic, Lt. Cmdr. Myers Vasquez, said Rongers, Murray and Holmes remain assigned to SURFLANT in Norfolk. Vasquez said the administrative process was still ongoing for the sailors named in the investigation and declined further comment.

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The first ‘Memphis Belle’ was actually shot down before it completed 25 missions

You’ve probably heard of the Memphis Belle, especially after the 1990 film starring Matthew Modine and Harry Connick, Jr.


That film took a lot of liberties with the story of the actual B-17 that was the subject of a documentary done during World War II, “Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress.”

But history can also be very malleable, especially in the hands of Hollywood.

When Hollywood director William Wyler was doing a documentary for the U.S. government on the first Allied bomber crew to complete a 25-mission “tour” over Europe, he took some liberties. Why? Because it was World War II, and the bombing campaign over Europe was a bloody affair. In fact, the Directors Guild of America notes that during the filming of the documentary, cinematographer and World War I vet Harold J. Tannebaum was killed when the Nazis shot down the B-24 Liberator he was in.

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The Memphis Belle in the sky, June 1943. (USAF photo)

According to the memoirs of Robert Morgan, the pilot of the Memphis Belle, Wyler had picked a different bomber for the feature film, a B-17 known as “Invasion 2nd.” That plane – and five others – were shot down on an April 17, 1943, mission to Bremen. The Memphis Belle was chosen to replace Invasion 2nd – Morgan related how he was told that another plane had a back-up film crew on a bomber called “Hell’s Angels” in case the Memphis Belle went down. Wyler actually filmed parts of multiple missions for the documentary – the mission portrayed on the film was actually the Memphis Belle’s 24th mission.

Of course, the Memphis Belle did complete the tour – and she got all the accolades of being the “first” to do so. The crew of Hell’s Angels, though, actually flew their 25th mission a week before the Memphis Belle flew her 25th mission. The documentary, though, became a classic.

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The Memphis Belle on a War Bond tour. (USAF photo)

Wyler went on to direct a documentary about the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt’s operations in Italy, titled, “Thunderbolt!” He was wounded by an exploding anti-aircraft shell, losing some of his hearing.

After the war, he went on to direct the classic films “The Best Years of Our Lives” — a movie about veterans who returned home that won nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director — and “Ben Hur,” featuring former B-25 gunner Charlton Heston, which won 11 Oscars.

Today, “Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress” is available via the Internet Archive and Netflix is also streaming the film. It is also on Youtube. Feel free to watch it below. The Memphis Belle is currently being restored at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio.

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8 genius military uses for civilian products

The Pentagon is using more equipment and technology from the civilian sector, but service members have been finding ingenious uses for civilian items for a long time.


1. Detecting tripwires: Silly String

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Ellen Keller

Tripwires have been a problem for centuries, but a modern toy has provided a solution. Silly String can be sprayed through open doors, windows, and other choke points to check for booby traps before soldiers and Marines move through.

2. Stopping bleeding: tampons

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tampons are known for stopping a certain kind of bleeding, but deployed service members realized that small tampons can plug a bullet hole, quickly controlling bleeding while the injured awaits a medical evacuation.

3. Marking bombs: flour and ear plugs

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Once a mine or IED is found, its location has to be communicated to others. Some units will draw on the ground with flour from a squeeze bottle, making symbols that say the type of danger and its location.

Flour doesn’t work well in wet environments or anywhere the ground is a light beige or dirty white. There, disposable ear plugs can work better. Mine clearance will find a mine and drop a brightly colored ear plug on it. Soldiers following behind them know to watch out for these markers.

4. Cleaning weapons: baby wipes, cotton swabs, and dental scrapers

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Shahram Sharif

Weapons maintenance is important, but good materials can be hard to find. Still, some of the best cleaning can be done with baby wipes, cotton swabs, and dental scrapers. They’re used to wipe down surfaces, get to hard to reach areas, and remove burnt on carbon, respectively.

5. Sewing: dental floss

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Stilfehler

When uniforms rip, soldiers away from a base have to personally fix them. Dental floss is strong, easy to work with, and available to troops at the front. To make a sewing kit, troops throw floss in a cleaned out mint or dip can along with a couple of sewing needles.

6. Waterproofing: Soap dish or condoms

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons, josef325

A service member’s poncho should keep their gear dry, but even recruits in boot camp know better. Wallets, maps, and notebooks are better protected in a soap travel dish. When a dish isn’t available or an awkward items needs protected, condoms can be unrolled over them. This technique works well for waterproofing boots before crossing a stream.

7. Cleaning radio contacts: pencil eraser

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Evan-Amos

This one is so effective, it’s become official Army doctrine. The contact points where microphones or antennas meet with a radio can become tarnished and dirty. Erasers can get these spotless quickly, something which has been incorporated into Army manuals such as Field Manual 44-48, “Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for the Sensor Platoon.”

8. Making terrain models: marking chalk

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Photo: US Army Cheryl Rodewig

Marking chalk is that chalk contractors use with string to mark exactly where a wire should run or a cut should be made. The chalk doesn’t come attached to the string though, it comes in 5-gallon jugs. The military, which has to build sand tables that represent the terrain in their area of operations, realized they could use different colors of this chalk to make different colored sand. Water can be represented with blue, vegetation with green, and hazardous areas with red or yellow.

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That time the Nazis built a gigantic plane that could haul 95,000 pounds of gear

The Nazis concocted all sorts of weird military technology, but the Me 323 Giant was certainly one of the biggest.


With six engines over a 181 foot wingspan and the ability to haul 95,000 pounds of gear, the Giant was an incredible aviation feat. Doors in its nose opened up and allowed tanks, artillery, and personnel to hop inside and be transported up to 675 miles away. But it was also a big, slow, flying elephant with wings.

The Me 323 was helped answer a question plaguing the Germans early in the war: How do we get a bunch of tanks, troops, and artillery across the English channel and take London?

As Tyler Rogoway details at Foxtrot Alpha, in 1940 the Luftwaffe gave aircraft manufacturers Junkers and Messerschmitt just 14 days to come up with a proposal for an aircraft that could pull off such a feat. Junkers had a tough time coming up with a usable design and Messerschmitt was eventually chosen to spearhead the concept, which became the Me 321.

Though the Germans ultimately cancelled their planned invasion of Britain, called Operation Sea Lion, the Me 321 was used extensively on the Eastern Front. But the large cargo glider was riddled with problems, though it did see some success when used in Russia.

In 1941, German transport pilots were asking for something better than the Me 321. Only 200 of them were built, and while a bunch were scrapped, at least a few were upgraded to what would become the Me 323. It was the largest land-based transport aircraft of World War II, according to the Daily Mail.

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From Foxtrot Alpha:

The final production configuration of the Me323 had a high wing made of wood and fabric that was braced near the center of the wing and fuselage. The fuselage was built out of a tubular metal skeleton with wooden cross-beams and fabric covering. The cockpit sat high atop the aircraft’s bulbous nose, which was a clam-shell door design, allowing it to open wide for outsized cargo to be loaded and unloaded. The cargo hold was cavernous for the time, measuring 36 feet long, 10 feet wide and 11 feet high, which is very roughly the size of a first generation C-130’s cargo hold. All said, the Me323 could carry a wide variety of items. For example, it could haul a pair of four ton trucks or 52 drums of fuel or 130 fully outfitted combat troops.

Just because it could lift a lot didn’t mean it could do so quickly. The Giant’s maximum speed was a paltry 135mph at sea level, and that figure got only worse as it climbed. This was helped somewhat by replacing wooden propellers on early models with metal variable pitch propellers on later ones. A crew of five was used on most missions, which included two pilots, two engineers and a radioman. During flights through areas that were of high risk, the radioman and the engineers could man three of the aircraft’s five MG 131 machine guns, although dedicated gunners were often carried for these higher-risk missions, allowing the crew to concentrate on flying and navigating, while still employing all five guns against Allied fighters. The Giant’s five .51 inch machine guns were located on the aircraft’s upper wings and in the nose and tail.

So how did the Giant fare? Not so great, as it turned out. In 1943, a fleet of Giants was dispatched to airlift supplies to German troops in Tunisia, since the sea lanes were littered with Allied ships. Hitler didn’t really think this one through, since a gigantic bullseye of a target flying at 135 mph wasn’t exactly the best solution.

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Sure, the Me 323 had gun ports with machine guns and some German fighter escorts to defend against attacks, but that didn’t seem to matter on April 22. According to World War II Today, of the 27 Me 323 aircraft that attempted the hop from Sicily to Tunisia, 22 were shot down in the Mediterranean.

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The good news, of course, was that the crashed planes made really awesome diving spots about 70 years later. But the bad news: The fleet of Giants got so beat up that none were capable of flying around summer 1944, according to Foxtrot Alpha. No intact Me 323 survives today, although the German Air Force Museum has a main wing on display.

Here are some more photos of what it was like:

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US military explores more anti-drone technology
US military explores more anti-drone technology
US military explores more anti-drone technology
US military explores more anti-drone technology

NOW: The Army’s new weapon sight allows soldiers to shoot around corners and through smoke

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How China’s navy rapidly modernized to rival the US’s

A recent report from the US Congressional Research Service details how China’s navy, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), has undergone a stunning modernization push that puts it near parity with the US.


In fact, China’s military posture and prowess in the Western Pacific presents the US with a challenge unseen since the end of the Cold War.

By perfecting deadly ballistic and cruise missiles, by buying and designing submarines, planes, and surface ships, by cracking down on corruption and improving internal organization and logistics, the PLAN presents US naval planners with plenty to think about going forward.

Though few expect a military conflict to emerge between the world’s two biggest economies, China’s brinkmanship in the South China Sea has lead observers to describe their strategy of escalation as a kind of “salami-slicing,” or steadily taking small steps to militarize the region without taking any one step that could be viewed as a cause to go to war.

However, the US military, with its global network of allies, doesn’t have the luxury of choosing which conflicts to get involved in, and therefore must take every threat seriously.

In the slides below, see how the PLAN has shaped into a world-class navy capable of dominating the South China Sea, and even the entire Western Pacific, if left unchecked.

China’s naval mission

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Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy recruits | Xinhua

Those who observe China’s specific modernization goals, as well as their expressed intents in their actions, have determined that the PLAN’s mission most likely focuses on the following goals:

1. To possibly curb Taiwan’s continued attempts at independence militarily.

2.  Asserting or defending China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea and generally exercising more control over the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars of trade passes every year.

3.  Enforcing China’s assertion that it has a legal right to regulate foreign military activities in its 200-mile maritime exclusive economic zone, despite the protestations of their neighbors in the region.

4. Defending China’s commercial sea lines of communication with military and trading partners.

5. Usurping the US as the dominant regional power in the Western Pacific, and promoting China as a major world power.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Ballistic missiles

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The DF-21D rolls through China’s 2015 military parade. | William Ide via Wikimedia Commons

China’s DF-21D “Carrier Killer” ballistic missile is the cause of much concern for US naval planners. The missile has a tremendous range of about 810 nautical miles, far beyond the range of a US aircraft carriers’ highest-endurance planes, effectively denying them the luxury of lurking off China’s coast in the Western Pacific while in striking range.

The DF-21D uses a range of sensors to adjust its course during firing. This means that it can hit a moving target at sea in sub-optimal conditions and presents difficulties to any missile trying to intercept it. The DF-21D can deliver a high-explosive, radio-frequency, or even cluster warheads, which all but guarantee a kill, even against a formidable target such as a US aircraft carrier.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Submarines

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China’s Yuan-class attack submarine. | Congressional Research Service

The PLAN’s submarine fleet continues to undergo a modernization push that focuses on “counter-intervention” tactics against a modern adversary. The force has acquired 12 of Russia’s Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and launched no fewer than four new classes of indigenously made submarines, all of which are vastly more capable than the Cold-War era vessels they’re replacing.

The PLAN has launched two diesel-electric (Song and Yuan class), and two nuclear classes (Jin and Shang class). But the Shang class was stopped after only two hulls were produced, which led the DOD to speculate that the PLAN may be exploring an updated version of this class.

As the DOD states:

Over the next decade, China may construct a new Type 095 nuclear powered, guided-missile attack submarine (SSBN), which not only would improve the PLA Navy’s anti-surface warfare capability, but might also provide it with a more clandestine, land-attack option.

Additionally, the Jin class can be armed with 12 JL-2 nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which, given the submarine’s range, could potentially hit any of the 50 states in the US from locations in the Pacific.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Submarine capabilities

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A graph showing the relative difficulty of detecting different classes of Chinese and Russian submarines. | Congressional Research Service

The PLAN’s Russian-bought submarines remain some of the most capable in the fleet. Eight of the 12 Kilo classes (presumably the newer ones) carry the Russian-made SS-N-27 Sizzler cruise missiles, with a range of over 180 miles.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Cruise missiles

The PLAN possesses a large, varied inventory of cruise missiles. Some of their most capable missiles are Russian made, like the SS-N-22 Sunburn and the SS-N-27 Sizzler, but their indigenously made missiles are also rated highly.

China’s YJ-18 cruise missile goes into a supersonic-sprint phase when approaching a target, making it harder to stop. Other rangy platforms like the YJ-62, fired from surface ships, and the YJ-12, that can be fired from bombers, complicate the US’s naval plans with their versatility.

Source: Congressional Research Service

The Liaoning

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China’s carrier Liaoning. | PLAN

The PLAN’s sole carrier, the Liaoning, has been referred to as a “starter” carrier, as its limited range and capabilities have made it primarily useful as a training craft. Having an aircraft carrier allows the PLAN to test carrier-launched aircraft and carrier-strike-group procedures in a realistic way.

The Liaoning has a displacement of about 50,000 tons and can support about 30 aircraft. US Nimitz-class carriers double both of those figures, and also provide catapults to launch planes with heavier weapons and fuel loads, increasing their range.

As the Liaoning is conventionally powered, and not nuclear-powered like the US carriers, it’s ability for long-range power projection is greatly diminished.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Future carriers

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By late October 2015, with the installation of the 7.5-meter tall hangar below the soon to be flight deck, it’s pretty certain that this hull is going to be China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier. | Congressional Research Service

China is thought to be making rapid progress toward building additional aircraft carriers. Little is known of China’s future carriers, but they will most likely also feature the ski-jump platform of the Liaoning.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Carrier-based aircraft

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With the help of the Liaoning, the PLAN has succeeded in fielding the J-15 “Flying Shark” carrier-based aircraft.

The J-15 is modeled after Russia’s Su-33 “Flanker,” just as much of China’s military hardware borrows from Russian designs. On land, the J-15 has a range of about 745 miles, but launching the plane from a ski-jump-style carrier platform means that it cannot carry as much fuel, and therefore has a reduced range. Only eight production J-15s are known to be flying at this time.

It has been previously reported that the PLAN seeks to create a short takeoff, vertical-landing plane for carrier-based use in the future. However, they still lack carrier-based reconnaissance plane like the US’s E-2 Hawkeye.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Land-based aircraft and drones

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Kevin A. McGill | Wikimedia Commons

The PLAN’s Air Force has been steadily developing new aircraft for “missions including offshore air defense, maritime strike, maritime patrol, antisubmarine warfare, and, in the not too distant future, carrier-based operations.”

The PLAN has been replacing their aging Chengdu J-7 variants and Shenyang J-8B/Ds with 24 Su-30MK2s, which were purchased from Russia in 2002.

Additionally, the PLAN has a licensed copy of Russia’s Tu-16 Badger bomber, the H-6 Badger, of which they likely have 30. The bombers are escorted by JH-7 Flounder fighter/bombers.

The PLAN, like most modern navies, is also pouring money into drones.

“Some estimates indicate China plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023,” according to the DOD.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Surface combatants

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China’s Houbei-class (Type 022) fast-attack craft. | Congressional Research Service

Much like the submarine program, the PLAN’s fleet of surface combatants has grown rapidly since 1990, with the purchase of four Sovremenny-class destroyers from Russia and the launch of 10 new classes of indigenously built destroyers and frigates, as well as a new class of corvettes.

US naval planners consider several of the newer frigate classes to be nearly as capable as Western models, and note that shipboard air defense have notably improved in the newer classes.

China’s coast guard, which it wields as a sort of paramilitary force for enforcing their maritime claims, has also benefited from a large number of new cutters.

The newer ships have sophisticated radar and missile capabilities across the board, and future vessels are expected to truly rival the systems used by the US.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Amphibious ships

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An unconfirmed conceptual rendering of a possible design for China’s Type 081 amphibious-assault craft. | Global Times Forum

According to the DOD:

China has built four large YUZHAO class amphibious transport docks, which provide a considerably greater and more flexible capability than the older landing ships, signaling China’s development of an expeditionary warfare and OTH (over the horizon/long range) amphibious assault capability, as well as inherent humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and counter piracy capabilities.

The Yuzhao class vessels carry helicopters as well as two Russian-designed Zubr class cushioned landing ships, the largest military hovercraft of its kind.

However, after conflicts in Africa, the PLAN was unsatisfied with the firepower aboard the Yuzhao class and reportedly thought to create a new vessel, the Type 081 (pictured above).

Source: Congressional Research Service

Floating sea bases

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A notional artist’s rendering of a very large floating structure. | Liang Jun, People’s Daily China

Perhaps one of the more novel ideas being explored by the PLAN is very large floating sea bases. Only in the concept stage currently, these floating bases could host airstrips, barracks, docks, helipads, or security bases across their massive proposed 2-mile-long surface.

But experts on the topic speculate that these platforms would have ample peacetime uses, like supporting offshore oil rigs or even tourist destinations with duty-free shops.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Nuclear and EMP capabilities

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China’s Jin class-ballistic-missile nuclear-powered submarine. | Congressional Research Service

The DOD cites Bill Gertz, writing for The Washington Times, as saying the following:

China’s military is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons that Beijing plans to use against US aircraft carriers in any future conflict over Taiwan, according to an intelligence report made public on Thursday [July 21]…. The report, produced in 2005 and once labeled “secret,” stated that Chinese military writings have discussed building low yield EMP warheads, but “it is not known whether [the Chinese] have actually done so.”

China also possesses a nuclear triad, or the ability to launch nuclear-armed warheads from submarines, land-bases silos, and bomber aircraft.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Maritime surveillance and targeting systems

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CSIS ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

China’s development and deployment of advanced and long-range radars in the South China Sea is well documented.

The PLAN can use these sensors, which “reportedly include land-based over-the-horizon backscatter (OTH-B) radars, land-based over-the-horizon surface wave (OTH-SW) radars, electro-optical satellites, radar satellites, and seabed sonar networks,” to guide their ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as more conventional forces.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Naval cyber warfare

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Wikimedia Commons

China’s military writing does not specify how they would use cyberwarfare in a naval conflict, but it should be assumed that network warfare would be part of any sea battle. The PLAN is known to have invested heavily in cyberwarfare.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Limits and weaknesses

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Lamar Salter

Though the PLAN has made major strides toward modernization and world-power status, they still lack in the following four key areas:

1. Joint operations with other parts of China’s military,

2. Antisubmarine warfare,

3. Dependence on foreign suppliers for some ship components,

4. Long-range targeting.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Conclusion

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Public domain

The PLAN and the other branches of China’s massive military have made impressive progress in modernizing they forces, but they still lag behind in some key areas.

The US Navy, unlike the PLAN, has commitments around the world. Currently two carrier-strike groups are stationed in the Mediterranean as the fight against ISIS rages on and Russia continues to threaten NATO territory and personnel.

The US would face extreme difficulties in abandoning their posts worldwide to focus on the Pacific, whereas China would leverage every possible dimension of warfare (psychological, informational, legal, cyber, conventional, and possibly even nuclear or electromagnetic) to assert their dominance in their immediate region.

However, the US has a built-in advantage that the Chinese cannot hope to design or buy — alliances. Through the US’s solid support of democratic and Western-leaning nations in the region, they have built a network of strong and determined allies that can band together against a rising authoritarian power like China.

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