Lately, it seems everyone has an opinion on the role of women in combat. Recently two female officers passed Army Ranger training and the Marines completed a study on gender integration, and some government officials are upset about all of it. But the notion of women in combat is not new. They’ve been in the thick of it for centuries, and not just as camp followers and nurses.
With a few exceptions, women in leadership and direct combat roles were (forcefully) restricted by men (unless God tells a sixteen-year-old French girl how to beat the English. But, of course, that doesn’t count because God is a dude, right?).
God’s mansplaining of how to win the Hundred Years’ War aside, in the days when armies would forage food and supplies, officially licensed small business people known as “sutlers” or “vivandiers” would follow the armies to sell tobacco, food, and drinks.
The Napoleonic Wars and the wars of Napoleon III brought the rise of the vivandière, often the daughters and wives of those enterprising businesses. They came to battle with a tonnelet (a small barrel) of brandy to give soldiers as they fought in a battle.
They would deliver much-needed shots to the wounded and would even carry them back to aid stations in the rear during the entire course of a battle. The vivandière marched with the troops everywhere they went and endured the same weather and combat conditions as the armies they followed. Some even carried a musket and fought in the battle. Unsurprisingly, the troops loved them for their bravery and generosity. The loss of a vivandière in battle was a loss to the entire army.
Paintings were made about them, and operas were composed, like Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment and Verdi’s La Forza del Destino. (Don’t say We Are the Mighty doesn’t expose its readership to high art. We at Team Mighty love this sh*t.)
The vivandière caught on overseas. During the American Civil War, they served with both Confederate and Union armies during battles, where their tradition of bravery continued. The U.S. Army calls them “the Forgotten Women of the Civil War” who “deserve to be remembered.” Women continued this role well into WWI, but were no longer allowed to go into combat.
The troops love for their vivandières goes beyond the normal desire a man has for women. Though some troops did marry their vivandière, the bond between these women and their regiments was more akin to the bonds people form after serving in combat with one another. Songs were written about the women who could handle themselves around love-struck men, like this song about a woman named Madelon (translated from French):
The United States Navy carried out a significant cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase in response to the use of chemical weapons by the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
According to media reports, 59 BGM-109 Tomahawks were fired from two destroyers against Shayrat Air Base in western Syria, with a Pentagon statement saying they targeted, “aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.”
Foxnews.com reported that the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Ross (DDG 71) carried out the strike on the base, which is where the planes that carried out the attack were based. USS Porter was the vessel buzzed by Russian aircraft this past February.
Both destroyers are armed with a single five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems (one with 29 cells, the other with 61 cells), Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems, and various small arms. The Mk 41 can fire the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile used in the strike.
Designation-Systems.net notes that the BGM-109C Tomahawk TLAM-C Block III carries a 750-pound blast-fragmentation warhead and has a range of 870 nautical miles, while the BGM-19D Tomahawk TLAM-D carries 166 BLU-97 bomblets – which are also used in the CBU-87 cluster bomb – and has a range of 470 nautical miles.
The Tomahawk is able to hit within 30 feet of its target. Both the TLAM-C and TLAM-D variants were likely used in the attack.
According to Scramble.nl, Shayrat Air Base houses one squadron of MiG-23MF “Flogger B” and MiG-23MLD “Flogger K” fighters and two squadrons of Su-22 “Fitter K” ground attack planes. The Su-22s were the planes likely to have been used in the attack. The MiG-23s are optimized more for the air-to-air role.
“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many,” Trump said, also declaring that Assad had used “banned chemical weapons.”
“Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement released late in the evening of April 6.
Such buzzing incidents have been common. In April 2016, the Daily Caller reported that the guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) was buzzed in the Baltic Sea by Su-24 Fencers while in international waters.
In June 2016, the USS Porter had entered the Black Sea to take part in NATO exercises. At the time, Russia threatened retaliation for the vessel’s entrance.
Arleigh Burke-class destroyers have a single five-inch gun, two MK 41 vertical launch systems (one with 32 cells, the other with 64), a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, and Mk32 324mm torpedo tubes.
Anyone who’s ever shot an AR or M4 with a suppressor knows how much better the experience is. Hence the saying, “Once you go suppressed, you never go back.”
Previously the exclusive domain of special operations troops, the Marine Corps is experimenting with outfitting an entire infantry battalion with suppressors to fire with their M16 and M4 rifles — and even with their light, medium and heavy machine guns, like the M2 .50cal.
“What we’ve found so far is it revolutionizes the way we fight,” a top Marine Corps official told Military.com recently. “It used to be a squad would be dispersed out over maybe 100 yards, so the squad leader couldn’t really communicate with the members at the far end because of all the noise of the weapons. Now they can actually just communicate, and be able to command and control and effectively direct those fires.”
Industry and military experts agree, saying suppressors deliver tremendous advantages to troops in battle. But there’s a reason why the technology has been primarily in the kit bag of special operations troops and highly trained snipers — they’re not always “grunt proof” and can sometimes cause more problems than they solve if used improperly, experts say.
So first, let’s look at three reasons why firearm sound suppressors awesome. Then we’ll show you three reasons why they’re a potential bigtime problem.
1. Signature mitigation
One of the main benefits to suppressor use by infantry troops, military experts say, is that the suppressor helps eliminate the flash of the powder burn from a fired round from emerging from the end of the barrel. Sound suppressors are like a vehicle muffler and use a series of baffles to progressively disperse the gas and flash from a shot.
The flash from a shot is a dead giveaway of a trooper’s position to the enemy — especially at night. (DoD photo)
When a trooper fires his rifle equipped with a suppressor — which can add another 4-6 inches to the end of the barrel (more on that in our “disadvantages list”) — that’s a lot of extra room for the flash to dissipate, making it hard for a bad guy to see a Marine’s position in the dark.
“This reduces or eliminates attention drawn to the shooter, making him virtually invisible,” said one Marine infantry expert. “We like to fight at night because it helps us reduce the enemy’s ability to see us or identify us as quickly — add a suppressor and it will help increase tempo.”
2. Recoil reduction
One of the things that a lot of shooters don’t realize is that a suppressor drastically reduces a firearm’s felt recoil, one industry expert said. Trapping the gasses within the suppressor negates the need for muzzle breaks or other devices to help keep the barrel level shot after shot.
As anyone who’s had to fire a shot in anger would know, accuracy is the key to survival, and suppressors help a lot in this area.
“Suppressors reduce firing recoil significantly … reducing the speed and quantity of the gas expelled and reducing the total momentum of the matter leaving the barrel, transferring to the gun as recoil,” the Marine infantry expert told WATM. “Suppressors also increase the speed of the bullet to the target, and this will cause an increase in accuracy and the shooter’s ability to track the target longer — and if needed calmly fire another carefully aimed shot.”
3. Sound suppression
Of course, as the name implies, suppressors are primarily designed to reduce the report of a firearm. They are not “silencers” like the Hollywood image would imply. A suppressor typically reduces the sound of a rifle from 160 dB to 135 dB — just enough to make it hearing safe, but by no means deadly quiet.
But that sound reduction is enough to provide a major advantage in fighting indoors and helping small unit leaders communicate better on the battlefield. Particularly when used with a machine gun, the suppressor can expand the area a unit can communicate and operate, industry and military experts say.
“Especially in [close quarters battle] suppressors are particularly useful in enclosed spaces where the sound, flash and pressure effects of a weapon being fired are amplified,” the infantry expert said. “Such effects may disorient the shooter, affecting situational awareness, concentration and accuracy. This could also reduce the noise in the battlefield thus aiding leaders in maintaining command and control.”
And the affect on a trooper’s hearing isn’t anything to shake a stick at either, industry experts say.
“The VA spends about $10 million per year on helping veterans who’re suffering from hearing loss,” the silencer industry source said. “That’s a big concern for service members who’re being exposed to gunfire throughout their career.”
While it’s clear most agree suppressors deliver major advantages to the war fighter, it’s not all ninja moves and .5 MOA shots every time.
Look, it’s physics folks. That gas and flash from a shot has to go somewhere.
Trapped in the suppressor, the hot gas and flash of a magazine dump, for example, can heat the accessory up to as much as 500 degrees. That’s enough to melt handguards and deliver severe burns if a trooper absentmindedly handles one.
That means if grunts are using suppressors as a matter of course, they have to add yet another element to look out for when they’re manipulating their weapons.
2. Length and Weight
Adding a “can” to the end of a rifle adds extra weight and length to the firearm. That changes how the trooper operates, particularly in close quarters battle scenarios.
The whole point of equipping infantry Marines with 14.5-inch barreled M4s is the make them more maneuverable. Adding another 6 inches to their rifle puts them right back in M16 A4 land, the Marine infantry expert said.
The added weight to the end of the barrel also affects accuracy and manipulation, industry sources say. A suppressor can make a rifle “front heavy,” changing the way a shooter has to mount the rifle and balance it for an accurate shot.
Great care has to be taken in mounting a suppressor to a rifle, the industry expert told us. Marines are probably using suppressors that attach to the rifle using a quick-attach mount so that a trooper can take the suppressor off quickly if needed (the other type of attachment is to just thread it directly to the barrel).
If this attachment isn’t done right and the suppressor is just a tiny bit off from the line of the barrel, it can result in the fired bullet impacting the baffles inside the suppressor, causing it to rupture. This is known as a “baffle strike,” and while it doesn’t usually cause severe injury, it can take a gun out of a fight, the industry source said.
Additionally, on direct (gas) impingement guns like the M4 (but not like the piston-driven M27), the suppressor can force a lot of gas back into the rifle breach.
“A suppressor scenario is going to result in a much filthier gun,” the industry source said. “That could cause more malfunctions if it’s not cleaned immediately.”
Modern suppressors are awesome and make shooting a firearm more controllable, accurate and safe. Most believe outfitting service members with this technology increases their effectiveness on the battlefield. But its important to remember they do come with some drawbacks that take training and practice to avoid.
U.S. Army Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds was captured with thousands of others during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge in 1944. In all, he spent 100 days as a prisoner of war at Stalag IXA POW camp near Ziegenhain, Germany.
As the highest ranking non-commissioned officer, he spoke for the group. When it came time for the Nazis to implement the policy of separating the Jewish prisoners and sending them off to labor camps where their survival was unlikely, Edmonds would have none of it. He ordered all his men to step forward and self-identify. The camp commander didn’t believe it.
“We are all Jews here,” he said.
Even when his captors put a gun to his head, the Tennessee native wouldn’t budge. His will was stronger than the Nazi’s threats. Edmonds continued, telling the Nazi camp commandant:
“If you are going to shoot, you are going to have to shoot all of us because we know who you are and you’ll be tried for war crimes when we win this war.”
His defiant stand saved 200 Jewish lives. He posthumously received the highest honor Israel gives non-Jews who risked their lives to save those of Jewish people during WWII. He is one of four Americans, and the first GI, to receive this honor.
“Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds seemed like an ordinary American soldier, but he had an extraordinary sense of responsibility and dedication to his fellow human beings,” said Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and memorial. “The choices and actions of Master Sgt. Edmonds set an example for his fellow American soldiers as they stood united against the barbaric evil of the Nazis.”
The names of those who risked it all to save the Jewish people during the Holocaust are engraved down an avenue in a Jerusalem memorial called Yad Vashem. It is the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust, safeguarding the memories of the past and teaching the importance of remembering to future generations.
The honor the Jewish nation bestows on such people is “Righteous Among the Nations,” created to convey the gratitude of the State of Israel and the Jewish people to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Edmonds joins the ranks of 25,685 others, including German industrialist Oskar Schindler and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.
Edmonds died in 1985. While in captivity, Master Sgt. Edmonds kept a couple of diaries of his thoughts, as well as the names and addresses of some of his fellow captors.
So yeah, celebrities are as susceptible as any other civilian for confusing Memorial Day and Veterans Day. After pointing out the difference, it’s best to just let it go…with most people. Every now and then, some tone-deaf stuff comes from a celebrity social media account.
Some people joke that “Marine” stands for “My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment.”
Surely that’s been the case. To get to Iwo Jima, the Marines needed to sail in on transports. And what was true in 1945 is no less true in 2017.
Later this month, Marines will be testing a lot of new technology, from landing craft to robots. But the new gear won’t just be painted green. The big gray pieces of Navy equipment that Marine butts ride in are also changing. When the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) entered service in 1989, the AV-8B Harrier was very young – the AV-8B+ with the APG-65 radar and AIM-120 AMRAAM capability was still years away from a test flight.
Today, the Wasp is nearing 30 and she has six sisters, and a half-sister, the USS Makin Island (LHD 8) in service with her — plus the USS America (LHA 6), the lead ship of a new class of big-deck amphibious assault ships. Everything on board will have to go in by air. Both the America and later the Tripoli will lack well decks for the hovercraft (LCACs) used to land troops, making them, in essence, light carriers on the order of Japan’s Izumo or the Italian Conte di Cavour.
Oh, each still holds 1,871 Marines, according to shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls.
The LHA 8 and LPD 28 represent the future of amphibious ships. LHA 8 is the first of the more permanent class, while LPD 28 is going to be a transition vessel from the San Antonio-class amphibious transports to the LX(R) program that will replace the Whidbey Island and Harper’s Ferry landing ships.
The LHA 8 will correct an omission in the first two America-class amphibious assault ships: It will have a well deck capable of holding two LCACs. Getting that means a bit of shuffling – Huntington Ingalls notes that 1,000 compartments have been eliminated, added, or moved around. The ship will have a smaller hanger than the USS America (18,745 square feet versus 28,142 square feet), but it will have over 12,000 more square feet to store vehicles.
Over 1,600 Marine butts will ride in this ship.
The LPD 28 is a San Antonio-class ship. But in some ways she is a lot like the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, a half-sister to USS San Antonio and her 10 other sisters intended as a bridge to the LX(R) program. Huntington Ingalls is proposing a version of the San Antonio hull for the LX(R) program – largely to avoid growing pains.
The most visible change is her masts – LPD 28 will have traditional masts as opposed to the stealthy masts on the other San Antonio-class ships. She will also have simpler roller doors for her helicopter hangar, and an open upper stern gate. She will carry 650 Marines to their destination.
In short, these new ships will continue to haul Marine butts to their eventual destinations. Even as technology changes, some things will remain the same.
Laura Miller apologized more than once for getting emotional as she spoke at the Airborne Special Operations Museum on Monday.
But after seeing battle-hardened Special Forces soldiers dissolve into tears at the loss of their dogs, she said the love these men felt for their dogs — and of the dogs for them — can lead to tears at times.
Miller, a retired veterinarian technician who served 26 years, including 10 with caring for Special Operations Forces dogs, spoke to a crowd of several hundred about the sacrifices of military dogs — and the number of military lives they have saved.
“To see these big, strong soldiers break into tears over the loss of their dog, you realize this is a special bond,” Miller said. “There is a love that runs deeper.”
“The love for their dog and of the dog for their handler…” she paused as the emotion of the moment again caught her. “Just appreciate everything. Life is too short. The evidence of that is right here.”
She waved over to the nearby ASOM Field of honor, where more than 600 flags caught a light breeze.
In addition to the ceremony, the ASOM offered a series of concerts, exhibits, and first-person displays. Military experts offered visitors hands-on experience with military equipment from World War I through the Vietnam era.
Ron Wolfe, a retired Army sergeant, let youngsters try on his flak jacket and helmet from Vietnam, laughing when they complained about their weight and heat.
“Yeah, they can get a bit heavy,” Wolfe said. “Just wait until you had to wear them all day in the summertime.”
The ASOM K-9 Memorial honors more than 60 trained dogs who have died in service to Special Forces as well as partner groups in Great Britain and Australia. It was dedicated in 2013.
Security at shipping ports around the US, including testing containers and vessels for biological and radiological hazards, is a top priority to preventing terrorism, US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said July 20.
As he rode aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, near the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly viewed an array of new equipment used to test for radiation and biological threats.
“The threat always changes, so we always have to be on top of that,” Kelly said as the vessel cruised through the Pacific Ocean off Southern California.
While he was aboard, members of the Coast Guard conducted a training demonstration, simulating the boarding of a ship with a radiological threat.
Members of the Coast Guard’s new California-based Maritime Safety and Security Team descended from helicopters with assault rifles and stormed the ship. Kelly watched from a deck above as they charged up stairwells and searched the ship as part of the exercise. Other crew members climbed up ladders from a smaller boat that pulled alongside.
“What they do, they do for you,” Kelly said.
As the vessel passed stacks of shipping containers at the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly said it is essential for law enforcement and Coast Guard personnel to constantly train and be prepared for any threats.
Kelly said he believes the current security levels at US shipping ports is adequate, but his agency must continue to research new technology to keep up with changing threats. His biggest concern, he said, is contraband, including illegal drugs that are shipped in from other countries.
“It is all about protecting the nation and doing it as fast as we can so normal legal commerce, normal legal people can come in and out of the country and be inconvenienced at the minimum,” Kelly said.
The Marine Corps is eyeing a purchase of 11,000 new infantry automatic rifles and their accessories as it moves closer to making the IAR the new service rifle for grunts.
The service published a detailed request for information earlier this week asking companies to signal their interest in producing a future IAR. The current IAR is the M27, based on the Heckler Koch HK416.
Military.com broke the news in November that the Marine Corps’ experimental battalion, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, was testing out broader use of the M27 throughout the battalion as Marine leadership considered using it to replace the current infantry service rifle, the M4 carbine.
The service has been considering fielding the IAR more broadly within the infantry since it introduced the M27 to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon in 2010, Col. Michael Manning, program manager for Infantry Weapons Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command, told Military.com.
Still under consideration is how the weapon might be fielded. At roughly $3,000 apiece, the M27 is a pricier investment than the M4, which costs less than $1,000. Manning said officials are working to determine which jobs within the unit truly needed the enhanced firepower.
“Not every 03XX would get an M27,” he said, using the generic Marine Corps military occupational specialty code for infantry. “There are select billets that would not get it because we don’t believe, based on our requirements, that they need it. But that is something we’ll continue to work with the [infantry] advocate and Marine Corps leadership on what the final mix will be like in an infantry unit. Everything is on the table.”
The 11,000 figure, he said, represents an estimate of how many rifles the Corps needs to purchase to equip the infantry.
Even though the M27 is the current IAR, the request for information is competitive, due to contracting rules and practices. If the Marine Corps gets interest from other manufacturers who can meet existing IAR criteria and produce a rifle that works compatibly with the existing platform, Manning said Systems Command would complete testing and a downselect process to determine a winner.
Among the criteria: The system should accept all Defense Department 5.56mm ammunition, weigh less than 12.5 pounds, and be capable of a rate of fire of 36 rounds per minute.
Unlike the standard M4, the M27 has a fully automatic firing option. It also features a slightly longer effective range and a free-floating barrel design that contributes to accuracy.
“It is the best infantry rifle in the world, hands down,” Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner, or infantry weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division said of the IAR in November. “Better than anything Russia has, it’s better than anything we have, it’s better than anything China has. It’s world-class.”
Manning said the timeline for contracting for and fielding the new infantry service rifles is difficult to estimate because of the variables involved and the possibility of competition.
“We’ll do some sort of testing and a downselect, and then as we finalize, we will actually put a request for proposal out on the street, letting industry know that we are actually going to buy these, we have the money and the finalized requirements for them to come back with an offer to to the Marine Corps,” he said.
Responses to the Corps’ request for information are due March 17.
A few years ago a team of journalists from Syracuse University traveled to rural Washington state to tell the stories of hundreds of veterans living there, some off-the-grid, away from the country for which they fought.
The project includes the story of Chad Olsen, a Marine who killed his wife and himself in 2009, and the stories of those who knew him. It features the stories of Ryn Rollins and Adam Howerton, who (at the time) were 18 and enlisting in the Army. The project also shows how one Marine veteran who struggles with post-traumatic stress and returning to everyday life after three tours in Iraq.
The project also follows “trip-wire veterans,” a small group of vets who escaped their lives into the wilds of American back country because they were unable to face their war memories and were provided little help when they returned. The term “trip-wire” comes from the Vietnam War, where the Viet Cong would booby trap trails used by U.S. servicemen to injure and maim troops outside their bases.
The term was first coined in the early 1980’s, when around 85 people were documented living in the Washington wilds. It was not known then how many were out there. One former trip-wire vet was Mike McWatters. He lived in New York’s Adirondack Mountains for two years after seeing heavy combat in Vietnam. In 1983, he started work to reach out to these veterans to encourage them to seek treatment.
“I know one vet who went into the woods naked,” McWatters said. “He came out in full leather clothing, having gained 40 pounds, carrying weapons he’d made.”
When these veterans were first discovered, the media often inaccurately portrayed them as criminals and drunks or worse. In June, 1988, Dan Rather and CBS News interviewed six “Vietnam veterans” who admitted to killing civilians or seeing friends killed in action, and had since become homeless, suicidal drug users after the war. Later investigations showed none of it was true.
The reality is not so black and white. The project hit important topics beyond PTSD – women, race (specifically Native Americans) and the wives and children veterans leave behind, all from the rural town of Republic, Washington.
This team did more than just tell tales of the people living there. They provided thoroughly researched background information on veteran suicide, the steps to getting a VA disability claim, and an infographic on U.S. wars from 1900 (current as of 2010) and those who fought them.
This new Navy tech aims to use lasers to fool air defense systems and missiles into thinking they see multiple aircraft or even a UAP for that matter–but the plan wasn’t to trick the world into thinking they were being visited by aliens.
America uses stealth technology not just to avoid detection, but to avoid being shot down after they’ve been detected. A recent patent filed by the U.S. Navy meant to increase the survivability of stealth aircraft might do just that, but if the system works the way it’s supposed to, it could just as easily be used to project images into the sky that would look and act a whole lot like the strange crafts depicted in UAP footage released by the U.S. military in recent years.
How can Navy tech be responsible for UAP sightings?
When talking military aviation, it’s not uncommon for many to think of “stealth” as a singular technology utilized to help advanced aircraft defeat detection. The truth, of course, is a lot more complicated than that. Stealth might be more accurately described as an approach to warfare, rather than a specific piece of gear. In order to leverage a stealth aircraft effectively, pains must be taken to limit the platform’s radar cross-section (from multiple angles), its infrared detectability (the amount of heat it releases), and to create a mission flight plan that keeps the aircraft operating to its advantage, rather than its detriment.
The truth is, many of America’s most advanced stealth aircraft aren’t actually invisible to radar detection at all. The intent behind stealth isn’t truly to go entirely unnoticed in many instances, but instead, to prevent an opponent from being able to effectively engage and shoot down your aircraft. To that end, even “stealth” platforms like the F-22 Raptor can actually be spotted on radar using lower frequency bands. Radar systems leveraged in this way can spot sneaky intruders, but they’re not good for establishing a weapon’s grade lock on anything. In other words, lower-frequency radar bands can be used to see stealth planes coming, but can’t be used to shoot them down.
However, coupling these sorts of radar systems with other forms of air defenses can make for a real threat for stealth aircraft. “Heat-seeking” missiles, which have been around since the 1950s and don’t rely on radar to engage targets effectively sniff out encroaching aircraft by following the infrared signature of the super-heated exhaust exiting the back of the jet. While design elements have been incorporated into stealth aircraft aimed at mitigating these infrared signatures, only so much can be done to hide the heat released by the chemical explosions we use to propel our combat aircraft.
So, even if America’s stealth planes were completely invisible to radar (which they aren’t), they still need to worry about infrared-driven missiles fired in their general direction either as a result of visual detection or low-band radar systems. Pilots go to great lengths to plan out their sorties prior to getting airborne to leverage their stealth aircraft most effectively. Limiting exposure to advanced air defense systems, operating at night to avoid visual detection, and employing strategies regarding altitude and angle of attack all play a role in maintaining a “stealth” profile.
In the event a “heat-seeking” missile does find its way onto the trail of a stealth fighter like the F-22, the aircraft has the ability to deploy flares in an attempt to confuse the infrared-led ordnance. But flares offer an extremely limited form of protection in heavily contested airspace. Because of this, the general rule of thumb on combat sorties is simple: try to avoid situations where the enemy can lob missiles at you, and your chances of success increase dramatically.
However, in a large scale conflict against a technologically capable foe like China or (to a lesser extent) Russia, America’s stealth aircraft would face challenges unlike any they have in modern warfare, as our fleets of sneaky fighters and bombers came up against some of the most advanced air defense systems currently employed anywhere on the planet. In such a war, losses would be all but certain, and while America may employ more stealth aircraft than any other nation, our total numbers remain in the hundreds. So each stealth aircraft lost would truly be felt.
But new technology under patent by the U.S. Navy could shift the odds even further into the favor of stealth aircraft: leveraging lasers to produce plasma bursts that could trick inbound missiles into thinking they’ve found a jet to chase that would actually be little more than a hologram.
This technology has already been used to create laser-plasma balls that can transmit human speech. I’m going to be honest with you here, that sentence is as hard to wrap my head around as the writer as it probably is for you to grasp as a reader. Talking plasma balls?
Here’s a video from our friends at Military Times running down this cutting edge plasma technology:
Other applications for this laser system include use as a non-lethal weapon and even as a continuous flashbang grenade that could keep opponents in an area disoriented and unable to respond.
So, how does the Navy intend to leverage this sort of technology to make stealth aircraft even harder to hit? According to their patent, the laser system could be installed on the tail of an aircraft, and upon detection of an inbound missile, could literally project an infrared signature that would be comparable to a moving fighter jet’s exhaust out away from the fighter itself. Multiple systems could literally project multiple aircraft, leaving inbound missiles to go after the decoy plasma “fighters” instead of the actual aircraft itself.
These “laser-induced plasma filaments,” as researchers call them, can be projected up to hundreds of meters, depending on the laser system employed, and (here’s the part that’ll really blow your mind) can be used to emit any wavelength of light. That means these systems could effectively display infrared to fool inbound heat-seeking missiles, ultraviolet, or even visible light. Of course, it’s unlikely that the system could be used to mimic the visual cues of an actual aircraft, but it is possible to produce visible barriers between the weapon operator and the stealth aircraft emitting the laser.
This system could be deployed instantly, reused throughout a mission, and can stay at a desired altitude or location in mid-air; all things flares can’t do. With enough aircraft equipped with these systems (or enough systems equipped on a single aircraft) this method could be used to do far more than just protect jets. In the future, this approach could become a part of a missile defense system employed by Navy ships, carrier strike groups, or even entire cities.
“If you have a very short pulse you can generate a filament, and in the air that can propagate for hundreds of meters, and maybe with the next generation of lasers you could produce a filament of even a mile,” Alexandru Hening, a lead researcher on the patent, told IT magazine in 2017.
It’s likely that we won’t see this technology lighting up the airspace over combat zones any time soon, as there may well be years of research and development left before it finds its way into operational use. However, some have already begun scratching their heads regarding what it appears these laser-induced plasma filaments can do, and how that could explain the unusual behavior recorded in recently acknowledged Navy footage of unidentified aircraft being tracked on FLIR cameras by F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots.
It seems feasible that this technology could be used to fake just such a UFO or UAP sighting… but then, the earliest of these videos was produced in 2004, which would suggest far more advanced laser systems than the United States currently maintains were already in use some 17 years ago.
Could lasers have been used to fake UAP sightings? It seems feasible, but for now, the military’s focus seems set squarely on defensive applications for the patent.
Want to read more about groundbreaking patents filed by the U.S. Navy in recent years?
Welsh’s comments on Thursday represented a shift in the Air Force’s official attitude toward reviving the F-22; it had previously said doing so would not be cost effective.
“I don’t think it’s a wild idea,”Welsh said, as Defensenews.com notes. “I mean the success of the F-22 and the capability of the airplane and the crews that fly it are pretty exceptional. I think it’s proven that the airplane is exactly what everybody hoped it would be.”
“We’re using it in new and different ways and it’s been spectacularly successful and its potential is really, really remarkable,” Welsh continued. “And so going back and looking and certainly raising the idea well, could you build more? It’s not a crazy idea.”
As Jamie Hunter, editor of Combat Aircraft Monthly, wrote in 2015: “How about a risk-reduced approach for NGAD? Take the almost perfect Raptor and put it back into production, albeit this time with the tweaks that make it truly the best fighter ever it can be. That approach may just help mitigate against the early cost overruns and delays and provide capability faster and when it’s needed.”