Jumping out of an airplane can get kind of boring, so sometimes you need to bring along something to keep your mind occupied during the parachute ride down.
That’s what happened in a video posted to YouTube last month, which appears to show an airborne soldier solving a Rubik’s cube while under canopy. It’s strangely mesmerizing to watch as the ground nears, and the soldier manages to figure it out seconds before touching down.
The video description has very little detail however, so it’s hard to say where this came from or whether it’s even legit.
The video has generated a lot of questions. On the Facebook page “Do You Even Jump?” users questioned whether it actually could have been a jump by an active-duty U.S. soldier, considering he stays airborne for about 2 1/2 minutes. A traditional static-line jump carried out from a C-130 military transport plane from a height of about 2,100 or 2,200 feet would have been over much faster, they said. The jumper also appears to jump from a civilian plane using a European parachute, raising the prospect he isn’t American, others added.
A simple glance at a map would tell you all you need to know. Camp Pendleton is on the southern California coast with San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County just a short drive away. By contrast, Twentynine Palms is in a remote desert location akin to being stuck on Tattooine.
But there’s more to like about Camp Pendleton than fun outside the base.
NATO wanted a replacement for its 9x19mm Parabellum firearms; what it got is the ultimate special ops weapon.
The FN Herstal P90 is a compact but powerful sub-machine gun. It was designed for vehicle crews, support personnel, special forces and counter-terrorist groups.
It’s an ugly futuristic-looking weapon. The bullpup design with ambidextrous controls and top-mounted magazine make it unconventional. But make no mistake, this is an incredibly useful weapon. It’s so effective that it’s currently in service with military and police forces in over 20 nations throughout the world, according to this video.
ISIS loves social media. It took the Al Qaeda recruiting manual “A Course in the Art of Recruiting” and put it on steroids with the use of Facebook and Twitter. The terror group is notoriously audacious in luring impressionable young adults to the Middle East and the number of recruits coming from the U.S. and other western countries is alarming.
This video shows what the path to extremism is like for a recruit. It follows a young man’s journey from civilian to ISIS soldier through the public postings on his Facebook account. These are the same techniques used to lure young men and women from the U.S.
A change in leadership often brings a fresh perspective and set of priorities, and several veterans service organizations are optimistic that a new VA secretary will mean an opportunity to push agendas that best serve veterans.
Shortly after the Senate voted to confirm Denis McDonough as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, we reached out to several VSOs to gather opinions on what should top his list of goals.
“We are looking forward to working with him,” said Mario Marquez, national legislative director for the American Legion. “Our number one priority is taking care of veterans and their families.”
Marquez said that in the short term, that looks like addressing issues brought on by COVID-19, including reducing the significant CMP (comprehensive medical panel) backlog that is preventing veterans from being able to adjudicate health claims as well as eliminating financial boundaries that stop the elderly, particularly World War II vets, from receiving care.
He noted that mental health is a “perennial issue,” but particularly crucial in this time of increased isolation.
“We have these veterans who go from being in a highly-connected social environment, and they go back into a society where people are much more individualistic, where the idea of being part of a community is more than about just being co-located geographically.”
Marquez said the Legion works on connecting secluded vets through its Buddy Checks program, and he would like the VA, under McDonough’s tutelage, to join the organization in implementing a Buddy Check week that encourages peer support and engagement through vets reaching out and checking in with one another.
AMVETS’ National Communications Manager Miles Migliara agrees mental health should be at the forefront of McDonough’s plans for reform — the number one priority, in fact.
“It’s no longer sufficient for the Department of Veterans Affairs to congratulate themselves on 1-2% gains when 6,000-plus veterans lose their lives every year,” he said. “We need a paradigm shift with regards to mental health and suicide. We can continue with the status quo, or we can create meaningful change.”
He suggested that the VA becomes more receptive to alternative mental healthcare treatments and programs, such as acupuncture, equestrian therapy, and more.
“The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) executive order, signed into law in 2019, allows for funding and resources to be provided to certain non-traditional methods programs in an effort to curb veteran suicide,” Migliara said. “It is crucial that the VA provides whatever support possible to see that these programs succeed.”
Another pertinent piece of legislation, he said, is the MISSION Act, also signed into law in 2019, that allows rural vets to more easily receive healthcare close to home. Also on the AMVETS wish list? Formulating and executing a better plan of action and culture of tackling and preventing sexual assault on VA campuses and creating a more welcoming environment for women and minority veterans.
Marquez echoed the same sentiments, especially since women are the fastest-growing veteran demographic, he said.
“They are more engaged at the VA as a result of their service,” he said. “And they are not traditionally set up to address the needs of women veterans. The VA needs to make adjustments to make sure they receive the gender-specific care they need.”
Hannah Sinoway, executive vice present, organization, strategy, and engagement, of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), said they are focused on oversight of the implementation of both the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act and the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. Both of these bills would decrease gaps in care for women veterans, as well as make much-needed updates to mental health care and outreach to veterans that are not connected to VA services, she noted.
She said IAVA believes that McDonough brings senior leadership, policy, and Congressional expertise to the VA, as well as a beneficial and strong personal connection to the President.
“Running VA is a massive job that few are fully prepared for on day one,” she said. “He has an incredibly steep learning curve in front of him. But he also has the ear and respect of President Biden as well as the ability to bring about policy reforms and attention by the White House and senior leaders that are needed for the improvement of VA. In his first few weeks, IAVA has been encouraged by his outreach and communication to the VSO community and we look forward to continuing our work with him.”
As the United States reenters the realm of great power competition, America needs to maintain its technological edge in stealth, but would benefit from a renewed emphasis on speed in combat aviation… even at the expense of observability in some platforms.
For some, the above sentence will read like a ham-fisted oxymoron coming from a chump who doesn’t understand how air power works in the modern era. After all, the most potent threats on the horizon come from China and, to a lesser extent, Russia–both nations with advanced air defense capabilities that would make even the most capable fourth-generation fighters like the new F-15EX a pretty easy target.
The F-15EX is, quite literally, the fastest aircraft in Uncle Sam’s operational inventory, so one could argue that speed just isn’t what combat aviation is about anymore. In fact, that’s exactly what you’ll hear from most fighter pilots today. The F-35, for all its faults, is widely touted as perhaps the most capable tactical aircraft in history, despite being almost slow compared to Cold War powerhouses like the F-14 Tomcat. The F-35A can achieve speeds as high as Mach 1.6, while the F-35B and C are both limited to Mach 1.3–a speed they can only maintain for less than one minute. The long-retired Tomcat, on the other hand, could pass Mach 2.3 without breaking much of a sweat.
The truth of the matter is, in a high-end fight with a nation like China, the United States would be better off flying a fleet of slower F-35s than faster (and more easily targeted) F-14s… but that line of thinking isn’t accurate to the reality of America’s simmering conflict with China. Open and conventional war with China is extremely unlikely any time in the relative future, and while America needs to invest in the technology and a force structure that can deter such a fight even further, the Sino-American conflict is more likely to play out like a new Cold War in the decades to come. That means competing in the developing world, rather than in China’s backyard.
Finally, if a large-scale war were to break out, American pilots will need speed to effectively manage individual engagements as the conflict presses on. Sometimes, the best tactical decision a pilot can make is to “bug out,” or escape the area and an opponent’s advantage. That’s where speed, once again, becomes vital to survival.
Competition with China and Russia will take place in the developing world
Immediately after World War II, the United States and Soviet Union found themselves in a decades-long staring match that prompted huge investments in military capability across both nations. The goal was simple: build the platforms you’d need to win the third World War, and that alone may be enough deterrence to prevent it from starting. Both nations built fighters and bombers that could fly ever higher, ever faster, hoping to defeat burgeoning air defenses like the SR-71 could… by simply outrunning any missile you could shoot at it.
Let there be no doubt that this method of deterrence was effective, and in truth, the most potent weapon systems are those you never have to actually employ in order to achieve your geopolitical goals. But the unintentional side effect of developing more powerful nuclear weapons and more capable airpower platforms was an inability for American and Soviet forces to actually engage one another without bringing about the nuclear apocalypse.
In order to avoid that possibility, the United States and Soviet Union turned to partner nations and proxy forces, expanding influence and strategic leverage around the globe through overt diplomacy and covert military action and assistance. In some cases, partner or proxy forces supported by each respective nation would clash, leading to America’s involvement in conflicts like the Vietnam War. Terrible as these conflicts were, they were considered a tolerable alternative to nuclear winter as the world’s two superpowers tip-toed on the line of global conflict.
China, a nation that wields not only nuclear weapons but a vast amount of economic leverage and the largest naval force on the planet, is similarly positioned for a long and drawn-out staring contest with the United States. Not only would such a fight cripple both national militaries, but it would also neuter China’s ongoing plans for expanding its global influence, as well as create chaos throughout the global economy for decades to come.
China isn’t going to declare war on the United States any time soon… But China and the United States are going to continue to compete in practically every appreciable way, which includes establishing relationships in developing countries for the purposes of gaining access to strategic resources and ports. As luck (perhaps bad luck) would have it, the regions of the world that are most likely to have those very sorts of commodities on the market throughout the 21st century are often exactly where American and allied forces are already conducting counter violent extremists operations (Counter VEO): Africa and the Middle East.
But while America and its allies have been accumulating operational experience in these theaters, China hasn’t been sleeping. Despite China largely staying out of the Global War on Terror, it has been expanding its influence in these same regions via economic and infrastructure programs, including providing massive loans to developing nations that many suspect won’t be able to pay China back. China, it seems, would prefer they didn’t anyway–as the leverage defaulted loans would offer is more strategically valuable than paying interest on a loan could be.
“Right now you could say that any big project in African cities that is higher than three floors or roads that are longer than three kilometers are most likely being built and engineered by the Chinese. It is ubiquitous,” explained Daan Rogeveen, an author and expert on urbanization in China and Africa.
As a result, there’s an extremely high likelihood that the United States will find itself supporting proxy or partner forces in places like Africa and the Middle East. In fact, America already does. These forces will likely find themselves in direct competition with proxy or partner forces receiving support from China and Russia. The quagmire that is the ongoing conflict in Syria serves as a contemporary example of just how diverse foreign interests within a single nation can be, and just how dangerous operations in one can get.
America’s only dogfight in more than 20 years was in uncontested airspace against a 50-year-old jet
It’s worth noting that it was, in fact, over Syria that the United States scored its only air-to-air kill in literal decades in 2017, when a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet was forced to engage a Syrian Air Force Su-22 Fitter that was attacking partner forces on the ground.
This short fight also offered an important lesson about bridging the gap between longstanding airpower and the cutting-edge systems employed by the United States. Lt. Cmdr. Michael Tremel, the pilot in the Super Hornet, first locked onto the Soviet-era Su-22 with the one of the Navy’s latest and most advanced air-to-air weapons, the AIM-9X, but when he fired, the Fitter deployed flares and managed to fool what was previously considered to be the most capable air combat missile in service.
“It came off the rails quick,” Tremel said. “I lost the smoke trail and I had no idea what happened to the missile after that.”
Tremel then locked on once again with an older AIM-120 AMRAAM and fired, this time finding his target and turning the Su-22 into a fireball. While the Pentagon hasn’t offered an explanation as to why their newest missile failed to discern a real fighter from a bucket of flares, some experts have postulated that it may have been a result of the AIM-9X being too well-tuned to distinguish jets from the latest and most advanced flares employed by top-of-the-line 4th and 5th generation platforms. The Su-22 has been flying since 1966, and its dirty old flares weren’t something the AIM-9X expected to run into.
Sometimes, winning a fight isn’t about who fields the latest or most expensive technology. It’s about who fields the right technology for the right situation.
Detection isn’t a threat over the developing world. Distance is.
On October 4, 2017, a group of U.S. Army Green Berets and Nigerian soldiers was ambushed by fighters from the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) in Niger. The tragic firefight ended with four dead U.S. troops, five dead Nigerian soldiers, and some difficult questions about how the most highly trained warfighters in the world with support from the most powerful military in the world found themselves fighting through a tactical disadvantage without any air support close enough to make a difference.
In 2012, a coordinated attack against two separate U.S. installations in Benghazi, Libya came with similarly painful lessons. When the dust settled, four Americans were dead, including two CIA contractors and the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. Like the ambush in Niger, air support for Americans in Libya was too far away to provide any meaningful assistance throughout the majority of the fight.
These two instances were outliers stretched across two decades worth of counter-extremist operations, but they both perfectly demonstrate the very real limitations of American airpower when it comes to distance. Public perception of American airpower is not always congruous with the realities of combat, an issue that extends all the way to partner forces. The assumption among most is that America has all-seeing aircraft flying overhead at all times… but that simply isn’t true.
“Unfortunately, public perception is driven sometimes by news coverage, but also by modern movies,” Dr. James Kiras explained about partner forces in a recent episode of The Irregular Warfare Podcast.
“And the idea that somehow we can’t maintain persistent coverage, that a cloud-for example-moving between you and a target could allow you to lose coverage for a critical period just seems completely inconceivable to them.”
The American people also tend to think that the United States has MQ-9 Reapers or armed F-15E Strike Eagles standing by within firing distance of every military operation–something that has been true to a large extent throughout the past two decades of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a “stack” of air support platforms are often standing by to engage the enemy. Now, however, as the U.S. repositions assets to better deter Chinese aggression, there will be fewer air platforms to go around in these regions.
At the same time, American special operations forces tasked with fighting or training proxy fighters for conflicts in Africa and the Middle East will be spread out further and operating with less support than ever before in the modern era. Without a new approach to air support, it’s a recipe for Niger or Benghazi-style disasters.
In order to provide real airpower where it’s needed, the United States doesn’t need a fleet of slow and stealthy F-35s standing by on airstrips across friendly African nations–it needs fast air platforms with great fuel range and loitering capabilities that can reach operators in need, provide air support as necessary, and still make it back to an airstrip.
America will also need less advanced platforms that can fly from austere airstrips and travel alongside special operations teams (the Armed Overwatch Program). There are no advanced air defenses to defeat or sneak past in places like Africa. The greatest challenge to overcome then is what’s commonly referred to as “the tyranny of distance.”
When isolated elements of American troops are caught at a disadvantage, waiting four hours or more to get an F-16 on station may require a miracle, but waiting more than twice that long for a slow-moving MQ-9 Reaper may be impossible. Worse still, once the fast-moving F-16 does reach the embattled troops, they usually only have about 30 minutes of fuel to burn before having to head back–once again leaving these isolated troops without air support.
Speed has already proven handy in combat in the uncontested airspaces of the Middle East. Two years ago, I interviewed Major “Coyote” Laney, a B-1B pilot instructor from the 28th Bomb Squadron, for Popular Mechanics. He told me a story about one air support mission he flew in which the supersonic bomber’s speed made all the difference.
“I remember in Afghanistan where troops needed help across the entire country and I could go 1.2 Mach all the way there and still have enough gas to hang out when I got there,” Laney explained.
“So you can take a platform that’s on the East side of Afghanistan and 15 or 20 minutes later, I’m showing up when there’s no one else for several hundred miles that could help.”
Of course, the B-1B Lancer is now slated for retirement, with the sub-sonic and stealthy B-21 Raider slated to replace it.
We need stealth to deter China, but we need speed and volume to counter them
We have a bad habit of treating these sorts of discussions like they’re all-or-nothing debates. When the Air Force requests funding for new F-15s, lawmakers and the public together cry foul at the idea of spending money on old jets that lack the stealth they’d need to survive a fight against China or Russia. Then, when the Air Force uses stealthy F-22s to conduct airstrikes against targets in uncontested airspace over places like Afghanistan, lawmakers and the public again cry foul over the high cost of using a stealth fighter for such a simple job. We can’t have it both ways, but we do need both jets.
America needs platforms like the F-35 and forthcoming Next Generation Air Dominance fighter to win the wars of tomorrow, and importantly, to deter them today, but we can’t let our American preference for only the newest and best platforms unduly influence the composition of our military forces. In a perfect world, the United States wouldn’t need any fighter jets. In an almost perfect world, the U.S. could afford to operate massive fleets of stealth fighters for each and every job. But in the decidedly imperfect world we live in, we’re often stuck choosing between capability and capacity. Do we want the best jets we can build or enough jets to meet our mission requirements?
While not exactly like the last Cold War, this new Sino-American Cold War possesses a similar capacity for proxy conflicts, and because these conflicts are likely to play out over the massive landmass of Africa as well as the Middle East, finding a way to get air support to far-flung troops quickly will undoubtedly save American lives.
But it won’t just be enough to field fast aircraft. They’ll also have to be cheap enough to be built in the sort of volume that would be required to overcome that tyranny of distance. With enough fast and cheap air support platforms spread throughout the continent, getting air support to special operations troops in Africa could shift from practically impossible to just another day at the office, or as close to that as one can come in combat.
Re-learning that dogfighting isn’t dead
While there’s a much higher likelihood that the United States will find itself supporting proxy or partner forces in the developing world with interests that run counter to China’s or Russia’s, there remains the possibility that this new “Cold War” could boil over into a hot one. The implications of such a conflict would be massive, and even attempting an analysis of just the air war that would unfold would take a book in itself–but as this discussion pertains to tactical aircraft and speed, this is another place the U.S. needs more power under the hood.
If you talk to most modern fighter pilots, they’ll tell you that the days of dogfighting are over, thanks to the development of over-the-horizon weapons and advanced sensor suites that will allow pilots in America’s most advanced jets to target inbound fighters before their pilots even know there’s trouble brewing.
Ward Carroll, famed journalist, author, and former U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) has heard the contemporary arguments about dogfights being a thing of the past and warns about making assumptions amid a decades-long era of uncontested flight operations, especially in aircraft that aren’t fast enough to escape a pursuing fighter.
“We get too liquored up on the technology and we start to forget what happens when it gets messy. You can run out of a squadron of F-35s in short order,” Carroll told Sandboxx News.
“I get F-35 guys who are like, ‘you just don’t get modern battles anymore.’ No, I think I do. I think you’re not remembering the lessons of serious roll your sleeves up, get your nose bloodied warfare.”
The idea that dogfighting is dead has been informed not only by two decades worth of counter-terror operations against enemy forces with no airpower, but it also carries an uncomfortable similarity to the line of thinking that dominated air war conversations leading into Vietnam. The U.S. believed the days of dogfighting in close quarters were over, so they fielded fast-moving F-4s armed with air-to-air missiles that weren’t nearly as effective as they were intended… and no guns for fighting in close quarters.
As a result, American aviators took a serious pounding from dated Soviet aircraft with tighter turn radiuses and guns.
“That was the biggest mistake on the F-4,” John Chesire, who flew 197 combat missions in the Phantom during two tours in Vietnam, told Air & Space Magazine.
“Bullets are cheap and tend to go where you aim them. I needed a gun, and I really wished I had one.”
Winning a dogfight might take speed. Escaping one almost always does.
While American F-86 Sabre fighter pilots racked up a kill-to-loss ratio of 10:1 in the Korean war, American dogfighting performance, due largely to assumptions about how combat had changed, diminished dramatically in Vietnam. In the first half of the Vietnam war, American pilots could manage an average of only 2 kills for every U.S. fighter downed. Those losses directly led to the formation of the U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program that most of us know today as Top Gun, where a renewed emphasis was placed on dogfighting tactics.
Now, after another multi-decade lull in air combat, America’s aviation corps is once again certain about the future of the fight, but history begs that we hedge those bets. Ward Carroll recently published a YouTube video called “Dogfighting 101” wherein he argues that dogfighting may be absent in today’s combat environment, but it’ll come back in a hurry if a near-peer conflict were to unfold. I’ll set the video to start at that portion, but it’s really worth watching Carroll’s analysis in full.
If you aren’t able to give the video a watch, here’s what Carroll had to say about dogfighting being dead:
“I’m going to submit that dogfighting is not dead, because if you’ve ever been in a major exercise, not to mention, an air-to-air war like Desert Storm, then you know that, in the heat of battle, there’s confusion, there’s all kinds of chaos, and ultimately a bandit is going to sneak through and you’ll find yourself basically engaged one-on-one with the bad guys in an old school kind of way.”
Carroll doesn’t argue that American fighters are going to go looking for a chance to get up close and personal with China’s thrust-vectoring, stealth J-20B like some imagine when they picture dogfights. Instead, he reasonably expects that in a large force-on-force situation, the chaos of warfare is going to create the circumstances for these kinds of one-on-one engagements to occur.
Carroll’s argument seems to hold true when you look at the breakdown of the early days of the air war of Desert Storm. The Coalition Forces brought a massive amount of airpower to bear over Iraq in those first days of the conflict, but despite the sheer volume of airframes in the fight, a number of small dogfights broke out and, had there not been plenty of support in the area, many more could have.
You can see exactly what Carroll predicts in this breakdown from The Operations Room. The value of speed and maneuverability when within visual range is also evident in the video. Once again, I’ll start the video at the pertinent point, but it’s worth watching this in its entirety:
What does all this have to do with speed? It’s certainly of use in a dogfight, but speed is also extremely important when it comes to getting out of a dogfight. Even the most advanced stealth platforms aren’t invisible, and if an F-35 found itself squaring off with a J-20B in a one-on-one situation, it’s feasible that the Chinese fighter could have the advantage through surprise or the roll of the combat dice.
In either regard, it would be in the F-35 pilot’s best interest to bug out and get away from that fight, or at least, to create enough separation to gain an advantage he or she could then press in turn. Unfortunately, the F-35 wouldn’t be fast enough to escape a J-20 if a pilot tried, so he or she would just be giving the Chinese jet a perfect opportunity. What’s worse is that, at this range, the F-35’s opponent wouldn’t even have to be a stealth aircraft itself.
“Stealth doesn’t work against bullets,” Carroll told Sandboxx News.
“We have multi-axis missiles now where I can shoot you behind my three-nine line [behind my aircraft]. Okay, but once you Winchester, meaning run out of those weapons, and you’re now in the visual arena, then none of your [stealth] defensives are working. And now you have an airplane that can barely go supersonic. So, welcome to getting shot down.”
When we’re talking about fighters squaring off with one another, stealth is extremely valuable, but in a large-scale fight with hundreds of jets in the area, speed clearly counts too.
How do you build a force that balances cost, speed, and technology?
The Air Force purchasing new F-15EXs isn’t going to solve this problem. Not only do these new fighters cost around as much as an F-35 to build (despite offering significantly more service life), the new (old) fighters the Air Force receives are already slated to replace existing F-15s that are aging out of service. While they do offer greater capability than their predecessors, each jet can still only be in one place at a time.
“We’ve got to refresh the F-15C fleet because I can’t afford to not have that capacity to do the job and the missions,” now-retired General David Goldfein said in 2019.
“That’s what this is all about. If we’re refreshing the F-15C fleet, as we’re building up the F-35 fleet, this is not about any kind of a trade.”
SOCOM’s Armed Overwatch program promises to alleviate some of this need by fielding a small and inexpensive aircraft that can provide ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) and direct air support to special operators. These planes are expected to operate from austere airfields with support from a very small group of maintainers. Effectively, SOCOM wants a simple aircraft that can live with the troops in the vein of the OV-10 Bronco of Vietnam fame, but with advanced ISR capabilities usually only found in technological marvels that need airstrips and facilities to operate. It’s a tall order, but fielding such an aircraft would make the sorts of special operations skirmishes that are sure to litter the coming decades far more survivable.
Despite America’s massive military budget, resource and asset scarcity remains an ongoing challenge. The MQ-9 Reaper, for instance, is the most highly requested air asset among ground commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, but with only 280 of these remotely piloted aircraft to go around, the Air Force will have to choose between continuing to support the full breadth of combat operations in the Middle East or transitioning platforms to the Pacific where a more potent deterrent maritime force is increasingly necessary.
The truth is, even after the United States withdraws from Afghanistan, the U.S. military can’t completely withdraw from the Middle East and will likely need to place a larger emphasis on Africa moving forward. There are only so many air platforms to go around, especially at modern fighter jet prices of around $100 million per aircraft. In effect, America is going to be stuck fighting its old wars for some time, while adding new conflicts and new tensions elsewhere around the globe. In order to do it all, America needs more platforms without increasing defense spending in a massive way.
That may be feasible through attritable programs like Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie. The Valkyrie is a low-observable UCAV (unmanned combat aerial vehicle) capable of carrying two small diameter bombs and covering more than 2,000 miles before refueling. What makes the Valkyrie special isn’t its payload or range capabilities though, it’s the cost. At just $2-3 million per airframe, the XQ-58 costs only slightly more than a single Tomahawk cruise missile.
The Valkyrie lacks the speed that would be necessary to cover the vast distances between units that we can expect in Africa and the Middle East in the coming years, with a top end of around 650 miles per hour (Mach 0.85), but the attritable premise coupled with more power could prove to be just what the doctor ordered. Valkyries have already been launched from stationary platforms using rockets, which would mean that these types of drones could be deployed from places that don’t even have airstrips, and they’re cheap enough that losing a few in a fight won’t give a commander pause.
As for the high-end fight, America’s forthcoming NGAD program, under development with both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, is expected to produce a family of systems that can effectively counter the most advanced fighters on the planet like the J-20B or SU-57 without breaking a sweat. This platform will hopefully incorporate a return to emphasizing speed as well as stealth, with fuel range serving as yet another essential facet of military aviation America needs to address.
It’s going to take new platforms to counter the full spectrum of threats nations like China pose in the 21st century, and these planes can’t take decades to go from the drawing board to production as the F-35 has. In many places, they won’t need to be stealth, nor is there a requirement for a human on board, but one thing they will need to overcome the tyranny of distance and protect American lives is speed.
The TP-82 pistol was included in the Soyuz Portable Emergency-Survival Kit after two cosmonauts crash-landed into a forest in Siberia in 1965. They struggled to hunt prey, build shelter, and send a distress signal and thus, the “space gun” was born to shoot rifle bullets, shotgun shells, and flares.
During flight, the gun is stowed in a metal canister and if all goes well, the canister is never opened, NBC News space analyst James Oberg reports. “At the end of the mission, after landing, the gun is usually presented as a gift to the Soyuz spacecraft commander,” Oberg reports.
Astronomer Matija Cuk at Harvard University explains that the only difference between shooting a gun on Earth and in space is that the bullet will keep traveling forever. “The bullet will never stop, because the universe is expanding faster than the bullet can catch up with any serious amount of mass,” Cuk told LiveScience.
Astronomer Peter Schultz at Brown University also notes that in space you could technically shoot yourself in the back.
“For example, while in orbit around a planet, because objects orbiting planets are actually in a constant state of free fall, you have to get the setup just right. You’d have to shoot horizontally at just the right altitude for the bullet to circle the planet and fall back to where it started (you),” Shultz told LiveScience.
Russia replaced the gun with the semi-automatic Makarov pistol because all the in-stock ammunition for the TP-82 had expired.
The Air Force‘s Airman Battle Uniform is getting its official send-off. On Thursday, airmen will be required to retire their old “Tiger Stripe” camouflage for good and switch to the Operational Camouflage Uniform, or OCP. The service has spent three years phasing in the Army‘s service duty uniform.
The Air Force approved the OCP to be worn full-time beginning Oct. 1, 2018, with the expectation that all airmen and Space Force guardians would make the complete changeover by April 1, 2021, after wearing the Airman Battle Uniform, or ABU, for more than a decade.
The OCP already has a history with the service.
Since 2012, nearly 100,000 airmen have worn the uniform when deployed overseas to places like Afghanistan or while operating outside the wire, Maj. Gen. Robert LaBrutta, then-Air Force director of Military Force Management Policy and deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, said in 2018. LaBrutta retired in 2019.
Air Force Special Operations Command members were some of the first to don the OCP, along with some Security Forces units, LaBrutta said at the time.
Service member feedback played a big role in the decision to switch to the OCP, top officials have said. Airmen have expressed on social media that moving to a single combat uniform for the service couldn’t come soon enough.
In 2013, The Washington Post reported that there were 10 different types of military camouflage uniforms in use, depending on service and where troops were stationed.
The ABU’s “tiger stripe” pattern was supposed to pay homage to camouflage used during the Vietnam War, according to the Post.
But early iterations “looked slightly off” from one uniform to the next, with multiple shades making up the pattern, according to Master Sgt. Mike Smith, who wrote a farewell tribute to the ABU earlier this year. Smith serves at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Tennessee.
“Not since leisure suit wearers were cool has an outfit been so disliked and oppositely loved,” he said in a release. “One opponent compared its camouflage design to an over-patterned couch; another advocate hailed its unique ability to channel the wind down her sleeves, from one arm to the other while driving down the road — she will miss that.”
Airmen at the Tennessee base got together to say goodbye to the ABU one last time March 29, taking selfies in the tiger stripe.
“We’ve come a long way in this uniform, here and deployed,” said Chief Master Sgt. Steven Durrance, the enlisted professional military education center commandant at McGhee Tyson.
“It’s important to capture this moment and take time for our heritage, who we are, and where we come from,” he said in a separate release.
The service will donate leftover uniform gear associated with the ABU to junior ROTC programs across the country, service officials have previously said.
Long before he played the greatest Starfleet officer of all time and directed the immortal ‘The Voyage Home‘ Leonard Nimoy spent 18 months in the Army reserve. According to Military.com, Nimoy achieved the rank of sergeant and spent much of his army service “putting on shows for the Army Special Services branch which he wrote, narrated, and emceed.”
Nimoy acted in the following instructional film along with future “Davy Crockett” star Fess Parker. It addressed what was then called combat fatigue, or the emotional and psychological toll of warfare. The film shows how Marine Corps psychologists were supposed to treat combat fatigue sufferers, giving a glimpse into how the wartime military of the 1950s dealt into the still-vital question of how to address the mental health needs of its troops. Nimoy appears as the first of the two Marines in the clip to undergo treatment.
This clip was made in 1954, shortly after the Korean War ended and 12 years before Star Trek premiered on NBC.
U.S. Marines have been engaging in combat against the Taliban since 2001. While the scenery has changed a bit as Marines have moved to different areas of operation, the fight has remained the same. From small arms to rocket-propelled grenades, the Taliban has continued to attack U.S. forces, and they have responded, often with intense and overwhelming fire.
This video from Funker 530 gives a good look at what it’s like for Marines engaging against the Taliban. With a compilation of regular camera and GoPro footage, this gives a look at what happens in a firefight.
As retired Marine Gen. James Mattis said, “there is nothing better than getting shot at and missed.” We definitely agree.
Tanks and Jeeps have had a good run, but let’s be honest here — adding hover-bikes straight out of Star Wars to the military’s arsenal would be pretty much the coolest thing ever.
Though it might sound like science fiction, military-grade hoverbikes could become a reality faster than you think. The U.S. Army Research Laboratory has closed a deal with Survice Engineering and Molly Aeronautics (MA) to begin creating hover-bike tech for the U.S. Department of Defense, an announcement that was released last week at the International Paris Air Show.
Malloy Aeronautics’ existing hybrid prototype is powered much like a propeller drone, but retains the look of a traditional motorcycle. The lightweight carbon fiber craft has the lift power of a helicopter, and can handle a takeoff weight of nearly 600 pounds. MA also claims that the hoverbike can travel over 90 miles on only one tank of gas, making it an attractive sell for both commercial and military use.
The MA bike is still a work in progress, but it has been tested with a rider aboard, though it was tethered to the ground.
Check out the video below to see the Malloy Aeronautics Hoverbike in action: