The US Lockheed U-2 Spy plane is arguably one of the most capable platforms in the sky, but it needs backup when it comes in for a landing.
With only two wheels, the aircraft is incredibly unsteady when it touches down, and pilots have their hands full during the entire landing process.
The solution? Send a back-up pilot to trail the plane in a car while offering control inputs. The ground pilot can reach speeds around 140 mph while attempting to keep up with the aircraft. And without his help the plane could ground loop or worse.
By 2030, the United States Marine Corps might look a little different from the Marine Corps of today. According to a 180-page document released by Breaking Defense, there’s an aggressive strategy in place to redesign the sea service in less than 10 years.
Called the “Tentative Manual For Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations,” the Corps is going to be overhauled to focus on the challenges posed by an emerging China and a newly-aggressive Russia.
The Marine Corps newest iteration, according to the unreleased manual, is going to create small units to focus on individual small unit capabilities, specifically air defense, anti-ship warfare, fighting for control of small, temporary bases all in an “island-hopping” campaign in the Pacific.
If that sounds familiar, that was the strategy used by the United States Marine Corps and Navy during World War II in the Pacific, meant to check the expansion of Imperial Japan. That plan was itself based on Operational Plan 712: Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia, one of the Marine Corps’ foundational doctrines.
Instead of massive invasions like the ones seen on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, however, the Marines will be called in to capture or construct small bases to launch missiles or use as resupply stations as Marines and Naval forces operate throughout the Pacific Theater.
“The scale of the problem today cannot be met by merely refining current methods and capabilities,” the manual reads.
The Marine Corps also isn’t limited to the technology of days past, either. The Corps will use precision-guided missiles, unmanned aerial and seaborne vehicles, and any other innovations that would make movement between islands and contesting islands more practical and decisive.
One of the first signs of developing this newly-oriented, more agile Marine Corps will come in the 2022 defense budget requests from the Marine Corps. The document predicts the Corps will want a hundred Long Range Unmanned Surface Vessels available for use, along with Light Amphibious Warships in Littoral Maneuver Squadrons.
It will also list Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS) batteries, hundreds of anti-ship Naval Strike Missiles with a 115-mile range built on the chassis of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
This document is said to outline Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger’s very fast timeline to reconstruct the Marine Corps and its combat roles. Combat teams will be roughly battalion-sized, according to Breaking Defense, and will see at least three Marine Littoral Regiments stood up in the Pacific within the coming years. Each will be responsible for multiple versions of these small bases.
The bases will be “conducting sustained operations to enable fleet operations via sea denial” and be a supply and refueling point for units “conducting major combat operations,” the article says.
Marines operating at these “ad hoc” bases will be protected from advanced aircraft and advanced ballistic weapons by Marine air wings, communications, and ground-based air defenses.
One of the reasons the “Tentative Manual For Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations” is being taken so seriously is that unlike many other so-called “concept papers” from military branch leaders, this document is painstakingly detailed over 200 pages, covering everything from joint force interoperability to command and control oversight, as well as the size and roles of individual Marine Corps units.
Read more about the newer, smaller, and more agile Marine Corps from the original at Breaking Defense.
In a rare security breach, a man broke into Joint Base Andrews last month and went unnoticed for about five hours until his strange headpiece that appeared to resemble “mouse ears” blew his cover, severalnewsoutlets reported Thursday.
The 36-year-old trespasser from Maryland, whose name has not been disclosed, was unarmed and wore “a bright red or pink cap that partially covered his ears and had distinctive balls on top that looked a little like mouse ears,” according to an Air Force investigation of the February 4 incident reported by The Associated Press.
An employee at the base saw the man on the flight line and was suspicious of the intruder partly because of his cap, and notified security, according to AP. The Air Force report blamed the unusual security failure on “human error.”
The Air Force first reported the security breach last month and released its investigation on Thursday. Military officials handed him over to local law enforcement at the time because he had two outstanding warrants.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said said that a “distracted” security guard had let the unauthorized man drive through an entrance gate and onto the military base located in Maryland, which is home to the presidential aircraft, Air Force One.
Afterward, the intruder slipped past another fence and entered the flight line, walked aboard a parked plane and stayed for a few minutes then left. He was stopped and arrested as he walked back on the flight line toward the security gate, AP reported.
The man went aboard a C-40 aircraft assigned to the 89th Airlift Wing, sometimes referred to as the “President’s Wing,” which is used by senior military and government officials. He never got close to the highly-protected Air Force One, officials said.
The report concluded that the intruder was “simply wandering” and did not harm anyone nor have plans to meet anyone. He told officials that he came to the base “because he wanted to see airplanes,” the report said.
The White House did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.
Now that a top American general has declared tiny drones as the biggest threat in the Middle East since IEDs, the British military is bringing some tiny drones of their own. But the UK’s drone swarms can be fired from a 40mm grenade launcher.
Whether an infantry unit needs the drones to carry cameras, bombs or act as a swarm, they can now field what they need with the pull of a trigger. British troops in Mali supporting Operation Newcombe will soon be fielding the Australian-designed Drone 40.
The Drone40 is being used for long range ISR in the sub-Saharan country to support United Nations troops operating there.
Military reporters at Overt Defense first reported the Drone40 debut at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in 2019. The devices were able to bring flashbangs and smoke to the battlefield along with other weapons and reconnaissance capabilities.
Drone40 UAVs are adaptable to many battlefield situations and can be adapted quickly to changing situations. When used in a non-combat situation, the devices are retrievable and can be reused multiple times. In a combat environment, they can carry an explosive payload with armor-piercing warheads.
The British troops in Mali are apparently using only the ISR functions.
“Although the system is in use, the version we are using is hand launched and does not include any munitions – it is purely used for surveillance and reconnaissance,” British Royal Anglican commander Will Meddings said on Twitter.
He also clarified that British troops in Mali are only hand launching them because there is “plenty that needs to be trialed, tested and assured.”
The new drone can be fired from 40mm launchers but its size depends on the kind of drone being used. Launchers that only fire short rounds will not be able to use some of the different payloads.
Operation Newcombe is the British effort in the United Nations’ Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. The UK has 300 soldiers in the country to help support French peacekeeping efforts after a 2012 uprising by al-Qaeda linked nearly tore the country in two.
The British are supplying logistical and long-range reconnaissance support to the French antiterrorism effort. The British Long Range Reconnaissance Group is part of the UN Peacekeeping mission there, in order to determine how best to help the people of Mali in a time of political instability.
No military aircraft – past or present – can beat the altitude and airspeed performance of the SR-71 Blackbird.
It’s design and performance evolved out of necessity: “We had a need to know what was going on in other countries,” Jeff Duford, a historian at the National Museum of the US Air Force, said. “And the way that we were going to do that was having a photographic aircraft that could fly very high and very fast. And much faster than the U2, which proceeded it. The SR-71 was that answer for the US Air Force and for the United States.”
Here’s the remarkable story of the SR-71 in a 3 minute mini-doc:
Known as Joint Task Force 2 and based near Ottawa, the unit keeps tight-lipped about its operations. That’s the case with most special ops of course, but JTF2 has seemingly dodged infamy and insider books. That stands in sharp contrast to the SEAL Team that has become well-known in the U.S. thanks to leaked details of high profile missions such as the Bin Laden raid.
Established in 1993, the unit has around 250 members. According to its official website, the unit was deployed to Afghanistan in 2001 — the first time it had been in major combat operations outside of Canada. It has also been rumored to be involved in combat against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The activities of the unit are so secretive that a query about why no one ever hears about it — unlike other nations’ special operations forces — appears as one the frequently asked questions on the Canadian Armed Forces website.
This video originally posted by Funker 530 gives an idea of some of their capabilities. Check it out:
The ad begins with a slow build as images of young people, whose options are limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic, few job prospects and skyrocketing tuition, are projected on the screen.
“Who do you think is going to fix all this?’’ the narrator asks.
In a recruiting campaign called “The Next Greatest Generation is Now,’’ which launched last week, the Army National Guard is trying to reach Generation Z.
Gen Z, generally defined as people born between 1997 and the early to mid-2010s, comprises about 20% of the 331 million Americans.
“Ultimately, the ARNG hopes to connect with young people who are interested in making a difference for their communities and our nation, but haven’t considered part-time ARNG service as a means to accomplishing their own life goals and staying true to their other interests,’’ spokeswoman Cheryle Rivas said in an email.
Kathryn Bigelow produces and directs the spots. Bigelow, 69, won the 2010 Academy Award for best director for “The Hurt Locker,’’ a film about the Iraq War starring Jeremy Renner. She was selected after submitting a bid to the Army’s advertising agency.
Three ads were produced in varying formats and will appear on national and local outlets, Rivas said. Ads will be produced in different lengths; one minute is the longest, six seconds the shortest.
“The campaign will employ a mix of youth-targeting advertising media to reach Gen Z prospects across their preferred platforms and areas of interest, including esports and college sports,’’ Rivas said.
The ads began appearing on Monday, Jan. 26, on several online video channels, including CBS, ESPN and Fox Sports, and Hulu. Digital media is slated for Bleacher Report, Twitch, CNN and Gamespot, among others, with a social media push slated for Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Reddit.
The campaign will appear during regular-season college basketball games and through March Madness. In hoops terminology, the Army National Guard is planning a full-court press to entice new recruits from Gen Z.
“The ads include actual Army National Guard soldiers who are currently serving and are the same age demographics of Gen Z,’’ Rivas said. “Activities depicted in the ads range from the soldiers’ civilian pursuits to their military occupations and scenarios related to the Army National Guard’s federal and domestic missions.’’
More than 100 pieces of contents have been created, Rivas said. The Army National Guard expects them to be in use for up to two years, she said.
It’s an ambitious program — and not a subtle one.
As the action picks up in the one-minute ad, Guard members are shown in rapid-fire sequences as the narrator discusses the opportunities potentially awaiting Gen Zers.
He mentions building bridges and hospitals, saving families from disaster and assisting others in need.
“We’re going to do all this and more, because we have an appointment with destiny,’’ the narrator said. “We invite you to join us.’’
Early returns are that this recruiting mission is having an impact.
After viewing the ad online, one commenter said he was 19 and was motivated to “help my fellow citizens.’’ He said he plans to join the Guard.
That’s exactly what the Army National Guard wants to hear.
“‘The Next Greatest Generation Is Now’ campaign lets Gen Z know that the ARNG understands that they are the future of our organization and is confident that Gen Z’s energy, creativity and determination will solve the complicated problems facing our nation and its communities,’’ Rivas said.
The Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine’s military nutrition division is asking volunteers to take part in a six-week study during which they’ll spend 21 days eating only MREs.
They say the goal is to learn what happens to the human gut on an all MRE diet, even though the veteran and active duty communities have already voiced their opinion through hilarious memes.
They even predicted what would happen on an MRE diet:
But the Army’s study is actually serious business. The engine of the human digestive process is large colonies of bacteria in the gut, and these bacteria populations are affected by what people eat.
Army scientists want to learn how to game that system, crafting new MRE items that will make soldiers more healthy and resilient in the field. An area of particular interest is how to help the naturally occurring bacteria fight off food poisoning.
“We think we can manipulate the bacteria in a way that helps the bacteria fight foreign pathogens — things that could cause food-borne illness, for example,” the head of the study, Dr. J. Philip Karl, told Army Times. “Oftentimes, war fighters are overseas and they eat something off the local economy that can cause [gastrointestinal] distress. Potentially, what we could do by increasing the amount of beneficial gut bacteria is to help prevent some of that.”
Volunteers will have their gut bacteria populations measured on a regular basis as they proceed through the study, allowing researchers to see how the bacteria is affected. Hopefully, the researchers can then tweak the recipes and menus to make them better for troops.
As some vets still idolize the MRE lifestyle, the Army will likely have plenty of volunteers:
But they only want 60 volunteers and only ones who can travel to their facility in Natick, Massachusetts.
To learn more about the study and see how to sign up, see the original Army Times article.
Answering an air support call for the first time is a gut wrenching experience, and it’s something fighter pilots will never forget. All of the flight hours and training boils down to their first life and death test, a test that will become routine on deployment. 1st Lt. Bart “Lefty” Smith describes his first time:
I mean that’s something that I heard about that people talk about, but something that you never know until you’ve actually felt it. Till you hear gunfire going off in the background over this guy’s radio, and you drop a bomb and it stops. And, he picks up and they get their stuff together and they’re like, ‘okay, we’re going to get on with the exfil.’ That’s a feeling that people have talked about, but having felt that is pretty amazing.
The video is over 14 minutes long, but the first four minutes sums up the stressful experience.
During the Vietnam War, American commandos developed an insertion and extraction method for operations in the jungle that is still used by today’s special operators.
The Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction (SPIE) system is designed for small special-operations teams that operate in areas where an enemy presence or the terrain prevents helicopters from landing.
The SPIE technique hasn’t been used operationally for decades, in part because US air superiority and lackluster enemy anti-aircraft capabilities have meant it wasn’t needed.
But as the US military gears up for great-power competition against near-peer adversaries, like China and Russia, the SPIE technique is relevant again, especially in a potential conflict in the Pacific.
Warriors of the jungle
The SPIE system can be traced to the rope insertion and extraction techniques of the Vietnam War. It was the innocuous sounding Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) that invented and used the method.
A highly classified unit, SOG took the fight to the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong, conducting cross-border operations into Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam—where US troops officially shouldn’t have been.
Composed of Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Recon Marines, Air Commandos, and indigenous forces, SOG tried to stop the onslaught from the North and give South Vietnam some breathing space.
SOG’s classified operations mainly took place in rough and inaccessible jungle, where the NVA had built the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail complex, over which flowed supplies to their forces in South Vietnam. The terrain restricted operations and often forced SOG teams to create their own landing zones by either detonating explosives or by requesting B-52 bombing runs to create craters where helicopters could land.
But landing wasn’t always an option. Secrecy was paramount for mission success. SOG patrols of six to 14 men didn’t have a chance of survival against hundreds or thousands of NVA in an open battle.
With so few landing zones available in the jungle, and with the NVA always trying to monitor them, SOG operators came up with different techniques that didn’t require landing.
At the time, the SPIE terminology didn’t exist, and operators simply used the term “ropes” to refer to methods such as the STABO Extraction Harness, McGuire Rig, and “Swiss Seat.”
The STABO Extraction Harness, or STABO rig, was one of the most used. Designed for quick infiltration into and exfiltration from the jungle, the STABO rig was a mandatory piece of equipment for every recon member. It was worn throughout the mission since recon team members didn’t know if or when they would be compromised, which would often mean a frantic race to escape from superior forces.
During an extraction by ropes, the helicopter crew chief would throw ropes with a sandbag tied to one end down from a hovering helicopter. SOG commandos would hook the ropes to links on their uniforms. The helicopter would then rise straight up to clear the jungle before flying away.
Throughout the Vietnam War, ropes methods saved several lives, and their use sometimes seemed straight out of a movie.
In June 1967, a reinforced SOG company composed of Green Berets and local troops entered Laos to conduct battle-damage assessment after an airstrike on a North Vietnamese headquarters hub along the Ho Chi Minh trail complex.
The roughly 100-man “Hatchet Force” came upon a strong NVA force, and a fierce battle ensued. The American commandos and their local allies were surrounded and pinned down, but their firepower saved them from being overrun.
The NVA shot down several fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft that tried to exfiltrate or support the battered SOG company. Eventually, some choppers were able to come in and exfiltrate members of the force.
During one of those trips, a Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Stallion was shot down close to the Hatchet Force’s perimeter. Somehow, Sgt. First Class Charles Wilklow survived the crash, though he was badly wounded.
The NVA captured him but, seeing his wounds, thought he only had a few hours to live. They tied him down and used him as bait for a rescue operation. Considering the certain failure of a rescue mission, SOG headquarters didn’t take the bait.
After four days, Wilklow was still alive, despite his grievous wounds. Yet the NVA didn’t guard him, believing he wouldn’t survive. Wilklow managed to free himself and crawl into the jungle at night.
The next day, a SOG forward air controller spotted an almost-dead Wilklow. He was soon extracted by ropes — despite his ordeal, he was still wearing his STABO rig.
As tensions rise with China, and with conflict in Southeast or East Asia a growing prospect, the SPIE method is increasingly relevant, but it remains risky and inconvenient.
“[SPIE] operations are pretty dangerous, with lots of moving parts that can potentially go wrong,” a Marine Raider told Insider. “You have to watch as you exit the aircraft mid-air, and more so if you’re the first man out because you’ve got five, six, sometimes seven guys right behind you while the pilots are trying to hold position midair. You also have to account for the rotor wash in water and desert ops. You can’t see much while landing because of the sea spray or dust in the air.”
Since the SPIE technique can be used for both land and water operations, it provides special-operations units with more choices when planning operations in the Pacific theater.
For example, the SPIE technique can be used to extract Navy SEALs conducting special reconnaissance along the Chinese coast or a Special Forces detachment doing unconventional warfare in support of local forces on China’s borders.
Lockheed Martin’s JASSM air-to-ground missile is dubbed the “terrorist killer” for its bunker-blasting capability.
The missile is designed to go after high-value, well-defended targets from long range, keeping aircrews well out of danger from enemy air defense systems. The 2,000-pound weapon combines a penetrator/blast fragment warhead with a state-of-the-art anti-jamming precision guidance system wrapped in a stealthy airframe with wings.
Extended distance standoff range
Simple mission planning
Adverse weather operable
GPS/Inertial Measurement Unit inertial guidance
Fully compatible with B-1B aircraft
GPS jam resistant
The JASSM can be launched from the B-1, B-2, B-52, F-16, F-15E, F/A-18, F-35, and other aircrafts.
The JASSM can penetrate bunkers and caves before setting off its blast.
Here it is doing what it’s designed to do: penetrate and explode.
You can run, but you can’t hide, terrorists. It’s devastatingly accurate.
NASA announced its target date for the first powered, controlled helicopter flight on Mars as no earlier than April 8, 2021. The 4-pound helicopter, named Ingenuity, is attached to the belly of the Mars Perseverance rover which landed on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021. Perseverance is en route to a designated “airfield” where Ingenuity will attempt the historic flight. Upon successful deployment, Ingenuity will have 30 Martian days (equivalent to 31 Earth days) for its test flight campaign.
“When NASA’s Sojourner rover landed on Mars in 1997, it proved that roving the Red Planet was possible and completely redefined our approach to how we explore Mars. Similarly, we want to learn about the potential Ingenuity has for the future of science research,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “Aptly named, Ingenuity is a technology demonstration that aims to be the first powered flight on another world and, if successful, could further expand our horizons and broaden the scope of what is possible with Mars exploration.”
Powered, controlled flight on Mars is significantly more difficult than it is on Earth. The Red Planet’s gravitational pull is about one-third of Earth’s and its atmosphere is 1% of what Earth’s is at the surface. Additionally, the surface of the planet receives only half the amount of solar energy that the Earth receives during the day. Conversely, Martian nights can be as cold as -130°F which poses a serious danger to exposed electrical components.
Luckily, the engineers at NASA have designed Ingenuity specifically for the Martian skies. The helicopter had to be small and lightweight in order to hitch a ride on Perseverance. Engineers also fitted it with internal heaters to keep it from freezing during the night. To test its capabilities, Ingenuity’s systems were subjected to performance trials in vacuum chambers and test labs in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory which simulated the conditions the helicopter would face on Mars.
“Every step we have taken since this journey began six years ago has been uncharted territory in the history of aircraft,” said Bob Balaram, JPL’s Mars Helicopter chief engineer. “And while getting deployed to the surface will be a big challenge, surviving that first night on Mars alone, without the rover protecting it and keeping it powered, will be an even bigger one.”
When Ingenuity attempts its historic flight on Mars, it will carry another piece of aviation history with it. On December 17, 1903 the first powered, controlled flight took place on Earth. On the dunes of Kill Devil Hill near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville Wright flew 120 feet in 12 seconds at the controls of Wright Flyer. He was joined by his brother, Wilbur. The Wright brothers made a total of four flights that day, each longer than the last.
A piece of the material that covered the Wright Flyer’s wing is now carried aboard Ingenuity. The small swatch of fabric is wrapped around a cable with insulative tape underneath the helicopter’s solar panel. Another piece of Wright Flyer material was carried by the Apollo 11 crew on their historic flight to the Moon in July 1969. The astronauts also brought a splinter of wood from the Wright Flyer with them.
“Ingenuity is an experimental engineering flight test – we want to see if we can fly at Mars,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. “There are no science instruments onboard and no goals to obtain scientific information. We are confident that all the engineering data we want to obtain both on the surface of Mars and aloft can be done within this 30-sol window.” Stay tuned to NASA’s social media for updates on Ingenuity’s historic flight.
Some people go skydiving or do other extreme sports to get their adrenaline fix. Troops, on the other hand, get into gunfights. Celebrated war correspondent, Sebastian Junger nails this phenomenon in his 2014 Ted talk about why soldiers miss war.
While thrilling, the downside to any gunfight is getting shot. This video reveals five random facts about gunshot wounds you probably didn’t know. (For instance, did you know that women are more likely to survive than men? What does that do to your “women in combat” matrix?)