You might remember this Air Force staff sergeant from her viral Adele cover. The Voice contestant has some serious swagger rollin’ with Sony Music Nashville. And check out the lyric video after getting acquainted with her in the first one.
The only nation to have used nuclear weapons this century will be able to strike Seattle in four years, former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden said on Wednesday.
“I really do think that it is very likely by the end of Mr. Trump’s first term the North Korean’s will be able to reach Seattle with a nuclear weapon onboard an indigenously produced intercontinental ballistic missile,” Hayden said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“Now, will it be a high-probability shot, they have technical issues, so probably not. But then again, what kind of odds are you comfortable with when it comes to Pyongyang?” Hayden said.
So far this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has conducted 25 ballistic-missile tests and two nuclear tests.
Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow of Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation and former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, says the North Korean threat isn’t four years away — it’s nearly here.
“Hayden is a bit behind the curve on the North Korea ICBM threat,” Klingner told Business Insider.
“After the December 2012 launch, the South Korean navy dredged up off the ocean floor the stages of the North Korean missile, Klingner explained. “South Korean and US officials assessed the missile had a 10,000 km range which covers a large part of the US.”
The launch, which was largely viewed as a front for testing an intercontinental ballistic missile, was not only successful but also showcased the North’s technological advancements.
“After the February 2016 launch, experts assessed it could have a range of 13,000 km, covering the entire US,” Klingner said, which makes the Seattle range estimate “outdated,” he added.
According to Klingner, even the rocket with a range of 10,000 km would compromise approximately 120 million people.
What’s more, in 2015, US commanders of US Forces Korea, Pacific Command, and North American Aerospace Defense Command publicly assessed that Pyongyang is able to strike to the US with a nuclear weapon.
With no sales tax and some name-brand discounts, the Exchange is a military benefit designed to help troops and their families save money. But, as most military shoppers know, some items don’t end up being cheaper at the Exchange, especially things that regularly get marked down. Sunglasses, Keurigs, and a lot of other items can be bought for less at Amazon or big box stores.
But many essential or high-demand items are cheaper at the a local exchange or at shopmyexchange.com. Here are 6 last-minute gifts that fit in that category:
The tax savings on video game consoles at the exchange are typically $20 or more, so it’s a great place to pick up Playstations or XBoxes, if they have the bundle you’re looking for.
Both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 are primarily sold with a game included in a bundle. While getting a bundle like Gears of War will cost less at the exchange, the LEGO Movie Videogame Bundle isn’t available there. And the cost saving at the exchange aren’t enough to justify buying a game you won’t play.
Those looking for a specific scent may have to pick up their bottles somewhere else.
4. Tactical gear
Getting military gear from a random website can be risky since badly sewn pouches won’t fit properly on a military vest and many items at tactical stores aren’t authorized for wear.
The items at the Exchange are more likely to appear on approved gear lists. But, remember that anything that can be bought used will likely cost less at a military surplus store.
Macs usually sell for $10 less than at the military exchange than from the Apple Store. On the more costly models, the tax savings of shopping the Exchange can save over $100.
But, in the Apple store customers can buy upgraded memory or processors that come pre-installed in the computer. These options aren’t available at the Exchange.
Dell and Office Depot both run online storefronts with special pricing on computers through the military Exchange. Before making the final purchase though, do an internet search of the model number. Some still end up being cheaper at civilian stores.
In mid-December, the Army will receive the first of nearly 150 Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles from British Aerospace for what is officially described as the “Engineering and Manufacturing Development” phase.
What they’re really doing is testing out the replacement for the M113 armored personnel carrier in Army brigade combat teams.
The M113 does seem to be due for replacement. This vehicle is old — as in it entered service when John F. Kennedy won the presidency.
It’s stuck around for 56 years, even as it became obvious that it could not keep up with the M1 Abrams main battle tank nor the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
The AMPV will likely continue its testing for at least another four years, according to an Army release. Per a handout from April 2012, the Army is looking for five variants of the AMPV.
The first is a General Purpose vehicle, capable of mounting a “crew-served weapon” (let’s be honest, it will likely be a M2 heavy machine gun), with a crew of two and capable of carrying six personnel.
This will often serve as an escort for convoys, medevac missions, and even be used as an emergency supply vehicle.
The next vehicle is a Medical Evacuation Vehicle, intended to pull wounded troops from the fight, and to help deliver medical supplies forward (to treat casualties on the spot and prepare them for evacuation).
The vehicle can carry four litter patients, six ambulatory patients, or a mix. Given that the AMPV is being used in the heavy brigade combat teams, this is meant to handle the aftermath of an armored vehicle being hit.
The third variant is the Medical Treatment Vehicle. You might think at first that this is redundant with the MEV, but these are very different things.
The MEV is intended to get wounded troops to medical treatment. The MTV is meant to be a place where troops are treated. This vehicle – really a mobile emergency room – will be also to carry one litter case, and has a crew of four.
The Mortar Carrier is variant number four. Pretty much the same 120mm mortar used in the mortar carrier variants of the M113 and the Stryker will be in the AMPV.
It will carry the crew for the mortar and 69 ready rounds.
The final version is the Mission Command Vehicle. This is where officers at battalion level and higher handle their fights. This vehicle will have a crew of two and two mission personnel.
In other words, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle looks to finally be the end of the line for the M113 … eventually. But there were over 80,000 M113s of all types produced, according to the current owner of the design, BAE Systems.
The US Army is testing new warheads on some rockets to move away from of cluster bombs, War is Boring reports.
The Department of Defense defines cluster munitions as “munitions composed of a non reusable canister or delivery body containing multiple, conventional explosive submunitions.”
In other words, they are bombs that disperse smaller bomblets over a wide area.
Groups like the Cluster Munitions Coalition strongly oppose cluster munitions because they kill indiscriminately, are difficult to control, and can leave undetonated bomblets lingering in battlefields long after conflicts pass, which could later kill civilians.
The DoD contests that cluster munitions “are legitimate weapons with clear military utility. They are effective weapons, provide distinct advantages against a range of targets and can result in less collateral damage than unitary weapons.”
But the Army will nonetheless phase out these controversial weapons by the end of 2019.
The Army currently relies on cluster munitions in their 227-millimeter M-30 rockets to neutralize targets and ensure the safety of their troops. But they need a round that won’t leave behind dud bomblets that could harm civilians in already war-torn areas.
The Solution is the GMLRS Alternative Warhead, which was presented at the National Defense Industry Association’s 2015 Precision Strike Annual Review.
The GLMRS explosive trades submunitions for shrapnel. The GLMRS is designed to erupt into a hail of shrapnel that shreds targets with the same destructive force as a cluster munition, but without leaving behind dud bomblets for unwitting civilians to discover underfoot.
War is Boring notes that “these shrapnel warheads fit onto existing rocket motors and work with the GPS guidance kits the Army already uses.” The Army hopes to start producing GLMRS by the end of next year.
The video below shows in striking detail just how these new and improved rounds work:
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
A C-130 Hercules flies over Izu Peninsula, Japan, Oct. 14, 2015. Performing regular in-flight operations gives all related personnel real-world experience to stay prepared for contingency situations and regular operations.
Capt. Stephen Elliot and 1st Lt. Stephen Pineo, 36th Airlift Squadron pilots, prepare to perform an assault landing during a night operations exercise over Yokota Air Base, Japan, Oct. 14, 2015. The training enhanced the pilots’ ability to operate in the dark
Capt. Matthieu Rigollet, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules pilot, flies over the coast of Japan Oct. 14, 2015. The crew of Kanto 22 flew past Mount Fuji and performed a practice bundle drop as part of Yokota’s ongoing mission to keep all personnel ready to perform real-world operations.
Capt. Thomas Bernard, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules pilot, performs a visual confirmation with a night vision goggles during a training mission over the Kanto Plain, Japan, Oct. 14, 2015. Yokota aircrews regularly conduct night flying operations to ensure they’re prepared to respond to a variety of contingencies throughout the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
Senior Airman Gary Cole, 36th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, surveys a drop zone at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Oct. 14, 2015. The C-130 Hercules crew performed simulated drops and several landings and takeoffs all while using night vision goggles.
Soldiers, assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct a live fire exercise during Operation Atlantic Resolve in Latvia, Oct. 14, 2015.
A UH-60 Black Hawk crew, assigned to the Texas Army National Guard, helps fight wildfires threatening homes and property near Bastrop, Texas, Oct. 14, 2015.
A Soldier, assigned to 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain “Patriots”, conducts Pre-Ranger Combat Water Survival training at Fort Polk, La., Oct. 7, 2015.
Capt. (Ret.) Florent Groberg will receive the Medal Of Honor in a Nov. 12, 2015 ceremony, for heroic actions during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Oct. 6, 2015) Children wave goodbye to their father, Lt. Chris Robinson, deploying aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Arlington (LPD 24). Arlington deployed as part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.
CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (Oct. 10, 2015) Sailors assigned to USS Constitution perform a War of 1812-era long gun drill in Charlestown Navy Yard as part of Constitution’s weekend festivities celebrating the U.S, Navy’s 240th birthday.
SASEBO, Japan (Oct. 13, 2015) Operations Specialist 3rd Class Karlee Carter cuts a cake with Cmdr. Curtis Price during the celebration of the U.S. Navy’s birthday aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Bonhomme Richard is the lead ship of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and is forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
A UH-1Y Venom lifts off of an expeditionary airfield during an air ground defense exercise at Landing Zone Bull at Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, California, Oct. 10, 2015. This training evolution is apart of a seven week training event, hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One.
Gunnery Sgt. Dragos Coca engages targets during a desert survival and tactics course. Coca is a platoon sergeant with 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Elements of the 15th MEU trained with the 5th Overseas Combined Arms Regiment in Djibouti from Sept. 21 to Oct. 7 in order to improve interoperability between the MEU and the French military.
Marines with 1st Marine Division provide security during a heavy Huey raid in Yuma, Arizona on October 7, 2015. This exercise was part of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force.
What keeps Coast Guard crews Semper Paratus? Training! Every training evolution proves crucial for daily operations across the nation. Here, U.S. Coast Guard Station Morro Bay conducts helicopter operations with a nearby air station.
Aurora borealis is observed from Coast Guard Cutter Healy Oct. 4, 2015, while conducting science operations in the southern Arctic Ocean. Healy is underway in the Arctic Ocean in support of the National Science Foundation-funded Arctic GEOTRACES, part of an international effort to study the distribution of trace elements in the world’s oceans.
The Army uses a defensive weapon stripped from Navy vessels to shoot down enemy rockets and mortars before they can reach friendly troops. And, as a free bonus, they tell nearby artillery units where the enemy’s shot came from, allowing for quick retaliation.
Phalanx weapons were originally fielded as a Close-In Weapon Systems on Navy ships. Raytheon — responding to an Army request for weapons that would shut down mortar and rocket attacks on coalition bases in Iraq — pitched the Phalanx for the new mission.
And the Land-Based Phalanx Weapons System performs. A radar scans the air near protected bases. When it sees an incoming round that could threaten personnel or equipment, the gun and a camera-based tracking system turn to watch it.
The armor-piercing rounds disable or destroy the enemy munitions. The rounds self-destruct after a set distance, ensuring that they don’t rain down on civilians or friendly forces in the area.
Of course, the system can’t always down the incoming round, especially when the system is undergoing maintenance. So most C-RAM equipped bases are equipped with a warning system to alert troops when enemy munitions are incoming.
Either way, the system calculates the most likely point of origin for the enemy round and feeds that information to the fire direction center of nearby artillery units.
When that unit can get eyes on the shooter, they’re able to quickly fire counter artillery, destroying the jerks who took the shot in the first place.
Angelina Jolie presented the world premiere of her new film “Unbroken” in Australia last week, and it looks like it could be the must-see military movie of the year.
“Unbroken” follows the true story of Louis Zamperini, who along with two others in his crew, survived the crash of their B-24 bomber and lived through a harrowing 47 days in a life raft in the Pacific (one crewman, Francis McNamara, died on day 33) before they were captured by the Japanese and held for more than two years.
The film, which is based on the bestselling book by Lauren Hillenbrand and set for wide premiere on Dec. 25, drew audible gasps from the premiere audience, according to Variety. Meanwhile, over at movie aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 96 percent “want to see” score.
The book it’s based on drew reviews that used words like “inspiring,” “mesmerizing,” and a “one-in-a-billion story,” so we have high hopes for the film. The positive reaction from the crowd at the premiere is definitely a good sign.
Everyone loves Baby Yoda. For parents, the Mandalorian caring for Baby Yoda has made the bleak space saga relevant to parenthood. In just a few short weeks Star Wars has suddenly become more relevant than ever to all sorts of people, and it’s all thanks to an adorable character called “The Child” who never speaks. But who is the Child? Is he somehow a clone of Yoda? Is he Yoda reincarnated? If you’re fuzzy on the timeline of The Mandalorian, did you think this was baby Yoda?
Here’s the deal. Baby Yoda is not Yoda and the guy who runs The Mandalorian just made that pretty clear. Jon Favreau (you know, the guy who made Iron Man) has been doing a pretty solid job steering TheMandalorian ship thus far, and recently he’s answered a few questions about why everyone loves “Baby Yoda” so much. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Favreau made it pretty clear, just in case you were confused, that this little creature is not the Yoda.
“I think what’s great about what George [Lucas] created is that Yoda proper — the character that we grew up watching— was always shrouded in mystery, and that was what made him so archetypal and so mythic.” Obviously, because another creature of Yoda’s species is being featured so heavily, some of that shroud is being lifted, but Favreau is quick to point out there’s still plenty to discover.
“We know who he is based on his behavior and what he stands for, but we don’t know a lot of details about where he comes from or his species. I think that’s why people are so curious about this little one of the same species.”
The keywords to focus on here are these: this little one of the same species.
Baby Yoda is not actual Yoda, because The Mandalorian happens six years after Return of the Jedi, the movie in which Yoda died. It was a peaceful death though, and before he died he told Luke “there is another…Skywalker.” Funny he didn’t mention another Yoda!
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The NATO Alliance was originally established 68 years ago today. Political rhetoric notwithstanding, the modern alliance is currently fighting in Afghanistan while also facing down a resurgent Russia in Eastern Europe and figuring out how to stop ISIS at home and abroad. Here are 7 facts from its proud history:
1. NATO grew out of the more limited Treaty of Brussels of 1948
The Treaty of Brussels signed in 1948 established collective defense for Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The U.S. wanted a greater stake in Western European security and so began looking for a way to join an expanded version of the treaty.
2. The U.S. invited other countries into NATO to form a “bridge” across the Atlantic
America and the Brussels signatories largely agreed on the framework of what would become NATO, but one of the original sticking points was whether other countries would be allowed to join. America wanted to invite North Atlantic countries like Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, and Portugal as these countries would form a “bridge” across the Atlantic for deploying forces.
3. Both the Treaty of Brussels and the NATO Alliance were in response to Soviet aggression
After World War II, Stalin quickly began supporting pro-Soviet and pro-communist government in Eastern Europe. After a civil war in Greece, a coup in Czechoslovakia, and the Blockade of Berlin, Western European countries were increasingly worried about the USSR trying to topple their governments. They responded with the Treaty of Brussels and then the NATO treaty.
4. The NATO Alliance formed a “nuclear umbrella” over Europe
The first mention of a “massive retaliatory power” to any Soviet incursion was made by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. This established a “nuclear umbrella” over NATO, the possibility that the U.S. would respond to any attack with nuclear weapons, but it wasn’t an immediately credible threat.
It wasn’t until the development of nuclear weapons like nuclear-tipped, intercontinental ballistic missiles and the implementation of practices like Operation Chrome Dome that the U.S. could truly threaten Moscow with nukes on short notice.
5. NATO had a clear nemesis in the Warsaw Pact
The increased readiness of NATO in the mid-1950s and its expansion into new countries, especially West Germany in 1955, spurred the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. The Warsaw Pact was a sort of Soviet NATO that existed between the USSR and seven Soviet-aligned countries in Europe.
6. NATO has a science program
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1956 and the West realized it had to get serious about scientific development. This led not only to the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, (now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the U.S. but also the NATO Science Programme.
Now known as the Science for Peace and Security Programme, it provides funding, expert advice, and other support to security-relevant science and research between NATO countries and partner countries.
7. A NATO training exercise nearly triggered a nuclear war
While the relationship between the Warsaw Pact and NATO was always strained, it reached a fever pitch on a few occasions. In addition to the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis, NATO military exercises in 1983 nearly triggered an actual war.
The annual war games were focused on command post operations, but the 1983 exercise included an unprecedented 19,000 troops flying in from the U.S. and jets carrying dummy nuclear warheads on simulated attack runs. The Soviets were worried that it was actually cover for an invasion and put their own troops on nuclear high alert.
If Keanu Reeves recently became the internet’s boyfriend, that would make Chuck Norris the ex the internet still thinks about sometimes. Sure, the Chuck Norris facts that once took the internet by storm have since been repurposed for other celebrities, but the man with a supposed third fist beneath his beard clearly still holds a special place in our culture’s heart — and thanks to the History Channel, that special place is now also full of all sorts of badass vehicles.
“Chuck Norris’s Epic Guide to Military Vehicles” debuted on the History Channel earlier this month, giving the public a glimpse into some of the toughest and most capable military vehicles on the planet, including some that most service members likely haven’t gotten a chance to work with (liked the arm-able robotic vehicle known as the SMET).
CAR WEEK | Chuck Norris’s Guide to Epic Military Vehicles
Norris, an Air Force veteran, made a name for himself in TV and movies through his unique combination of American cowboy sensibilities and high kicking martial arts mastery, usually found only in Kung Fu movies of the time. Today, the former action star may look like he’s lost a step or two, but since he’s rapidly approaching 80 years old, I’d say the guy looks pretty damn good.
Norris’ show dives into a variety of military vehicles, including the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) that was developed for both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps to serve as a tougher replacement for the military’s workhorse Humvees. The JLTV is essentially just as much a tank as it is a personnel carrier — with a convex hull on the bottom to diffuse the force of IED blasts and a crew-protection system that wraps the passenger cabin in an armored shell.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV)
(Photo By: Michael Malik, U.S. Army)
Other vehicles Norris shows off in this show include the Stryker Combat Vehicle — a platform Army Rangers have used to great effect in the Global War on Terror. The U.S. Army recently announced plans to quadruple the number of Strykers in their arsenal that have been equipped with a powerful new 30-millimeter autocannon, making this armored personnel carrier a far more daunting opponent to near-peer competitors in places like Russia and China.
And what show about military vehicles would be complete without discussing the legendary, 65-ton M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank? The M1 Abrams has been America’s primary battle tank since the early 1980s, and thanks to repeated updates and upgrades, it remains among the most powerful and capable tanks on the planet.
Even tanks need to catch a flight from time to time.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Christopher A. Campbell)
For some of us that served our time in boots, this special may not offer a great deal of new and amazing things we’ve never seen before (aside from the aforementioned SMET robot), but even the saltiest of vets can appreciate a 60-minute demonstration of American badassery hosted by a legendary action star and U.S. military veteran.
You can catch “Chuck Norris’s Epic Guide to Military Vehicles” the next time it airs, but it’s 2019 and waiting for that sounds crazy. Instead, just swing by this link and plug in your cable provider login and you can watch it right now.
Or if you’re like me and you got rid of cable in favor of endlessly scrolling through streaming platforms, you can watch the show on Hulu.
The following is a WATM exclusive excerpt from Staff Sergeant Travis Mills’ forthcoming book, As Tough as They Come, which will hit shelves on October 27:
We hiked only about 400 yards to the village. In addition to my weapons’ team, there were other squads along on the patrol, a total of twenty-eight soldiers. My lieutenant, Zachary Lewis, went to the left with the first and second squads, heading to meet with the village elders, while the rest of our men went with me around the village on the outside to offer support in case of an attack. Along with my gun team, I had my platoon sergeant and a medic, Sergeant Daniel Bateson. All looked calm. It seemed like just another day in Afghanistan. Another normal patrol.
We approached an abandoned ANA security post (two portable buildings), and stopped near the buildings to establish a security perimeter. I called for Fessey to bring the minesweeper. It’s a wand that goes up and around his arm, and it looks like a metal detector a guy would use at the beach. If the minesweeper makes a noise, that means something’s in the soil. Typically, we’re always listening to hear a beep. If we hear one, then we mark the spot, go around it, and have the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) guys dig out and dispose of whatever’s under there. Whenever we found an IED, we’d never mess with it ourselves. Mines can be unpredictable, and you want the experts to handle them. Some IEDs aren’t even made of metal, just plastic and glass, which can sometimes fool a minesweeper. But even then, the minesweeper is designed to have ground-penetrating capability. It can usually detect if something’s in the ground and it’s not soil.
“Check this area,” was the only order I gave.
Fessey walked up a path used by villagers and scanned all around the area. He went up and back, and all was clear. No beeps. There was no reason to question anything. Fessey finished his minesweeping duties and went to set up on the far flank.
I called Riot up to me and asked him where he thought we should put up the gun. I knew where it should go, but I wanted to let him decide, making sure he knew his stuff. He motioned to exactly where I thought we should put it, a good spot, and I said, “All right. Go get Neff and bring him up here.” That was it. Riot left to go get Neff, and as he did, I set my backpack down. The backpack touching the dirt was all it took.
Such a simple act of war. My world erupted.
I saw a flash of flame and heard a huge ka-boom. Hot jagged pieces of explosives ripped through me. I cartwheeled backward end over end, hit the ground, and slammed my face hard against the compacted earth. Instantly I felt my left eye starting to swell shut. I smelled burning flesh—my own. I tasted dirt, and I was wet with sweat and moisture like I’d just walked out of a hot shower.
Dirt fell everywhere through the air. It rained down and clung to my eyes, nose, and mouth. I don’t remember rolling over but I must have because I glanced to the side and saw that my right arm was completely gone. I caught a glimpse of my left arm, covered in blood and tattered. The arm trembled as if it had a will of its own. I looked down and saw that my right leg was also gone. The stump looked like a piece of raw meat. The bottom of my left leg was still attached but held on by only a few strands of skin. I saw all this in a flash, an instant.
I felt confusion but no panic. My first thought was of my guys. I flopped my remaining arm toward the microphone clipped to my plate carrier and somehow managed to push the button. “I hit a bomb,” I said. “I need help.”
Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to upgrade and fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.
“It is a dream to fly. It is so smooth,” Maj. Kent Mickelson, director of operations for 394th combat training squadron, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
In a special interview designed to offer a rare look into the technologies and elements of the B-2, Mickelson explained that the platform has held up and remained very effective – given that it was designed and built during the 80s.
Alongside his current role, Mickelson is also a B-2 pilot with experience flying missions and planning stealth bomber attacks, such as the bombing missions over Libya in 2011.
“It is a testament to the engineering team that here we are in 2016 and the B-2 is still able to do its job just as well today as it did in the 80s. While we look forward to modernization, nobody should come away with the thought that the B-2 isn’t ready to deal with the threats that are out there today,” he said. “It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”
The B-2 is engineered with avionics, radar and communications technologies designed to identify and destroy enemy targets from high altitudes above hostile territory.
“It is a digital airplane. We are presented with what is commonly referred to as glass cockpit,” Mickelson said.
The glass cockpit includes various digital displays, including one showing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) information which paints a rendering or picture of the ground below.
“SAR provides the pilots with a realistic display of the ground that they are able to use for targeting,” Mickelson said.
The B-2 has a two-man crew with only two ejection seats. Also, the crew is trained to deal with the rigors of a 40-hour mission.
“The B-2 represents a huge leap in technology from our legacy platforms such as the B-52 and the B-1 bomber. This involved taking the best of what is available and giving it to the aircrew,” Mickelson said.
The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.
The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.
“Taking off from Whiteman and landing at Diego Garcia was one of the longest combat sorties the B-2 has ever taken. The bomber was very successful in Afghanistan and very successful in the early parts of the wars in Iraq and Libya,” Michelson added.
The B-2 crew uses what’s called a “long-duration kit,” which includes items such as a cot for sleeping and other essentials deemed necessary for a long flight, Mickelson explained.
As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.
The B-2 is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.
However, enemy air defenses are increasingly becoming technologically advanced and more sophisticated; some emerging systems are even able to detect some stealth aircraft using systems which are better networked, using faster computer processors and able to better detect aircraft at longer distances on a greater number of frequencies. The Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses, for example, are among the most advanced in the world today. These technological advances, inlcuding the now-in-development Russian S-500 reported to be able to hit targets 125 miles away, have led some to question whether stealth technology itself is becoming obsolete.
The Air Force plans to operate the B-2 alongside its new, now-in-development bomber called the Long Range Strike – Bomber, or LRS-B. well into the 2050s.
B-2 Modernization Upgrades – Taking the Stealth Bomber Into the 2050s
As a result, the B-2 fleet is undergoing a series of modernization upgrades in order to ensure the aircraft can remain at its ultimate effective capability for the next several decades, Mickelson said.
One of the key upgrades is called the Defensive Management System, a technology which helps inform the B-2 crew about the location of enemy air defenses. Therefore, if there are emerging air defenses equipped with the technology sufficient to detect the B-2, the aircraft will have occasion to maneuver in such a way as to stay outside of their range.
The Defensive Management System is slated to be operational by the mid-2020s, Mickelson added.
“The whole key is to give us better situational awareness so we are able to make sound decisions in the cockpit about where we need to put the aircraft,” he added.
The B-2 is also moving to an extremely high frequency satellite in order to better facilitate communications with command and control. For instance, the communications upgrade could make it possible for the aircraft crew to receive bombing instructions from the President in the unlikely event of a nuclear detonation.
“This program will help with nuclear and conventional communications. It will provide a very big increase in the bandwidth available for the B-2, which means an increased speed of data flow. We are excited about this upgrade,” Mickelson explained.
The stealth aircraft uses a commonly deployed data link called LINK-16 and both UHF and VHF data links, as well. Michelson explained that the B-2 is capable of communicating with ground control stations, command and control headquarters and is also able to receive information from other manned and unmanned assets such as drones.
Information from nearby drones, however, would at the moment most likely need to first transmit through a ground control station. That being said, emerging technology may soon allow platforms like the B-2 to receive real-time video feeds from nearby drones in the air.
The B-2 is also being engineered with a new flight management control processor designed to expand and modernize the on-board computers and enable the addition of new software.
This involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.
The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, he added. The overall flight management control processor effort, slated to field by 2015 and 2016, is expected to cost $542 million.
B-2 Weapons Upgrades
The comprehensive B-2 upgrades also include efforts to outfit the attack aircraft with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.
The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.
In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.
The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.
Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.
The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.
The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Mickelson added.
“This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets,” he said.