There are plenty of weapons systems that ground troops want in support of high-risk missions, but few are as beloved as the A-10. The “Warthog” can fly low, take an amazing amount of punishment, and unleash absolute devastation on enemy forces with rockets, bombs, and its famous 30mm cannon.
The A-10 earned this reputation under fire. Here are five times that A-10 Warthogs saved the day for troops in contact and pilots lost behind enemy lines:
1. An A-10 coordinates support of a high-value target capture mission with no notice
Capt. Scott Campbell and his flight were enjoying a no-fly day when the word came in that a senior al-Qaeda officer had been spotted. In less than an hour, the pilots had thrown a hasty plan together and gotten into the air.
Campbell and the A-10 pilots provided direct fires in support of ground forces and deconflicted the flight paths of F-14s and F/A-18s on the mission while also feeding reconnaissance information to the troops conducting the capture. When the target was secured, the A-10s escorted the helicopters home to end the 8-hour, no-notice mission.
2. Warthogs shut down Taliban attacks against a besieged Special Forces team
An Army Special Forces team stumbled into a Taliban ambush and called for help from Apaches and A-10s. Capt. Aaron M. Palan was on his fourth mission in the deployment and flew his jet into the fray, sending four GPS-guided munitions, three white phosphorous rockets, and 1,150 30mm cannon rounds into the camouflaged and fortified enemy positions.
3. A pilot destroys Iraqi forces while rescuing a downed pilot
During Operation Desert Storm an F-14 pilot was shot down by Iraqi forces. Air Force Capt. Paul T. Johnson was flight lead for two A-10s sent to conduct search and rescue, the first time the A-10 completed this type of mission in combat.
Johnson flew the plane deeper into enemy territory than it had ever gone and dropped to 500 feet to spot the isolated American. He spent over three hours searching and destroyed an Iraqi missile site before spotting the pilot and killing an Iraqi truck that was approaching the pilot. The rescue was ultimately successful.
4. Pilots use their own A-10s as bait for enemy air defenses to save a downed pilot
After an American pilot was shot down over Serbia on Mar 27, 1999, Capt. John A. Cherrey led a flight of A-10s to find and rescue him. Cherrey and his flight had to proceed directly through Serbian air defenses and fly over surface-to-air missile batteries to reach the crash site.
The flight dealt with constant jamming, bad weather, and enemy aircraft to reach the pilot. When the pilot was found close to Serbian air defenses, Cherrey and his flight flew circles over other areas in the air defense ring to distract enemy radar from the real pick-up location. The choppers were able to pick up the isolated pilot and everyone headed home alive thanks to the A-10s.
5. A quick-thinking A-10 pilot prevented a fratricide during a frantic, joint forces mission
While the A-10s deserve credit for covering the ground troops and Apaches, their single greatest contribution was when the A-10 flight lead called for an abort of the first B-1 bombing run. The flight lead had heard the ground controller pass the target coordinates to the B-1 and had realized, working mostly from memory, that the numbers were actually the coordinates of the Marines. The lead then walked the controller through how to get the proper coordinates, working again from memory.
In a team, there’s a leader, a lancer, the smart guy and the lovable big guy.
In the Air Force, it’s the fighter jets, the stealth bombers, the drones and the cargo planes … except they aren’t as beloved as the big guy.
Often overshadowed by their more aggressive, quicker and sleeker cousins, the fighter jets, the heavy aircraft are the airframes that carry the US Air Force and sister-service components, and it is about time they get the love they deserve.
Some people tend to think the Air Force is all about the pilots that bring the fight to the enemy and protect America’s freedoms from the sky with sleek, supersonic fighter jets. They’re not wrong, to a point. Fighter pilots in the Air Force do exactly that.
Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base, in Utah, July 31, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
But just as an army marches on its stomach, an air force’s mobility depends on the fleet of aircraft and maintainers to handle the logistics of troop and material movement. That is where the heavies and their crew come in.
Aircraft from the modern C-17 Globemaster III and the KC-46 Pegasus — the new kid on the block — to the venerable C-130 Hercules, B-52 Stratofortress, KC-135 Stratotanker and others play a massive role in the service’s global operations, all with different purposes. Although one commonality they have is this — all of their crew chiefs start their careers with training at Sheppard AFB.
“For their first 23 days of training, its fundamentals,” said Master Sgt. Jason Ricke, section chief for 362nd Training Squadron’s Heavies Flight. “Fundamentals have a large focus. They learn a lot about fighters, heavies, some of the UAVs, bombers cargo, but if they’re going to 135s, the 52, or 130s, they’ll learn the specifics here [in the 362nd Training Squadron.]”
Ricke said students, whether coming in with some experience in mechanics or can’t tell the difference between a wrench and a hammer, will learn the heavy maintainer lifestyle and comradery in the crew chief apprentice course.
C-130 crew chief apprentice students open the cargo door of a C-130 Hercules at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, Nov. 20, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)
“A lot of people don’t know what goes into being a crew chief specifically. It’s a lot of hours and hard work,” Tech. Sgt. Dennis Neville, 362nd Training Squadron Instructor Supervisor for the C-130 course, said. “We get students with a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Some of them who are excited to be here, some who don’t know what they will be doing yet. That’s something they’ll pick up and go with once they get out on that flight line and once they see their aircraft fly for the first time.”
Neville said there is no better feeling as a crew chief than seeing your aircraft leave with a pallet of supplies or a pallet of patients or even filled to the brim with bullets and bombs and watch it come back with nothing. Knowing that it completed its mission, but not without the help of the crew chiefs.
“Without the maintainers, and not just crew chiefs but maintainers in general, these aircraft don’t fly or at least they aren’t going to fly like they’re supposed to,” Neville said. “[The pilot] will have no guidance systems, no electrical systems, you definitely can’t fly without your engines, you gotta have fuels as well, different shops maintain those systems without them, that aircraft would just sit there and people will just admire it from the ground and it’ll never get to do its mission.”
US Air Force crew chief trainees change a tire on a KC-10 Extender at Travis Air Force Base, California, Feb. 7, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
This mission to get these aircraft in the air is exemplified in the crew chiefs that must undergo months of training learning more than three volumes of information. Information pertaining to engine pylons, navigator positions, booms, loadmaster tasks and refueling missions, the crew chief will learn all these tasks, depending on their assigned airframe.
Crew chiefs are part of the maintenance force that ensure aircraft are airworthy and mission-ready so pilots can complete their various variety of missions.
Examples of the wide range of missions for the C-130, one of USAF’s oldest and most reliable assets, can range from humanitarian missions, military supply runs to allies all over the world, transporting hardware like tanks for the Army, to being outfitted into a AC-130 “Spooky” gunship and going to battle with an array of weaponry to wreak havoc on the enemy.
The KC-135’s mission is a bit more streamlined as it is about 300 gas stations with wings. Its mission is to refuel other aircraft during flight so they can continue their mission without landing.
B-52 crew chief apprentice course students install a drag chute onto a B-52 Stratofortress at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, Nov. 19, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)
The B-52 is the oldest bomber in the Air Force inventory, having first begun flying in the 1950s. The fortress in the sky is able to fly long distances and carry around 70,000 pounds of mixed ordnance.
All these flying giants are sustained by crew chiefs that have trained at Sheppard. Ricke said the crew chief job, while daunting at times, because of the age of some aircraft in the fleet, is also rewarding because he works on aircraft and builds camaraderie with fellow maintainers. It’s why he continues to put on the uniform.
“What our instructors instill the most within the students is the brotherhood and sisterhood between all maintainers,” he said.
Ricke said everyone who joined the Air Force, right next to their personal reason, was a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves, a desire to be part of a team or a second family. He said being an Air Force maintainer is something a student, whether or not they specifically wanted the maintainer job, will learn to and hopefully become excited about being part of this important team of unsung heroes.
“That’s probably the main things that really kept me around,” he said. “You’ll never make better friends than the ones you make in the military service. When it’s easy and nice anyone can do the job, but when it gets tough and dirty that’s when the best people show up and that’s when best friends make it fun.”
From left, Airman Greg Hogle, Airman 1st Class Daniel Miranda, Airman George Michael Singer III, and Airman Brycen Brooks, all B-52 crew chief apprentice course students, in a B-52 Stratofortress at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, July 2, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)
Ricke said he tries to instill these values into the students who come through that while doing their job, know there’s people who are there that can help pick up the slack as being a maintainer is a hard job. He and Neville also encourage students to try to become flying crew chiefs, a position that makes all the hardships seem worth it.
“The first time they get to do their first TDY when becoming a flying crew chief, that’s really when it gets brought home and you get to see your part of this mission,” Neville said. “The biggest thing is that drive and force, needs to remember, those pilots can’t fly those without us and who doesn’t want to fly over the world as a part of your job. There’s great food all over the world.”
Ricke said the same thing about flying crew chiefs being one of the more rewarding parts of the hard crew chief life and said whether the mission is a four to five day trip just dropping supplies or working on an military training exercise with the Army for two weeks, becoming a flying crew chief is a goal any new crew chief should strive for.
Many of the aircraft in the Air Force’s heavies fleet will be on display at the SAFB Air Show this Oct. 26-27, showing off the often underappreciated heavy aircraft that are the base of our Air Force.
“For all our cargo aircraft, they will be opened up so people can walk through it, go in the flight deck, they can experience it all,” Ricke said. “That’s the thing for us, showing them one aspect of how this little thing makes all this move around, it’s all just a piece of the puzzle and to show them that we don’t just have fighters or bombers, they can learn about the cargo mission, the training mission.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When the Red Army crossed the border into Finland in 1939, along with them came a battalion of remote-controlled tanks, controlled by another tank some 1000 meters behind them. Along with the usual heavy armaments, the tank drones shot fire from flamethrowers, smoke grenades, and some were even dropping ticking time bombs, just waiting to get close to their target.
It’s a surprising technological feat for a country that had only just recently undergone a wave of modernization.
The Soviets had this remote technology in its pocket for a decade, having first tested the tanks on a Soviet T-18 in the early 1930s. While the earliest models were controlled with a very long wire, the USSR was soon able to upgrade to a more combat-friendly radio remote. By the time the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Red Army had two battalions of the drones, which it called teletanks. At this time, the teletank technology was in Soviet T-26 tanks, called the Titan TT-26, and there was a big list of tanks, ships, and aircraft on which the Soviets wanted to equip with tele-tech.
Unfortunately, the TT-26 wasn’t able to fully participate in the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War. In the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s Luftwaffe was able to destroy the vast majority of the Red Army’s TT-26 teletanks. In the months that followed, it proved to be more economical and timely to produce a regular version of the T-26 and man them with human crews.
T-20 Komsomolets Teletanks
It would have been unlikely that the teletank technology would have made the difference on the Eastern Front of World War II anyway. They were notoriously unreliable in unfamiliar terrain and were easily stopped by tank spikes. If a teletank managed to outpace the range of its controller, it simply stopped and did nothing. The Soviets mitigated this by mining the hatches of the tanks, but an inoperative tank is still not very useful to the Allied cause.
Eventually, the USSR’s remaining teletanks were converted to conventional tanks in order to join the fight against the Nazis. Perhaps the emerging technology of the time was an interesting aside for military planners before the war, but the fun and games must stop when you have to start fighting for survival.
Swedish submarines have proven themselves in exercises against the U.S. One of their subs successfully lodged a kill against the USS Ronald Reagan as the carrier’s protectors stood idly by, incapable of detecting the silent and stealthy Swedish boat. Oddly, the Swedish forces succeeded while using an engine based on a 200-year-old design.
The USS Ronald Reagan was sailing with its task force for protection when a single Gotland-class submarine snuck up, simulated killing it, and sailed away without damage.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart)
First, a quick background on what engines were available to Sweden when it was looking to upgrade its submarine fleet in the 1980s. They weren’t on great terms with the U.S. and they were on worse terms with the Soviets, so getting one of those sweet nuclear submarines that France and England had was unlikely.
Nor was it necessarily the right option for Sweden. Their submarines largely work to protect their home shores. Nuclear boats can operate for weeks or months underwater, but they’re noisier than diesel subs running on battery power. Sweden needed to prioritize stealth over range.
But diesel subs, while they can run more quietly under the surface, have a severe range problem. Patrols entirely underwater are measured in days, and surfacing in the modern world was getting riskier by the day as satellites kept popping up in space, potentially allowing the U.S. and Soviet Union to spot diesel subs when they came up for air.
So, the Swedish government took a look at an engine originally patented in 1816 as the “Stirling Hot Air Engine.” Stirling engines, as simply as we can put it, rely on the changes in pressure of a fluid as it is heated and cooled to drive engine movement.
That probably sounded like gobbledygook, but the important aspects of a Stirling engine for submarine development are simple enough.
They can work with any fuel or heat source.
They generate very little vibration or noise.
They’re very efficient, achieving efficiency rates as high as 50 percent while gas and diesel engines are typically 30-45 percent efficient.
An officer from the HMS Gotland watches the crew of a U.S. patrol plane track his sub during war games near Sweden in 2017.
And it’s easy to see why the Swedes chose it once the technology was proven. Their Stirling engines are capable of air-independent propulsion, meaning the engines can run and charge the batteries while the sub is completely submerged. So, the boats have a underwater mission endurance measured in weeks instead of days.
But they’re still stealthy, much more quiet than nuclear subs, which must constantly pump coolant over their reactors to prevent meltdowns.
The HMS Gotland sails with other NATO ships during exercise Dynamic Mongoose off the coast of Norway in 2015.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)
So much more stealthy, in fact, that when a single Swedish Gotland-class submarine was tasked during war games to attack the USS Ronald Reagan, it was able to slip undetected past the passive sonars of the carriers, simulate firing its torpedoes, and then slip away.
So, for the U.S., getting a chance to test their mettle against them could save lives in a future war. And, if it saves a carrier, that alone would save thousands of lives and preserve tons of firepower.
For its part, Sweden is ordering two new submarines in their Type A26 program that will also feature Stirling engines, hopefully providing the stealth necessary to catch Russian subs next time their waters are violated. Surprisingly, these advanced subs are also cheap. The bill to develop and build two A26s and provide the midlife upgrades for two Gotland-Class submarines is less than id=”listicle-2589628522″ billion USD.
If you ever wonder why the littoral combat ship is often seen as a disappointment, one really only has to look at what Denmark has done. This small European country has developed vessels that have much of the same multi-mission flexibility as the American-designed vessels, but with a whole lot more firepower.
Denmark’s Iver Huitfeldt-class guided missile frigates are some incredibly versatile ships. They have quite the firepower, according to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World: four eight-cell Mk 41 vertical launch systems and two 12-round Mk 56 vertical launch systems that give the ship 32 RIM-66C SM-2 Standard Missiles and 24 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, a 76mm gun, up to 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and two twin 324mm torpedo tubes.
Oh, and they can add a second 76mm gun or a 127mm gun.
But that is not all these ships can do. They are based on the Absalon-class support ships. The Absalon carried a five-inch gun, 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and three 12-round Mk 56 vertical-launch systems for a total of 36 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. The Absalon also can haul up to 1,700 tons of cargo, including tanks.
The Iver Huitfeldt doesn’t quite have that space. This got more engines to reach a higher top speed than the Absalon, but she still has space for some containers and plenty of extra berthing (officially for flag and staff, but anyone can use a bed). In short, she could carry a platoon of troops, and her helipad can operate a helicopter the size of the Merlin.
In other words, these are vessels that clearly outgun the littoral combat ships, albeit the latter ships can out-run them. You can see more on these modern and versatile ships below.
When things get squirrely, military vets have several advantages over career civilians. Vets, of course, have the benefit of combat and tactical training, but they’ve also learned to develop a formidable mental game.
Former Green Beret Mike Glover used this notion as inspiration and a jumping off point when he founded Fieldcraft Survival, his school for disaster preparedness.
With 18 years of deep operational experience, certifications out the wazoo (just check his founder’s bio), and a doomsday sense of humor that would make Mad Max proud, Glover is uniquely qualified to teach civilians to keep their heads and preserve their lives as the worst case scenario unfolds.
“At Fieldcraft, our whole basic motto is we’re teaching mindset over hard skills.”
Things, of course, got extra squirrely when Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis dropped in for a visit.
Glover hustled Curtis right into training, first in the classroom to reinforce the importance of developing a strong mental game and then in the field, where the two ran through the O.P.S. Course, which stands for Observe, Prepare, Survive.
And just as the word “challenge” was leaving Curtis’ mouth a distant cry of distress told our heroes it was time to oil up for action.
What happened next pretty much sums up the whole series.
Watch as Glover teaches this wannabe Martin Riggs the real meaning of the word “squirrely”, in the video embedded at the top.
During the MAKS 2017 air show at Zhukovsky, a city about 25 miles from the Russian capital of Moscow, A Sukhoi Su-35 “Flanker E” or “Super Flanker” gave a stunning performance of aerial maneuverability.
The full name of the show is the International Aviation and Space Show, and it is held every two years on off years. Often, the cream of Russia’s cutting-edge aviation is introduced at the show, including the Su-57 fifth-generation fighter.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Su-35 is an advanced version of the Su-27 Flanker. Russia has been showing this plane off for the last few years. It entered service in 2010, and among its most notable innovations was a radar that not only looks in front of the plane, but behind it as well. It can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry, and it has a 30mm cannon with 150 rounds. The plane also is equipped with a thrust-vectoring capability.
The Su-35 has dealt with a long development. Early versions, known as the Su-27M, were built in the 1990s, but the Russian military was short on money, and so it didn’t take off. The Su-35S, the Flanker E, was developed through most of the 2000s. The Su-35 did see some action in Syria on behalf of the Russian military, and China has ordered two dozen of these planes.
Today, Russia has acquired 58 of the Su-35s, and plans to buy as many as 90, according to GlobalSecurity.org. To put this into perspective, the similar Dassault Rafale has over 160 airframes, with orders from India and Qatar pending. The Eurofighter Typhoon, another similar plane to the Su-35, has over 500 examples in production.
You can see the Su-35 putting on an aerial demonstration of its maneuverability. Do you think this plane will prove to be better than the Rafale or Typhoon, or is it a pretender? Let us know!
Astronaut Thomas Reiter wearing a G Shock DW-5900 aboard the ISS (NASA)
Ibe wearing the classic G Shock “Square” (Casio)
1. They were invented after an accident
Casio engineer Kikuo Ibe conceptualized the G Shock watch after he tragically dropped a pocket watch given to him by his father. With his family heirloom broken, Ibe was inspired to change the identity of the timepiece from a fragile piece of horological jewelry to a tough and reliable gadget accessible to anyone and everyone. In 1981, Project Team Tough was formed to make this idea a reality. After two years and over 200 prototypes, the team finally released the first G Shock watch model DW-5000C (DW standing for Digital Water resistant) in April 1983.
The many layers of G Shock toughness (Casio)
2. All G Shocks must adhere to the “Triple 10” philosophy
When Ibe set the standards for this new tough watch, he developed what is known as the “Triple 10” philosophy. The watch had to be water-resistant to 10 bar (100 meters), possess a 10-year battery life and, of course, withstand a 10 meter drop. Note that the 10-year battery life is from the time the battery is fitted in the factory. If a G Shock has been sitting on the PX shelf for a few years, your mileage may vary. Of course, the “Triple 10” philosophy is a minimum standard and many G Shocks surpass it.
3. They are certified for space travel by NASA
That’s right, the humble G Shock is a certified astronaut watch. Specifically, the DW-5600C, DW-5600E, DW-5900, DW-6600 and DW-6900 models are all flight-qualified for NASA space travel. The G Shock is joined by the Timex Ironman and the more famous Omega Speedmaster Professional and Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 on the prestigious list of NASA-approved watches.
4. They are the choice of Special Forces
Ok, you probably knew this one. After all, most people who wear the uniform also strap a G Shock to their wrist. Operators like Marcus Luttrell, Grady Powell and Jared Ogden have all been pictured sporting the tough G Shock. It’s always nice to remember though, that even if you can’t grow out a cool-guy beard, walk around with your hands in your pockets, or run around on secret squirrel missions like the tier one elite, the G Shock on your wrist was made in the same factory as the one that they’re wearing.
5. It holds a world record
In order to prove the toughness of G Shocks, Casio subjected a classic G Shock DW-5600E-1 “Square” to the most extreme test in the pursuit of the Guinness World Record title for the heaviest vehicle to drive over a watch. In order to break the record, the watch had to be running properly after being driven over by at least a 20-ton truck. On October 30, 2017, the “Square” was placed face-up and run over by three tires of a 24.97-ton truck. The watch sustained no significant damage and functioned normally, claiming the world record.
The gold G Shock still adheres to the “Triple 10” philosophy (Casio)
6. The line continues to evolve and expand
Since its invention nearly 40 years ago, the G Shock line has incorporated over 3,000 different models. Today, while you can still buy the classic G Shock “Square” for just over , there seems to be a G Shock for every buyer, occasion and budget. The G Shock Women and Baby-G lines offer the same toughness and durability expected from the G Shock name in a smaller, more restrained case size. Modern features like GPS, Bluetooth and heart rate monitoring are also available. Materials have similarly been updated in the 21st century with the Carbon Core Guard, G-Steel line and even 18-karat gold. Announced in 2019, the G-D5000-9JR was limited to 35 units and retailed for ¥7,000,000, or about ,000, making it the most expensive G Shock ever.
Last month, the news that Ukraine would receive FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles from the United States generated headlines. It’s not surprising that the move got attention from the public, given the fact that Russia and Ukraine have been fighting a low-level war since 2014. But Ukraine is not the only neighbor who has received weapons from the U.S. under the Trump Administration.
According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Republic of Georgia will be receiving 72 launchers and 410 FGM-148 Javelin missiles. Why might this be a big deal? Well, in 2008, Georgia and Russia fought a war over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia lost the war and Russia seized the territory. Russia claims that the disputed territories are now independent nations, but if you believe that… well, then we’ve got some lovely beachfront property in North Dakota to sell you.
So, how does the Javelin change things for Georgia? Well, most of Georgia’s current anti-tank missiles are older Russian models, like the AT-4 Spigot, AT-7 Spriggan, and the AT-13 Saxhorn 2. These missiles are generally wire-guided and, as a consequence, aren’t entirely safe. This is because most anti-tank missiles have a huge backblast that reveals their position. Worse, when you have a wire-guided system, you have to direct the launch until the missile reaches its target. If the bad guys can hit your position in the meantime, you’re likely finished.
The Javelin, on the other hand, is a fire-and-forget system with a range of roughly one and a half miles. That means that once you fire the missile, it hunts its target with on-board seekers (the Javelin uses an imaging infra-red seeker). This is much safer for anti-tank teams since they can relocate to a new firing position immediately. In essence, Georgia has just seen a substantial uptick in its capabilities against the horde of Russian tanks.
Last March, the White House announced plans to levy new sanctions against Russia for a list of digital transgressions that included their efforts to meddle with the 2016 presidential election.
This apparent admission from a Trump administration official drew headlines all over the nation, but another facet of that round of sanctions that failed to draw the same level of attention could actually pose a far greater threat to America’s security: the revelation that the Russian military had managed to infiltrate critical portions of America’s commercial power grid.
Power lines are like the nation’s veins and arteries.
“We were able to identify where they were located within those business systems and remove them from those business systems,” one officialsaid of the infiltration, speaking on condition of anonymity.
America does not have a single power grid, but rather has multiple interlinked systems dedicated to supplying the electrical lifeblood to the nation — and if calling it “lifeblood” seems like a bit of poetic license, consider that the U.S. Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack predicted a whopping 90% casualty rate among American citizens in the event of a prolonged nationwide power failure. Money may make the world go ’round, but without electricity, nobody would be alive to notice.
It’s not just civilians that would find their way of life crippled following a blackout. More than a decade ago, areport filed by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board warned that, “military installations are almost completely dependent on a fragile and vulnerable commercial power grid, placing critical military and homeland defense missions at unacceptable risk of extended outage.”
With no power in people’s homes, they would rely on other forms of fuel until they ran out as well.
(Dave Hale via Flickr)
One would hope that Uncle Sam took that warning to heart and made an effort to insulate America’s defensive infrastructure against such an attack, but the truth is, very little has been done. In fact, one law passed by the State of California in 2015 actually bars military installations from using renewable energy sources to become independent of the state’s commercial power suppliers.
This means a cyber attack that managed to infiltrate and take down large swaths of America’s power grid would not only throw the general public into turmoil, it could shut down America’s military and law enforcement responses before they were even mounted.
Today, fighting wars is still largely a question of beans, bullets, and Band-Aids, but in the very near future (perhaps already) it will be time to add buttons to that list. Cell phones don’t work without power to towers, and without access to telephone lines or the internet, communications over distances any further than that of handheld walkie-talkies would suddenly become impossible.
Without refrigeration or ready access to fuel, cities would rapidly be left without food and people would grow desperate.
Coordinating a large scale response to civil unrest (or an invasion force) would be far more problematic in such an environment than it would be with our lights on and communications up. But then, if previous government assessments are correct, an enemy nation wouldn’t even need to invade. They could just cut the power and wait for us to kill one another.
Today, we still tend to think of weapons of mass destruction as bombs and bacteria, but in the large scale conflicts of the 21st century, a great deal can be accomplished with little more than keystrokes. Destabilizing a nation’s economy and unplugging the power can ruin an entire nation. Not even one of Russia’s massive new nuclear ICBMs can do that.
The United States isn’t alone in this vulnerability. In fact, similar methodologies have already been employed in conflict-ridden places like Eastern Ukraine. As cyber attacks become more prevalent, it’s not just likely, it’s all but inevitable that cyber warriors will become the true tip of the spear for the warfare of tomorrow.
The Navy recently approved low-rate initial production (LRIP) for a special, underwater drone system designed to conduct counter-mine operations for the service’s littoral combat ship.
Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants recently granted Milestone C approval to the Knifefish Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Program, according to a news release from Naval Sea Systems Command.
The Navy is expected to award an LRIP contract to Knifefish prime contractor General Dynamics Mission Systems, the release states.
The Knifefish system is designed to deploy from an LCS as well as from other offshore vessels to detect and classify “buried, bottom and volume mines” in highly cluttered environments, according to the release.
Knifefish consists of two unmanned undersea vehicles, along with support systems and equipment. It uses cutting-edge low-frequency broadband sonar and automated target recognition software technology to act as an off-board sensor while the host ship stays outside the minefield boundaries, the release states.
A Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle training model undergoes crane operations aboard the Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead as part of a training exercise enabling mine countermeasure missions from an EPF as a Vessel of Opportunity.
(U.S. Navy photo by Master-at-Arms 1st Class Alexander Knapp)
The Navy hopes to approve a full-rate production decision for the system in fiscal 2021 after additional testing of LRIP systems, according to the release. The service plans to buy 30 Knifefish systems in all — 24 in support of LCS mine countermeasure mission packages and an additional six systems for deployment from other vessels.
The Navy conducted formal developmental testing and operational assessment from January through May 2019 in multiple locations off the coast of Massachusetts and Florida, according to the release. The Knifefish tests involved operational mine-hunting missions against a simulated target field.
The Knifefish was developed from technology designed for General Dynamics’ Bluefin Robotics Bluefin-21 deep-water Autonomous Undersea Vehicle, a system that was involved in the unsuccessful search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.
Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.
Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.
Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.
“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.
An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.
“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.
Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology. A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects. The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.
Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.” Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.
In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.
Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.
Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.
The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.
The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.
While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.
Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.
“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains. In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant. They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk. Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”
Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.
“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.
A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.
Army Defends Against Mini-Drones
While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.
This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.
The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.
Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.
As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.
The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.
The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.
“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.
There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.
“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”
We’ve all seen the memes. The A-10 Thunderbolt II, better known as the Warthog, has become the internet’s favorite warplane thanks in large part to its signature ‘BRRRT’ sound that it makes when it fires its massive 30mm gun. It’s highly doubtful that the engineers at Fairchild Republic that designed the A-10 could have anticipated the legendary status that the aircraft they designed would achieve, let alone that it would still be flying, 50 years in the future. After all, while the A-10 was designed to take a beating, it was also designed to be cheap and easy to maintain.
One of the best A-10 memes
There’s no question that the German Panzer tanks were the most thoroughly engineered and well-built tanks of WWII. However, this attention to detail would be their downfall. Because American and Soviet tanks like the M4 Sherman and T-34 were much simpler and cheaper to produce, the allied forces were able to flood the fields of Europe with armor and overwhelm the numerically inferior German tanks. In addition to this, the allies controlled the skies overhead which made German armor easy pickings for ground attack aircraft like the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. The lessons learned through the evolution of warfare would be applied to the P-47s spiritual successor a few decades later in the Cold War.
Following the end of WWII and the creation of the Iron Curtain, the Western allies of NATO embarked on a massive military buildup in order to meet the potential threat of the Warsaw Pact forces. If the Cold War were to heat up, the biggest battleground where these two sides would meet would be the Fulda Gap. Located between the Hesse-Thuringian border and Frankfurt am Main, the Fulda Gap contains two corridors of lowlands that the Soviets would have had to push their armored forces through in order to reach and cross the strategically vital Rhine River. As a result, allied armor was built up heavily in this region. The anticipated battle also influenced weapons doctrine and development at the time.
In order to win a fight on the ground, you had to win the fight in the air. This concept was proven in WWII. While ground forces went toe-to-toe with the enemy, air forces flew behind enemy lines in order to strike logistical targets like supply convoys, factories, roads, and bridges. From this, the doctrine of AirLand Battle was born. It emphasized close coordination between land forces acting as an aggressively maneuvering defense and air forces attacking rear-echelon forces feeding the enemy’s front-line forces. Picture divisions of M60 ‘Patton’ Main Battle Tanks trying to hold off the onslaught of Soviet T-54 and T-54s coming through the Fulda Gap while B-52 Stratofortress bombers flew overhead to destroy the Soviet supply lines feeding their tanks. Without going too in depth, this is AirLand Battle in a nutshell.
Admit it, you played with these; we all did
Another lesson learned from WWII was that tanks were more effective when they worked in concert with close air support. Combined attacks by Sherman tanks and aircraft like the aforementioned P-47 spelled certain doom for German tanks. In order to carry this concept into the Cold War, the United States developed aircraft to fill the CAS role. While the Army was given the AH-64 Apache to kill tanks from the air, the Air Force was given the A-10 Lightning II.
Built by the same company that built the P-47 Thunderbolt (Republic Aviation was acquired by Fairchild Aircraft in 1965 to create Fairchild Republic), the Lightning II was the Fairchild Republic submission to the Air Force’s 1966 A-X aircraft program to acquire a low-cost attack aircraft. In 1970, the Air Force issued a more detailed request for proposals to the program including the mandate that the aircraft be equipped with a 30mm rotary cannon. On January 18, 1973, after a series of tests and trials, the Air Force announced that Fairchild Republic’s submission was selected and would enter production as the A-10. The new aircraft would be equipped with the GAU-8 30mm cannon which would be built by General Electric who won their own government contract in June of the same year.
The source of the ‘BRRRT’
The A-10 was designed to engage enemy armor in close proximity to friendly forces from very low altitude. In order to deliver precision fires and avoid hitting friendly forces, the A-10 was designed to be slow but tough. Its most important component, the pilot, is protected underneath by a titanium tub capable of withstanding armor-piercing and high-explosive rounds up to 23mm in caliber. The canopy, while not as strong, is made of ballistic glass and is capable of resisting small-arms as well as shrapnel from AA fire and missiles to a certain degree. The fuel tanks are separated from the fuselage to reduce the likelihood of damage. The fuel system is also self-sealing and lined with a reticulated polyurethane foam both inside and outside. In the event that all four main tanks are depleted, the A-10 is equipped with two self-sealing sump tanks that contain enough fuel for 230 miles of flight.
The A-10 will do much more than bite your legs off
The tail of the A-10 bears a striking resemblance to WWII-era level bombers. This unusual design increases stability, like it did for those bombers, making the A-10 a very stable gun platform. This attribute is critical for a CAS aircraft. The tail also helps to mask the heat signature of the top-mounted engines. Though its twin GE TF34 turbofan engines produce just over 41 kN of thrust each (compared to the F-15 Eagle’s original Pratt Whitney F100 engines which produced over 100 kN of thrust each), the aircraft is capable of flight with just one engine. Similarly, the hydraulic flight systems are both double-redundant and are equipped with a manual backup system if both hydraulic systems fail. In all, the A-10 can fly with one engine, one half of the tail, one elevator, and half of a wing missing.
Here’s the part you’ve all been waiting for: the A-10’s massive gun. Yes, the GAU-8/A Avenger is bigger than a VW Beetle. Yes, it fires 3,900 rounds per minute (although it was originally designed to fire at either 2,100 or 4,200 rounds per minute as dictated by the pilot). Yes, it goes ‘BRRRT’ when it shoots. As mentioned previously, the A-10 was designed around its gun. Although the gun itself is mounted slightly to the port side of the aircraft, the gun actually fires centerline because the barrel firing location is on the starboard side at 9 o’clock. This is critical since the gun is powerful enough to affect the aircraft’s orientation if it mounted off-center. In fact, the Avenger produces 44.5 kN of rearward thrust when it fires. In theory, the A-10 could stall itself by firing its gun. However, because its rate of fire is so high, pilots usually fire in 1-2 second bursts. Its ammunition is also very special. Made of depleted uranium which is nearly twice as dense as lead and nearly three times as dense as iron, the A-10s 30x173mm rounds are designed to punch through enemy armor like a hot knife through butter. Depleted uranium also sharpens as it penetrates armor whereas tungsten, which is slightly denser, tends to dull on impact. As an added benefit, depleted uranium is cheap and readily available as a byproduct of uranium enrichment. The A-10 can carry up to 1,350 30mm rounds, the casings of which are cycled back into the ammunition drum to prevent them from striking the aircraft or getting sucked into the engines.
This is basically how DoD acquisitions works
When it comes to design, it doesn’t get much simpler than the A-10. Designed to operate from forward bases with little to no logistical or maintenance support, many of the A-10s components are interchangeable between its port and starboard side, including the engines, main landing gear, and vertical stabilizers. The wing design, sturdy landing gear, and low-pressure tires allow for short takeoffs and landings from even the most rudimentary forward landing strips. Similarly, the high engine placement helps to keep foreign object debris from entering them while operating from semi-prepared runways. The skin of the aircraft is not load-bearing and can be replaced easily in the field. Additionally, whereas most military aircraft require external power sources from ground crews in order to start their engines, the A-10 is equipped with an auxiliary power unit. This allows it to start itself and, again, operate from forward airfields with little to no support. In all, the A-10 is extremely cheap to fly, costing just ,944 per hour of operation. For comparison, the F-16 costs ,278 while the F-35 costs a whopping ,455.
The A-10 is a Cold War aircraft designed to cut through lines of Soviet tanks. Instead, it found renewed purpose in the War on Terror. Its effectiveness on the battlefield made it a favorite of both its pilots and the ground troops that it supported. When Congress threatened to put it on the chopping block, A-10 fans quickly took to the internet to voice their support for the ‘Hog’. Today, just about everyone knows about the A-10. At the very least, they know the sound it makes—’BRRRT’.