5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

The United States has some of the most powerful, most advanced weapons in the world. That also means the United States has some of the most expensive, most difficult to maintain weapons in the world. And some of those weapons systems are old. Very, very old.

But the oldest ones aren’t necessarily at the top of the list of weapons systems the Department of Defense might cut altogether. A bipartisan group of lawmakers and policy groups want the Pentagon to cut $80 billion from the defense budget and they sent a letter to Congress outlining a list of potential cuts that could be made. 

“Well researched analysis from experts across the ideological spectrum show that the Pentagon can dramatically reduce its spending, meet today’s national security challenges, and continue supporting our troops and their families,” the groups wrote in a March 2021 letter to leaders of military oversight committees.

Democrats may run Congress, but Republicans may still cross the party line when it comes to cutting government spending, so the list could get traction in the coming days. Here’s what was at the top of the list.

1. The F-35 Lightning II

weapons systems

The F-35 entered service in 2015, but its development was a long time coming. At an acquisition cost of $406 billion, a projected lifetime price tag of $1.7 trillion, and a flight time cost of $36,000 per hour, the F-35 Lightning II is the most expensive weapon system ever designed for the U.S. military. As advanced as it is, it’s also very buggy and maintenance heavy. 

But does the usefulness and effectiveness of the F-35 outweigh the cost of the program? The United States already plans for getting more than 2,000 of them. But it’s the first weapon on the list sent to Congress by the budget hawks. They project the budget could save $11.4 billion if they “stop throwing money down that particular rat hole.”

2. The B-1 Bomber

The supersonic B-1 Lancer was supposed to be the ultimate nuclear deterrent and nuclear warhead dealer. But almost as soon as the plane went into service, an arms control agreement with Russia made it illegal for the B-1 to carry a nuclear payload. It’s also a 46-year old weapon, first entering service in 1986. So what is the point? 

The letter to Congress also notes that the Lancer’s current mission could be fulfilled by other aircraft at a savings of $1.7 billion dollars. The Air Force tried to get rid of the A-10 because its mission was suddenly obsolete, so why not the B-1? 

3. The Space Force

weapons systems
Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. Raymond delivers remarks during a ceremony at the Pentagon transferring airmen into the U.S. Space Force, Arlington, Va., Sept. 15, 2020.

Libertarian Think Tank the Cato Institute suggests that continuing to pursue the creation of the Space Force might do more harm than good. Its analysis says it “lacks a strong institutional basis, an identifiable organizational culture, and an established foundation of strategic theory. In the short run, it runs the risk of disrupting existing procedures and relationships that enable the U.S. military to function. In the long term, it runs the risk of distorting the procurement and force structure of U.S. space capabilities.”

4. The Nuclear Triad

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the nuclear triad – what the Pentagon calls “the Backbone of America’s National Security” – could be reduced to just eight submarines, 150 intercontinental ballistic missiles, and 1,000 nuclear warhead would save the United States more than $4.3 billion through 2025. 

Currently the triad consists of more than 400 ICBMs, 14 Ohio-class nuclear submarines carrying 20 ballistic missiles each, and more than 3,800 active nuclear warheads.

5. The B-21 Raider

Since the United States already has a fleet of long-range, nuclear-capable bombers that are allegedly working just fine, delaying production of the Air Force’s newest bomber fleet until the 2030s could save the military $18.2 billion through fiscal year 2025. 

Note that the airframe wouldn’t be cancelled, just deferred for a decade as the B-2 Spirit Bomber and the aging B-52 Stratofortress continue to outlive their expected life cycles.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This hotly anticipated aircraft just took its first flight

Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, an aircraft that uses a modified helicopter design to achieve great speed and fuel-efficiency as well as maneuverability, took its first flight on March 21, 2019, exciting military aviation fans who hope that it’s selected for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Program.


Sikorsky-Boeing #SB1 Defiant Completes First Flight

www.youtube.com

The SB-1 Defiant is one of two top contenders for the Future Vertical Lift program, the Army’s effort to replace its aging helicopter fleet. The Army will select a new utility helicopter, likely either the SB-1 Defiant or the V-280 Valor from Bell, that will ferry troops and lighter loads, carry out the wounded in MEDEVAC missions, and fill the rest of the roles currently carried out by the UH-60 Black Hawk.

The current aviation debate is interesting for military aviation aficionados for a few reasons. One is that this sort of contest only occurs every few decades. Another is that neither of the top contenders for the program is a conventional helicopter. The SB-1 Defiant is an evolution of Sikorsky’s X-2 demonstrator. It has two rotor blades similar to a conventional helicopter, but it’s pushed forward by a rear propeller and has no conventional rear rotor.

This makes it much more efficient and faster than a conventional helicopter while retaining all the versatility and maneuverability.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

The Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant takes its first flight. It’s a strong contender for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program.

(Sikorsky)

Its primary contender, meanwhile, is of a tiltrotor design. It can fly fast and far, even farther than the Defiant, but is not as maneuverable or able to fit in as small of places and landing zones. It’s also a direct successor to the controversial V-22 Osprey, a plane that had a horrible safety record during testing. The V-22 did do well with the Marine Corps in the field for a few years, but has run into trouble again recently, suffering four catastrophic crashes from 2015 to 2017.

So, yeah, soldiers care who wins because it decides what will carry them into battle in the 2030s, 2040s, and beyond. And whatever aircraft the Army chooses will instantly have thousands of orders, allowing it to be produced at scale, meaning the manufacturer can offer additional copies to the other services for cheap.

So, the Army’s choice will impact what aircraft the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps can afford to buy for their own services, heavily pushing them to use the same aircraft in at least some roles. (The U.S. Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps all bought UH-60 variants after the Army did, though the Marine Corps bought very few and placed them only in specialty roles.)

Sikorsky-Boeing-Defiant-03212019-First-Flight-1

With all this competition and the long-term impact of the decision, it was a mark in the V-280 Valor’s favor that its aircraft had been flying since December 2017 while the SB-1 Defiant was still limited to ground tests until the March 21 test. Now that both aircraft have flown without shaking themselves apart, the manufacturers will have to prove whether each aircraft can live up to the hype.

And then the Army will begin to make its choice, setting the tone of military aviation for the next few decades.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Record your shooting feats with Tactacam

While attending Sig Sauer Range Day, a camera attached to a spotting scope at the 500 yard range set aside for the Sig Cross caught our eye.


It was a Tactacam, a company who originally got involved with producing cameras and mounts for bow hunting.

Their first scope related product was the FTS, Film Through Scope for $139. This allows a Tactacam camera ($199-$429) to be attached to a scope while still being able to use the scope in a traditional fashion. Or it’s sold as a complete package with an MSRP of $569.

Now, we’ve seen and used similar products before, such as the Phone Skope Skoped Vision Pro, which uses your cellphone as a camera, as well as the Torrey Pines Eagle Eye for which you need to supply your own GoPro.

However, the star Tactacam was showing off was their new system which has an integral 4k camera system and attaches to a spotting scope.

The camera features an articulati USB-C, accepts a Micro SD card, and has a micro-HDMI out.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

Tactacam on Facebook

While there are a number of products which allow to record spotting scope footage, many of them are a pain to setup and can ultimately be kind of janky (we have several ourselves). Mounting was accomplished with a simple clamp mount and a twist; the locking turrets on the camera are integrated into the body.

Tactacam also has an app to connect your camera to your phone for hands-free viewing, but our preference would be to use the micro-HDMI out with a portable field monitor. When a camera is mounted, the less you have to touch the spotting scope, the better, as the magnification level exponential amplifies any itinerant movement.

MSRP for this setup Tactacam is not yet set, but we’re told the entire system will go for in-between 9 and 9–not too shabby for a system that includes a dedicated 4k camera. In the meantime, you can visit Tactacam online here.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 has a massive onboard threat library for any enemy

The Air Force is now adding new information about enemy aircraft to the F-35’s “threat library” database designed to precisely identify enemy aircraft operating in different high-risk areas around the globe — such as a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA 5th Gen fighter, service leaders said.

Described as the brains of the airplane, the “mission data files” are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in areas where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.


“New threat changes are monitored and incorporated into updated mission data files based on the established priorities. Mission Data Files have been fielded to the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force, in support of operations, test, training, and exercises,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files continue to be worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials said.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block
F-35
(Lockheed Martin photo)

The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and incoming hostile fire. The concept is to use the F-35s long range sensors to detect threats — and then compare the information against the existing library of enemy threats in real time while in flight. If this can happen at a favorable standoff range for the F-35, it will be able to identify and destroy enemy air-to-air targets before being vulnerable itself to enemy fire.

The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.

“The Mission Data Files are based on the requirement,” Grabowski said

While progress at the Eglin laboratory has been steady, the integration of the mission data files for the F-35 have experienced some delays, prompting the current effort to quicken the pace so that the operational aircraft has the most extensive threat library possible.

Overall, the Air Force is developing 12 different mission data files for 12 different geographic areas, Air Force officials have told Warrior Maven in previous interviews.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block
F-35
(Lockheed Martin photo)

While Grabowski said that Mission Data File information on particular enemy platforms and specific global threat areas was naturally not available for security reasons, she did say the technology is now supporting the latest F-35 software configuration — called 3f.

As the most recently implemented software upgrade, Block 3f increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.

“Mission data has been fielded in support of version 2B, 3i, and 3f,” Grabowski added.

The Air Force is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat. The service is also working to massively quicken the pace of software upgrades as a way to respond quickly to new threats.

Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.

Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the U.S. variant of the fighter jet. A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.

In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 — both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.


5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block
F-35 Lightening II

The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.

The emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile), JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU-12 (laser-guided aerial bomb) JSF program officials said.

Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and the now operational 3F brings a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

This company is turning these old tanks into modern killers

The M60 Patton was America’s first main battle tank and a heavy-lifter for the U.S. from its adoption in 1960 to its final retirement in 1997. It’s still in service in allied countries around the world and Raytheon has come out with a modernization kit to get it ready for 21st-century combat.


The Raytheon M60A3 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) features a 950-horsepower engine (a 200-horsepower improvement), a 120mm main gun, new fire control and targeting systems with thermal and day sights, and more reactive motors to move the turret and main gun.

Replacing the old, 105mm M68 rifled gun with the L44 120mm smoothbore cannon is probably the most visible and important part of the SLEP upgrades. The L44 is also known as the M256, the main gun on the M1 Abrams main battle tank that America uses today. It features greater range and penetrating power than the M68 it is replacing.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block
GIF: YouTube/arronlee33

The upgraded electric motors will allow crews to respond more quickly to enemies spotted on the battlefield than the old hydraulic motors. They also do their job more quietly, reducing the chances that the Pattons will be spotted as quickly in combat.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block
GIF: YouTube/arronlee33

Meanwhile, the new, 950-hp engines will allow the tanks to reach more places more quickly, giving commanders better tactical and strategic options on the battlefield.

Finally, the sights on the tank are a leap forward for it, allowing crews to quickly and reliably engage targets with their larger cannon.

The tanks featured in a Raytheon video about the SLEP also seem to feature armor upgrades, but Raytheon hasn’t commented on what new capabilities the armor gives.

Of course, this is still an old dog learning new tricks and M60s would struggle against the most modern tanks on the battlefield. For Raytheon, it seems to be about giving customers who can’t afford new tanks an upgrade option rather than making the M60 a peer to Abrams, Leopard, or Armata tanks.

For countries who field the M60 and aren’t yet ready for a tank acquisition program, the SLEP offers a chance to deter aggressive neighbors without breaking the bank.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s new hypersonic missiles already leaked to spies

Russia’s Federal Security Service reportedly suspects that plans for two of Russia’s new, game-changing hypersonic missiles have been leaked to Western spies.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense on July 19, 2018, released new footage of two of its most revolutionary weapons systems: a hypersonic Kh-47M2 “Kinzhal” nuclear-capable, anti-surface missile and the Avangard, a maneuverable ballistic missile reentry vehicle specifically made to outfox the US missile defenses arrayed around Europe.

Related video:

The Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, now suspects these systems, each of which cope with the challenges of flight at about 10 times the speed of sound, have been leaked to the West.

“It was established that the leak came from TsNIIMash employees,” a source close to the FSB investigation told Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, as the BBC noted. TsNIIMash is a Russian state-owned defense and space company.

“A lot of heads will roll, and for sure this case won’t end just with a few dismissals,” the source said.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

A Boeing X-51 hypersonic cruise missile at Edwards Air Force Base in California in 2010.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The hypersonic arms race

The US, China, and Russia are all locked in a heated arms race to create weapons that can travel many times the speed of sound, defeating today’s missile-defense systems.

China and Russia frequently test their weapons and have even fielded a few systems ahead of the US, but their focus is nuclear, while the US seeks a more technically difficult goal.

With nuclear weapons, like the kind Russia and China want on their hypersonics, accuracy doesn’t matter. But the US wants hypersonics for precision-strike missiles, meaning it has the added challenge of trying to train a missile raging at mach 10 to hit within a few feet of a target.

Given that nuclear weapons represent the highest level of conflict imaginable, believed in most cases to be a world-ending scenario, the US’s vision for precision-guided hypersonic conventional weapons that no missile defenses can block would seem to have more applications. The US’s proposed hypersonics could target specific people and buildings, making them useful for strikes like the recent ones in Syria.

But if Russia’s hypersonic know-how has somehow slipped into Western hands, as the FSB has reportedly indicated, then its comparative advantage could be even weaker.

Featured image: A MiG-31 firing a hypersonic Kh-47M2 “Kinzhal” nuclear-capable, anti-surface missile.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

This workhorse of Army aviation is over 40 years old

The UH-60 Black Hawk has been a mainstay of the United States Military since it was first delivered in 1978. This highly versatile helicopter has since served with all five branches of the armed services and has even found a home with other agencies, like U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well.

The primary purpose of the Black Hawk is to haul troops — at least 11 of them — but it’s also very capable of hauling cargo — it can support 9,000 pounds hanging from a cargo hook. Versions of this helicopter also serve as medevacs, in command and control capacities, and as support to special operations forces. Some even pack a lot of firepower and take to the skies as gunships.


5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

UH-60A Black Hawks land at Point Salinas Airfield in Grenada. Operation Urgent Fury was the Black Hawk’s baptism by fire.

(US Army)

Some have even done their share of counter-smuggling. H-60 Black Hawks with the Customs Service have busted their share of folks running marijuana — not to mention a host of other drugs — and enough cash to buy a good chunk of Miami. The drugs get torched and the money gets handed over to the authorities.

The Black Hawk has seen decades of action since its combat debut as part of Operation Urgent Fury, the American invasion of Grenada. Since then, the Black Hawk has seen action in every American conflict, from the invasion of Panama to the War on Terror. It’s done very well in every one of those conflicts.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

UH-60 Black Hawks with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

(US Army)

The Black Hawk will likely be around for a very long time. In fact, orders are still coming in for brand-new Black Hawk helicopters — and not just within the United States. These birds have been exported around the world, to countries ranging from Chile to Sweden. Over 2,600 Black Hawks have been produced, and this total doesn’t reflect other H-60 airframes, like the Navy’s Seahawk family and the Air Force’s HH-60 Pave Hawk family.

Learn more about this versatile helicopter that’s sure to stick around for at least 40 years in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psVZKUxg_aY

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

SpaceX successfully launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit

Elon Musk is one step closer to his goal of stationing a network of 12,000 satellites in orbit above Earth.

On Nov. 11, 2019, SpaceX successfully launched 60 of its Starlink satellites into orbit. This is what the satellites looked like before they were loaded onto the rocket.


They were carried into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which took off at 14:56 UTC from a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Once it was at an altitude of 280 km (174 miles) the rocket deployed the satellites.

The stated aim of SpaceX’s Starlink project is to create a network of nearly 12,000 satellites to bring high-speed internet to remote and rural parts of the world.

After sending the satellites adrift the Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on a landing pad out in the Atlantic ocean.

Although the original plans for Starlink listed just under 12,000 satellites, Space News reported in October 2019 that the company applied to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for permission to launch an additional 30,000.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5th generation fighters prove that tech is king

When a group of hot-shot fighter pilots praise computers over speed, it’s clear times have changed. Fifth generation aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II, aren’t just powerful — they’re exponentially superior tactical machines.


When he first flew the F-22, Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew the Raptor as an Air Force exchange pilot and now flies the jump-jet F-35B, remarked, “I was enamored by just how powerful the airplane is … but [that’s] the least important thing about the F-22.”

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block
The F-22 is a supercomputer with a fighter jet wrapped around it. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

No pilot who flies a fifth generation fighter “will tell you that what’s impressive is what’s on the outside,” Berke said during a Nov. 7 conference sponsored by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

Although fourth generation fighter pilots might have felt a “need for speed”, now information is what wins battles. In a high technology war, Berke suggests that the fastest airplane could be the first to die.

Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Gunn said the F-35A that he now flies “is a lot of sensors and computers … a processing machine that has an aircraft wrapped around it.”

Air Force Maj. David Deptula, who flew the F-22 in combat in Iraq and Syria, said what was “particularly useful” to U.S. and allied air forces was the Raptor’s ability “to detect targets in the air and on the ground and distribute that information in near real time.

“With that information, you’re enabling everybody else,” he said.

As potential adversaries field more advanced defensive systems, Berke said a key question about new airframes is “how survivable they are, and how lethal.” The information processing capabilities of fifth generation fighters “improves both of those, exponentially,” he said.

And with their ability to share the information, the fifth generation planes also “make the fourth gen aircraft more survivable,” he added.

Several of the pilots noted that the F-22 and F-35 not only collect massive amounts of data on the threats and other elements of the combat environment, they process the data and present it as crucial information that the pilot can use to make decisions.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block
An F-35C Lightning II on USS George Washington during F-35C Development Test III. (Photo from Lockheed Martin)

“The big thing is not so much the sensors on the airplane, it’s the computers,” Gunn said. Instead of the pilot having to devote a lot of effort operating the sensors and analyzing data, “the airplane is doing that. I’m the one who gets to make the decisions.”

Major Andrew Stolee, an F-22 instructor at the Air Force Weapons School, said an increased speed of decision making is an important factor “in how we conduct air warfare. The biggest gain we get out of these airplanes is what they allow the human to do.”

Although the F-22 currently has problems sharing its sensor information digitally with fourth generation aircraft, Gunn said the F-35 has a Link 16 system that allows it to share battlespace information with the older airframes.

“In a recent exercise,” he said, “when the F-22s ran out of missiles the older fighters asked them to stay to help them find targets.”

“Enabling all the fifth generation aircraft to share battlespace information with the older aircraft, which will make up most of the fighter forces for decades, is one of the major requirements for the future,” said Maj. Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of the Air Force Air Combat Center.

Another “bill to pay,” VanHerck said, is the need to greatly improve the current air combat training ranges, which cannot adequately duplicate the integrated air defense threats the new fighters must be able to handle. “We’re going to see a lot of our training in the virtual, simulated environment,” he said.

With their unmatched technological advancements and superior aerodynamic designs, fifth generation fighters don’t just exceed air domination capabilities–they define them.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 of the coolest game-changing planes to ever fly

Since man was first able to attach weapons and reconnaissance equipment to planes, the U.S. and its allies have been deploying them into enemy airspace. Known for maintaining air superiority, the U.S. has developed some outstanding aerial technology that has long given allied forces the edge in conflicts.

Sure, not all the planes that we’ve developed over the years have earned a place in the history books, but these well-designed aircraft are so badass that they’ve become household names — or soon will be.


5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

Spitfire

This mass-produced, single-pilot fighter was an essential component in maintaining aerial dominance throughout World War II. This unique plane saw incredible action at the hands of some epic pilots and is responsible for taking down several enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain.

Powered by a Merlin engine and capable of reaching a maximum speed of 360 miles per hour, the Spitfire could blaze its eight wing-mounted, 0.303-inch machine guns at the touch of a button.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

F-14 Tomcat

Famous for its central role in Tony Scott’s Top Gun, the F-14 was the Navy’s go-to jet fighter for several decades. Designed as a long-range interceptor, the Tomcat is capable of speeds in excess of Mach 2.

The Tomcat was so well-designed and capable that the Navy had to expressly prohibit pilots from performing five aerial maneuvers. This list of forbidden stunts includes some negative-G maneuvers and rolling with an angle of bank change more significant than 360 degrees — all made possible by the Tomcat’s extreme performance.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

F-4 Phantom

This twin-engine, all-weather plane hit top speeds faster than twice the speed of sound using two General Electric J79-GE-17 engines, making it one of the most versatile fighters ever built. Introduced in 1960, the Phantom became famous as it completed missions over the jungles of Vietnam.

The Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine Corps all used the Phantom to test various missile systems due to its well-manufactured configuration.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

EA-18G Growler

When a mission requires that the opponent’s air-defense systems be rendered useless so that allied forces can get in undetected, the EA-18G Growler gets called up. This sentinel of the skies is equipped with receivers on each wing tip, which give it the ability to search for radar signals and locate an enemy’s surface-to-air missile systems.

If a threat is detected, the Growler activates one of three jamming pods stored underneath the jet’s centerline. This overwhelms ground radar by sending out electronic noise, allowing coalition aircraft to sneak by undetected.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

F-117 Nighthawk

The Nighthawk was the first aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology. This sneaky aerial marvel first arrived on the market in 1982 and was discreetly utilized during the Gulf War.

The well-designed aircraft was equipped with a payload of two 2,000-pound GBU-27 laser-guided bombs that crippled Iraqi electrical power stations, military headquarters, and biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons plants.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

SR-71 Blackbird

Lockheed Martin developed the SR-71 Blackbird as a long-range reconnaissance aircraft that could hit air speeds of over Mach 3.2 (2,455 mph) and climb to an altitude of 85,000 feet. In March, 1968, the first operational Blackbird was flown out of Kadena AFB in Japan.

With the Vietnam war in full swing, Blackbird was to conduct stealth missions by gathering photographs and electronic intelligence against the enemy.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Brightest light in universe detected after mysterious space explosion

Two violent explosions in galaxies billions of light-years away recently produced the brightest light in the universe. Scientists caught it in action for the first time.

The explosions were gamma-ray bursts: short eruptions of the most energetic form of light in the universe.

Telescopes caught the first burst in July 2018. The second burst, captured in January 2019, produced light containing about 100 billion times as much energy as the light that’s visible to our human eyes.


Gamma-ray bursts appear without warning and only last a few seconds, so astronomers had to move quickly. Just 50 seconds after satellites spotted the January explosion, telescopes on Earth swiveled to catch a flood of thousands of particles of light.

“These are by far the highest-energy photons ever discovered from a gamma-ray burst,” Elisa Bernardini, a gamma-ray scientist, said in a press release.

Over 300 scientists around the world studied the results; their work was published Nov. 20, 2019, in the journal Nature.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

The Hubble Space Telescope imaged the fading afterglow of the gamma-ray burst GRB 190114C (center of the green circle) and its home galaxy.

(NASA, ESA, and V. Acciari et al. 2019)

50 seconds to capture the brightest, most mysterious light in the universe

Gamma-ray bursts happen almost every day, without warning, and they only last a few seconds. Yet the high-energy explosions remain something of a mystery to scientists. Astronomers think they come from colliding neutron stars or from supernovae — events in which stars run out of fuel, give in to their own gravity, and collapse into black holes.

“Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions known in the universe and typically release more energy in just a few seconds than our sun during its entire lifetime,” gamma-ray scientist David Berge said in the release. “They can shine through almost the entire visible universe.”

After the brief, intense eruptions of gamma rays, hours or days of afterglow follow.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

An illustration depicts a gamma-ray burst.

(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Telescopes have observed low-energy rays that come from the initial explosion and the afterglow.

“Much of what we’ve learned about GRBs [gamma-ray bursts] over the past couple of decades has come from observing their afterglows at lower energies,” NASA scientist Elizabeth Hays said in a release.

But scientists had never caught the ultra-high-energy light until these two recent observations.

On Jan. 14, 2019, two NASA satellites detected an explosions in a galaxy over 4 billion light-years away. Within 22 seconds, these space telescopes — the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope — beamed the coordinates of the burst to astronomers all over Earth.

Within 27 seconds of receiving the coordinates, astronomers in the Canary Islands turned two Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) telescopes toward that exact point in the sky.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

On January 14, 2019, the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) observatory in the Canary Islands captured the highest-energy light ever recorded from a gamma-ray burst. This illustration of that event also shows NASA’s Fermi and Swift spacecraft (top left and right, respectively).

(NASA/Fermi and Aurore Simonnet, Sonoma State University)

The photons flooded those telescopes for the next 20 minutes, leading to new revelations about some of the most elusive properties of gamma-ray bursts.

“It turns out we were missing approximately half of their energy budget until now,” Konstancja Satalecka, a scientist who coordinates MAGIC’s searches for gamma-ray bursts, said in the release. “Our measurements show that the energy released in very-high-energy gamma-rays is comparable to the amount radiated at all lower energies taken together. That is remarkable.”

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block

The large central H.E.S.S. telescope array in Namibia detected the light from a gamma-ray burst on July 20, 2018.

(MPIK / Christian Föhr)

Ultra-high-energy light came in the afterglow, not the explosion itself

The photons detected from a gamma-ray burst six months earlier, in July 2018, weren’t as energetic or as numerous as those from the January explosion.

But the earlier detection was still notable because the flow of high-energy light came 10 hours after the initial explosion. The light lasted for another two hours — deep into the afterglow phase.

In their paper, the researchers suggested that electrons may have scattered the photons, increasing the photons’ energy. Another paper about the January observations suggested the same thing.

Scientists had long suspected that this scattering was one way gamma-ray bursts could produce so much ultra-high-energy light in the afterglow phase. The observations of these two bursts confirmed that for the first time.

Scientists expect to learn more as they turn telescopes toward more gamma-ray bursts like these in the future.

“Thanks to these new ground-based detections, we’re seeing the gamma rays from gamma-ray bursts in a whole new way,” Hays said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Intel

The Navy’s new way to launch aircraft is a slingshot on steroids

The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) is a slingshot on steroids.


Compared to steam catapults, the new launch system is lighter, smaller and requires less maintenance while increasing controllability, reliability, and efficiency, according to the Naval Air Warfare Center. The system is designed to launch up to 25 percent more aircraft – manned or unmanned – with greater precision. 

By eliminating the use of steam, the EMALS system may contribute to the quality of life for sailors sleeping below decks. “The water brake has been removed, so from that perspective, the [catapult] will get quieter,” said Donnelly in an interview with Defense Media Network. “You’ll continue to hear the shuttle noise, jet blast deflectors and hooks hitting the flight deck in the arresting gear area.”

The EMALS system is over 15 years in the making. The system was tested from land-based sites, but this video shows the system being tested from the pre-commissioned USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

Watch how it accelerates from 0-160 in 2 seconds:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDFTYdU9JHg

NOW: This is America’s new $13 billion warship

OR: 37 awesome photos of life on a US Navy carrier

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want man-portable kamikaze drones

As the Marine Corps continues its quest to get more capability from long-range precision fires, it’s asking industry for proposals on a portable system that can fire high-tech attack and reconnaissance drones on the go.

The service released a request for proposals April 23, 2018, describing a futuristic system unlike any of its existing precision-fires programs.


The theoretical weapons system, which the Corps is simply calling Organic Precision Fire, needs to be capable of providing fire support at distances of up to 60 kilometers, or more than 37 miles, according to the RFP document.

This range would exceed that of the M777 155mm howitzer, which can fire Excalibur rounds up to 40 kilometers, or around 25 miles.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block
Soldiers load an M777u00a0155mm howitzer
(Photo by Gertrud Zach)

The system, which ideally would be light enough for just one Marine to carry, would launch loitering munitions from a canister or tube no larger than 10 inches across and eight feet long. The projectile would be able to loiter for up to two hours, according to the solicitation, while gathering data and acquiring a target

Loitering munitions, known informally as suicide or kamikaze drones, are unmanned aerial vehicles, typically containing warheads, designed to hover or loiter rather than traveling straight to a target. They’re becoming increasingly common on the battlefield.

The California-based company AeroVironment’s Switchblade loitering munition is now in use by the Marine Corps and Army. It is described as small enough to fit inside a Marine’s ALICE pack. The Blackwing UAV, also made by AeroVironment, is tube-launched, but designed to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, rather than to attack.

The Marines want whoever can make the system they seek to give it the ability to communicate securely with a ground control system at a distance of up to 60 kilometers. It should also be advanced enough to perform positive identification on a target, and engage and attack a range of targets including personnel, vehicles and facilities.

Companies have until May 18, 2018, to submit proposals to the Marine Corps on such a system.

The ambitious RFP comes shortly after the Corps issued a request for proposals on the manufacture of the Advanced Capability Extended Range Mortar, or ACERM, a round that will almost quadruple the range of the current M252 81mm mortar system.

5 weapons systems that might be on the Pentagon budget’s chopping block
Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, is briefed on the Advanced Capability Extended Range Mortaru00a0during an Office of Naval Researchu00a0awareness day.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Service leaders have publicly said they’re planning to make big investments in the field of long-range precision fires as they prepare for future conflicts.

The commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, told Military.com in December 2017, that the service was making decisions to divest of certain less successful weapons systems in order to shift more resources to developing these capabilities. The service had already done so, he said, with its 120mm towed mortar system, the Expeditionary Fire Support System.

“We made that decision to divest of it, and we’re going to move that money into some other area, probably into the precision fires area,” Walsh told Military.com. “So programs that we see as not as viable, this [program objective memorandum] development that we’re doing right now is to really look at those areas critically and see what can we divest of to free money up to modernize.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

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