Whenever it comes time for troops to head out to the field, their leaders should always issue a mandated packing list. These lists cover the necessities, like three sets of uniforms, sleeping gear, personal hygiene kits, an e-tool, and a poncho. Occasionally, it includes weather gear, despite the fact that it’s the off-season (think winter thermals in July), or a gas mask so the lieutenant can say they did “familiarization training.” But what you really need is useful gear. We’ve got the list for you.
Most younger troops will just follow that list to a T — exactly what the packing list requires and not a single ounce more. So, you want to earn the bragging rights of “enduring the field like a grunt?” If so, snivel gear and junk food are nice — but not useful.
These items, however, aren’t on the list, and you’re going to get laughed at for not having them.
1. Extra under-layer clothing
Three days in the field? One pair of socks per day sounds logical — and then you step in a puddle and have to wear tomorrow’s socks. Suddenly, you’re out of socks for the last day.
If the list says bring three, bring five. If it says bring ten, bring fifteen.
2. Sewing kit
If you split open the crotch on your uniform, you’ll need to toss them — unless you have a sewing kit and know how to use it.
Rips don’t even need to be fixed perfectly — just enough to get you through the field.
3. Some way to mark your stuff
One downside of issuing a standard uniform to an entire unit is that, if you lose track of your green duffle bag, you’ll need to open each one to find yours. When you’re hiking through the backwoods of your installation, remembering which bag in a sea of green duffle bags is yours is non-trivial.
Make it easier for yourself and mark your stuff. You don’t need to make it fancy or elaborate. Many units spray paint the bottoms of their bags with troop’s information on it. Even a simple piece of cloth tied to a handle will make your stuff stand out.
4. Your own toilet paper
There’s an old joke in the Army about military-issued toilet paper. We call it, “Sergeant Major’s toilet paper.” It’s rough as hell and takes sh*t from no man.
If you’re in the forests of Fort Benning, fine — pretend like you’re a badass and use some leaves. If you’re in the deserts of Fort Irwin, well — you’ll need it.
5. A watch
It might seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll still need to be able to tell time in the field. Super useful gear. Unless you’re in a super POG unit that has power outlets available in-tent, your cell phone won’t have enough charge to constantly tell you the time.
Grab a cheapo watch before you head out — nothing fancy, nothing special and preferably with a cloth wristband.
6. Waterproofing bags
It doesn’t matter what time of the year you go to Fort Irwin’s NTC. Whenever you get there, it’ll pour the entirety of its five inches of yearly average rain the moment you arrive.
Grab a few plastic storage bags for socks and toilet paper and maybe a trash bag to cover your uniforms. If you need it, awesome. If it doesn’t rain, it’s not like the weight of a trash bag and knowing you have useful gear is going to burden you.
*Bonus* If you smoke, extra cigarettes
If you are a smoker, you should know how many you go through in an average day. Multiply that by how many days you’ll be in the field — then double it.
Don’t be that guy who bugs the same person for a cigarette time and time again. You only get like two or three tops before you owe that dude another pack when you’re out of the field. If you’re the only one to remember this rule, everyone will owe you big time.
A Skyborg conceptual design for a low cost attritable Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle. (USAF ILLUSTRATION)
Skyborg is an autonomy-focused capability that will enable the Air Force to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft driven by artificial intelligence that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments. These unmanned aerial systems are meant to operate alongside manned fighters and will utilize machine learning technology to increase combat capability as they train alongside their piloted partner.
These wingman aircraft could fly ahead of manned planes to extend the pair’s sensor coverage to increase battlespace awareness. They can fire weapons at targets designated by their human wingmen, and a swarm of automated wingmen could protect piloted aircraft by absorbing missile shots from enemy forces.
Air Force policy stipulates that people are always responsible for lethal decision-making. Accordingly, Skyborg will not replace human pilots. Instead, it will provide them with key data to support rapid, informed decisions.
“Ever since “Star Wars” first debuted, this idea of being able to fly with autonomy to support you, and cute little beeps and squeaks right, it has just caught the imagination,” said Dr. Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “It’s time to make that real.”
Attendees watch a video about the Skyborg Vanguard Program during the Air Warfare Symposium, Feb. 28, 2020. Skyborg is an unmanned aircraft focused competency that will allow the Air Force to employ a team of artificially intelligent aircraft to quickly thwart adversaries in combat. Skyborg will not replace pilots but will provide crucial and prompt data to help the pilot make informed and accurate decisions. (PHOTO // KENNETH MCNULTY)
Roper said he’s excited for the R2-D2 program, a name he uses to refer to Skyborg.
Speaking to the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in June, Roper divulged that conversations with world-renowned experts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed that artificial intelligence, in its current form, is fragile.
“It’s (AI) fine when it’s helping you with entertainment related functions. If your app crashes and the AI gives you the wrong choice on what movie or song to play next, well no big deal,” Roper said. “But on the battlefield an adversary will be there trying to thwart and confound that AI and it’s very easy to do.”
Roper added that the Air Force is going to need a new form of AI that is hardened against an adversary, and research is underway. He expressed the need to accelerate and if done skillfully, the Air Force won’t just be accelerating for the Defense Department; this kind of hardened AI is also needed in the commercial sector for delivery drones and improving self-driving cars.
Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, discusses “The Future Air Force, Faster, Smarter: The Next Gear” during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 16, 2019. One innovative project the Air Force is employing is Skyborg, an unmanned aircraft focused competency that will allow the Air Force to employ a team of artificially intelligent aircraft to quickly thwart adversaries in combat. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. CHAD TRUJILLO)
“The roots of the Air Force are all about breaking boundaries and doing new things and I think we may have forgotten that a little bit,” Roper said. “In the wake of the Soviet Union collapse, we didn’t have that adversary pushing us. We ought to be doing new things all the time and everywhere and AI autopilot, or wingman or R2-D2 is something new. I can’t wait to get it out on the battlefield.”
Skyborg is one of three Vanguard programs identified in 2019 as part of the Air Force Science and Technology 2030 Strategy. The Air Force plans to channel more resources into the programs and speed up their development.
The Air Force Research Laboratory announced the new strategy last year. It prioritizes demands on time, space and complexity in future conflicts across all domains. The strategy aligns with the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy and lays out a path forward for the Air Force Science and Technology ecosystem to deliver warfighting capabilities at the speed of relevance and necessity.
The Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie is an experimental stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle designed and built for the United States Air Force Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator program, under the USAF Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology project portfolio. (PHOTO // AFRL)
In July, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center awarded multiple indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts to The Boeing Co., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, Inc. and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. These initial awards will establish a vendor pool that will continue to compete for up to 0 million in subsequent delivery orders in support of the Skyborg Vanguard Program.
“Because autonomous systems can support missions that are too strenuous or dangerous for manned crews, Skyborg can increase capability significantly and be a force multiplier for the Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Dale White, program executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft, who, along with Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, serves as the leadership for the Skyborg program. “We have the opportunity to transform our warfighting capabilities and change the way we fight and the way we employ air power.”
An illustration depicting the future integration of the Air Force enabling fusion warfare, where huge sets of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data are collected, analyzed by artificial intelligence and utilized by Airmen, their autonomous wingmen and the joint force in a seamless process to stay many steps ahead of an adversary. (ILLUSTRATION // AFRL)
“Autonomy technologies in Skyborg’s portfolio will range from simple play-book algorithms to advanced team decision making and will include on-ramp opportunities for artificial intelligence technologies,” Pringle said. “This effort will provide a foundational government reference architecture for a family of layered, autonomous, and open-architecture unmanned aerial systems.”
The Vanguards are also introducing a novel early partnership between AFLCMC and AFRL due to the need to quickly identify cutting edge technology and transition it directly into the hands of the warfighter.
“The greatest technological edge is for naught if the warfighter can’t use it on the battlefield. That makes the partnership between AFRL and AFLCMC so vital to this program. We can’t allow bureaucratic speed bumps to interfere with our mandate to deliver,” White said.
Just as the last generation of pilots had the instincts for stealth, Roper believes, the next generation will have the instincts for this, previously nonexistent, type of algorithmic warfare on future battlefields.
“This next generation of pilot is not going to be ready to hand the reins over to R2-D2, but neither will they be willing to go into combat without R2-D2, if R2-D2 is available,” Roper said. “Our pilots are the best and they will continue to be the best if we give this technology, it will take their game into a completely different dimension.”
Germany and France say Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine likely shot down a drone being used by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) monitoring mission, demanding that those responsible “be held accountable.”
In a joint statement on Nov. 1, 2018, Berlin and Paris also noted that in recent weeks, the drone had observed convoys entering Ukrainian territory across a nonofficial border crossing from Russia on “multiple occasions” and spotted a surface-to-air missile system before the loss of communication.
Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014. Russia has repeatedly denied financing and equipping the separatist forces despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insisting that the fighting was a civil, internal conflict.
Germany and France, which have been working with Moscow and Kyiv as part of the so-called Normandy Format to bring an end to the conflict, said the drone operated by the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) disappeared in the early hours of Oct. 27, 2018.
OSCE Permanent Council venue at the Hofburg, Vienna.
The incident occurred while the long-range drone was following a convoy of trucks near the town of Nyzhnokrynske close to the Russia-Ukraine border, an area controlled by the separatists, the statement said.
It said evidence assembled by the SMM “suggests Russia and the separatists it backs bear responsibility” for the downing of the unmanned aerial vehicle.
The “severe” incident “stands in clear violation” of the SMM mandate as adopted by participating states of the OSCE mission, Germany and France said.
The SMM, a civilian mission assigned to report impartially on the situation in Ukraine, has hundreds of monitors in the country’s east where the separatists are holding parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The mission said in March 2018 it was reintroducing its long-range drone program more than 18 months after it was halted due to repeated shoot-downs.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine persists despite cease-fire deals reached as part of the September 2014 and February 2015 Minsk accords, and implementation of other measures set out in the deals has been slow.
Featured image: OSCE SMM monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine.
The AR-15 is one of the most multi-faceted guns of our time. Whether you’re a competition shooter, a hunter, an avid self-defense proponent, or you just love to customize, this highly versatile rifle is one of the most popular among gun owners today. SIG Sauer recently unleashed their newest model of the AR-15, calling the M400 Tread “the new face of freedom.”
Whatever your reason for owning an AR-15, one thing everyone appreciates about the firearm is its modularity. These rifles are among the easiest to customize and tailor-fit to your personal needs and preferences. The struggle most face is cost — the firearm itself is a large investment, making aftermarket customizing more of a wish-list than a reality. SIG Sauer took notice of this and acted.
(Photo courtesy of SIG Sauer)
“SIG Sauer has created a premium rifle, at a moderate price point, that is packed with innovation and flexibility, and does not sacrifice the quality that our consumers demand from SIG,” Tom Taylor, the company’s chief marketing officer and executive vice president, said in a press release.
Out of the box, the M400 Tread is impressive. This budget-friendly rifle comes ready with features that typically cost extra and are considered upgrades. The Tread features a 16-inch stainless steel barrel with a free-floating M-LOK handguard; a single-stage, polished/hardcoat trigger; ambidextrous controls; a mid-length gas system; a Magpul MOE SL-K six-position telescoping stock; and is available in 5.56 NATO. Again, this is out of the box with an affordable MSRP of 1 — and we all know you’ll pay less at the gun counter. Suddenly, customization has gone from “wish list” to reality.
The author appreciated the total package provided by the SIG Sauer Tread, including the Romeo5 red dot optic.
(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee of Die Magazine)
But how does it run? SIG cut zero corners in quality with the Tread. I spent a great deal of time running this “new face of freedom” and found that it holds its own among its costlier counterparts. I used a variety of ammunition, from inexpensive to higher quality, and the Tread never wavered. I even tried non-SIG magazines to see if that would induce seating or feeding issues. Intermixing various Elite Tactical Systems (ETS) magazines with the SIG magazines did not make a difference. So, to all you clear magazine junkies, fear not — the Tread can handle them.
Staying true to the tagline “the new face of freedom,” SIG wanted Tread owners to be able to freely and affordably customize their rifle. With the launch of the Tread, they created a full line of Tread-branded accessories. One I fell in love with was the Romeo5 optic. The Romeo5 is a 2-MOA red dot sight with 10 illumination settings. It is Picatinny rail compatible, waterproof up to three feet, fog proof, motion activated, has a 40,000-hour battery life, and comes with a low mount riser and co-witness riser mount — the latter meaning you can see your iron sights through the optic.
tested these features at a Close Quarter Combat (CQB) training course with Alliance Police Training in Alliance, Ohio. This was a 36-hour course running drills, including low light/no light inside their shoot house. The Romeo5 was phenomenal! The Ohio weather was rainy and cold — with the shoot house having no ceiling, we were exposed to the weather, but the optic served me well. Never once did I have to deal with fog or a blurred view. I zeroed the optic before the course, and it never lost its zero. The accuracy was spot on, and I was able to attain quick sight alignment while taking headshots on each target.
This was my first time in this type of training environment, and the targets can be tricky. The goal is to eliminate the threat, and the best way for me to achieve said goal was headshots. We were allowed two shots per threat. Most of my shots landed right between the eyes with a grouping of less than an inch and half; some of the rounds were even going through the same hole. I was totally enamored with this optic and very thankful to put it through its paces in such an environment.
The other accessories included in the Tread-branded line include: an M-LOK handguard with lightening cuts to reduce weight, available in 13- and 15-inch lengths; a three-chamber compensator; an ambidextrous charging handle made of aircraft aluminum and a dual roll pin design; adjustable flip-up front and rear iron sights; an M-LOK front sight adapter with co-witness height made of lightweight aluminum; multiple configurations of M-LOK grip kits; factory upgraded flat blade and single-stage triggers.
“The new face of freedom” is here. With the M400 Tread, having an AR-15 that is tailored to your desires and needs is not only affordable, but also comes with the quality and precision that we have come to expect from SIG Sauer.
The Army is arming Bradley Fighting Vehicles with heat-seeking Stinger air defense missiles to give the infantry carriers an improved ability to track and destroy enemy air threats such as drones, helicopters and low-flying aircraft.
Most current Bradleys are armed with TOW anti-tank missiles, a land weapon predominantly used for attacking enemy armored vehicles, bunkers or troop formations. Adding Stinger missiles will increase the attack envelope for the vehicles and potentially better enable them to protect maneuvering infantry and mechanized forces in combat.
“As directed by the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Army is conducting a proof of principle to incorporate Man Portable Air Defense Systems back into the Armored Brigade Combat Teams by modifying two dozen Bradleys to carry Stinger Missiles in lieu of TOW Missiles,” Ashley Givens, spokeswoman for Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Warrior Maven.
As anti-armor weapons, TOW missiles are not typically used to attack enemy air threats.
“Current versions are capable of penetrating more than 30 inches of armor, or “any 1990s tank,” at a maximum range of more than 3,000 meters. It can be fired by infantrymen using a tripod, as well from vehicles and helicopters, and can launch 3 missiles in 90 seconds,” the Federation of American Scientists writes in a paper.
Stinger missiles, by contrast, are infrared-guided surface-to-air weapons with nearly twice the range as TOW missiles.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, fire a TOW missile from a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during training at Fort Riley, Kansas, May 18, 2016.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jonathan Camire)
Adding Stingers to Bradleys is entirely consistent with the Army’s broad strategic aims for the Bradley, which call for a highly-networked infantry carrier increasingly able to maneuver in support of ground infantry using long-range, high-tech sensors to find and hit targets.
“The Army has chosen to increase the cross-country mobility of the Bradley, allowing it to go further into off-road situations to support infantry formations,” Givens said.
An extended range TOW 2B Aero, engineered with a one-way radio link and range enhancing nose-cap, can hit targets more than four kilometers away; a Stinger missile, however, can reportedly hit targets out to eight kilometers.
Army information says a TOW Bunker Buster warhead consists of a blast type warhead designed to penetrate and then detonate inside Military Operations in Urban Terrain targets such as 8-inch double reinforced concrete, brick-over-block, and triple brick walls. The warhead utilizes both a cast titanium body and chisel style nose to allow better penetration capability while reducing ricochet probability.
The latest TOW upgrade uses Target Acquisition Systems that incorporate Far Target Location capability (ITAS-FTL), a technology which incorporates a global positioning satellite-based position attitude determination subsystem, Army officials said.
An Army paper says ITAS is the fire control system for the TOW missile and consists of integrated optical and second-generation forward-looking infrared sights and an eye-safe laser range finder. It offers improved hit probability by aided target tracking, improved missile flight software algorithms, and an elevation brake to minimize launch transients”
The TOW ITAS system provides the Soldier an instant grid location of his position and of the target that he sees in his ITAS sight. It is accurate to a 60-meter CEP (circular error of probability),” an Army report said.
Although described by Givens as a “limited effort,” integrating Stinger onto Bradley is a part of the broader Army Short Range Air Defense Strategy, an effort to strengthen air defense weapons across infantry brigade combat teams.
“This is a limited effort designed to inform the Army on Short Range Air Defense employment techniques and considerations,” she said.
Pvt. Denzell Darden, a Kansas City native and cavalry scout with Company A, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pushes a simulated tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missile into the turret on a M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf, 3rd BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.)
The Army SHORAD program, already being built into Stryker vehicles, represents a service-wide strategic and tactical need to respond to near-peer type mechanized combat threats. Focused on heavily during the Cold War, when facing a Soviet threat, SHORAD faded a bit during the last 15 years of ongoing ground wars. The Taliban and Iraqi insurgents did not possess much of an air threat.
However, today’s global threat environment is vastly different. Potential adversaries can easily acquire drone attack technology, as it is readily available on the international market. This means enemies could hold Army units at risk from the air in newer, more dangerous ways — and at farther ranges. Furthermore, the advent and proliferation of weaponized drones, enabled by growing levels of autonomy, could use long-range EO/IR to target and attack advancing infantry and armored units in ways previously not possible.
Chinese or Russian helicopters and drones, for instance, are armed with rockets, missiles and small arms fire. A concept with SHORAD would be to engage and hit these kinds of threats prior to or alongside any enemy attack. SHORAD brings an armored, mobile air defense in real-time, in a way that most larger, less-mobile ground missiles can. PATRIOT missile, for instance, is better suited to hit incoming mid-range ballistic missiles and other attacking threats. While mobile, a PATRIOT might have less of an ability to support infantry by attacking fast-moving enemy helicopters and drones.
Also, it goes without saying that any kind of major enemy ground assault is likely to include long range fires, massive air support as well as closer in helicopters and drones to support an advancing mechanized attack.
As a result, ground infantry supported by armored vehicles, will need mobile air defenses to address these closer-in air threats. This is where the Stryker or Bradley SHORAD comes in; infantry does not have the same fires or ground mobility as an armored Stryker or Bradley, and hand held anti-aircraft weapons such as a hand-fired Stinger would not have the same defensive impact as a Hellfire or Stinger armed armored vehicle. In a large mechanized engagement, advancing infantry needs fortified armored support able to cross bridges and maneuver alongside foot soldiers.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
When the Australian Army was looking for a new infantry fighting vehicle in the early 1990s, they were looking to address a few specific needs. One of them was that the new vehicle be able to handle the unique conditions of Australia. After looking, the Australians turned to a rugged vehicle that the United States Marine Corps had proven in combat in Desert Storm, the LAV-25.
Well, to be precise, it was the MOWAG Piranha — it’s the vehicle that was lightly modified to become the LAV-25. The Canadians also operate this vehicle as the Coyote. So, in 1995, Australia began to buy what they called the Australian Light Armored Vehicle, or ASLAV.
A look at the rear compartment of the ASLAV-25, which holds six troops. The vehicle also carries 720 rounds of ammo for the 25mm chain gun.
(Photo by Nick-D)
The baseline ASLAV packs a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun and a 7.62mm machine gun. It has a crew of three — a driver, a gunner, and a vehicle commander — and holds six grunts. The vehicle has a top speed of 75 miles per hour and can go 410 miles on a single tank of gas. In short, the ASLAV moves fast and can take out enemy armored personnel carriers, trucks, and troops, and then hold ground with the help of the embarked troops.
As was the case with the Marine Corps LAV-25s, there’s a whole family of ASLAV vehicles, each specially tuned for specific missions. Variants include an armored personnel carrier with a .50-caliber machine gun that has a crew of two and holds seven troops, an ambulance, a “battlefield surveillance” vehicle, a command vehicle, an armored recovery vehicle, and a “maintenance support” vehicle.
An Australian ASLAV-25 taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom. Its 25mm cannon is the primary armament, and the vehicle has 720 rounds.
(US Army photo by Spc. Edward A. Garibay)
The ASLAV has seen its share of combat in East Timor, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. A total of 257 vehicles of the ASLAV family were built. The vehicles will see service through 2021, by which point they’ll be replaced by the Boxer family of armored vehicles.
Learn more about this fighting vehicle from down under in the video below.
The United States Navy’s newest destroyer, USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), is the most advanced ship in the ocean today. So what actually goes into making this ship the hottest of maritime hotrods?
According to All Hands magazine, the 15,656-ton vessel is equipped with many new advances. The most visible is the 155mm Advanced Gun System. Now, the Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile program was cancelled, but this gun has other ammo options. The Zumwalt also features 20 Mk 57 vertical-launch systems, each with four cells, capable of launching a variety of weapons, including the BGM-109 Tomahawk and the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.
But the Zumwalt has more than just new firepower. The wave-piercing tumblehome design and the composite superstructure help reduce the ship’s radar cross-section, and the ship is also one of the quietest vessels in the world.
The ship also has the new Integrated Power System, a highly-survivable system that allows the power output from the ship’s LM2500 gas turbines to be used for anything from propulsion – taking the ship to a top speed of over 30 knots — to charging a crewman’s Kindle to powering the AN/SPY-3 radar.
The ship can also carry two MH-60R multi-role helicopters and has a crew of 158.
Below, take a look at a pair of videos of this American maritime hotrod.
The Indian Navy has quietly become one of the most powerful navies in the world, and it’s still on the upswing. You might be surprised, thinking to yourself, “how did the land of the peace-loving Mahatma Gandhi become a major military power?”
Truth is, the Indian Air Force has long been a power in South Asia. Not only have they improved on Russian-era jets, but they’ve also built their own jets and helicopters. Meanwhile, the Indian Navy has also become a major power. It has operated aircraft carriers continuously since 1961, a streak second only to the United States Navy. Not even the vaunted Royal Navy can match that (and no, the HMS Ocean doesn’t count).
The Indians aren’t stopping there. While SSBNs are important to establishing a survivable deterrent, India also needs to protect those subs or to take the fight to an enemy navy far from shore. According to NDTV.com, India is now pursuing plans to build six nuclear-powered attack submarines.
India already has some experience with nuclear attack submarines. The Indian Navy leased a Charlie-class, nuclear-powered, cruise-missile submarine from the Soviet Union in the 1980s, called INS Chakra. Recently, India acquired a more modern Akula-class, nuclear-powered attack submarine from Russia, naming it INS Chakra II.
Outside of the announced plans to build them, India has not released details about this new class of nuclear submarines. That said, the development of the Arihant shows that it may not be a design to be taken lightly. Watch a video about the expansion of the Indian Navy’s nuclear-powered submarine force below:
It served with the United States military from 1964-1998, and with NASA until 1999. The SR-71 had been developed from the A-12 OXCART (no relation to the A-12 Avenger), a single-seat plane capable of making high-speed recon runs as well.
It was thought satellites and drones could replace the SR-71. The problem was that satellites are predictable, and too many drones just don’t have the performance or reliability. But Lockheed’s Skunk Works, which created the A-12/YF-12/SR-71 family, is now developing a SR-72, and they promise it will be faster than the Blackbird.
Lockheed noted that the SR-71 was designed on paper with slide rules. Even without the benefit of high-technology, the SR-71 proved to be superb at its role.
An F-22 prepares to be fitted with GBU-39s (Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Dana Rosso)
The night sky is an inky black and the soldiers on the ground barely give it a passing glance. Their radar scopes are clear; no enemies inbound. The first sign that they receive of the American strike is the bombs falling on key strategic targets. Precision small-diameter bombs fall within inches of substations, radar sites, bunkers and anti-aircraft batteries.
The runway is also cratered by American bombs, but a few fighter planes manage to scramble into the air. Their pilots frantically check their radar for the unseen attackers—nothing. Suddenly, a volley of radar-guided AIM-120C AMRAAMs tears through the formation of fighters and erupts in an airborne spectacle of fire and twisted metal. The light from the fireball reflects the faintest glint of light on the visors of the American pilots as they turn their F-22 Raptors and FB-22 Strike Raptors for home.
Following the success of their F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, Lockheed Martin conducted a study in 2001 to determine the feasibility of developing a bomber platform from it. While the F-22 was designed as an air superiority fighter, it still maintained a degree of ground attack ability which Lockheed Martin hoped to exploit. If they could leverage the design and capabilities of the existing airframe, the cost of developing the new bomber would be significantly reduced.
Lockheed Martin developed a number of bomber concepts based on the F-22. Much of the Raptor’s avionics were retained and structural redesigns were focused on the fuselage and wings. An initial concept aimed to increase payload capacity by lengthening and widening the fuselage. However, this came with a penalty of a 25-30% increase in weight, materials and development costs. Instead, further concepts retained the same fuselage as the F-22 and bore elongated delta shape wings which allowed the concept bomber to carry more fuel and wing-mounted weapons.
With the new wings, the FB-22 Strike Raptor would have been able to carry up to 30-35 250-pound GBU-39 small diameter precision-guided bombs versus the F-22 Raptor’s payload capacity of eight such bombs. Unlike the F-22, the FB-22 would also have been able to carry bombs weighing up to 5,000 pounds. With weapons stored internally, the FB-22 would have had a maximum combat load of 15,000 pounds. With additional weapons mounted on the wings, the FB-22 would have lost some of its stealth capability but carry up to 30,000 pounds of weapons.
Its increased fuel capacity gave the Strike Raptor a range of 1,600 miles, nearly triple the F-22’s range of 600 miles, and could have been extended further with the addition of external fuel tanks. With this increased range, the FB-22 would have replaced the Air Force’s F-15E Strike Eagle and taken over some of the missions of the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers. In October 2002, Air Force Magazine reported that the FB-22 would have a combat effectiveness comparable to a B-2 Spirit armed with 2,000-pound bombs.
In order to power this larger airframe, the F-22’s Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 engines would have been replaced with the Pratt Whitney F135s which now power the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. Though early concepts featured no tailplanes, later concepts incorporated twin tailplanes. Additionally, since the Strike Raptor was meant to complement the F-22 with its ground-attack capability, dogfighting capability was not a priority and the thrust vectoring technology of the F-22 was omitted from the FB-22 concept. According to Flight International magazine, the FB-22 would have had a top speed of Mach 1.92.
In February 2003, Secretary of the Air Force James Roche reported to the House Armed Services Committee that he envisioned a strike force of 150 FB-22s, along with 60 B-1s, 21 B-2s, and 381 F-22s. Following this vision, in 2004, Lockheed Martin officially presented the FB-22 Strike Raptor concept to the Air Force. The concept met the Air Force requirement for a potential strategic bomber as an interim solution and would be operational by 2018.
Additionally, since it was developed from the existing F-22, the cost of fully developing the FB-22 was estimated to be 75% less than the cost of developing an entirely new bomber. Air Force Magazine also reported that the FB-22’s stealth capabilities had been increased, adding externally mounted detachable and faceted weapons pods that could carry weapons on the wings without sacrificing stealth.
Unfortunately, following the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, the FB-22 Strike Raptor project was cancelled. The DoD wanted a bomber with greater range and the Strike Raptor would be developed no further. However, disappointed aviation fans still have the opportunity to fly the FB-22 and experience the “next-generation stealth bomber that could have been” in the popular hybrid arcade-style flight simulator Ace Combat. The FB-22 is featured as a flyable aircraft in Ace Combat 5, Ace Combat X, Ace Combat Joint Assault, and Ace Combat Infinity.
8일 경남 사천시 KAI에서 관계자들이 KF-X를 조립하고 있다./사천=성형주기자 2020.12.08.
Last month, the U.S. Air Force made headlines around the world by suggesting that a new “5th generation minus” fighter might be the answer to the branch’s operational cost woes. After years of touting the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as the future of military aviation, this announcement led to a flurry of headlines characterizing the F-35 as a failed program. Although that may be an unfair characterization of the aircraft itself (as we’ve discussed before), there’s no denying that the Joint Strike Fighter has proven to be both less capable and far more expensive than originally intended.
In truth, the Air Force didn’t write off the F-35 last month and more than it has in the past–like in 2018 when the branch threatened to reduce its order of F-35s in order to offset the aircraft’s high operating costs. Now, as then, the argument hasn’t been about whether or not the F-35 is a highly capable jet. In fact, among aviators who have spent time at the stick of the stealthy fighter, there’s little question as to how handy it is in a fight. The problem is, as is so often the case, really about money.
The F-35 is capable, but it’s also expensive.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s procurement price has lowered consistently over the past decade to the point where its per-unit price is now actually lower than that of the 4th generation powerhouse F-15EX being purchased as replacements for the force’s aging F-15s. That price is awfully misleading, however, for a number of important reasons.
A new F-35A will set the Air Force back a cool $77.9 million. For that price, the Air Force gets the stealthiest fighter on the planet with the best data fusion capabilities a fighter has ever seen… but only for 8,000 flight hours or so. Each of those hours, it’s important to note, cost the Air Force around $44,000.
The F-15EX, on the other hand, rings in at slightly more: about $80 million per jet–and while it may not be stealthy, the new F-15s are expected to have a whopping 20,000-hour operational lifespan, with each of those hours costing the branch about $29,000. Of course, it’s important to remember that the F-15EX isn’t a suitable replacement for the F-35… they really do fill very different roles.
The F-35 is a multi-role aircraft that isn’t the fastest or most nimble, nor does it carry a ton of firepower… but it is incredibly difficult to target, and perhaps most important of all, its onboard computers can manage disparate data from near and far sensors in a way no aircraft before it ever could. Having an F-35 in the neighborhood can actually make 4th generation jets nearby more lethal, thanks to fused data stream F-35 pilots have access to from inside their $400,000 helmets.
“There has never been an aircraft that provides as much situational awareness as the F-35,” explained Major Justin “Hasard” Lee, an F-35 pilot in the Air Force Reserves.
“In combat, situational awareness is worth its weight in gold.”
This is really what Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown, Jr was getting at in his recent comments that took the world by storm.
“You don’t drive your Ferrari to work every day, you only drive it on Sundays,” Brown said.
“This is our ‘high end’ [fighter], we want to make sure we don’t use it all for the low-end fight.”
If money were no object, the Air Force would probably be happy to replace every F-16 in the force with a shiny new F-35, but ongoing issues with the aircraft have stalled full-rate production for years, and truthfully, the Air Force couldn’t afford to fly a fleet of F-35s that large. It’s probably also important to note that if money were really no object, the Air Force would probably kickstart production of the F-22 for air superiority roles again. Though, it’s important to note that restarting the F-22 would likely cost far more than developing a new and better fighter. Much of the supply chain and facilities used for the F-22 have since been cannibalized by the F-35 here in the money-is-an-object dimension we’re all trapped in.
6th Generation fighters won’t be any better
So, with the understanding that the F-35 isn’t a cost-effective solution to tactical operations in uncontested or lightly contested environments, some may be apt to suggest we go all-in on the development of a “6th generation” fighter like the one the Air Force claims to have already tested. That approach, however, isn’t going to solve the F-35’s budgetary woes. Chances are, a more advanced fighter would exacerbate them.
The reason the F-35 has proven so expensive is really a combination of its unprecedented nature and poor acquisition policies within the Defense Department. When the Joint Strike Fighter program began. Lockheed Martin’s X-35 and Boeing’s X-32 were asked to build something with a broader capability set and greater technological requirements than any fighter that had come before them. In a very real way, many within the aviation industry weren’t even sure an aircraft could do all the things the Pentagon wanted from this new fighter.
“If you were to go back to the year 2000 and somebody said, ‘I can build an airplane that is stealthy and has vertical takeoff and landing capabilities and can go supersonic,’ most people in the industry would have said that’s impossible,” Tom Burbage, Lockheed’s general manager for the program from 2000 to 2013 told The New York Times.
“The technology to bring all of that together into a single platform was beyond the reach of industry at that time.”
It was the F-35’s forward reaching goals, combined with a policy of concurrent production wherein Lockheed Martin would start delivering F-35s before they had been fully tested, that would eventually turn the program into a cautionary tale for defense budgeteers. And while some elements of the acquisition process have improved as a result… a “6th generation” fighter would struggle under some of the same challenges.
Fighter generational designations are not based on military standards or government policy–they’re really nothing more than industry terms used to lump fighters of similar capabilities together. Currently, there are no established requirements for what makes a “6th generation” fighter, but by its very definition, it would have to represent a significant jump in capability over fighters like the F-35 or F-22. New technology is always more expensive than the stuff you have on your shelf.
As such, a next-generation fighter would indeed offer useful new capabilities, but likely in a package that’s not much easier to pay for than our current stable of stealth jets. America needs to field such a fighter, but in the short term, putting all of our eggs in that basket likely would result in more fiscal woes, rather than fewer.
4th Generation fighters are part of the answer
Any time you mention funneling money into new 4th generation fighter programs like the F-15EX or the Block III F/A-18 Super Hornet, the response is the same: “Why buy old, non-stealthy fighters in this era of F-35s, F-22s, Su-57s, and J-20s?”
The answer is actually pretty simple. These stealth jets are unnecessarily expensive for combat sorties over places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, or most of Africa–all of which currently see U.S. troops embedded with local militaries for varying sorts of combat and anti-terror operations. Why pay $44,000 an hour for close air support when the better suited A-10 can do it for a measly $19,000 per hour?
And therein lies the importance of America’s legacy aircraft. In order to balance current combat operations with mitigating threats posed by near-peer nations like China, the U.S. needs jets that can handle today’s fight without draining the budget, so it can afford to build the right aircraft for the threats looming on the horizon.
Regardless of what sensational headlines may have told you in recent weeks, the F-35 isn’t seen as a failure among most of the Pentagon’s decision-makers. And thanks to the political insulation F-35 production has as a result of Lockheed spreading its facilities across most of America’s 50 states, few lawmakers are apt to vote against it either. The F-35 is here to stay. Now America needs to find ways to support it with other highly capable aircraft.
“The F-35 is the cornerstone of what we’re pursuing. Now we’re going to have the F-35, we’re getting it out, and we’re going to have it for the future,” Brown explained.
“The reason I’m looking at this fighter study is to have a better understanding of not only the F-35s we’re going to get but the other aspects of what complements the F-35.”
5th Generation “Minus” fighters may be just what the budget doctor ordered
This brings us to General Brown’s recent statements about developing a “clean sheet” fighter that couples some of the technological leaps found in 5th generation computing powerhouses like the F-35 with some of the cost savings found in 4th generation workhorses like the F-15EX. The result would be an aircraft that isn’t as advanced as the F-35, but more capable than non-stealthy 4th generation jets. This concept can already be found in the joint South Korean and Indonesian fighter program dubbed KAI KF-X.
The truth is, nothing in war stays the same, least of all technology. As new air defense systems are developed, older systems become more affordable. In time, America may well find itself operating in airspace that is more contested than we currently find in the Middle East, but not quite as heavily defended as Moscow or Beijing.
In much the same way the F-117 was tasked with flying ahead of the non-stealth aircraft participating in Desert Storm so they could bomb Baghdad as the fighting kicked off, F-35s and B-21 Raiders will likely fill that role in the future. It would be the job of America’s stealthiest platforms to soften up target areas for the rest of the force, engaging anti-ship platforms with the long-range B-21 to move carriers in, and then anti-air platforms with carrier-launched F-35s–as one example.
Once those two objectives have been met, less stealthy aircraft can move in. Once air dominance has been established, so can the non-stealthy missile and bomb trucks like the F/A-18 Super Hornets.
By fielding an aircraft that adopts a stealth design but perhaps doesn’t rely as much on costly-to-maintain radar-absorbent coating, you get a plane that’s more survivable than an F-16 and cheaper than an F-35. If these aircraft are cheap enough, they can even replace 4th generation fighters in lightly contested airspace, making them more able to respond to a surprise development than older jets. Likewise, data fusion capabilities, while not as powerful as the F-35s, would give pilots more situational awareness, also increasing their survivability, as well as offensive capability.
“When I think about that capability, I’m also thinking about the threat that we see today but the threat we’re projecting for the future,” Brown said.
“I want to have an understanding, which is why the study to me is important so we don’t just build something without thinking about the threat but also thinking about the complete fighter force. Not just the F-35 or NGAD.”
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need fighters. In a slightly less perfect world, they’d all be as stealthy as the F-35 and as dominant as the F-22. We live in neither, so in order to win America’s next war while supporting the ones we’re in, some budgetary compromise is required. A 5th generation “minus” fighter may be just that compromise.
Feature image courtesy of Korea Aerospace Industries
The Joint Direct Attack Munition gets a lot of attention for its ability to strike within 30 feet of a target, no matter what the weather is like. But with all that attention, other bombs get short shrift it seems. Take, for instance, the cluster bomb.
The German SD2 bore a resemblance to a butterfly, getting the nickname “Butterfly bomb.”
JDAMs can’t do everything
The truth is that cluster bombs can do things that JDAMs simply can’t. In fact, the bombs are so useful that, this past December, Secretary of Defense James Mattis decided to reverse the Obama Administration’s plan to ditch these valuable weapons. Despite recent controversy and efforts to ban their use, systems like these have been around for decades.
The CBU-103 is a modern cluster bomb, able to hit within 85 feet of its aimpoint with 202 BLU-97 submunitions from 10 miles away.
(U.S. Air Force)
Germany’s lethal “butterflies”
Cluster bombs first saw widespread use by both sides in World War II. The Germans used a version called the “Butterfly bomb,” also known as the SD2, which carried a number of “bomblets,” or four-and-a-half-pound submunitions. One attack in 1943 on British cities used over 3,000 of these bombs — some were set to go off immediately, others had a delayed detonation.
The system proved effective, so the United States made copies of that bomb: the M28 (100lbs) and the M29 (500lbs). The Americans added a proximity fuse to some of the bomblets, making them even more devastating to troops caught in the open.
Today, modern cluster bombs, like the CBU-97, make attack planes like the F-15E Strike Eagle or strategic bombers like the B-1B Lancer capable of wiping out dozens of tanks in a single pass. Other cluster bombs opt to replace the boom with the ability to knock out a country’s electrical grid.
The F-15 Eagle – an air-superiority fighter that has dominated the dogfight arena sine it was introduced into service, then later emerged as a superb multi-role fighter.
The Su-27 Flanker– Russia’s attempt to match the Eagle.
Which is the deadliest plane? To decide that, we will look at combat records, their avionics systems, their armament, as well as their performance specs to see who’d come out on top.
1. Combat Records
There’s no better way to judge a plane then how it has done in combat. Forget the specs you see on a sheet of paper, forget what it looks like. Just judge it by its record.
An F-15 Eagle departs during the mission employment phase exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 7, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
The F-15 has seen a lot of action. Perhaps the most important number is: “zero.” That is how many F-15s have been lost in air-to-air combat. This is an incredible feat for a plane that has been in service for 40 years and seen action in wars. In fact, the F-15 has shot down over 100 enemy planes with no losses.
The Su-27 family has seen much less action. Su-27s flown by the Ethiopian Air Force that saw combat in the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea scored at least two and as many as 10 air-to-air kills. The Flanker has also seen action over Syria, Chechnya, and Georgia, scoring one confirmed kill over Chechnya in 1994.
Advantage: F-15 Eagle
In the modern age of aerial combat, the plane’s electronics matter. Radar serves as eyes and ears, while electronic countermeasures (ECM) try to keep the other side deaf and blind.
The F-15 uses the AN/APG-63(V)3, an active electronically scanned array, or AESA, radar. This highly advanced system gives the Eagle a pair of very sharp “eyes” that locate targets up to 100 miles away and direct its radar-guided AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles. The Eagle also has the AN/ALQ-135 ECM system, which is very useful against opposing radars, whether on missiles or aircraft.
The avionics suite inside an Su-27 Flanker. (Photo from Wikimedia)
The Su-27’s avionics center around the N001 Mech radar, capable of tracking bomber-sized targets at 86 miles. For a target the size of the F-15, though, the range is only 62 miles. That is a difference of 38 miles – almost two-thirds of the Mech’s range. The Flanker doesn’t have internal jammers. Instead, there is the option to use two Sorbtsiya pods.
Advantage: F-15 Eagle
The F-15 can carry up to eight air-to-air missiles. The usual load is four AIM-120 AMRAAMs and four AIM-9X Sidewinders. It also carries a M61 20mm Gatling gun with 900 rounds of ammunition. The AIM-120D now in service has a range of 99 miles, while the AIM-9X can reach out to 22 miles. The AMRAAM is a “fire and forget” missile.
The Su-27 carries six R-27 (AA-10 “Alamo” missiles), which have a range of up to 80 miles. These missiles use semi-active guidance, meaning the Flanker has to “paint” its target to guide the missile. That means flying straight and level – not the best idea in aerial combat.
The Flanker also carries up to four R-73 missiles (AA-11 “Archer”), which has a range of up to 19 miles, and has a GSh-30 30mm cannon.
Advantage: F-15 Eagle
The F-15 has a top speed of Mach 2.5, a combat radius of 1,222 miles, and can maneuver in a dogfight, pulling up to 9 Gs.
With three 600-gallon drop tanks and two 750-gallon conformal fuel tanks (Fuel And Sensor Tactical, or “FAST” packs), the F-15’s range is 3,450 miles. In short, this plane has long “legs” and it can be refueled in flight by tankers.
The Su-27 has a top speed of Mach 2.35, a range of 2,193 miles, and is capable of some amazing aerobatic feats, notably the Pugachev Cobra. Like the F-15, it can pull 9 Gs in a maneuver. The Flanker can carry drop tanks and be refueled while flying.
So, who wins? While the F-15 Eagle is an older design, its advantages — particularly avionics — put the Su-27 at a huge disadvantage. Russia has other planes in the Flanker family (the Su-35), but they are few and far between.
So, how might the engagement between four United States Air Force F-15s and four Su-27s from BadGuyLand go?
Well, the F-15s would probably detect the Su-27s first. Once in AMRAAM range, the Eagle pilots will open fire, most likely using two missiles per target. The Flankers would be obliterated.
If it got to close range, though, the engagement is likely to be a lot less one-sided. Here, the AA-11 and AIM-9 are equal, and both planes can pull 9 Gs.
The skill and training of the pilots will be decisive. In this case, we will assume that BadGuyLand’s dictator, Sleazebag Swinemolestor, hasn’t quite trained his pilots well, and some were selected for their political liability. In this mix-up, the Eagles shoot down three Flankers for the loss of one fighter – the first F-15 lost in air-to-air combat.
Either way, though, it is a safe bet that the F-15 still comes out on top.