While DARPA and other research institutions declare a robotic revolution, the real geniuses like Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates are letting us know the robotic revolution is really going to be a robot war. While watching videos of robot fails may make humans feel safe, we shouldn’t. The robots are coming and the robots will win.
How? Here are 7 ways robots are preparing for war:
1. They’re reproducing.
The video above is from the University of Cambridge where a robotic “mother” is creating “children.” The robotic arm was given the task of constructing robots from building blocks with motors and glue, designing her own children to move as far across the table as possible. With such simple tools, her children are still relatively harmless. But once she gets chainsaws and gatling guns to attach to them, we’re all in trouble.
2. They’re evolving.
The worst part of the University of Cambridge study isn’t even that researchers are letting robots create robots, it’s that they’re trying to make them evolve. The mother is supposed to keep track of which of her children was most successful and then create the next generation with the best traits of the last. So, even if we beat the robots back in the first few battles, we’ll be facing more effective robots in each skirmish.
3. They can mimic humans.
DARPA has created a robot that can learn human tasks, especially cooking, from watching Youtube. If this programming is put into those creepy robots with the human skin, we’ll never know if a chef is a human making dinner for humans or a robot making humans for dinner.
4. They’re working in teams.
While the internet naively believes the Robo World cup is adorable, they couldn’t be more wrong. This “World Cup” is actually a training regimen where the robots are learning teamwork and “multi-agent collaboration.” This is according to the reports of the human collaborators own reports.
5. They’re learning.
Not only do the robots work in teams in the world cup, they also learn how to move their own bodies and better navigate through space. Even worse, the crackpots at DARPA are encouraging people teach robots how to navigate disaster areas. This would allow robots to navigate the ruins of the cities they destroy. Above, a robot has learned to do laundry without any direct human controls.
6. They’re becoming more mobile.
We always thought the robot wars would take place in the urban jungle, but the robots are preparing for a war in the actual jungle by practicing running through the woods. AlphaDog, the Marines Legged Squad Support System, pioneered the way for robots to run through the woods but even bipedal robots like the Atlas have found their way into the forest. At least we can still hide behind our city walls.
7. They can now open doors.
Except no, we can’t. Robots have learned to open doors. No word on when they’ll learn to kick them in while screaming, “Your democracy is here!” Luckily, this is still limited to certain robot types.
DARPA’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program envisions future small-unit infantry forces using small unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) and/or small unmanned ground systems (UGSs) in swarms of 250 robots or more to accomplish diverse missions in complex urban environments. By leveraging and combining emerging technologies in swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming, the program seeks to enable rapid development and deployment of breakthrough swarm capabilities.
To continue the rapid pace and further advance the technology development of OFFSET, DARPA is soliciting proposals for the second “swarm sprint.” Each of the five core “sprints” focuses on one of the key thrust areas: Swarm Tactics, Swarm Autonomy, Human-Swarm Team, Virtual Environment, and Physical Testbed. This second group of “Swarm Sprinters” will have the opportunity to work with one or both of the OFFSET Swarm Systems Integrator teams to develop and assess tactics as well as algorithms to enhance autonomy.
The focus of the second sprint is enabling improved autonomy through enhancements of platforms and/or autonomy elements, with the operational backdrop of utilizing a diverse swarm of 50 air and ground robots to isolate an urban objective within an area of two city blocks over a mission duration of 15 to 30 minutes. Swarm Sprinters will leverage existing or develop new hardware components, algorithms, and/or primitives to enable novel capabilities that specifically demonstrate the advantages of a swarm when leveraging and operating in complex urban environments.
The conclusion of the second sprint is aligned with a physical and virtual experiment, where “sprinters” will be able to more deeply integrate and demonstrate their technology developments. The sprinters will have the opportunity to work with DARPA and the Swarm Systems Integrators to further expand the capabilities relevant to operational contexts.
“As operations in urban environments continue to evolve, our warfighters need advanced capabilities to keep up with the ever-changing complexity of the urban scenario,” said Timothy Chung, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO). “The focus on enhancing autonomy in operational contexts will further advance future swarming capabilities allowing the warfighter to outmaneuver our adversaries in these complex urban environments.”
The announcement for this second swarm sprint follows the awarding of contracts to the first cohort of OFFSET Swarm Sprinters to:
Lockheed Martin, Advanced Technology Laboratories
Charles River Analytics, Inc.
University of Maryland
Carnegie Mellon University
Each of these inaugural sprinters will focus on generating novel tactics for a multi-faceted swarm of air and ground robots in support of the mission to isolate an urban objective, such as conducting reconnaissance, generating a semantic map of the area of operations, and/or identifying and defending against possible security risks.
Instructions for submitting a proposal to participate in the second core swarm sprint (under Amendment 2), as well as full OFFSET program details, are available on the Federal Business Opportunities website: https://go.usa.gov/xRhPC. Proposals are due at 1:00 p.m. Eastern on April 30, 2018. Please email questions to OFFSET@darpa.mil.
President-elect Donald Trump selected retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, the former commander of United States Southern Command, to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security.
The president-elect is slated to make a formal announcement next week, and is also expected to name his pick for Secretary of State as well.
According to a 2014 report by the Washington Free Beacon, Kelly made waves during his tenure at SOUTHCOM by declaring that he had only 5 percent of the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance elements needed to halt drug smuggling.
That year, he also revealed that nearly three-fourths of drug smugglers got through due to a lack of assets.
Kelly also has warned of Iranian influence in South America.
“Over the last 15 years Iran has periodically sought closer ties with regional governments, albeit with mixed results,” Kelly testified during a Congressional hearing March 2015, according to the Free Beacon. “Iranian legislators visited Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua to advocate for increased economic and diplomatic cooperation. Iran’s outreach is predicated on circumventing sanctions and countering U.S. influence.”
Kelly, a Gold Star father, is the third general to be appointed to a high-level national security post by President-elect Trump. Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a former commander of United States Central Command, was selected to serve as Secretary of Defense while former Defense Intelligence Agency head Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was chosen to be Trump’s national security advisor.
Kelly served in the Marine Corps for 46 years, counting four in the inactive reserve. He served in Operation Desert Storm and the Global War on Terror.
His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat Distinguishing Device and a gold star in lieu of a second award, and the Meritorious Service Medal with a gold star in lieu of a second award.
Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness praised the selection, saying, “I agree with a Marine veteran friend who said of the appointment of General Kelly, ‘The Marines have landed . . . and the situation soon will be well in hand!’ After years of HHS Director Jeh Johnson’s failure to protect and defend the integrity of America’s borders, this is an inspired and reassuring choice. President-elect Donald Trump is deploying in defense of our nation a man of character who commands respect.”
On July 27, 1953, the Korean War ended in armistice after three years of fighting.
The war began in June of 1950 when communist North Korea crossed the 28th parallel to invade South Korea. Within days, the United States came to the South’s defense, just as the People’s Republic of China aided the North.
When the Korean War started, victory was far but assured. The North Korean attack on June 25, 1950, took the U.S. and South Korea by complete surprise, and the Communists were able to make large gains in a very short amount of time.
The battle lines swung as wildly as the momentum of the war itself before grinding into months of stalemate as the two sides haggled at the negotiating table. Every time the pendulum shifted, more American and UN forces were captured by the North Korean and Chinese forces. The first reports of enemy atrocities filtered into the UN headquarters as early as two days after the invasion started.
The fighting was horrible enough — but the war crimes in addition to state-sanctioned fighting were unimaginable. On top of the numerous forced marches and torture, seven Korean War Massacres stand out as egregious examples of the systematic, inhumane treatment of POWs at the hands of Communist forces. According to the Potter Report, consisting of more than 200 pages of testimony from Korean War veterans and massacre survivors before Congress, the estimated number of American POWs who died from enemy war crimes was 6,113. The total number of UN forces who were victims ranged between 11,662 – 20,785.
It was a brutal three years which cost the lives of nearly 3 million Korean and Chinese militants and civilians, as well as 50,000 Americans.
North Korea today is a militant totalitarian dictatorship criticized for its humanitarian crimes against its people. A peace treaty was never signed, and reunification negotiations have never been successful, so the peninsula remains divided, with a patrolled demilitarized zone and palpable tension at its center.
Considered the “grandfather of smart bombs,” the Fritz X was a 3,450-pound explosive equipped with a radio receiver and sophisticated tail controls that helped guide the bomb to its target.
According to the US Air Force, the Fritz X could penetrate 28 inches of armor and could be deployed from 20,000 feet, an altitude out of reach for antiaircraft equipment at the time.
Less than a month after it was developed, the Nazis sank Italian battleship Roma off Sardinia in September 1943. However, the Fritz X’s combat use was limited since only a few Luftwaffe aircraft were designed to carry the bomb.
The Nazis’ Goliath tracked mine was anything but Goliath-like in stature. Known as the “Doodlebug” by US troops, the mini-tank was controlled with a joystick and powered by two electric motors, later replaced by gas burners.
Goliath was designed to carry between 133 and 220 pounds of high explosives and was used to navigate minefields and deliver its explosive payload to defensive positions.
The Nazis built more than 7,000 Goliaths during the war and paved the way for radio-controlled weapons.
A rocket-powered plane that was nearly 300 mph quicker than the fastest aircraft around
By the late 1930s, the Germans were developing the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet, a rocket-powered jet with speeds of up to 700 mph.
“During this time the vaunted American P-51 Mustang fighter, in comparison, topped out at less than 440 mph,” according to Weapons of WWII magazine.
More than 300 Komets were built and equipped with twin 30 mm cannons. The Komet’s speed was both a gift and a curse. The plane was fast enough to avoid Allied gunners but it was too fast to hit Allied aircraft.
Despite all the disruptions of 2020, Army modernization officials have tested new, longer-range and more precise infantry weapon systems. They also announced efforts that could lead to future machine guns, precision grenade launchers and possibly even hand-held directed energy weapons.
Soldier lethality is a key Army modernization priority, one that has gained momentum since the service unveiled a strategy in 2017 to equip combat units with a new generation of air and ground combat systems.
In the short term, the Army wants to field new squad-level weapons to close-combat units and a set of high-tech goggles that projects a sight reticle in front of soldiers’ eyes.
The service announced long-term efforts to develop new belt-fed, crew-served weapons, as well as to begin thinking about what infantry weapons will look like decades from now.
Here’s a look at five weapons-related programs Military.com has reported on this year:
1. Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS).
In October, Army modernization officials finished the third soldier touch point (STP) in which troops evaluated the first ruggedized version of IVAS. The Microsoft-designed goggles are intended to provide a heads-up display that offers infantry troops situational awareness tools to help them navigate, communicate and keep track of other members of their unit day and night.
But IVAS is also designed to enhance troops” marksmanship with a tool known as Rapid Target Acquisition. A special thermal weapons site mounts on the soldier’s weapon and projects the site reticle into the wearer’s field of view via Bluetooth signal. Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division involved in the STP said it took some adjustment to learn how to shoot with IVAS, but most said they were easily hitting 300-meter targets from a standing position. If all goes well, the IVAS is slated to be ready for fielding sometime in 2021.
2. Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW).
The Army is in the final phase of evaluating NGSW rifle and auto rifle prototypes, chambered for a new 6.8mm round, that are slated to start replacing the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022.
Textron Systems, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., and Sig Sauer have delivered prototype systems and ammunition that have gone through STPs. Each vendor’s design is unique and fires a different version of the 6.8mm ammunition. The Army plans to select a single firm to make both the weapons and ammunition in the first quarter of fiscal 2022.
Army weapons officials announced in November that the service is pursuing a longer-term effort to arm some infantry squad members with a precision, counter-defilade weapons system designed to destroy enemy hiding behind cover. Currently, two infantrymen in each squad are armed with an M4A1 carbine with an M320 40mm grenade launcher to engage counter-defilade targets, but weapons officials have long wanted something more sophisticated.
During the past decade, the Army tried to field the XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement System — a semi-automatic, shoulder-fired weapon that used 25mm high-explosive, air-bursting ammunition. XM25 stirred excitement in the infantry community but, in the end, the complex system was plagued by program delays that led to its demise.
The Army is currently conducting the Platoon Arms and Ammunition Configuration (PAAC) study — scheduled to be complete by 2024 — which will look at the enemies the service will face in the future and help guide weapons officials to a new counter-defilade weapon sometime in 2028, Army officials say.
The Maneuver Battle Lab at Fort Benning, Georgia, live-fire tested a promising M240 sound suppressor from Maxim Defense during Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) 2021, which began in late October. Benning officials said this is the first year that a machine gun suppressor has created excitement in the maneuver community.
Other suppressors in past tests have not been able to stand up to the heat and audible roar produced by the 7.62mm M240. Finding a durable, affordable suppressor that can dampen the sound signature of an M240 would make it more difficult for enemies to locate and target machine gun teams from a distance, Benning officials say.
When the AEWE concludes in early March, Battle Lab officials will compile a report detailing the performance of equipment tested. If testing continues to go well, the Battle Lab may recommend that the Maxim suppressor undergo further testing for possible fielding, according to Benning officials.
Looking further into the future, it will likely be a long time until infantrymen are armed with the blaster weapons like those carried by Stormtroopers or Han Solo in the “Star Wars” saga, but Army weapons officials have already started thinking about it.
“We are working on the Next Generation Squad Weapon … but then what’s the next weapon after that?” Col. Rhett Thompson, director of the Soldier Requirements Division at Benning, said during the National Defense Industrial Association’s Armaments, Robotics and Munitions conference in early November.
“Does it fire a round? Instead of a magazine with ammunition, is it some sort of energy capacity … or is it something more directed energy or something else?” he said. “That is really what we are getting at as we get further out there, and some of that is kind of fun to think about.”
One of Nazi Germany’s most deadly weapons wasn’t really a weapon at all – at least not when it first took flight. However, it did eventually became a deadly foe; not for what it could drop, but for what it could see. It also set the pattern for two iconic planes of the Cold War.
The Focke-Wolf Fw 200 Condor began its life as an airliner for Lufthansa, according to aircraftaces.com. As a civilian transport, it generated some export orders to Denmark and Brazil. As an airliner, the Fw 200 held 26 passengers, and was able to fly from Berlin to New York non-stop.
In World War II, the airliner versions were used as military transports by the Germans. But the real impact would come because the prototype for a reconnaissance version requested by the Imperial Japanese Navy. According to uboat.net, the Luftwaffe looked at the prototype, and requested that designer Kurt Tank make some changes.
What emerged was a plane that could fly for 14 hours, and carry 2,000 pounds of bombs. By February 1941 they were responsible for putting 363,000 tons of merchant shipping on the bottom of the Atlantic. That is the rough equivalent of four Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
But the Condor’s real lethality wasn’t from what it dropped, it was from what it told the Germans — namely the locations of Allied convoys necessary to keep England in the war. That allowed Karl Donitz to vector in U-boat “wolfpacks” to attack the convoys some more.
Ultimately, when the British began to field catapult-armed merchantmen and eventually escort carriers, the Germans had the Condors avoid combat and just report the positions. By 1943, though, the Condor had been shifted to transport missions.
At the end of the war, the Fw 200 returned to the maritime strike role, carrying Hs 293 anti-ship missiles.
The ultimate legacy of the Fw 200 Condor: P-8A Poseidon aircraft No. 760 takes off from a Boeing facility in Seattle, Wash., for delivery to fleet operators in Jacksonville, Fla., marking the 20th overall production P-8A aircraft for the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Boeing Defense)
The Fw 200, even though it was on the losing side of World War II, was a ground-breaking concept. In the Cold War, two major maritime patrol aircraft used by Germany’s World War II enemies — the Lockheed P-3 Orion and the British Aerospace Nimrod — were based on airliners themselves (the Lockheed Electra and the de Havilland Comet). The Boeing P-8 Poseidon, replacing the Orion and Nimrod, is based on the Boeing 737.
The Condor has a long legacy – one that continues to this day.
Confederate Col. John S. Mosby was one of the world’s greatest guerrilla leaders, deploying cavalry against Union forces in lightning raids. In one impressive raid, he even managed to kidnap the Union general who commanded forces sent to stop him.
The engagement took place in March 1863, when Mosby was new to his command. He and his men were interrogating prisoners when a Union deserter laid out the location of the brigade’s picket lines and other defenses.
As it turned out, the Union 2nd Vermont Brigade had moved camps, but its general decided to stay at a local doctor’s house about three miles from his closest regiment. It was the 2nd Vermont that had so often sent its cavalry forces to try and catch Mosby — and Mosby saw an opportunity to end the harassment.
Mosby created a daring plan to slip through the nearby picket lines and kidnap both Brig. Gen. Edwin Stoughton, the commander of 2nd Brigade, as well as the colonel who commanded the brigade’s cavalry regiment.
Surprisingly, both the men of the 2nd Brigade and officers in nearby units had predicted that Stoughton would be captured if he didn’t move his headquarters, and Stoughton himself expressed concern about the thin manning of the picket lines.
The deserter stayed with Mosby’s Rangers for a year before he fell in combat.
Stoughton’s fall was, for obvious reasons, very quick. His capture was an embarrassment for the nation and his rank had not yet been confirmed by the Senate as a brigadier general. Lincoln withdrew his nomination. When Stoughton was traded back to Union lines two months later, he found that he had no military rank or position.
US Air Force special operators evacuate wounded service members during a training exercise with an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter. A U.S. special operations team is currently trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan and one of the Pave Hawks sent to rescue them has crashed. Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Taylor
More than a dozen U.S. Army special operations soldiers are trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan, taking cover in a compound surrounded by enemy fire and hostile Taliban fighters after a U.S. special operations solider was killed earlier in the day, senior U.S. defense officials told Fox News late Tuesday.
A U.S. official described the “harrowing” scene to Fox News, saying there were enemy forces surrounding the compound in which the special operations team sought refuge.
“On the map there is one green dot representing friendly forces stuck in the compound, and around it is a sea of red [representing hostile forces],” the official told Fox News.
A U.S. military “quick reaction force” of reinforcements arrived late Tuesday and evacuated the U.S. special operations soldier killed in action, and the two wounded Americans in the compound, according to a U.S. defense official.
The crew of the disabled helicopter also evacuated safely, the official said.
The rest of the U.S. special operations team remain in the compound to secure the damaged HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter in an area surrounded by Taliban fighters.
An AC-130 gunship has been called in for air cover as the U.S. troops now wait out the night.
Earlier in the day, two USAF HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were sent to rescue the U.S. special operations team. One of the helicopters took fire and waved off the mission and flew back to base.
The other helicopter’s blades struck the wall of the compound while attempting a rescue of the special operations team, according to defense officials who compared the scene to one similar to the helicopter crash inside Usama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on the mission to kill the Al Qaeda leader in May 2011.
The joint U.S. and Afghan special operations team was sent to Marjah to clear the area of Taliban fighters, who have retaken most of the town since November.
There were nine airstrikes on Tuesday in support of a clearing operation.
Earlier in the day, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed to reporters that the fighting in Marjah remains ongoing.
“There’s fighting on the ground as we speak,” said Cook.
“Everything’s being done to secure the safety of those Americans and the Afghan forces,” he added.
The Taliban in recent weeks has focused its efforts on retaking parts of Helmand, and the U.S. has countered with U.S. special operations forces working with Afghan troops.
The U.S. Army began fielding M17 and M18 Modular Handgun Systems to the Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood in December 2018 to replace the force’s aging Beretta M9, a weapon that has been in use since the mid-1980s and is quickly reaching its serviceability limits.
Sporting an integrated rail system, a polymer grip module and self-illuminating sights, the modernized 9 mm pistol produced by Sig Sauer couldn’t have come at a better time, according to Mark Farley, USAMPS deputy commandant.
“The (Beretta M9s) we currently have are breaking more often, which causes readiness issues,” Farley said. He explained that the school’s M9s have fired on average about 20,000 to 30,000 rounds when a typical handgun will last through only about 10,000 before they start to have significant issues.
Gary Homer, USAMPS instructor, added, “With these 17 and 18s, you won’t get degradation of the barrel until after 25,000 rounds. The new MHS has an exponentially longer lifespan or life expectancy.”
Sig Sauer M18 Modular Handgun Systems
Homer said every MHS is test fired before leaving the factory with 13 rounds — three to break in the weapon and 10 to test accuracy. He said each one must hit 10 out of 10 at 25 meters in a smaller than 3-inch group attesting to the gun’s accuracy level.
Both Farley and Homer agree one of the biggest selling points of the new MHS is the modular grips, which come in small, medium and large that allow for the pistol to be modified to the individual shooter.
“The Military Police Corps, is about 16 percent female soldiers, so this is a big deal when you’re talking about soldier lethality and accuracy,” Farley said. “For all soldiers to be able to hold that weapon with a proper grip and use the right fundamentals of firing — it’s very important in order for them to be able to engage the target and thereafter. One size does not fit all.”
In addition to being able to add lights to the guns with the rail system, John Scarbrough, USAMPS instructor/writer, said another thing he likes about the modernized weapons is the consistent trigger. He said this will help the MP students coming through the school’s many courses.
“There is a more consistent trigger so you don’t have to get used to 12 and then a 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 pound trigger,” Scarbrough said. “Your first shot is the same as your 17th shot.”
He said the trigger pull in conjunction with the modular grips will improve overall accuracy.
“We have had students before who had to use two fingers to pull the trigger due to strength because of their hand position, or they’re holding the gun in an awkward position so it’s not managing recoil,” Scarbrough said. “Those are the two biggest things that I think will help out whomever is shooting them.”
Farley agreed and said it’s not just the equipment that’s being modernized. He said USAMPS recently changed their qualification tables as well.
“It came at the right time where we were trying to make training a little more stringent and harder. This gun won’t make it easier, but it will ease some of the transition on this new qualification table that is just now being exposed to soldiers in the field,” Farley said. “It wasn’t coordinated but it worked out well.”
Farley said they are excited about the new gun, adding that it’s long overdue. “The sooner we can get it fully fielded to the operational units and the full training base then operational readiness will be enhanced.”
So far the school has only received a few hundred of these systems, but is expecting to receive approximately 1,400.
An F-117 Nighthawk is headed to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library December 2019 and will call the Simi Valley, California, hillside its permanent home.
The Reagan Foundation and manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced Nov. 4, 2019, that the single-seat, twin-engine stealth aircraft will be on display just outside the library, next to an F-14 Tomcat.
The restored jet, tail number 803, will be unveiled during the annual Reagan National Defense Forum on Dec. 7, 2019.
“The Reagan Library will now be one of two places in the nation where the general public can visit an F-117 Stealth Fighter on permanent display,” said John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.
“We are deeply grateful to Lockheed Martin for their outstanding assistance in restoring the aircraft for such a meaningful display and to the U.S. Air Force for making it possible for the Reagan Library to exhibit the plane for millions of visitors to enjoy for years to come,” he said in a news release.
An F-117 Nighthawk.
Nicknamed the “Unexpected Guest,” the jet going to the library flew more combat sorties — 78 — than all other F-117s combined, according to the release. It entered service in 1984.
Another F-117 is on public display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
According to officials, Lockheed produced 59 operational F-117s and five developmental prototypes, beginning in 1981. The U.S. didn’t publicly acknowledge the stealth attack plane — capable of going after high-value targets without being detected by enemy radar — until 1988, even though a few crashed during trials.
“The F-117 was developed in response to an urgent national need,” said Jeff Babione, vice president and general manager of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the division that designs and engineers advanced development projects, which are typically highly classified.
“It has paved the way for today’s stealth technology and reminds us to continue redefining what’s possible,” Babione said in the release. “It’s been a privilege for our team to collaborate with the [Air Force] and the Reagan Foundation on this effort, and we are excited to see it on proud display at its new home.”
Congress gave authority in 2007 and 2008 to retire a total of 52 F-117s from the inventory but wanted them maintained so they could be recalled to service if they were needed for a high-end war, an official previously told Military.com.
“I was privileged to fly the airplane when the program was classified,” said retired Lt. Col. Scott Stimpert, the pilot for tail number 803. “It was an exciting time, and a vitally important capability, but not something you could share with friends or family. I’m glad the airplane can come out of the dark to take its rightful place in the light, somewhere it can be seen and appreciated by the people it helped to protect.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Some know them as Task Force Brown, others fear them as thunderous ghosts who approach in the darkest hours of the night. To the public, they’re the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), but to the US Army and the special operations community, they’re known only as the legendary Night Stalkers.
Their motto, “Death Waits in The Dark,” tells you all you need to know. The Night Stalkers operate after sunset, flying through the blackness in some of the craziest scenarios and environments known to man. These are the best and most highly trained pilots the Army has to offer, undergoing months upon months of rigorous training until they are fully mission-qualified.
When the 160th deems its newest pilots and crew ready, Night Stalkers get sent on top-secret missions all across the world, from the deserts of the Middle East to the jungles of tropical Asia and everywhere in between, supporting American special operations units. Because of the nature of their missions, Night Stalkers rely on their helicopters to function well, even in extreme conditions.
These are the four helos they operate: unique, kitted out, and highly unlike any other in the US military today.
The Night Stalkers love the MH-60LM Black Hawk
The Black Hawk is the backbone of Army Aviation, having replaced the Huey in 1980s as the Army’s go-to medium lift utility helo. Highly adaptable, rugged, and dependable, it’s no surprise that the 160th would choose this aircraft as the core of their fleet.
Known as the MH-60 to Night Stalkers, these helos are refitted with a sensor suite, high-tech communications gear, a refueling probe for longer missions, forward-looking infrared radar systems, and terrain-following radars among a few other things. They can also be converted to an up-gunned attack variant as needed.
During the 2011 raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan, which saw the death of Osama bin Laden, Night Stalkers used a “stealthed out” version of the MH-60, fitted with a radar-defeating shell and other bells and whistles.
MH-60L Direct Action Penetrator
The Night Stalkers don’t fly the Army’s legendary gunship, the AH-64D/E Apache. Instead, they fly something just as fearsome, but slightly more versatile. Known as the Direct Action Penetator (or DAP), it’s been a staple of 160th missions worldwide since the early ’90s.
According to former Night Stalker CW4 Michael Durant (and recounted in his book, In the Company of Heroes), the DAP was developed in-house by the 160th using existing Black Hawks. After adding removable wing stubs to the sides of the helo and setting up a firing link to the cockpit, Night Stalkers managed to turn the MH-60 into a gunship.
The DAP comes with the ability to field Hydra rocket pods, Hellfire and Stinger missiles, 30 mm M230 chain guns (the same used by the Apache), and .50 caliber Gatling gun pods for some serious shock and awe. Unlike the Apache, the DAP has a refueling probe, giving it greater endurance and range.
Any MH-60 can be converted into a DAP using the kits created by the 160th, but it loses its ability to carry troops upon conversion.
MH-47G Chinook is one of the Night Stalkers’ favorites
The mighty Chinook heavy-lift helo has served Army Aviation well from Vietnam to Afghanistan and beyond. Because of its ability to carry tons of cargo, fly longer missions, and survive in austere conditions, the Chinook was one of the first aircraft inducted into Night Stalker service in the 1980s.
When the 160th first got its hands on CH-47s, they added a refueling probe, a fast-rope system for troop insertion, and a host of other features to bring them up to operational standards. Dubbed the MH-47D, these beasts were put to work right away. In a testament to the Chinook’s durability and heavy-lift capabilities, the 160th even used these tandem-rotor helos to “steal” a large, abandoned Libyan attack helicopter in the late ’80s during a sandstorm.
MH/AH-6M Little Bird
There’s a popular saying in the special operations community: “Six guns don’t miss.” This has nothing to do with revolvers and everything to do with the Night Stalkers’ Little Birds, sometimes referred to as “Killer Eggs” because of their shape. While the MH-6 is typically outfitted with outboard bench seats on either side of the aircraft for troop carriage, the AH-6 instead carries miniguns, rocket pods, and missiles.
The first Little Birds to enter service with the 160th were actually OH-6A Cayuses, small helos that were already on their way out of the Army and National Guard by the time SOAR was created. Because of their size, agility, and ability to be quickly disassembled and reassembled, these small aircraft were considered ideal for urban operations in tight spaces. From the early 1980s onward, the 160th has used the Little Bird in nearly every major conflict.
There’s always a certain tension when two servicemen meet for the first time. The nature of the tension often varies based on branch, job, and life experience. One might reasonably expect a grunt, for instance, to size up another grunt, the tension of two warriors vying for dominance. When fellow Havok Journal denizen and POG Paul and I met up to discuss life, the universe, and the peculiarities of Fort Bragg, the tension was less caveman and more tired old men trying not to pick up hepatitis at any of Fayetteville’s fine dining establishments.
As tends to happen when two writers meet, the conversation meandered around, covering everything from sports (if you think men are less emotional than women, wait til football season) to observations on military culture. Paul had one observation in particular that, try as I might, I was utterly unable to refute.
When you get down to it, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the apocryphal hipster and the GWOT vet.
Think about it for a moment. Beards- check. Tattoos- check. Insular culture that seems strange and unwelcoming to the outsider- check. Highly specific and objectively strange tastes in fashion (clothing, haircuts, etc)- check.
The only real differences are the typical veteran’s penchant for guns and hyper masculine attitude. Both communities eat some weird-ass food. Which is more strange, Mongolian Tex-Mex fusion, or dumping a bunch of MRE entrees in a pot and drowning it in Texas Pete? Both communities tend to enjoy things ironically. You can’t tell me you haven’t seen a bunch of dudes blasting Katy Perry in the motor pool, dancing, and lip-syncing their little hearts out.
I had the dubious privilege of being dragged through the Williamsburg community in Brooklyn a few months back, and I have to say, I was reminded of nothing so much as a trip to the PX on Bragg. Swap out T-shirts proclaiming one’s status as a sheepdog for highwater jeans and up the average muscle mass by about 30% and you’d hardly be able to tell the difference.
And as much as the veteran community likes to rag on hipsters for being whiny and entitled, we’re just as bad, when you get right down to it. Attack any one of our sacred cows and we come out in force, screaming and hollering and slinging mud at anyone who dares disrespect us.
And yet, despite our vast collection of similarities, the veteran community and hipster community more or less hate each other. To the hipster, the average veteran is an uncultured killer who is just a swastika away from being a Nazi. To the veteran, the average hipster is an emasculated crybaby who’s just a stubbed toe away from dissolving into tears and blaming Trump for hard surfaces.
Where does all this hate come from?
There’s a phenomenon known as the narcissism of small differences. The term was first coined by Sigmund Freud in 1917 to describe the reason why similar communities so often find themselves at each other’s throats. We’ll gloss over the psychobabble and get down to the meat of the matter: In order to preserve a sense of uniqueness, communities often become hypersensitive to the little things that separate them from other groups. By exaggerating the differences and attacking them, individuals and groups can maintain their sense of identity in the face of overwhelming similarities.
This phenomenon has been witnessed time and time again over the centuries. Ever wonder why two tribes who live a short distance away from each other and have broadly similar cultures and beliefs have so often tried to kill each other? That’s why. They get all hung up on the little things, and the next thing you know, Catholics and Protestants spend a couple centuries tearing Europe apart in war after war.
In this case, hipsters and veterans have been locked in a culture war for the last decade. Only, the veterans have won. Hipsters don’t really exist anymore, outside of a few enclaves like Williamsburg, or in the fevered ranting of veteran Internet personalities. Veteran culture has swelled and expanded, united by a common experience provided by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and empowered by the World Wide Web.
We have all but supplanted hipsters in modern society, and in the process, we’ve become the new hipsters. We have stared into the abyss, and the abyss gave us a sense of entitlement and way, way too much beard.