A U.S. congressman and former Army infantry officer has started a company that makes an exact replica of the rifle wielded by soldiers he fought against in Iraq.
Dubbed the “Tabuk,” the Iraqi-made AK-47-style rifle remains a rare collectible and cannot be brought back to the United States. However, veterans who want a souvenir of their service in Iraq can get one made in detail to look and act the part.
And best of all, they have Iraq veteran to thank.
Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell is one of the founders and owners of Two Rivers Arms in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and is making the replica Tabuk rifles and other Iraqi-designed arms. Retired from the Army in 2006 after helping lead the mission to capture Saddam Hussein in Iraq during Operation Red Dawn, Russell is now a Republican congressman representing Oklahoma’s 5th district.
The replica Tabuk his company makes is a semi-automatic, long-stroke gas piston operated rifle chambered in 7.62×39 mm with a rotating bolt and firing from a detachable 30-round box magazine. And all of the original markings on an Iraqi Tabuk have been replicated to exacting detail.
In the Late 1970s Saddam Hussein ordered his Ministry of Defense to start production on a domestically made variant of the AKM. This was in the middle of the on again, off again war between Iraq and Iran and a reliable supply of small arms was needed. As the Iraqi military already had a good relationship with the former (at that time current) Yugoslavia an easy partnership was formed and tooling and training delivered.
The new Iraqi made AKMs were dubbed the Tabuk and were identical copies of the Yugo M70B1 and M70AB2 rifles.
Russell and his company spared no expense in making the replica Tabuk as close to the ones U.S. troops saw in Iraq as possible. In fact, they’re so authentic looking, Two Rivers Arms-made Tabuk rifles were used in the movie “American Sniper.”
The right side of the rear sight base on the Two Rivers-made rifle is marked “Tabuk” and “Cal. 7.62x39mm” in English just as on the original. Two Rivers Arms took special care to match the style, size and font of all the engravings using original samples. On the left side of the rear sight block is found the same text as on the right but in Arabic.
In between the name and caliber designation is the lion circle emblem that appears on all Tabuks. This is supposed to represent the Lion of Babylon standing in front of a pyramid and surrounded by a circle. The lion is standing over a prostrate man and has a saddle on its back as in legend it was ridden by Ishtar the Babylonian goddess of love and war.
A final touch of authenticity is that every rifle comes with an exact reproduction of the Iraqi instruction manual issued to troops and manufactured from an original and hard to find manual. It is of course in Arabic.
The Two Rivers Arms Tabuk replica rifle comes in at about $1,200.
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We don’t know what you’re preparing for. Maybe you’ve found yourself in hot water with a local gang, maybe you’re convinced that the rise of automation will lead to SkyNet, or perhaps you have the very real concern that molemen will come out of the internal layers of the earth and demand large segments of surface world (an attack to which we are vulnerable thanks to everyone poo-pooing Capt. John Symmes’ expedition to the center of the Earth).
Regardless, our friends over at Propper want to help you prepare. For our illustrative case, we’re going to use a possible zombie outbreak model, because that’s fun for us and something all patriotic Americans should prepare for.
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There you are, quietly typing away on your newest article (You’re all internet writers, right? No? Some of you have real jobs that produce actual value for the economy? Well, aren’t you fancy) when, suddenly, a news alert pops up on your phone:
CDC confirms that new variation of flu virus has spread in America. Small town near you on lockdown. Read more: https://bit.ly/2TVioLq
Sure, there’s a chance it’s nothing, just like there was a chance that alerts on December 7, 1941 were nothing, or that Iraqi forces would never cross into Kuwait in 1990. You didn’t make it to your ripe current age by assuming that potential threats were nothing.
So it’s time to bug out for a little while, get away from population centers, and wait for this whole thing to blow over. And you need to reach your spot before that virus spreads.
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Luckily, you know a pretty good spot in the hills where you’ve got a little water cached, and you’ve got two bags ready to go with all your immediate needs. You head home, get your dog into the car, and grab your PROPPER® Bail Out Bag and Expandable Backpack from the hall closet.
You’re out the door and on the road in under a minute. Medical supplies, ruggedized laptop, water, some old MRE components, and more supplies are already packed away in your trusty bag.
You drive towards your spot, but the ominous rain reaches you on the road, and you’re left driving slow with the wipers on max. Unfortunately, a driver headed the other way isn’t being so conscientious, and they’re flying down the road. You try to slow down and shift to the shoulder, but the other guy is coming too fast and swerves towards you, forcing you to ditch the road entirely to avoid a collision.
The car tumbles down the shoulder and ends driver-side down. You take a quick stock of yourself. Nothing seems broken, and the cut over your eye could be much worse. You take a moment for your mutt.
“Hey, good dog. How are you feeling?”
You hear a quick whine, but then feel a tongue licking your face, so you look over your right shoulder and see a healthy dog. Shaken, but they don’t appear to be favoring a leg. So, that’s great news.
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Carefully, you position your boot against the windshield. You rear back and let loose a quick, calculated kick, cracking the windshield. Two more hits and the glass breaks. You slowly disentangle yourself from the wreck, and free yourself into a cool, consistent drizzle.
It’s not super late yet, but with the storm clouds overhead, you know it’ll be hard to see anything outside the range of your headlights. You take a quick chance to check out the hound and are happy to find no serious injuries. You also slap a quick bandage on yourself and dig out your Streamlight® ProTac HPL USB Rechrg Light.
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It’s charged, so you’ve got a while. And you can always swap in your spare button batteries if you need. You step past the headlights and give a quick scan of the road. You can’t see the car that nearly hit you, but you still want to get moving. Erratic drivers in a potential zombie outbreak area is a horrible sign.
So it’s time to start moving overland to your hideaway. You clip the flashlight to the D-ring on the backpack and dig out the map and compass, taking a quick second to mark your car’s location on the map. The backpack goes on your back, the bailout bag goes over your shoulder, and you step off.
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As you do, you switch on the HQ ISSUE Multi-Band Dynamo Solar Powered Radio and leave the volume on low. You can always crank the dynamo if it runs low on juice, and you can open the solar panel on it come morning. In the meantime, it will help you stay connected to the rest of the world long after you lose cell signal.
As the miles start to crunch away under your boots, you remember that you went offroad a good distance from where you planned, meaning it’s going to take way longer to reach your secret spot and its supply of water. You’re going to need an interim solution.
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But hey, you’re clearly nothing if not well-prepared. You double check the map for the little blue lines and pools that denote water, and alter your course to take you past a nearby creek.
Once you hear the trickle of water over the rocks, you beeline to it. Out here, the water looks pure and clear, but you know that even rainwater this close to the city can be contaminated, and rivers and streams can pick up all sorts of pollutants from its path and bacteria from the local wildlife.
So you pull out your Katadyn Vario Filter and plunge the hose into the water. In a pinch, it can clean and bottle two liters of water in a minute, passing the water through three filters. Activated charcoal eliminates most scents in the water too. But since you’re not in that big of a hurry, you set it to one-liter a minute, reducing wear and tear.
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Refreshed and once again moving to your cache, you start to whistle. You’ve got your dog, you’ve got your supplies, you’re hiking in the rain. As long as the city doesn’t descend into a zombie apocalypse tonight, life could be a whole lot worse. And if it does, well, at least you’re prepared.
And, hey, you’ve even got a GOSO Starter 24-Piece Lock Pick Set in your pocket, so if the worst has come to pass, at least you can break into all sorts of old bases, libraries, whatever, and explore them wasteland-style.
“Let’s go, Mutt.”
This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jorge Salazar reacts to scoring a point in the gold medal wheelchair rugby match during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla. May 11, 2016.
Members of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” perform an aerial demonstration during the Shaw Air Expo and open house, “Thunder Over the Midlands” at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 21, 2016.
An Army flight medic, assigned to the Arizona National Guard and currently attached to U.S. Army Europe, assembles an M4 carbine, while a thick cloud of smoke limits his visibility during the stress shoot portion of the Multinational Battle Group-East’s Best Warrior Competition held on Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, May 21- 22, 2016.
Soldiers assigned to 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, fire an M777A2 howitzer during an exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, Jan. 29, 2016.
NEW YORK CITY (May 25, 2016) – Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) man the rails as the ship pulls in for 2016 Fleet Week New York. The event, now in its 28th year, is the city’s time-honored celebration of the sea services. It is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. The weeklong celebration has been held nearly every year since 1984.
GULF OF ADEN (May 23, 2016) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Chase Coker launches an AV-8B Harrier II, attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 166 (Reinforced), off the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
Lance Cpl. Zach King, left, and Cpl. Derick Sammonek, assaultmen with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, brace themselves as an 60mm mortar exits the tube of an M224 mortar system as part of sustainment training during Exercise Eager Lion, May 15, 2016. Exercise Eager Lion 2016 is a bilateral, scenario based exercise with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the U.S., designed to exchange military expertise and improve interoperability among partner nations.
Marines endure light debris from a UH-1Y Venom helicopter at a landing zone outside of Robertson Barracks, Northern Territory, Australia, on May 20, 2016. Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin simulated causality evacuations with a UH-1Y Venom helicopter. MRF-D is a six-month deployment of Marines into Darwin, Australia, training in a new environment. The Marines are with Company B, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, MRF-D and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, MRF-D.
Two Response Boats-Medium from Station New York underway for fleet week NYC security.
Two Response Boats-Medium from Station New York escort the USS Bainbridge (DDG-96) as she passes under the Verrazano Bridge for the fleet week NYC Parade of Ships.
Everyone gets Facebook friend requests from strangers. We used to worry about them being identity thieves. Nowadays, those strangers might be spooks.
Many experts agree cyberspace is the battleground of the future, and for good reason. We see that future playing out in many ways, even now. There are real cybersecurity threats out there, as the recent hacking of the Office of Personnel Management demonstrates. Experts estimate the cost of information lost to hackers could be as high as $4.6 billion.
This isn’t The Pirate Bay sharing films and music via free torrent downloads. This is actual damage from ideological foes like ISIS and North Korea. China alone accounts for 70% of intellectual property theft. One Air Force counter strategy took a play from Russia’s playbook: create an online army of trolls.
Russian trolls pump out 135 comments, 50 news article posts, and maintain 6-10 Facebook and Twitter accounts per 12-hour shift. But Russia uses actual humans to do this work, while the Air Force commissioned software to allow one service member to control the same number of online identities, accounts known as “sock puppets,” toward purposes not specified.
In 2010, Air Force contractors took bids for developing this software on FedBizOps (which is a real government website, despite sounding like a subsidiary of Cash4Gold) as legally required for potential contractor opportunities. According to the contract synopsis the Air Force wanted:
“50 User Licenses, 10 Personas per user. Software will allow 10 personas per user, replete with background, history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly consistent. Individual applications will enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries. Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional online services and social media platforms. The service includes a user friendly application environment to maximize the user’s situational awareness by displaying real-time local information.”
That’s 500 people spreading disinformation and propaganda, much more than the mass emails your parents send to all their friends.
The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has the same technology. It might even be better than the Air Force’s request, as CENTCOM’s can fool geolocating services, allowing for misinformation and propaganda (or anything else the software could provide) from anywhere in the world.
“This contract supports classified social media activities outside the U.S., intended to counter violent extremist ideology and enemy propaganda,” said Commander Bill Speaks, the chief media officer of CENTCOM’s digital engagement team.
In contrast, the Air Force’s guidelines for actual humans posting on blogs and social media is actually pretty well constructed.
One of the original bidders for the software was the now-defunct HBGary, whose CEO infamously bragged he was able to take down hacker collective Anonymous, the same collective who subsequently dumped HBGary’s secret documents onto the Internet, where it was found HBGary had developed similar software as a part of the U.S. government’s ongoing not-so-secret supervillain plan to destroy the Wikileaks website.
Whatever the persona technology was for, it was launched in March 2011, presumably in support of Operation Earnest Voice. For the record, it would be illegal for the Air Force or CENTCOM to use “sock puppet” accounts against American citizens.
The very first tanks in combat rolled across the plains of Europe on Sep. 15, 1916, at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. Allied tank power only grew from there. Since the Germans most commonly found themselves on the receiving end of tank warfare, they were the ones who improvised the first responses. Here’s what they came up with:
1. Flame throwers
Flamethrowers were typically used after a tank suffered a mobility kill. A soldier with a flamethrower would approach the tank and order the crew to surrender before killing them if they didn’t. In some cases, soldiers would approach operational tanks and attempt to burn out the crew.
2. Reversed bullets
While standard rounds were nearly useless against tanks, Germans found that modifying their ammunition would let them kill tank crews at short ranges. First, the projectile was removed from the cartridge. Then, more powder was added and the projectile was put back on the cartridge backwards, with the point to the rear and the blunt side of the projectile forward.
When the rounds struck a tank at close range, they could dent in the armor with enough force that the armor would spit shrapnel into the crew area, killing and injuring the soldiers. Frequent misfires were reported though, so the Germans eventually invented armor piercing rounds.
3. Targeted artillery and mortar attacks
Artillery in World War could engage tanks with either howitzers, field guns, or mortars. Howitzers and mortars are traditionally fired “high-angle,” where they fire a shell into the air so that it falls on enemy targets, piercing the top armor when they hit tanks. In some cases, especially with mortars, desperate crews would “direct fire” their weapons at tanks.
Field guns were typically shot in direct fire mode, pointing the weapon at the enemy and attempting to punch through its hull with the force of the round. At first the German field guns only had high explosive rounds that could score mobility kills, but they eventually got armor piercing rounds that could destroy the target entirely.
Because they were already handy, grenades were some of the first weapons pressed into anti-tank warfare. While a single grenade was unlikely to destroy a tank, it could achieve a mobility kill by breaking the treads.
Later, stick grenades would be bundled together and tossed at oncoming enemy tanks. When everything went well, the combined explosive force of the grenades would break through the hull.
5. Tank obstacles
While tanks are the ultimate all-terrain vehicle, it’s still possible to carve the land so that tanks can’t roll over it. While thin trenches could be crossed with ease, very wide trenches were impassable for tanks and the Germans began digging accordingly.
6. Anti-tank rifles
The German Mauser 1918 T-Gewehr fired a large, 13.2 mm round with a steel core at 785 meters per second, easily piercing the tank armor of the day. Unfortunately, they were developed too late and in too few numbers to stem the Allied tank advance.
The Army is testing and prototyping self-generating “Ironman-like” soldier exoskeletons, designed to massively change combat missions by supporting soldier movement, generating electricity, powering weapons systems, and substantially lowering the weight burden of what troops carry in war.
Energy-harvesting technology can extend mission life for small units or dismounted soldiers on-patrol. The emerging concept, described by Army developers as a technical breakthrough is engineered, not so much for the near-term, but 10 to 20 years down the road.
“The design is for an energy-harvesting exoskeleton to address the needs of dismounted soldiers. The system can derive energy from the motion of the soldier as they are moving around,” Dr. Nathan Sharps, mechanical engineer, Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The implications of this kind of technology are significant. While exoskeletons have been in development for several years now, the technology consistently confronts the challenge of finding ways to sustain mobile power sources to support and sustain its functionality.
Furthermore, current use of batteries brings significant combat challenges due to difficulty recharging and the massive amount of weight involved in hauling them through combat.
For instance, should a soldier carry a portable 35-pound generator, water, ammunition, weapons, and communications equipment, mission duration and soldier effectiveness is greatly impacted. The Army has been pursuing various efforts to “lighten the load” for soldiers for many years now.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun, 108th Public Affairs Detachment)
“The technologies we are developing can produce electricity, which can be stored and used to power batteries. This increases the longevity of a mission, decreases the need for resupply and reduces the logistics trail,” Sharps explained.
Sharps further elaborated that during intense combat engagement, casualties often occur during logistics resupply missions.
An added advantage is that, while the technology harvests energy from the motion of soldiers, it also simultaneously eases the strain on their joints and muscles due to its apparatus.
“This decreases the chance of muscular-skeletal injury. We look at the soldier as an individual ecosystem. We’re not just looking at what they cannot do right now, but also at what challenges they are going to face 20 years from now,” Sharps said.
The emerging system, currently in the early phases of exploration, calls upon a collaborative effort between CERDEC, the Army Research Laboratory and the Army’s Natick Soldier Center.
The scientists explain that added electrical energy decreases the number of calories a soldier has to burn.
“When you move, you bounce up and down, and the gait motion is an inverted pendulum. If you lift every step thousands of times, it is a whole lot of energy you are expending,” said Juliane Douglas, mechanical engineer, CERDEC, told Warrior Maven.
The Army is currently exploring various configurations for the exoskeleton, some of which include a suspended backpack, which can slide up and down on a spring, having little or no weight impact on the soldier.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.)
“In mechanical engineering terms, if you have masses moving together, there is a kinetic energy difference between the two. We have mechanisms which can convert that linear motion into electricity,” explained Douglas.
This technical advantage will impact a wide array of emerging systems now being built into exoskeletons. Not surprisingly, many of these rely upon mobile power to operate.
For example, helmets with high-resolution thermal sensors, wearable computers, various kinds of conformal body armor and even many weapons systems are now being built into a range of Ironman-like exoskeletons.
U.S. Special Operations Command’s current TALOS effort is working with a wide sphere of industry, military and academic experts on plans to build initial exoskeleton prototypes within the next year or two. This longer-term CERDEC effort is the kind of thing which could easily merge with, or integrate into, some of these exoskeletons now being built.
The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.
The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.
Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”
It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army’s website said.
TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.
Army evaluators have also been assessing a Lockheed-built FORTIS knee-stress-release-device exoskeleton with soldiers at Fort A.P. Hill as part of a focus on fielding new performance enhancing soldier technologies.
Using independent actuators, motors and lightweight conformal structures, lithium ion battery powered FORTIS allows soldiers to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs while expending less energy.
FORTIS is built with a conformal upper structure that works on a belt attached to the waist. The belt connects with flexible hip sensors throughout the systems. These sensors tell the computer where the soldier is in space along with the speed and velocity of the movements.
CERDEC developers say their effort is observing and working closely with many of these efforts looking to find exoskeleton technologies able to better protect and enable soldiers in combat.
“What we are doing is designing the conversion technologies to make many of these technologies more effective by storing the energy. We are testing prototypes, and we are able to leverage current exoskeleton work and use it as a platform for our systems,” Douglas said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The US Army is prototyping drones and soldier devices armed with new cyberwar and electronic attack technology as an essential element of a massive, service-wide push to double its EW force and integrate EW and cyber.
“We are standing up a cyber-electromagnetic activity staff, doubling the force, doubling the amount of training and increasing our tactical ability,” Brig. Gen Jennifer Buckner, head of Army Cyber Command, said recently at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.
The plan is multi-faceted, consisting of simultaneous efforts to provide an EW platoon in every Military-Intelligence company and connect integrated EW and cyber-warfare technologies with existing SIGINT (signals intelligence) ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) technology, such as small drones.
One senior Army official stressed the operational importance of further combining EW and cyber.
“You have to have globally integrated joint operations, because cyberspace is pervasive. I believe cyber is a subset of the electromagnetic spectrum,” he told Warrior.
Warrior talked to the Army’s Program Manager for Electronic Warfare, Col. Kevin Finch, who said the service plans to start building and testing prototypes of new EW-Cyber equipped drones and attack technology by 2019 — following an extensive analysis.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
“The idea is to leverage the technology we are using today and put cyber and SIGINT on the same platforms,” Finch told Warrior in an interview.
Merging cyber, EW and SIGINT brings a new generation of warfare advantages by, among other things, enabling forces armed with EW weapons to produce a narrower, much more targeted signal.
This changes the equation, as most current EW weapons emit a larger single across the desired area and use so much power that it overwhelms an enemy receiver, Jerry Parker, EW developer with CACI, told Warrior in an interview.
This phenomenon creates several extremely significant tactical implications; by emitting a broad signal with large amounts of power, attackers using EW typically give up their own combat positions, as larger signals are usually noticed by enemy forces.
“When you light up the spectrum, you become a target,” Parker explained.
Of equal significance, emitting a large signal can also knock out signals for one’s own force, in some respects.
“The traditional way is if you are transmitting 901 MegaHertz, you put out a ton of power and wipe out everything in the spectrum, to include Blue Forces (friendly forces),” Parker said.
The emerging method, Parker said, is to establish a much more “surgical” way of using EW-cyber attacks, which do not emit a large, area-wide signal.
This can be done by using narrower, more targeting signals emitted from a drone or small device which is able to locate enemy communication networks, radar, radios, and other key targets.
“You look at where an adversarial radio is and pinpoint that one. You use a specific frequency and use a lot of different techniques to analyze the enemy signal, analyze the protocol and narrow a target,” Parker explained. “If you can keep an enemy from communicating, it adds an element of disarray to the battle space where we can achieve overmatch,” Parker said.
Sgt. Jason E. Gerst, a Virginia Beach, Va., native, now a squad leader with 2nd Platoon, A Company, 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, launches the RQ-11B Raven unmanned aerial vehicle during Raven training.
CACI is now equipping a small drone with this technology, as part of an effort to support the Army’s initiative.
As cyber and EW become increasingly integrated, with software-defined radios, new jamming techniques and smaller form factors, Army developers can pursue more targeted methods of attack, as enemy cyber and EW threats become increasingly sophisticated.
“We spend a lot of time on the sensing part of the spectrum. We analyze what is out there and ID what various threat signals are. We look at its modulation scheme and protocol and then build techniques to destroy it,” Parker added.
Developers explain that EW innovations are drawing from some existing systems which emerged during the last 15-years of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan. EW technology evolved considerably in recent years as the Army learned new jamming techniques, expanded frequencies and found new applications. The vehicle-mounted DUKE and soldier mobile THOR EW systems were successful jamming IED signals in Iraq and Afghanistan, often averting a potentially deadly explosion.
Here is how Brig. Gen. Buckner explained this massive Army push for new combined cyber, EW weapons, and technology.
“We are focused on growth and acceleration — bringing cyber to the tactical edge. The Chief of Staff of the Army recognizes the operational imperative to do that,” Buckner said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Since World War II, the US has dominated the skies in any region in which it wishes to project power — but recent competition from countries like Russia and China threaten to erode that edge, and only a small group of elite pilots maintain the US’s edge in air superiority.
Russia has deployed powerful missile-defense batteries to Syria and its European enclave of Kaliningrad. The US Air Force can’t operate in those domains without severe risk. US President Barack Obama himself has acknowledged that these missile deployments greatly complicate and limit the US’s options to project power in Syria.
China has undertaken the breathtaking feat of building and militarizing islands in the South China Sea, outfitting them with runways and radar sites that could allow Beijing to establish an air defense and identification zone, the likes of which the US would struggle to pierce.
Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, speaking during the State of the Air Force address at the Pentagon, said of the Air Force’s dwindling dominance: “I believe it’s a crisis: air superiority is not an American birthright. It’s actually something you have to fight for and maintain.”
The US has the world’s largest Air Force, but it’s important to remember that it’s a force stretched thin across the entire globe. In the Pacific or the Baltics, smaller, more concentrated powers have reached parity or near parity with the US’s gigantic fleet.
Only one US airframe remains head-and-shoulders above any and all competition — the F-22 Raptor.
The coming F-35 Lightning II, a stealthy technological marvel in its own right, has an impressive radar cross section approximately the size of a basketball. The F-22 however, blows it out of the water with a cross section about the size of a marble.
“Typically, we’ll train against the biggest and baddest threats because we want to train against the newest threat on the block,” one F-22 pilot told Majumdar.
“We’re fighting against the most advanced operational threats we can,” said another.
Even though the stealthy F-22s hold an overwhelming advantage at long range, because they can target enemies long before those enemies can see them, the Raptor pilots train for up-close-and-personal conflicts as well. While close range confrontations hugely disadvantage the F-22 pilots, they continue to train uphill and achieve impressive results.
As the most capable plane in the world, the F-22 pilots exist as a kind of “insurance policy” against the most advanced threats in the world, according to Majumdar.
“Even when flying against the most challenging simulated threats—advanced Russian fighters such as the Su-35 and S-300V4 and S-400—it is exceedingly rare for an F-22 to be ‘shot down’. ‘Losses in the F-22 are a rarity regardless of the threat we’re training against,'” an F-22 pilot told Majumdar.
The next “Mother of All Bombs” will probably be smaller, leaner and lighter but will still pack a punch.
It’s what scientists and engineers at the Air Force Research Lab are working on as part of their next-generation munition concept.
Part of the Advanced Ordnance Technologies program, the bomb could be structured to be lighter by using 3D-printed reconstructed loads within the bomb instead of in the casing — plus distributed blast yields, said Dr. John Corley, the core technical competency lead for ordnance sciences at AFRL.
“We’ve been working on printing [munitions] for the past five to 10 years,” Corley said Thursday during a Defense Department Lab day in the Pentagon courtyard.
Corley and colleagues were showcasing a prototype one-seventh the scale of a bomb the lab is working on (not pictured), along with various fuse technologies.
One of the key enablers to prototyping the bomb is through 3D printing. “Right now, most of your penetrator munitions have two-inch case walls,” Corley said, which actually prohibits a larger blast and creates more debris.
Instead, the lab has begun printing casing prototypes — with steel — that moves the load from the case to within the bomb itself (the vertical loads look very similar to a DNA double helix within the bomb).
Furthermore, the lab is using distributed embedded fusing in the bomb “so not only do we have all these other features we’re relocating the fireset for the bomb into the explosive, so you can distribute that around different places [with]in the bomb to improve survivability,” Corley said.
In current penetrating munitions, the ways in which the fuse is hardwired to the case is limiting, Corley said. By separating the fuse from the case could make the bomb more flexible of when it hits and how it hits.
The fuse prototypes are also being 3D printed at this time.
The next step for the advanced future bomb will be to incorporate these various “selectable effects,” as Corley called them.
“In a selectable effects, on any given day you might want it to be the same weapon to give you a small blast footprint, or a large blast footprint, and right now we can control this …height of burst,” he said.
Thus, how much or how little yield the bomb exerts could be determined for whatever the mission may be — so for once, size (of the actual bomb) doesn’t matter.
Looking past MOAB-style bombs, Corley also noted the military aircraft of today are becoming smaller, so weapons too need to adapt — and, of course, fit.
“Workhorse munitions for us are 500 pound and 2,000 pound munitions, but we’d like to get to a 100 pound munition for instance that has the same output as a 500 pound bomb,” he said.
Corley said whether the Air Force will make the bombs in-house — much like the MOAB — is still to be determined. Tail kits on bombs, for example, are more likely to be constructed by defense industry companies than the bombs themselves, which “the government owns,” he said.
Physical bombs being worked on through the AOT program are still a “few years off” because most are still in the concept stage, Corley said.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who is believed to support sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, will determine if the approximately 9,800 U.S.troops currently deployed there should be reinforced. Trump gave Mattis similar authority over troop levels in Syria and Iraq in April.
A formal announcement on ceding the authority to the Defense Department is expected June 14. The move comes earlier than anticipated; it was expected that any action on changes in U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan would come after mid-July, when the administration’s strategy review is completed.
Giving more authority to the Pentagon allows military leaders more latitude in planning and conducting operations. Options were developed to deploy up to 5,000 more U.S. troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, to augment the international coalition force of about 13,000 troops presently in Afghanistan. About 2,000 U.S. troops there are currently assigned to fight al-Qaida and other militant groups.
Mattis told the Senate Armed Service Committee on June 13 to expect the Trump administration to unveil its Afghan strategy within weeks.
“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon as possible,” Mattis said in testimony.
According to a report by UPI, an LGM-30 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile was taken from Minot Air Force Base and launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base to test America’s land-based deterrence force.
The missile landed at the remote Pacific base of Kwajalein Atoll. Now, the United States has used these islands for atomic tests and as a place for missiles to land for years.
But Kwajalein has a bit more significance to the U.S. than most other atolls out there. You see, it was one of the many islands American forces had to take from Japan during World War II – and thus, it is consecrated ground.
During World War I, Japan had taken the Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, and Caroline Islands from Germany. According to an official Marine Corps history of the 4th Marine Division, the islands were soon fortified with bunkers, air strips, a lot of firepower, and very fierce troops.
In Nov., 1943, the United States had taken Tarawa in the Gilberts – and paid a heavy price. According to Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls, published by the Center for Military History, 3,301 Marines were killed, wounded, or missing after the effort to take Tarawa. Kwajalein was expected to be even tougher, prompting legendary commanders like Raymond Spruance, Richmond K. Turner, and Holland Smith to oppose hitting Kwajalein at all.
Admiral Nimitz overruled their objections, and Kwajalein it was. Taking into account the lessons of Tarawa, this time, the United States brought overwhelming force. The major targets were Roi Island, Namur Island, and Kwajalein Island. For almost two months, air strikes were launched, including some with B-24 Liberators and others by carriers, on the Marshalls.
When the attack on Kwajalein came, it still took time, but only 142 American military personnel were killed in attacking Kwajalein Island proper. Another 190 died while taking the islands of Roi and Namur. Total casualties in those assaults – dead, wounded, and missing – were 1,726.
After World War II, most of the American forces left, but Kwajalein today serves as part of the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site. 332 Americans paid the ultimate price to take it 73 years ago. Today, it helps America develop systems that can save hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of lives.
The Desert Storm portion of the 1990-1991 Gulf War lasted only 100 hours, not only because the combined land forces of the Coalition gathered against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was overwhelming and talented – it was – but it was also the contribution of two of the U.S. Navy’s biggest floating guns that drew a significant portion of Saddam’s army off the battlefield.
Shelling from the 16-inch guns of the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin made it all possible, playing a crucial role in a conflict that would end up being their last hurrah.
Here comes the boom.
Everyone knew a ground assault on Iraqi-occupied Kuwait was coming and had been for months. The only question for the Iraqis was where it would come from. Iraqi forces had been on the receiving end of a Noah’s Ark-like deluge of bombs and missiles for the past 40 days and 40 nights. Iraq believed the Coalition would make an amphibious landing near Kuwait’s Faylaka Island, when in reality the invasion was actually going into both Iraq and Kuwait, coming from Saudi Arabia.
If the Coalition could make the Iraqis believe an amphibious invasion was coming, however, it would pull essential Iraqi fighting units away from the actual invasion and toward the Persian Gulf. It was the ultimate military rope-a-dope.
Here’s what really happened.
The best way to make Saddam believe the Marines were landing was to soften up the supposed landing zone with a naval barrage that would make D-Day look like the 4th of July. The USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin were called up to continuously bombard the alleged landing beaches – and they sure made a spectacle of it. The Iraqi troops were supposedly shocked and demoralized, surrendering to the battleships’ reconnaissance drones as they buzzed overhead, looking for more targets.
It was the first time anyone surrendered to a drone. No one wanted to be on the receiving end of another Iowa-class barrage. But the Marine landing never came. Instead, the Iraqis got a massive left hook that knocked them out of the war.
The 334th Training Squadron incorporated the first virtual reality training for airfield management students in the Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, June 28, 2019, so they can get more of a “hands-on” learning experience.
Chief Master Sgt. Paul Portugal, Airfield Management career field manager, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virgina, relates this new technology to the mission of Air Education and Training Command.
“Innovation and the continuum of learning has always been a priority of AETC to make our airmen more effective and efficient,” Portugal said.
Master Sgt. Joshua Stillwagon, 334th TRS instructor, believes this new technology can teach the airmen more efficiently than the previous, lecture-based class because of the hands-on experience.
An Airman from the 334th Training Squadron tries out new virtual reality technology of the 334th TRS at Cody Hall, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, June 28, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Seth Haddix)
“This system gives instructors the capability to not just tell airmen, but instantly show them a concept,” Stillwagon said.
The simulation includes the setting of an airfield and allows students to practice their job as if they were operational.
“The VR technology gives our students a visual representation of airfield hazards that can be unsafe,” Portugal said. “They don’t need to imagine it, they can visualize cranes, trees or other things that can affect flight safety.”
Portugal believes this training will not only help the future of airfield management training, but improve the overall training of airmen.
U.S. Air Force Col. Leo Lawson Jr., previous 81st Training Group commander, speaks about the new virtual reality technology of the 334th Training Squadron at Cody Hall, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, June 28, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Seth Haddix)
“The technological jump that we are making in how we create a more efficient and effective airmen is the biggest part of this,” Portugal said.
Col. Leo Lawson Jr., previous 81st Training Group commander, was impressed with the quality of the new VR experience.
“The VR training simulations blew me away,” Lawson said. “Not only was it able to deliver the training our airmen need to understand the concept of the job, but it did so with great quality.”