Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

For the last five years, Air Force Special Operations Command has been working toward incorporating a high-energy laser weapon on its newest AC-130J gunship. It now plans to test-fire a 60-kilowatt laser in 2022, according to a program officer affiliated with the program.

“If it is successful — and we are planning for success — then it will feed into our new requirements and potentially a new program down the road,” said Air Force Col. Melissa Johnson, program executive officer for fixed-wing programs at Special Operations Command. She spoke during last week’s Virtual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association.


“If this goes forward past the demo … we’ll have an additional [research, development, test and evaluation] program going forward,” Johnson said, as reported by NDIA‘s National Defense Magazine.

Johnson explained that previous tests have largely been ground-based and done in conjunction with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia. The next, scheduled for fiscal 2022, will be onboard the AC-130 aircraft, she said.

The J-model aircraft achieved initial operational capability in September 2017.

The fourth-generation AC-130 is slated to replace the AC-130H/U/W models, with delivery of the final J-variant sometime in 2021, according to the Air Force.

The 4th Special Operations Squadron, part of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, received its first J-model with the Block 30 software upgrade in March 2019.

Along with the 105mm cannon sported by its cousin, the AC-130U model, the AC-130J is equipped with a 30mm cannon “almost like a sniper rifle. … It’s that precise; it can pretty much hit first shot, first kill,” Col. Tom Palenske, then-commander of 1st SOW, told Military.com during a trip to Hurlburt in 2018.

Palenske said that a laser would be the ultimate ace in the hole, making disabling other weapons systems easier.

“If you’re flying along and your mission is to disable an airplane or a car, like when we took down Noriega back in the day, now, as opposed to sending a Navy SEAL team to go disable [aircraft] on the ground, you make a pass over that thing with an airborne laser and burn a hole through its engine,” he said.

Palenske was referring to 1989’s Operation Nifty Package mission to capture and remove Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega from power, during which a SEAL team “disable[d] his aircraft so he couldn’t escape.”

With a laser, “it’s just like that. And you just keep going on, and there’s no noise, no fuss, nobody knows it happened. They don’t know the thing’s broken until they go and try to fire it up,” he said at the time.

AFSOC had hoped to incorporate the laser onto the aircraft this year. Johnson said gaps in funding, not technological maturity, were behind the delay.

“After several years of seeking stable funding, we are there,” she said.

Then-AFSOC commander Gen. Brad Webb made a similar remark in 2018.

“The challenge on having the laser is funding,” Webb said during the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium that year. “And then, of course, you have the end-all, be-all laser questions: ‘Are you going to be able to focus a beam, with the appropriate amount of energy for the appropriate amount of time for an effect?’

“We can hypothesize about that all we want. My petition is, ‘Let’s get it on the plane. Let’s do it. Let’s say we can — or we can’t,” Webb said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the military goes out of its way for certain animals

Troops lose their mind when they have to go to either Fort Irwin or Twentynine Palms. They’re both in insanely hot climates, offer very little to do outside of training, and the living conditions are far worse than what POGs are accustomed to. Despite all that, everything comes to a standstill when a single desert tortoise shows up.

The same thing happens when a red-cockaded woodpecker appears at Fort Benning, Indiana bats at Fort Knox, and piping plovers at RTC Great Lakes. These are all objectively unpleasant military installations that have endemic species of animals that put a stop to training just by showing up.

This causes a headache for many troops in leadership positions and is the butt of many jokes among the junior enlisted. It stops becoming funny, however, when leadership tells their troops that they can’t leave behind even a single breadcrumb that could attract the predators of said animals.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
The world’s premiere fighting force is brought to a stand-still because of one, adorable little turtle.
(Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

This is all because the animals listed above are endangered and their safest habitats are on military installations.


Back in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was passed, stating that the government will do its part to protect its endangered animals and prosecute anyone who bring them harm. While it’s easy to issue out fines to anyone who accidentally kills a desert tortoise, it’s even easier (and you know, better) to take preventive measures and keep them alive.

The military does its part in a large way — far larger than most organizations dedicated to saving these species. In 2011 alone, the U.S. military spent $7.6 million on keeping desert tortoises safe — a grand total of over $100.9 million since 1993. That money has gone a long way in keeping these at-risk animals alive for many generations.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
In the case of some tortoises, it’s many generations. You know, because they live longer than humans.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Williams)

“But these are just some dumb turtles!” someone in the back of the formation may yell. That class clown might be right — these tortoises could be dumb, indeed — but it doesn’t matter. If you allow one invasive fish, for example, to fade away because of the enormous amount of money required to protect it, then there’s a justification allowing any species to die out, putting the animal kingdom right back where it was in 1972.

Potential dumbness aside, every animal must be treated with the same delicate gloves or we risk losing them all.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
And if you’re stationed anywhere in Hawaii, that means hundreds of different species.
(U.S. Army)

The next “good idea fairy” solution is to just move them away from military installations. It should be fairly obvious why taking slow-moving prey away from a habitat where they’re cared for and are kept safe from predators and tossing them into a new, unfamiliar landscape devoid of such protections is a bad idea. If you’re having trouble seeing why that’s a problem, we’ve got an example for you:

They tried this once with the desert tortoises at Fort Irwin in 2008. The logic behind it was that the tortoises would be far safer somewhere where they wouldn’t be accidentally blown to bits by troops in training. The relocation effort cost $50 million and, within a year, about 30% of all the tortoises (who have an average life-span of over 100 years) died before the program was scrapped.

There were many factors that contributed to the dying off of thousands of tortoises. First, being put in an unknown environment meant that they had no idea where the food or water was. This was made worse when packs of predators discovered an enormous buffet of food that couldn’t run or hide.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
Turns out suffering theu00a0occasional mortar death is better than being gobbled up by a pack of coyotes.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

There are over 400 species of endangered animals on military grounds and, even with human intervention, these are the best habitats for them. Each of the species that are protected by the U.S. Armed Forces are all carefully monitored to make sure that no harm comes to them.

It’s not uncommon for troops to incorporate their nesting grounds into their training. While preparing for a mission, their nests are treated in the same way as schools or hospitals in the battlefield. Troops just avoid them at all costs.

The good news is that this ongoing effort to protect them has yielded some very visible results. While there are outliers in the desert tortoise populations (California droughts are partially to blame), animal populations at other installations have all boomed in recent years. Simply adjusting fire from one part of the range to another at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has helped the streaked horned lark population almost quadruple in less than a decade.

Protecting these species requires a little effort and a creates bit of inconvenience, but it’s been proven that the military installations these animals call home are truly the best places for these species to thrive.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why actors who served make such iconic movie villains

Some of the best and greatest actors once served in the military. After they left the service, they came out to Hollywood with a hope and a dream — just like everyone else in LA. But what these veterans had that so many others didn’t was a will to fight hard for the roles they wanted. If you look back at many of the great, veteran actors, you’ll also notice a trend: They all played iconic villains.

From James Earl Jones’ performance as Darth Vader to Adam Driver’s as Kylo Ren, from Mr. T as Clubber Lang in Rocky III to Rob Riggle as the drug-dealing coach in 21 Jump Street, the list goes on. Hell, you could even classify Dorothy from Golden Girls as an antagonistic main character if you wanted to (which I totally do). If you didn’t know, Bea Arthur was a Marine and one of the first female Marine reservists.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
I’m not going to lie. All In The Family would have been so much betteru00a0if Maude went around and knife-handed the stupid out of Archie.

Now, this isn’t to say that veterans aren’t capable of portraying outstanding protagonists — just look at the biggest stars of the Hollywood Golden Age: Former Navy communications officer Lt. JG Kirk Douglas and Army Air Corps radio operator Staff Sgt. Charlton Heston come to mind.


In fact, all the actors from the infamous three-way standoff in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly served in the U.S. military: Clint Eastwood (Army) as Blondie, Eli Wallach (Army) as Tuco, and Lee Van Cleef (Navy) as Angel Eyes.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fb3mSVYbDLvow8.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.giphy.com&s=585&h=f309ee6481f5630185f04b80c80ba59ae3f5fe78dd10ba2f8596c982857d6897&size=980x&c=4280914885 image-library=”0″ pin_description=”” caption=”This entire scene is between actors who are veterans.” crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fb3mSVYbDLvow8.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.giphy.com%26s%3D585%26h%3Df309ee6481f5630185f04b80c80ba59ae3f5fe78dd10ba2f8596c982857d6897%26size%3D980x%26c%3D4280914885%22%7D” expand=1 photo_credit=””]

Van Cleef made a name for himself by playing the antagonists in many films, from westerns to sci-fi flicks (including a role as Commissioner Hauk in Escape From New York). Another actor who made an entire career out of playing villains was Christopher Lee (RAF), who was a bad ass in his own right — even if other people exaggerated his stories. Even the comic-book epitome of villainy, The Joker, was first portrayed by Chief Boatswain’s Mate Cesar Romero.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
If anyone wants to sh*t talk the Coast Guard, just remember: The Joker was a coastieu00a0(Then again, that may give the haters more ammo. Do what you will with that information).

Veterans make fantastic actors after they leave the service and when they put their heart and soul into portraying the “bad guy,” you can feel it.

Great movie villains are deep. They must convey power and complexity. They shouldn’t ever come off as the old “mustache-twirling” baddie. Veterans who become actors know how to balance this and give fantastic performances.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This ‘demi-brigade’ is the Foreign Legion’s World War II pride

The 13th Demi-Brigade is one of the legendary units of the French Foreign Legion. During World War II, it was the only formation to immediately join Gen. Charles de Gaulle and the Free French Forces when France capitulated to to the Nazis.

From the creation of Vichy France to the country’s eventual liberation, the 13th Demi-Brigade carried the Legion’s honor in battles across the world. The 13th fought in Norway and across Africa, Syria, Italy, and France before victory was achieved.


Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

Allied soldiers during the Battle of Narvik where French legionnaires with the 13th Demi-Brigade and other forces liberated Norwegian ports from Nazi occupation.

The 13th was formed in 1940 as a light mountain unit to fight in the Winter War, the conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. The Winter War ended before the 13th could get into the fight, but an invasion of Norway by Germany soon followed, so the 13th went to fight them instead.

The 13th took part in two landings in Norway, both aimed at the port town of Narvik. The first was on May 6 at a point seven miles north of the city, and the second was on May 26 from a position to the south. Conditions during the fight were brutal. Temperatures fell as low as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the legionnaires were attacking a force three times their size.

While the German’s conquest was ultimately successful, the victory wouldn’t matter. The legionnaires fought through vicious machine-gun fire, Luftwaffe attacks, and artillery bombardment, finally pushing the Germans out of Narvik and into the surrounding country. The Legion was pursuing the Germans across the snow and were only 10 miles from the Swedish border when the call came in to return home.

The Germans had invaded France, and all hands were needed to defend Paris.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

France surrenders to Germany following the fall of Paris.

But it was too late. The brutal blitzkrieg laid France low before the legionnaires could get back. They landed in France only to learn that it was now German territory. After a brief debate about whether to continue fighting, the force’s commander executed a lieutenant who wanted to abandon the mission, and the bulk of the force went to England.

It was here that the 13th, answering the call of de Gaulle, joined the Free French Forces, the only legion able and willing to do so. As the rest of the Legion decided how much to cooperate with German authorities assigned to watch them per the armistice, the 13th was deciding how many Germans each of them would kill.

They first got their chance when they were sent to North Africa in the end of 1940. There, they captured Gabon and the Cameroons essentially unopposed and helped the British during vicious battles against Italian forces to secure territory in East Africa. In June 1941, they were sent to Syria where they would fight their own — Legion forces loyal to Vichy France.

The 6th Foreign Legion Infantry was garrisoned in Syria, an area under French mandate. Vichy France was allowing German forces to use their ports and airfields in Syria, posing a threat to the Suez Canal and British oil fields in the Middle East. The situation could not stand, and legionnaire was doomed to fight legionnaire.

The 13th, for their part, took a risk in the hopes that a legion civil war could be avoided. They fought through other French forces, at one point using outdated artillery in direct-fire mode as improvised anti-tank guns. When they had fought through to the Legion forces, they sent a small patrol to the outpost.

The outpost sent out a guard who presented the patrol with a salute and then arrested the patrol’s members. The fight was on.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

Free French Forces legionnaires, likely members of the 13th Demi-Brigade, maneuver during the Battle of Bir Hacheim.

(Photo by Sgt. Chetwyn Len)

Luckily for the 13th, the 6th and other forces under Vichy control had been stripped of most of their serious weapons and were suffering severe morale problems. But the fight was fierce but brief. The 13th Demi-Brigade won the battle, a fight that included bayonet charges and grenade assaults, and it marched into Damascus in triumph eight days later.

They allowed all members of the 6th to join the 13th if they so wished. Less than 700 of nearly 3,000 did so.

The 13th was then sent to Bir Hacheim, where approximately 3,700 men faced about 37,000 attackers. The Italian armored commander leading the first assault was assured by Rommel himself that the Allied soldiers, mostly French forces, would fall within 15 minutes.

Instead, the French forces destroyed 33 tanks in the first hour and held out for another two weeks. When the defenders finally gave in, they did so on their terms, conducting a nighttime breakout through German lines with the walking wounded and healthy troops marching and providing cover fire for the wounded on litters.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

Allied forces celebrate at the end of their successful evacuation out of Bir Hacheim.

They made it through the desert to El Alamein where the commander, the legendary prince and Lt. Col. Dmitri Amilakhvari, reportedly had a dream where he was hit with a mortal wound and the last rites were administered by someone other than his chaplain.

During the first morning of the Battle of El Alamein, a German counterattack with tanks and air support felled the brave prince when a shell fragment pierced the iconic legion white kepi that he wore instead of a helmet. His last rites were administered by a French chaplain.

The 13th failed to take their objective, and the British command sidelined them for the next year.

While the end of their time in Africa was less than glorious, they were still heroes of fighting in multiple countries, and they were still needed to continue the war. Their next chance at glory was in Italy in April, 1944, during fighting that would be brief but bloody.

The legionnaires, with two infantry battalions, an artillery battery, and an anti-tank company, were sent against Italian troops dug into the mountainsides and fortresses of Italy. They were tasked in some areas with climbing rock faces and castle walls under fire. In one case, six troops climbed a wall with bags of grenades and managed to take the high ground from the enemy and rain the explosives down on the enemy in a daring coup.

Italy cost the legionnaires over 450 killed and wounded, but the war wasn’t over. The D-Day invasions of Normandy were underway, and the French Foreign Legion wasn’t about to sit out the liberation of France.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

13th Demi-Brigade troops parade during a ceremony in the 1950s or ’60s.

(Private collection of Lieutenant-colonel Paul Lucien Paschal)

The Legion wasn’t called up for the D-Day invasion, but it was for Operation Dragoon on Aug. 15, 1944, the lesser-known, second amphibious landing in France — this time, in the south. They landed in Provence and made their way through Toulon, Hyeres, Avignon, Lyon, Autun, Dijon, Besancon, and Vosges, slowly pushing the Nazis out and liberating the French people.

Paris was liberated on August 25, but the legionnaires were to the south and east, continuing to push the invaders from the southern French coast north past Switzerland and east, back towards Germany. The 13th, unfortunately, was not allowed to follow.

It had suffered over 40 percent losses in the fighting in France and western Italy as they pushed the Germans back. The unit was put on other duties as newly revived Legion units and Free French Forces drove with the rest of the Allied forces into Germany.

Even though the 13th had distinguished itself during fighting everywhere from the Arctic Circle, across Africa, into Italy, and finally France, it was sent back to Africa for peacetime duties within a year of the armistice with Germany.

popular

This is what makes a ‘Fister’ so deadly

Nestled inside infantry units moving against the enemy is often a single artilleryman who is arguably one of the most lethal fighters on the battlefield — the forward observer.


These soldiers, usually assigned to a Forward Support Team (the FiST), are known as “FiSTers” and are the eyes and ears for naval artillery and artillery gun lines across the world.

The fisters carry inside their helmets knowledge of every gun capable of reaching their areas of operation, including how fast the weapon can fire, what kinds of rounds it has at its disposal, and what effects those rounds have on targets.

They use this knowledge to support the infantry and other maneuver units. When the friendly element finds and engages the enemy, the fister gets to work figuring out how to best bring artillery to bear.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
That’s the smile of an artilleryman about to jump into combat with world-class infantry and then blow up everything stupid enough to get within range. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman Kevin Sommer Giron)

Often, this involves getting the machine gunners and riflemen to corral the enemy into a tight box that can easily be hit with airburst artillery, causing shrapnel to rain down on the enemy dismounts.

If enemy armored vehicles are rolling towards the line, the forward observers can call down specific rounds for penetrating a tank’s top turret armor or for creating a smoke screen to block friendly vehicles from view.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
This thing shoots what the fisters tell it to. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Gregory Gieske)

Many observers go through training to learn how to best use weapons deployed from helicopters, jets, and other aerial platforms. This allows them to start targeting enemies with hellfire missiles and the 30mm cannons of A-10s and AH-64s.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
The Apache can engage targets on its own, but it listens to calls from fisters on the ground, too. (Photo: Ministry of Defence)

Marine observers and Army observers trained in joint fires can call for help from naval ships. While the Navy has decommissioned its massive battleships, there are still plenty of cruisers and destroyers packing missiles and 5-inch guns that are pretty useful for troops ashore.

It’s the forward observers that get those missiles and shells on target.

Forward observers direct the fires of all the big guns that can’t see their targets. And that’s what makes them so lethal.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Russian fighter jet buzzed a US aircraft by flying an ‘inverted maneuver’ just 25 feet in front of it

The US Navy said on Wednesday that one of its aircraft was intercepted by a Russian jet while flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea.

The US Navy P-8A Poseidon, an anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft, was flying over the Mediterranean Sea when it was approached by a Russian Su-35 fighter jet, US Naval Forces Europe-Africa said.


Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

“The interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high-speed, inverted maneuver, 25 ft. directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the Navy said in a statement.

The crew of the P-8A Poseidon experienced “wake turbulence” during the 42-minute encounter, the Navy said.

“While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible,” the Navy added. “We expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents.”

A Russian Su-35 jet performed a similar maneuver toward a P-8A Poseidon over the Mediterranean Sea in June. The jet buzzed the US aircraft three times in three hours and conducted a pass directly in front of it.

“This interaction was irresponsible,” the Navy said in a statement at the time.

On both occasions, the Navy said its aircraft was flying in international airspace and was not provoking the Russian aircraft.

Russia performed another provocative test by firing an anti-satellite missile on Wednesday, US Space Command said.

Russia’s direct-ascent anti-satellite test “provides yet another example that the threats to US and allied space systems are real, serious and growing,” Gen. John Raymond, the head of Space Command and chief of space operations for US Space Force, said in a statement.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

“The United States is ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the nation, our allies and US interests from hostile acts in space,” Raymond added.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how a Humvee can stop an RPG

The Humvee — High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) — has been a workhorse for the United States military for over three decades. The vehicle is showing its age, as insurgents have been doing a lot of damage with improvised explosive devices and RPGs. While the former can be a problem, the humble HMMWV may soon have a counter in the form of an active protection system.


Wait, you might be saying, aren’t active protection systems a tank thing? Well, not necessarily. Yes, they can be heavy, but they don’t have to be. According to a handout from General Dynamics at the Association of the United State Army expo in Washington, D.C., there is an active protection system that can fit on a HMMWV – or bigger vehicles.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
A baseline Iron Fist APS. (Photo via wiki user Ereshkigal1)

The Iron Fist Light is a system that comes in at 551 pounds. Yep, you did not miss a fourth digit there. This means that the cargo carrying capacity of most vehicles is not seriously compromised. The system can be bolted on to just about any vehicle and uses both infra-red and radar systems to track incoming missiles and rockets. Then, it can fire an interceptor to destroy or deflect the incoming projectile.

The system works in both open terrain and urban environments, and also offers the ability to detect other types of hostile fire, such as bursts from small arms. The system provides 360 degrees of coverage and can also handle high-angle shots. Furthermore, it doesn’t draw a lot of electrical power from the vehicle.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
A HMMWV now can have active protection against RPGs, and still dish out punishment like this TOW missile. (Photo via Wikimedia)

The Iron Fist was originally developed by Israel Military Industries. It was selected by the Army for use on vehicles last year, and will also be fitted on Dutch infantry fighting vehicles. One thing for sure, the HMMWV, which will be around for a while, is not going to be an easy target for bad guys.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Everything you need to know about Air Force hypersonic weapons

On Oct. 14, 1947, then-Capt. Chuck Yeager flew the Bell X-1 rocket plane at Mach 1 and broke the sound barrier. Since then, the Air Force has continually stretched and pushed the limits of speed – finding new ways to make its aircraft fly faster and farther.

However, the U.S. is not alone in this quest for speed. China and Russia are already flight-testing hypersonic weapons and several other countries have shown interest in pursuing technologies for hypersonic flight.


Hypersonic refers to flying at five times the speed of sound, also known as Mach 5 or higher. From an Air Force perspective, it is a game-changing capability, which can amplify many of the enduring attributes of airpower, including speed, range, flexibility and precision.

Still, while beneficial to the U.S., speed is also one of the greatest threats the nation faces.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
(Graphic by Corey Parrish)

“My biggest fear is that the country’s lost the ability to stay ahead, and we’re moving slowly now, very deliberately, where we have adversaries that are moving unbelievably fast,” said Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command. “Twenty years from now, if we’re not careful, somebody could catch up to us. I believe we can never let that happen, so we have to stay ahead of technology.”

Helping the Air Force stay continually one step ahead for the past 60 years is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA.

DARPA’s mission as the central research and development agency for the Department of Defense is to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security and to prevent strategic surprise. Together with the Air Force Research Laboratory, a fusion of ideas is leading to newly highlighted innovations.

This video shows how DARPA and AFRL are working to push the boundaries of speed and make future technologies possible today.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed

The Pentagon is taking a firmer grip of the F-35 budget-cutting controls in an attempt to trim down costs in the billion-dollar joint strike fighter program.


The Pentagon has determined that Lockheed Martin’s internal cost-cutting program — the Blueprint for Affordability — doesn’t go deep enough into the supply chain to smaller companies involved in building the F-35 Lightning II. The new effort to trim costs was first reported by the Wall Street Journal Oct. 9.

As a result, over the summer, the Pentagon’s F-35 program office decided not to agree to a contract extension with Lockheed and then last month simply awarded the company a $60 million contract to pursue additional efficiency measures that also gave the government more oversight, the newspaper reported.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
Photo from F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office

Using a contract instead of an agreement among the companies “provides the government with greater insights into the cost-saving efforts,” according to a statement from the Pentagon’s F-35 program office.

Often called the most expensive weapons program in US history, the F-35 is being assembled at the company’s sprawling Fort Worth plant. The Pentagon’s actions come after the defense industry giant hired hundreds of workers at big job fairs in Fort Worth this summer to prepare to increased production of the aircraft. Lockheed has said it plans to add 1,800 workers.

Earlier this year, Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson told then-President-elect Trump that she was personally committed to drive down the cost of the F-35 program after Trump said it was “out of control.” He pledged to trim billions of dollars on military contracts once he was in office.

Lockheed doesn’t believe the Pentagon’s actions will impact its efforts to cut costs.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship
CG-1, the ground test article for the Lockheed Martin F-35 carrier variant, is positioned for its final drop test at Vought Aircraft Industries in Dallas, Tx. Photo courtesy of Vought Aircraft Industries

“The government’s decision to fund this next phase of cost-reduction initiatives is a testament to their confidence in our ability to deliver the cost savings, based on the success of the original Blueprint for Affordability projects,” Jeff Babione, Lockheed’s F-35 general manager, told the Wall Street Journal.

Lockheed and its industry partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems announced their plan in 2014 to trim costs by agreeing to invest $170 million over two years on new materials and processes, with Lockheed spending the most.

The Fort Worth plant employs about 14,000 workers, with roughly 8,800 working on the F-35. Hiring of additional workers will stretch out through 2020, company officials said. Last year, Lockheed built about 50 F-35s and plans call for production to increase to about 160 a year by 2019.

This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 unintentionally hilarious military acronyms

The United States military loves slapping an acronym on anything that moves. Actually, things that don’t move are equally likely to be described with a jumble of letters when words would do the trick just fine.

Sometimes it’s obvious that the acronym-izer should’ve put more thought into the process, and we get some unintentionally hilarious descriptors.


Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

1. PMS

Every Professor of Military Science is used to the giggles because every new set of students is equally immature.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

2. MANPADS

While we’re on the subject of bodily functions, anyone who’s carrying a Man-Portable Air-Defense System better be ready for a few comments about whether they might need a diaper.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

A male chicken is usually called a rooster but it’s also known as a cock.

3. MANCOC

Students at the Army’s Maneuver Advanced NCO Course must’ve gotten mighty tired of questions about their MANCOC. Perhaps that’s why it’s now called the Senior Leader Course.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

Richard Cheney is known as Dick to his friends.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

4. DICC

But those guys likely were not nearly as tired as the intelligence officers answering questions about their Defense Intelligence Collection Cell.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

John Travolta is king of the disco in “Saturday Night Fever.”

(Paramount)

5. DISCO

Spending an evening processing requests down at the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office isn’t nearly as glamorous as the acronym might suggest.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

Aladdin and Princess Jasmine take a magic carpet ride.

(Disney)

6. MAGIC CARPET

OK, maybe the acronym for Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologieswasn’t unintentional. Someone put a lot of effort into making that one work.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

One Dr. Bob is a noted folk artist. The other co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous.

7. DRBOB

The future of commissaries and exchanges may be in the hands of the Defense Resale Business Optimization Board, but how many New Orleans folk art fans think of the famed painter behind the city’s “Be Nice or Leave” signs? What about the AA members who know Dr. Bob as Bill W.’s cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous?

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

Rick and Morty should be your preferred source for fart humor.

(Adult Swim)

8. FARP

Everyone at the Forward Area Refueling Point is tired of your fart jokes.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

We can’t really go there.

9. FAP

The Fleet Assistance Program, aside from assigning Marines to extra duties outside the normal chain of command, raises an entire set of issues that we can’t really discuss here.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

A fine-looking bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

10. BLT

Who wouldn’t enjoy a delicious Battalion Landing Team?

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Russian attack helo was supposed to be the deadliest in the USSR

Sharks have a reputation for being fearsome, man-eating killers — you can thank 1975’s Jaws for that. The shark, in nature, claims dominion over the seas, but its ferocious countenance has been painted on planes since the American Volunteer Group (also known as the “Flying Tigers”) put it on noses of their P-40s.

Russia has its own aeronautical shark, and it’s one of two attack helicopters the Soviet Union was developing in the 1980s to supplement — if not actually replace — the famous Mi-24 Hind. That helicopter is the Kamov Ka-50 Hokum, a single-purpose gunship.


The Kamov Ka-50 Hokum is a very unique helicopter. Like the vast majority of other Kamov designs, it uses contra-rotating main rotors. Most of Kamov’s helicopters have been used by the Soviet Navy — and were passed on to the Russian Navy once the USSR collapsed. Mil helicopters, like the Mi-24 Hind and the Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip, have historically gone to the Soviet Army (and, afterward, the Russian Army).

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

Kamov’s primary customer was the Soviet — and later the Russian — Navy. They’ve delivered a high-performance attack helicopter.

(Photo by Dimitri Pichugin)

While in development, the Hokum was competing with the Mi-28 Havoc. In fact, the Russian Army first selected the Hokum, but later settled on the Havoc. The end of the Cold War delayed the programs, but now both helicopters are being procured.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

This three-view graphic shows off some of the Hokum’s unique features: The main rotors and the lack of a tail rotor, for instance.

(U.S. Army)

The Hokum has a number of other unique features. It is a single-seat helicopter, while most other attack helicopters require a crew of two. It has an ejection seat for the pilot, which is commonly found on fixed-wing vessels, but not on rotary-wing aircraft.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

A look at some of the weapons the Ka-50 can pack. Not easily seen: the same 30mm cannon on the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle is mounted on this helicopter.

(Photo by Tomasz Szulc)

The Hokum has a top speed of 193 miles per hour and a maximum unrefueled range of 393 miles. It can carry AT-16 missiles, rocket pods, gun pods, and even bombs, and it packs the same 30mm cannon as the BMP-2 does.

Currently, Russia has 32 of these lethal helicopters in service. Learn more about this airborne “Black Shark” in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWr6vVTE1Ug

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

FEMA chief says Defense Production Act being used for first time in coronavirus fight to get 60,000 test kits

The Defense Production Act will be used for the first time to secure critical supplies for the coronavirus fight on Tuesday, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor announced on CNN.

“We’re actually going to use the DPA for the first time today,” he said, adding, “There’s some test kits we need to get our hands on. We’re going to insert some language into these mass contracts that we have for the 500 million masks.”


Gaynor told John Berman on CNN’s “New Day” that the DPA would be used to obtain roughly 60,000 test kits. “We’re going to use it, we’re going to use it when we need it, and we’re going to use it today,” he said.

FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor says the agency will use the Defense Production Act “for the first time today” to secure 60,000 test kits. https://cnn.it/33I58ze pic.twitter.com/rNj1LLuiuq

twitter.com

The DPA gives the federal government the power to direct companies to prioritize production to meet US national defense demands.

President Donald Trump, facing pressure from lawmakers and others, tweeted on March 18 that he had signed the Defense Production Act, “should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario.”

The president has until now been unwilling to use the DPA. He and and other members of the coronavirus task force have suggested that companies are stepping up to offer supplies without the strong hand of the government forcing them to do so.

Trump continues to signal that he does not intend to fully use the DPA.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/statuses/1242421041193988096
The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States.

twitter.com

There have been repeated calls from governors, those in the medical field, and political figures for Trump to make full use of the DPA.

US associations representing doctors, nurses, and hospitals recently sent a letter to the president Saturday that said that “America’s hospitals, health systems, physicians and nurses urge you to immediately use the DPA.”

The letter said this was necessary “to increase the domestic production of medical supplies and equipment that hospitals, health systems, physicians, nurses and all front line providers so desperately need.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted Monday that “we need the federal government to use the Defense Production Act so that we can get the medical supplies we desperately need,” adding, “We can’t just wait for companies to come forward with offers and hope they will.”

“This is a national emergency,” Cuomo said as New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, reports more than 20,000 coronavirus cases.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War II battlefield will disappear forever

The 1943 Battle of Tarawa was the first of the Central Pacific Campaign. There, 18,000 Marines fought a bloody, 76-hour battle to seize the heavily fortified Tarawa Atoll from 4,500 Japanese defenders, wading through hundreds of yards of surf and scrambling for cover on the nearly flat islands.


Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

Marines take cover on the beaches of Tarawa while planning their next move forward. Conquering Tarawa would take 76 hours and cost thousands of lives.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Now, the nation of Kiribati, as the former British territory is known today, is expected to be completely underwater within a few decades, including all the territory of its capital, Tarawa.

Importantly for Marine Corps historians, that means that one of World War II’s most bloody and important battlefields will disappear under the waves — with Marine remains and artifacts still on it.

The 1943 battle for the island began with a massive naval artillery bombardment that failed to dislodge most of the pillboxes, obstacles, and defenders on the island. When troops landed on November 20, underwater obstacles in the form of coral reefs, sandbars, and other barriers caused landing craft to get stuck out at sea.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

The assault on Tarawa was a nightmare. Shallow waters led to gently sloping beaches and hundreds of yards of obstacles — all factors that favored the Japanese defenders.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Those who could rode their boats all the way to shore, but men who were stuck eventually waded through chest-deep water for hundreds of yards while under machine gun fire. When the Marines finally reached the beach, they struggled to find good cover on an island where the highest elevation was about 10 feet above sealevel.

Undeterred, the Marines fought through barbed wire and Japanese attackers. On the second day, they were able to land tanks and artillery and punch out from the beach, starting their campaign across the tiny island.

At the end of the three-day battle, the Marines had suffered almost 3,000 casualties, including many men marked missing in action who were either washed out to sea or lost in the sand dunes and vegetation. Of the 4,500 Japanese defenders, there were only 17 survivors left. Most fought to the death as there was no way to escape the island.

Four men earned Medals of Honor during the fighting.

After the war, the Kiribati Islands reverted to British control and then became a sovereign country in 1979. The U.S. signed a treaty of friendship later that year and then established full diplomatic relations in 1980. Since then, the relationship has been friendly if not exactly close.

The State Department says that they actively cooperate with Kiribati to repatriate the remains of Marines when discovered on Tarawa or on any other island within the nation.

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

Marine Corps 1st Lt. Alexander Bonneyman, Jr., thought to be fourth from the right, and his men attack a Japanese position on Tarawa. Bonneyman posthumously received the Medal of Honor and his remains were recovered from Tarawa in 2015.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Obie Newcomb)

The remains of 139 service members were discovered and repatriated in 2015. One of those repatriated was 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions on the island.

In 2017, another 24 remains were discovered and returned.

500 American service members were thought lost on the island, meaning that the remains of hundreds may still be hidden there.

Unfortunately, much of Kiribati rises in elevation no more than 10 feet, meaning that it will be one of the first nations wiped out by rising seas.

Another island nation and World War II battle site under threat is the Marshall Islands, where 400 Americans died seizing the strategic islets from Japanese defenders.

Luckily, these were well-documented battles. Historians have recovered many documents and interviewed survivors of each, and With the Marines at Tarawa was an Academy Award-winning documentary produced during the invasion. So, future generations will still see evidence of the Marine Corps’ sacrifice.

But any historians who need additional evidence from the islands better get to work soon. Time is ticking.