These are the aircraft used by the Army's Night Stalkers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

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

 

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
MARSOC personnel fast rope from an MH-60L Black Hawk (US Marine Corps)

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

 

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
An MH-47 Chinook picks up a special operations boat crew during training.

 

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

 

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
MH-6M Little Birds during a training exercise (US Army)

 

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.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 best weapons from this famous calculator manufacturer

Texas Instruments is probably best known for making those graphing calculators that every student complains about using and every parent complains about buying. But, before Texas Instruments was making TI-83s and TI-89s, they made other stuff, like missiles and bombs, before selling their defense operations to Raytheon in 1997 for $2.95 billion.

Here are 5 of their masterpieces that, typically, aren’t issued to high schoolers:


These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Scott Henshaw, a 35th Maintenance Squadron load crew member, ensures all parts are correctly in place on the AGM-88 high speed anti-radiation missile at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Sept. 19, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Xiomara M. Martinez)

High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile

The High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile is a pretty brilliant weapon for taking out enemy air defenses. Defenders on the ground typically run mobile radar dishes to find and target enemy planes. Planes carrying this type of missile search for such radar signals and then fire the HARM, which rides the radar signals back to their source — which is, you know, the radar dish.

There are multiple warhead options, but the big two have 25,000 pre-formed steel fragments that are propelled out by the explosive, sending fragments through the radar and antenna.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

Airmen prepare a 2,000-pound Paveway-III laser-guided bomb for the Combat Ammunition Production Exercise in July 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Paveway Guided Bomb

The Paveway laser-guided bomb is sort of like the JDAM in that it’s really a kit that’s added to old, dumb bombs to convert them to guided, smart bombs. In the case of the Paveway, the missiles are guided by laser designaters, wielded by ground troops or pilots.

The Paveway can be fitted to bombs packed with up to a couple thousand pounds of explosives and can be carried by anything from fighter jets and bombers to the MQ-9 Reaper drone.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

An F-35 with the Pax River Integrated Test Force conducts a test with a a Joint Stand-Off Weapon in 2016.

(U.S. Navy photo by Dane Wiedmann)

Joint Stand-Off Weapon

The Joint Stand-Off Weapon is a glide bomb that can fly as far as 63 nautical miles from the point at which it’s dropped, allowing Navy and Air Force ground attack and bomber planes to target anti-aircraft weapons or other enemy structures and emplacements from far outside of the enemy’s range.

The 1,065-pound weapon carries up to a 500-pound warhead but can also carry smaller bomblets and submunitions for dispersal over a wide area.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

A Marine with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, fires an FGM-148 Javelin Missile during Exercise Northern Strike at Camp Grayling, Mich., Aug. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Niles Lee)

Javelin

The Javelin missile is one of the premiere anti-armor missiles with guidance so good that it has a limited anti-aircraft capability and a warhead so powerful that it can kill most any tank in the field today, usually by flying up high and then going straight down through the tank’s turret. It can also be used against bunkers and other fortifications.

When fired against a tank’s hull, its two-charge warhead first initiates any explosive reactive armor, and the second charge penetrates the hull, killing the crew and potentially detonating stored explosives or fuel.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

Texas Instruments pioneered the forward-looking, infrared camera used on everything from fighters and bombers to helicopters to ground vehicles to rifles. Here, the FLIR on a MH-60S helicopter is used to keep track of a rescue off Guam in 2017.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Chris Kimbrough)

FLIR for tanks, fighting vehicles, the F-117, and F-18

Forward-Looking Infrared is exactly what it sounds like, sensors that allow jet, tank, and vehicle crews to see what’s ahead of them in infrared. Infrared, radiation with a wavelength just greater than the color red on the visible light spectrum that’s invisible to the naked eye, is put off by nearly any heat source. Sources of infrared include human bodies, vehicle engines, and all sorts of other targets.

So, tanks and jets can use these systems to find and target enemies at night, whether they just want to observe or think it’s time to drop bombs or fire rounds.

Intel

These Soviet airplanes were built to fly fast right over the surface of water

During the Cold War, the Soviets made a new type of vehicle called a ground effect vehicle (GEV). These vehicles earned their own classification because they aren’t quite airplanes or hovercrafts but something in between.


Ground effect is the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface of the Earth, which reduce the drag and lead to greater cruise efficiency, according to AVweb. Pilots simply describe it as “floating.”

Although the Soviets didn’t discover the ground effect phenomenon, they did take full advantage of it by making these behemoth low-flying vehicles.

YouTube, CVEJIN

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This pistol is USSOCOM’s offensive handgun

A pistol sidearm is generally used as a last resort weapon. On the two-way shooting range, a rifle will generally serve you better than a pistol. However, in the early 1990s, U.S. Special Operations Command held the Offensive Handgun Weapon System competition. The competition sought to procure a primary offensive handgun for use across all branches of SOCOM. Aside from standardizing a handgun, the new weapon would fill a specialized offensive close-quarters battle role.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
A Navy SEAL with the MK23 during phase two trials of the OHWS competition (U.S. Navy)

Heckler & Koch and Colt were the only companies that participated. The Colt OHWS failed primarily because it could not handle the high pressure ammo like .45 Super and +P .45 acp that USSOCOM required. Despite having no competition, the H&K submission was over engineered and optimized for harsh operating environments.

The H&K MK23 is waterproof and corrosion-resistant. Its polygonal barrel is expensive, but is capable of producing a 2-inch group at 25 meters. The handgun is also completely ambidextrous and features oversized controls for use with gloves. The MK23 is part of a weapon system that includes a proprietary Laser Aiming Module, a suppressor, and match-grade ammunition.

The LAM is manufactured by Insight Technology and is designed to work specifically with the MK23. One version of the LAM emits a visible red dot while another emits an infrared dot for use with night vision. Both LAM units can also produce a white light. The suppressor is manufactured by Knight’s Armament Company and is very effective at suppressing the high-pressure ammo.

Testing of the MK23 was extremely extensive. USSOCOM’s requirement was 2,000 mean rounds before failure. The MK23 averaged 6,027 MRBF and was capable of up to 15,122 MRBF. Three pistols were subjected to a 30,000 round endurance test and maintained an accuracy of 2.5 inches at 25 meters. It was also tested in temperatures ranging from -25 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit while exposed to ice, sand, and mud.

H&K was awarded the OHWS contract in June 1995. Classified as the USSOCOM MK 23 MOD 0, 1,950 systems were ordered at $1,186 (~$2,026 adjusted for inflation) each. All of the handguns were produced by H&K in Germany and were first delivered on May 1, 1996.

The MK23 is powerful, accurate, and reliable. It excels in its role as an offensive handgun. However, while its size and weight helped to mitigate recoil and retain accuracy, these features made it unpopular for operators to carry. According to armorers, though the MK23 remains on the books and in weapon cages, most go unused. In 2010, it was reported that the MK23 is still taught at the SOCOM armorer course, but not the Naval Special Warfare armorer course.

In response to criticisms, H&K developed the USP Tactical pistol. The Tactical retains much of the MK23’s performance in a more compact size. For this reason, the Tactical is popular with German Army and Navy Special Forces.

Because of its niche role and extremely high retail price, the civilian and law enforcement version of the MK23 yielded poor sales figures. Sold as the H&K MARK 23, the handgun does not include the LAM or suppressor. However, because of the weapon’s affiliation with USSOCOM and its use in the popular Metal Gear Solid video games, it is highly sought after and fetches a premium on the civilian gun market.

Though its application is limited, the H&K MK23 is arguably still the best offensive handgun today. The lengthy process for its adoption by USSOCOM earned it the reputation as the most thoroughly tested handgun in history. Its performance is unmatched thanks to classic H&K over engineering. Just be sure you’ve been extra good this year before asking Santa for one.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army’s crazy new camouflage can defeat night vision, thermal

The US Army is moving forward on next-generation concealment technology to ensure that American soldiers can hide in plain sight.

Fibrotex has built an Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System that can be used to conceal soldier’s positions, vehicles, tanks and aircraft. The new “camouflage system will mask soldiers, vehicles and installations from state-of-the-art electro-optical sensors and radars,” the company said Nov. 8, 2018, in a press release sent to Business Insider.

Fibrotex has been awarded a contract to supply this advanced camouflage to conceal troops from night vision, thermal imaging, radar, and more.


These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System.

(Fibrotex USA)

Soldiers, vehicles, and other relevant systems can just about disappear in snowy, desert, urban, and woodland environments, according to the camouflage-maker.

The new program aims to replace outdated camouflage that protects soldiers in the visible spectrum but not against more advanced, high-end sensors. ULCANS “provides more persistent [infrared], thermal counter-radar performance,” Fibrotex explained.

The Army has awarded Fibrotex a 10-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract valued at 0 million. Full-scale production will begin in 2019 at a manufacturing facility in McCreary County, Kentucky, where the company expects to create and secure hundreds of new jobs in the coming years.

“Today, more than ever, military forces and opposition groups are using night vision sensors and thermal devices against our troops,” Eyal Malleron, the CEO of Fibrotex USA, said in a statement.

“But, by using Fibrotex’s camouflage, concealment and deception solutions, we make them undetectable again, allowing them to continue keeping us safe.”

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System.

(Fibrotex USA)

Enemies can’t see in, but US soldiers can see out

The result came from roughly two years of testing at the Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center, where new technology was tested against the Army’s most advanced sensors.

Fibrotex noted that the netting is reversible, creating the possibility for two distinctly different prints for varied environments. And while outsiders can’t see through the netting, those on the inside have an excellent view of their surroundings, as can be seen in the picture above.

ssms

www.youtube.com

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

Mobile Camouflage Solution.

(Fibrotex USA)

The new camouflage for troops and vehicles has reportedly been tested against the best sensors in the Army, and it beat them all.

The Mobile Camouflage Solution (MCS) takes concealment to another level, as “the MCS provides concealment while the platform is moving,” the company revealed. Business Insider inquired about the secret sauce to blend in moving vehicles with changing scenery, but Fibrotex would only say that their “technology combines special materials, a unique fabric structure and a dedicated manufacturing process.”

ULCANS and its relevant variants are based on “combat-proven technologies” designed by the Israel-based Fibrotex Technologies Ltd., the parent company for Fibrotex USA, over the past two decades. The company’s products have been specifically modified to meet the needs of the Department of Defense.

“We have more than 50 years of experience, with thousands of hours in the field and a deep understanding of conventional and asymmetric warfare. The U.S. Army tested our best camouflage solutions and the camouflage repeatedly demonstrated the ability to defeat all sensors known to be operating in the battlefield and throughout the electromagnetic spectrum,” Malleron explained.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Russian super torpedo that could sink the US Navy

The Russian Navy’s decline since the fall of the Soviet Union has been very dramatic, especially when it comes to major surface combatants and nuclear submarines. The Russians have, however, been making advances in other areas.


One of those has been in what the ships they do have are capable of shooting. This includes the VA-111 Shkval, or “Squall,” a weapon that has been operated by Russia’s submarine force since 2003, according to deagel.com. The Shkval has a range of roughly five and a half nautical miles and a top speed of 200 nautical miles per hour, according to militaryperiscope.com.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
A Russian-designed Shkval on display. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

MilitaryPeriscope.com reports that initial versions were armed with a nuclear warhead, but later versions have a 460-pound warhead. While the torpedo is very fast – able to cover its maximum range in a minute and a half – it is also effectively a straight-run weapon, with effectiveness in limited situations and locations.

One such location is the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran reportedly tested its own version of the Shkval earlier this year. Iran’s Russian-built Kilo-class submarines and home-built Ghadir-class mini-submarines are both capable of firing this torpedo from their 21-inch torpedo tubes.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
Iranian Kilo-class submarine at sea. (DOD photo)

While the 460-pound warhead might not do much to the United States Navy’s supercarriers like the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered vessels or the newest ship, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), it could very easily cripple or sink the valuable escorts like the Ticonderoga-class cruisers and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Amphibious vessels could also be vulnerable to this weapon. In all cases, the submarine would need to get very close to the target vessel.

A video about Russia’s super-torpedo is below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjuuMGDXeLg
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force will retire the B-1 for stealthy new B-21s

The Air Force is mapping a two-fold future path for its B-1 bomber which includes plans to upgrade the bomber while simultaneously preparing the aircraft for eventual retirement as the service’s new stealth bomber arrives in coming years.

These two trajectories, which appear as somewhat of a paradox or contradiction, are actually interwoven efforts designed to both maximize the bomber’s firepower while easing an eventual transition to the emerging B-21 bomber, Air Force officials told Warrior Maven.


“Once sufficient numbers of B-21 aircraft are operational, B-1s will be incrementally retired. No exact dates have been established,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven. “The Air Force performs routine structural inspections, tests and necessary repairs to ensure the platform remains operationally viable until sufficient numbers of B-21s are operational.”

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
U.S. Air Force artist rendering of B-21 Raider

The B-21 is expected to emerge by the mid-2020s, so while the Air Force has not specified a timetable, the B-1 is not likely to be fully retired until the 2030s.

Service officials say the current technical overhaul is the largest in the history of the B-1, giving the aircraft an expanded weapons ability along with new avionics, communications technology and engines.

The engines are being refurbished to retain their original performance specs, and the B-1 is getting new targeting and intelligence systems, Grabowski said.

A new Integrated Battle Station includes new aircrew displays and communication links for in-flight data sharing.

“This includes machine-to-machine interface for rapid re-tasking and/or weapon retargeting,” Grabowski added.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
Top view of B-1B in-flight.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Another upgrade called The Fully Integrated Targeting Pod connects the targeting pod control and video feed into B-1 cockpit displays. The B-1 will also be able to increase its carriage capacity of 500-pound class weapons by 60-percent due to Bomb Rack Unit upgrades.

The B-1, which had its combat debut in Operation Desert Fox in 1998, went to drop thousands of JDAMs during the multi-year wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The B-1 can hit speeds of MACH 1.25 at 40,000 feet and operates at a ceiling of 60,000 feet.

It fires a wide-range of bombs, to include several JDAMS: GBU-31, GBU-38 and GBU-54. It also fires the small diameter bomb-GBU-39.

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

Articles

The Navy plans to buy this new Super Hornet with a deadlier sting

The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet has been the backbone of the US Navy’s carrier air wings for just over a decade, following the retirement of the legendary F-14 Tomcat. Reliable, versatile and thoroughly adaptable, the Super Hornet is everything the Navy hoped for in a multirole fighter and more.


But its age is starting to show quickly, especially thanks to increasing deployment rates due to a need to fill in for unavailable older “legacy” Hornets being put through service life extension programs. This has resulted in more wear and tear on these big fighters than the Navy originally projected.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

So to keep its fighter fleet relevant and as sharp as ever, the Navy has finally decided to give the go-ahead on picking up brand new Super Hornets from Boeing’s St. Louis, MO plant, while simultaneously upgrading older Super Hornets currently serving. However, these new fighters will come with a few new features that their predecessors don’t have, making them even more potent than ever before in the hands of the Navy’s best and brightest.

While Boeing previously pushed the Navy to consider buying a smaller amount of F-35C Lightning II stealth strike fighters in favor of more F/A-18E/Fs, the aviation manufacturer’s new plan is to develop a Super Hornet that’s capable of seamlessly integrating with the F-35C, making the combination extremely deadly and a huge asset in the hands of any Navy task force commander while underway.

Though the Super Hornet was originally designed in the 1990s to be able to fly against comparable 4th generation fighters, this new update, known as the Advanced Super Hornet or the Block III upgrade, will keep this aircraft relevant against even modern foreign 5th generation fighters today.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

Boeing has hinted at the Block III upgrade for the past few years, pitching it constantly with mixed results. Earlier this week, Navy brass confirmed that a plan to buy 80 more Super Hornets was in the works, fleshed out over the next five years.

These new fighters will likely be the first to carry the Block III upgrade, while older Super Hornets will enter overhaul depots between 2019 and 2022, returning to the fleet upon completion of their updating.

Among the most drastic changes these new Super Hornets will come with, as compared to the ones the Navy currently flies, is a completely revamped cockpit, similar to the one used in the F-35. Instead of smaller screens, a jumble of buttons, switches and instrument clusters, Advanced Super Hornets will have a “large-area display” which pulls up every bit of critical information each pilot needs to successfully operate the aircraft onto one big screen, reducing workload and strain.

Additionally, a new networking system will allow Advanced Super Hornets to communicate data more efficiently with Lightning IIs, EA-18 Growler electronic attack jets, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
It’s likely that the Advanced Super Hornet will include some kind of stealth coating, painted on the surfaces of the aircraft to absorb or deflect radar waves. (Photo from Boeing)

Block III will also include new infrared search and track (IRST) sensors that’ll allow Super Hornets to detect and engage low-observable threats from longer distances. Given that stealth has become an important factor in modern fighter design, it’s likely that the Block III update will also include some kind of stealth coating, painted on the surfaces of the aircraft to absorb or deflect radar waves. The US Air Force and Marine Corps already use similar coatings on F-22 Raptors, F-35s, and select groups of F-16 Fighting Falcons.

The upgrade will also give Super Hornets the ability to fly with Conformal Fuel  Tanks (CFT) for the very first time, providing an extension in operating range without sacrificing space on weapons pylons beneath the aircraft’s wings. With more flexibility in terms of weapons carriage, the Navy hopes that Super Hornets will not only be able to fly air superiority missions, but will also function as a flying arsenal for F-35s, which (through data links) could launch and deploy munitions from F/A-18E/Fs while on mission.

The program cost for upgrading currently-active Super Hornets will be around $265.9 million, between 2018 and 2022, while the cost of the 80-strong order for new Super Hornets will come to around $7.1 billion. This massive upgrade also signals the Navy’s interest in investing more into assets it currently fields over developing brand new next-generation fighters as broader replacements, generally to save costs while still maintaining the ability to deal with a variety of potential threats America’s enemies pose today.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the biggest gripes about night vision goggles

The military loves to boast that we “own the night.” That’s mostly because we don’t sleep, but it’s also because we have night vision goggles. If you weren’t a grunt, then your night vision was probably halfway decent. If you were a grunt, then your night vision was probably as effective as putting a green piece of plastic on the end of an empty paper towel roll.

So, if you ask one of us what it’s like to use NVGs, you’ll likely get an unexpected response: It sucks.


You might be asking yourself, “but aren’t you guys supposed to get awesome gear?” Yeah, sure. But no one wants to pay for it.

So, they give us what they are willing to pay for, and that’s why we get a set of AN/PVS-14s. A monocular (for the ASVAB waivers out there, that means it has one lens) device that, for one reason or another, doesn’t want to work how or when you’d like it to.

Marines will talk sh*t about them all day, but these complaints surface most often:

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

Not the sun, though. The moon is the best.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)

They work best with natural light

This may not seem like a big deal — until you realize that a triple canopy jungle or a cloudy night sky are going to ruin any chance at having functional night vision. If you’re a grunt, the night sky is always cloudy and if you have to break the tree line, which you probably should, your NVGs are going to lose most of their ability.

Un-even weight distribution

Strapping that bad boy to your helmet is like taking a big rock and taping it to the side. It feels awkward and can throw you slightly off balance, which can be especially sh*tty as you’re trying to leap over ditches in the middle of the night.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

They flood the hell out of your eye.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)

Unnatural light sources suck

If you have both eyes open (which you should) while you’re wearing these bad boys and you come across a glow stick or flashlight, your eyes’ sensitivity to light will be vastly different.

Your field of vision is severely reduced

If you’re peering into the night with both eyes open, you’ll see (hopefully) clearly with one eye, while the other is basically blind. Like we said before, it’s like looking through an empty paper towel tube — which doesn’t afford the best field of view.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

Also, your command will give you 0 batteries.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Anne K. Henry)

They eat batteries

Not literally — not like that guy in your platoon from Nebraska (you know the one). But when you go out with the NVGs, you are required to carry spare batteries, which just means tacking on a few more, precious ounces to your load.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how pilots pull off insane combat landings

Ask any troop who has deployed about their most uncomfortable moment and they’ll probably mention the combat landing on their first day in-country. You can prepare grunts for the rigors of combat, yes, but you can’t prepare them to be sloshed around in an aircraft that’s packed like a can of sardines as it descends downward in a near-vertical corkscrew that stops on a dime.


Also called an assault landing or Sarajevo landing, cargo pilots have to do a combat landing if enemy presence is expected in the area. To avoid giving them an easy target, pilots must do three things: A corkscrew over the area to come down from cruising altitude, descend in a sharp drop before landing, and come to a complete stop using as little runway as possible.

Before coming to the airfield, cargo planes like the C-130 have an average cruising altitude of 18,000 feet. The plane will then arrive roughly seven to ten minutes before the scheduled landing. This is where the fun landing begins.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
It’s a pretty view… if you’re on the left side…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Osakabe Yasuo)

When the plane is in line with the landing strip, it will drop. While commercial airliners come in at around 3 degrees to provide a nice, gentle landing for the passengers, the Air Force is perfectly fine with coming in at 60 degrees. At the last possible moment, pilots pull up so the landing gears are what hit the runway.

If that wasn’t fun enough, the plane will then need to stop on a dime. To do this, as soon as the wheels touch, they open the slats (or spoilers) and put the plane into full reverse.

Inertia is not your friend.

If you’re riding in the back, no one will judge you if you expel what remains of your lunch. However, you will get laughed at. Troops will always laugh at each other.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

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

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

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


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

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

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
F-35
(Lockheed Martin photo)

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

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

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

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

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

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
F-35
(Lockheed Martin photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
F-35 Lightening II

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything

The C-130 is one of the workhorses among American military planes, performing a wide range of missions from humanitarian relief to law enforcement to bombing missions. Here’s a rundown of 15 of them:


1. Close air support

 

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
Photo: US Air Force

Let’s get this one out of the way, because the AC-130 is most people’s favorite version. These flying gunships have carried a variety of guns over the years, everything from 7.62mm miniguns to 105mm cannons. One of the most famous was the AC-130U “Spooky” with 25mm, 40mm, and 105mm guns.

2. Anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare

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Graphic: Lockheed Martin

Guns aren’t the only weapon that has been strapped to what was originally a resupply plane. Lockheed Martin has designed, but not sold, the SC-130J Sea Herc. The aircraft is pitched as a cheap, high-endurance, and high-payload maritime patrol and anti-surface/anti-submarine plane.

It’s equipped with sensors to find the enemy ships and subs as well as torpedoes and anti-ship missiles to prosecute them.

3. Bomber

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This BLU-82 bomb was dropped from a C-130 Photo: US Air Force Capt. Patrick Nichols

Of course, if it can bomb a ship then it can bomb a building. The most precise and imposing C-130 bombers are the Air Force’s Stinger II and the Marine Corps’ Harvest Hawk, both of which fire precision missiles and bombs.

On the other end of the spectrum are the C-130s that took part in improvised bombing missions in Vietnam. Daisy Cutter bombs were carried in C-130s and dropped into the jungle.

4. Firefighting

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Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards

When the U.S. Forest Service finds itself overwhelmed fighting wildfires, it turns to the Air Force for assistance. C-130s are outfitted with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems that can drop 3,000 gallons of repellant in 5 seconds without any major modifications to the aircraft.

5. Airborne

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
Staff Sgt. Travis Surber, a native of Franklin County, Va., and a paratrooper with the 173rd Brigade Combat Team’s Battle Company of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, parachutes out of a C-130 into the Ukraine sky.

The C-130 can drop 64 fully-armed paratroopers into combat on a single pass. With additional passes or a long drop zone, they can also drop “door bundles” with ammunition and other supplies ahead of the soldiers.

Some equipment, like Humvees and 105mm cannons, can also be dropped from the back of the plane.

6. Aerial refueling

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Here the C-130 is about to refuel a section of F-35s. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Olivia G. Ortiz)

The KC-130J can carry up to 47,903 pounds of fuel to give to other aircraft. The Marine Corps racked up over 20,000 hours of KC-130J flight over Iraq where the birds dispensed jet fuel to bombers supporting troops on the ground.

7. Search and rescue

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Photo: Wikipedia/João Eduardo Sequeira CC BY 2.5

Both the Air Force and the Coast Guard fly HC-130s modified for search and rescue missions. The planes feature command and control computer suites as well as special sensors that help it find survivors in the water or on land.

The Air Force’s version also packs a refueling capability so that it can bring helicopters with it on long-range missions.

8. Law enforcement

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Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael De Nyse

The Coast Guard’s HC-130s can use their sensors to find and track people suspected of crime. The planes can patrol a large area and, if they spot suspicious activity in the water, can track criminals from afar or chase them down.

9. Weather monitoring

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Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Curt Eddings

The Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flies WC-130Js into tropical storms and hurricanes to collect weather data. The modified C-130s feature external fuel tanks and weather sensors, but are not structurally reinforced. The Herc survives the high winds on its own.

The Coast Guard uses their C-130s to track and monitor icebergs and other threats to shipping.

10. Aeromedical evacuation

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Photo: US Air force Master Sgt. William Greer

There are 31 aeromedical squadrons in the U.S. Air Force. The units fly wounded troops and civilians out of war and disaster zones on C-130s and C-17s filled with special mission pallets and medical equipment. Teams of doctors and nurses accompany the wounded.

11. Transport and resupply

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Photo: flickr/Eli Duke CC BY-SA 2.0

The C-130 was originally a cargo plane, and the transport and resupply mission is its bread and butter. It does get fancy with the work though, dropping armored vehicles and other equipment from its ramp without landing.

12. Flying radio station

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
Photo: Aaron Ansarov, Defense Visual Information Center

The EC-130J Commando Solo is used by Military Information Support Operation, more commonly known as PSYOPS, and civil affairs service members to broadcast radio messages to people in disaster and war zones.

13. Airborne command center

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Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bob Kay

The EC-130E carries the USC-48 Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center Capsules which allow commanders to ride to battle in the plane and control their troops from overhead. The high-tech center takes a lot of computer power, but it carries extra fuel and special air conditioning systems to keep all the electronics powered and cool.

14. Electromagnetic warfare

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Photo: US Air Force Tech Sgt. Robert J. Horstman

When the Air Force needs to shut down some enemy air defenses, it it can put the EC-130H Compass Call into the game. The plane disrupts enemy communication nodes and jams early warning and acquisition radars, allowing fighters and bombers to slip through enemy lines and wreak havoc.

15. Humanitarian relief

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Photo: US Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Philip A. Fortnam

The C-130, with the ability to land on dirt strips where jets fear to tread, is one of the heroes of humanitarian relief. After a major disaster, the C-130s form a flying train that rushes medical supplies and food in while ferrying wounded out.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Libyan rebels called in airstrikes against Gaddafi will blow your mind

In 2011, Libyans took arms against the 40-plus year rule of Muammar Gaddafi. The dictator tried to brutally crush a demonstration against his regime in Benghazi. The response from the Libyan people was a nearly nine-month-long civil war which ended with the death of the dictator near his hometown of Sirte. But it was a victory that almost never was. The Libyan Rebels needed to level the playing field when it came to air superiority – they needed to be able to call in airstrikes.

That’s where Twitter came in.


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Some people swear by it.

By mid-March 2011, Gaddafi’s loyalist forces were pushing the rebels back fast. All their hard-won gains liberated more than half of Libya from the dictator who promised to make the streets of Benghazi run red with rebel blood. Gaddafi’s air power was proving to be a decisive advantage in the civil war. Luckily for the rebels, there was a NATO task force assembling offshore.

American, French, British, and Canadian ships had all joined each other off the Libyan coast and began to hit Gaddafi’s positions with the full might of their respective sea-based air forces. They also began to enforce a no-fly zone. This was enough to turn the tide of the rebels, who were battle-hardened veterans, fighting for their lives. It was a strategic win for them, no doubt, but the tactical use of NATO air power proved problematic.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

“I can just call a jet fighter and one will come kill these tanks? This must be what being a U.S. soldier is like.”

Many wondered how NATO fighters could know where to drop tactical missiles and bombs when their own JTACs are not on the ground with rebel forces, and NATO has no direct communications with the fighters it’s supporting. The answer is that the Twitter social media network became part of NATO’s overall “intelligence picture.” NATO allies began analyzing data gleaned from Twitter posts to understand Gaddafi’s movements but also to assist rebel fighters in pushing down pro-Gaddafi attacks.

Rebel fighters using their cell phones would gather coordinates from Google Earth and then tweet those coordinates to NATO, who would then come in and light up the loyalist forces. The top NATO brass says it’s a normal step any military would take.

That’s how Gaddafi would meet his end, and where his death would be posted for the world to see.

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“Yes, right up his butt. It’s on YouTube.”

“Any military campaign relies on something that we call ‘fused information’,” said Wing Commander Mike Bracken, a NATO spokesman. “We will take information from every source we can… The commander will assess what he can use, what he can trust, and the experience of the operators, the intelligence officers, and the trained military personnel and civilian support staff will give him those options. And he will decide if that’s good information.”

Since NATO had no boots on the ground but deems it vital to support the Libyan rebels, extrapolating the information needed by commanders seems like a totally legitimate means of intelligence gathering – and an effective one to boot. NATO airplanes decimated Libyan air defenses and made the critical difference in the war for the Libyan people to liberate themselves from a terrible dictator.

And then tweet about it.