Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

The skill and agility of airmen from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, were on full display at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 19-Nov. 22, 2019, during exercise Mobil Tiger.

The asymmetric advantage of US combat troops is greatly increased by the venerable A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. Commonly known as the “Warthog,” this staple of combat air support depends greatly upon the expertise of airmen who operate and sustain them.

“Mobil Tiger is an agile combat deployment exercise,” said Air Force Major Zachary Krueger, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 23rd Wing Exercises and Plans office at Moody AFB. “The intent was to provide close air support and recover to an austere field, using only weapons and fuel we had available ourselves.”


Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Edmonds, an A-10 Thunderbolt II crew chief, coordinates maintenance operations for exercise Mobil Tiger, at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton)

During the exercise, US Air Force HC-130J Combat King II aircraft assigned to the 71st Rescue Squadron, Moody AFB, dropped off maintenance and security forces personnel along with their equipment and supplies on a remote corner of the MacDill AFB flight line to begin operations.

Security forces established a security perimeter while maintainers pulled their tools, set up chalks and placed munitions stands. They were swiftly joined by 74th Fighter Squadron A-10s, ready to be configured for combat.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

Weapons load crew members remove flares from an A-10 Thunderbolt II at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton)

“I was part of the first crew to hit the ground on MacDill where we quickly began finding ways to improve our time and efficiency,” said Senior Airman Dylan Holton, 23rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crewmember.

Deriving no support from MacDill AFB other than a slab of concrete on which to operate, the 23rd AMXS Airmen reconfigured weapons on the A-10s, quickly unloading one aircraft, guiding the next into position and arming them prior to take-off.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

Weapons load crew members remove flares from an A-10 Thunderbolt II at at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton)

“It was my first time to experience an exercise like this and be at the center of all the action,” said Holton. “We moved as quickly and safely as possible to get the mission done.”

Joining the A-10s on the ramp were HH-60Gs from the 41st Rescue Squadron, which received fully stocked ammunition cans for their .50 caliber guns from the maintainers on the ground.

Elsewhere on the ramp, crews transferred fuel from the HC-130J aircraft to the A-10s and the HH-60Gs, thereby extending their range and operations.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

Airmen load munitions on an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft during exercise Mobil Tiger on MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, Nov. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton)

“It’s awe inspiring seeing them execute to such a high level, learn lessons and show everyone else around them so that if and when we execute this mission downrange, we’re able to be effective and bring the whole weight of the 23rd Wing’s combat power to the combatant commander,” added Krueger.

Mobil Tiger serves as proof that the US Air Force can project lethal force at any chosen time and place.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch how soldiers extract a tactical truck stuck in the mud

No matter how hard you try and avoid it, vehicles get stuck in the mud. It can even happen to an Abrams tank. Sometimes, as with the case of the Abrams, the vehicle is able to escape the sticky situation on its own, but what happens when the vehicle can’t manage to get free on its own devices?


Thankfully, there’s a way to handle that situation. The United States Army (and the United States Marine Corps) has a vehicle designed to help others get out of the mud and get the supplies it is hauling to the troops. That vehicle is the M984 Wrecker, part of the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck family.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight
The M984A4. (OshKosh Defense photo)

According to OshKosh Defense, the latest version of this tactical tow truck is the M984A4. It has a crew of two, a top speed of 62 miles per hour, and can go 300 miles on a 155-gallon tank of gas. You read that right; it gets really sucky gas mileage — a bit less than two miles per gallon.

But here’s the capability that you get in exchange for guzzling gas: The M984A4’s recovery winch can haul 30 tons, which is enough to get most vehicles out of a muddy situation. Its crane hauls seven tons. It can retrieve objects weighing up to 25,000 pounds. This truck is a tactical, AAA-roadside-assistance machine, and it weighs less than 55,000 pounds, meaning it can be hauled by C-130 Hercules transport planes.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight
South Carolina Army National Guard vehicles, including a M984 wrecker, were deployed to assist citizens of the state during Winter Storm Leon at the orders of then-governor, Nikki Haley. (US Army photo)

Check out the video below to watch an M984 crew practice getting a vehicle out of the mud at Fort McCoy:

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

When it was first designed, the AGM-114 Hellfire missile was intended to give the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter a way to kill the Soviet tanks of World War II, replacing a combination of the AH-1 Cobra and the BGM-71 TOW missile. But the Hellfire has proven to be far more versatile.


Don’t get us wrong, the Hellfire was indeed a very capable tank killer. As many as 4,000 missiles were fired during Operation Desert Storm and as many as 90% of those hit their targets, which ranged from tanks to bunkers to radar sites.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight
The Hellfire was test-fired from a version of the M113 armored personnel carrier. (US Army photo)

After Desert Storm, the missile was improved. One of the biggest improvements was the addition of a new means of guidance: the Longbow radar system. The Longbow radar is able to automatically search, detect, locate, classify, and prioritize targets in the air, on land, and at sea.

The Hellfire has been added to numerous other helicopters, notably Navy MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawks. It also has been added to the Navy’s littoral combat ships, and it has been tested for launch from a variety of ground vehicles, from the M113 to the High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle. The missile is so versatile, in fact, that they’re used for coastal defense by Norway and Sweden, and they’re also used on the Combat Boat 90, a Swedish coastal boat.

But the missile’s true versatility emerged in the War on Terror.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight
A Sikorsky MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35, fires an AGM-114M Hellfire missile near San Clemente Island, Calif., during a live-fire combat training exercise. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez)

The United States and Israel have used the Hellfire to take out a number of high-ranking terrorists. This includes Hamas leader Ahmed Yasin, Anwar al-Awlaki, and ISIS propagandist, “Jihadi John.” The Hellfire has been exported to over two dozen countries and it will likely be in service for a long time to come, including as an option for the Stryker Mobile Short-range Air Defense vehicle.

Learn more about the highly-versatile Hellfire in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlV4ey_AEOw
Articles

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare

With the fear that hordes of Russian tanks would storm through the Fulda Gap at the start of World War III, the United States Army looked for an advanced helicopter.


The first attempt, the AH-56 Cheyenne, didn’t quite make it. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Cheyenne was cancelled due to a combination of upgrades to the AH-1 Cobra, and “unresolved technical problems.”

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight
An Apache attack helicopter assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st AD Combat Aviation Brigade also known as ‘Task Force Apocalypse’, fires a Hellfire missile Sept. 11, 2014 at Fort Irwin, California. (US Army photo by: Sgt. Aaron R. Braddy/Released)

The Army still wanted an advanced gunship. Enter the Apache, which beat out Bell’s AH-63.

The Apache was built to kill tanks and other vehicles. An Army fact sheet notes that this chopper is able to carry up to 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, four 19-round pods for the 70mm Hydra rocket, or a combination of Hellfires and Hydras, the Apache can take out a lot of vehicles in one sortie.

That doesn’t include its 30mm M230 cannon with 1200 rounds of ammo. The latest Apaches are equipped with the Longbow millimeter-wave radar.

According to Victor Suvarov’s “Inside the Soviet Army,” a standard Soviet tank battalion had 31 tanks, so one Apache has enough Hellfires to take out over half a battalion. Even the most modern tanks, like the T-90, cannot withstand the Hellfire.

Then, keep this in mind: Apaches are not solo hunters. Like wolves, they hunt in packs. A typical attack helicopter company has eight Apaches.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight
Apache helicopters have successfully taken out advanced air defenses before, but it would still be better to use F-22s when possible. (Photo: US Army Capt. Brian Harris)

So, what would happen to a typical Russian tank battalion, equipped with T-80 main battle tanks (with a three-man crew, and a 125mm main gun) if they were to cross into Poland, or even the Baltics?

Things get ugly for the Russian tankers.

That Russian tank battalion is tasked with supporting three motorized rifle battalions, in either BMP infantry fighting vehicles or BTR armored personnel carriers, or it is part of a tank regiment with two other tank battalions and a battalion of BMPs. In this case, let’s assume it is part of the motorized rifle regiment.

This regiment is slated to hit a battalion from a heavy brigade combat team, which has two companies of Abrams tanks, and two of Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, plus a scout platoon of six Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles.

A company of Apaches is sent to support the American battalion. Six, armed with eight Hellfires and 38 70mm Hydra rockets, are sent to deal with the three battalions of BMPs. The other two, each armed with 16 Hellfires, get to deal with the tank battalion.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight
An Apache Longbow attack helicopter assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st AD Combat Aviation Brigade also known as ‘Task Force Apocalypse’, fires a Hellfire missile Sept. 11, 2014 at Fort Irwin, Ca. (US Army photo by: Sgt. Aaron R. Braddy/Released)

According to Globalsecurity.org, the AN/APG-78 Longbow radars are capable of prioritizing targets. This allows the Apaches to unleash their Hellfires from near-maximum range.

The Hellfires have proven to be very accurate – Globalsecurity.org noted that at least 80% of as many as 4,000 Hellfires fired during Operation Desert Storm hit their targets.

Assuming 80% of the 32 Hellfires fired hit, that means 25 of the 31 T-80 main battle tanks in the tank battalion are now scrap metal.

Similar results from the 48 fired mean that what had been three battalions of 30 BMPs each are now down to two of 17 BMPs, and one of 18, a total of 52 BMPs and six T-80 tanks facing off against the American battalion.

That attack would not go well for Russia, to put it mildly.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This revolutionary rifle has four bores and won’t jam: Updated

*Update: We reached out to Martin Grier to ask about some of the more stunning claims surrounding the rifle and heard back just after the original article went to press. We’ve updated, in bold, the muzzle velocity and fire rates below with his response.

*Second update: After another discussion with Martin Grier, the inventor of the weapon, we’ve learned that some of the reporting on the weapon’s firing action is incorrect, and we had originally repeated those incorrect claims. We’ve corrected the reporting in bold.

The Army is requesting a prototype of a personal rifle that has four bores, triggering headlines everywhere — but the bigger news might be that the manufacturer claims that it cannot jam, is electrically fired, and weighs less than today’s common weapons.


www.youtube.com

First, let’s discuss the “four barrels” thing that’s flying around the internet. FD Munitions actually describes their prototype with five openings as a five-bore design — and that’s more accurate. The weapon has a single barrel, meaning a single bar of metal, but that bar has five holes in it, each of which lines up with a bullet when the weapon is loaded. The Army version would have four bores and, consequently, four bullets.

And, we’re using “bullet” here instead of “round,” the general military term, intentionally. Rounds are self-contained units with propellant, projectile, and primer. Most of them also have a case. But the L5, FD Munitions’ prototype that will feed into the Army’s requested design, uses blocks of ammo instead.

In the block ammo, a single block of composite material has multiple hollows carved out. In the case of the Army proposed prototype, it has four hollows. Each hollow is filled with propellant, a firing pin, and a bullet that is precisely aligned with a bore. When the shooter fires, an electronic charge triggers a firing pin striker, igniting the propellant, sending the bullet down the bore and towards the target.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

The FD Munitions L5 rifle prototype has five bores and few moving parts. The Army has requested a four-bore version for testing.

(YouTube/FD Munitions)

The shooter would still typically fire one round at a time. The bores are stacked vertically as are the “blocks” of ammo. Each trigger pull typically fires the next round in sequence. When four rounds have been fired, the first “block” of ammo is ejected and the next block is loaded.

But, when necessary, the shooter can tell the weapon to fire the entire block at once, sending four 6mm rounds flying at once.

All of this allows for a system with much fewer moving parts than a traditional, all-mechanical rifle. FD Munitions claims that, since only the blocks are moving and they only move 0.5 inches at a time, the weapon has a minimized probability of jamming. And, since most of the heat of the weapon firing stays in the block, which is soon ejected, the weapon has much less chance of overheating.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

The FD Munitions L5 rifle prototype fires rounds from “blocks” of ammo via electric actuation instead of a mechanical hammer.

(YouTube/FD Munitions)

But, of course, the Army has to test all of this before it can make a decision — hence the prototype.

We heard back from the inventor, Martin Grier, about the firing rates and velocity just after we originally went to press. Here’s what he told us about the numbers (light edits for clarity):

The velocity quote of 2,500 mph is close, with velocities of 3,400-3,600 fps. achievable with our composite Charge-Block ammunition (depending on projectile mass). The COPV (composite overwrap pressure vessel) design is much stronger than steel and can safely operate at 80k psi.
The maximum theoretical rate of fire with our electronic fire control is about 6,000 shots per minute (SPM) in full-auto mode, since the pulse width is 10ms. (1/100 sec.)
In burst-fire mode, That rate goes up to 7,500 spm since the pulses can be overlapped somewhat for short periods.
In actual use, for a personal weapon, 4-600 spm in full-auto mode seems to be the most controllable, just as with other weapons, and in burst fire 1,800 spm is the sweet spot.
Since the tech is fully scalable, in other applications, such as [Squad Automatic Weapon], or other crew-served weapons, different rates of fire may be more useful. The electronic fire control can be easily set for any rate up to the maximum.
Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

The blocks of ammunition contain four to five bullets each and, when ejected, take a lot of the heat with them, allowing the shooter to fire more rounds before the weapon overheats.

(YouTube/FD Munitions)

The Army would need to verify those rates. And, it would need to know at what ranges the weapon is accurate in both standard firing and when firing four rounds simultaneously. Do the rounds affect each other in flight when traveling so close together at such high speeds?

And how much weight would a combat load be with the metal blocks? They certainly contain more material than four loose rounds would, so would an infantryman need to carry significantly more weight? And while the ejected blocks may take a lot of the heat with them, there’s still the friction of the rounds traveling down the bores with the exploding gasses to heat up the barrel. What’s the sustained rate of fire before it overheats?

While the Army digs into all the numbers and tests things like reliability and heat dissipation, the rest of us can talk about how cool it sounds. It’s like a video-game weapon come to life.

Articles

DARPA designed a kit to make any plane or helicopter a drone

Move over, Jennifer Garner, there is a new ALIAS that’s more awesome than the show you were on for five seasons. This one, though, has been developed by DARPA, not JJ Abrams.


According to a report from Voactiv.com, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has unveiled the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System. This system, already tested on the Cessna C-208 Caravan, the Sikorsky S-76 and the Diamond DA-42, took about six months to develop through Phase 2 of the program.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight
A three-man Iraqi aircrew from Squadron 3 fired an AGM-114 Hellfire missile from an AC-208 Caravan at a target on a bombing range near Al Asad Air Base. (Photo: courtesy Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq Public Affairs)

Two versions of ALIAS were competing for the development contract. One was from Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky, the other was from Aurora Flight Systems. Both versions involve the use of a tablet computer (like an iPad or Kindle Fire) to fly the plane.

“In Phase 2, we exceeded our original program objectives with two performers, Sikorsky and Aurora Flight Sciences, each of which conducted flight tests on two different aircraft,” DARPA program manager Scott Wierzbanowski said in a release.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight
The Queens Helicopter Flight S-76 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

DARPA selected Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky’s version for Phase 3 of the ALIAS program. Their version of ALIAS can be installed under the cabin floor, not taking up any space in the aircraft or helicopter, while quickly connecting to the flight systems of the plane or helicopter. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and NASA have all expressed interest in this system.

For a sneak peek at one way this system could work, here is a video released by Aurora Flight Systems:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Who would win a 1989 dogfight between a Tomcat and an Eagle

Today, when we talk about a dominant plane in air-to-air combat, the conversation starts and ends with the F-22 Raptor. But it wasn’t always that way. In the 1980s, the F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Eagle were contenders for the title of biggest air-to-air badass. So, between these two planes, which would come out on top in a head-to-head duel?


 

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

The F-14 was capable of reaching speeds above Mach 2 and could carry a variety of air-to-air missiles. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Ramon Preciado.)

First, a little background. Both the F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Eagle were modeled after lessons learned from the Vietnam War about the realities of air-to-air combat. Previously, the F-4 Phantom had been used as a multi-role fighter, and to do so, it had to give up some air-to-air capability. In the 1980s, both planes were dedicated exclusively to air-to-air missions — in fact, “not a pound air-to-ground” was the design mantra.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

The F-15 Eagle entered service in 1976 and still serves today. In that sense, it has beaten the F-14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

The F-14 Tomcat has a crew of two, a top speed of 1,544 miles per hour, a maximum unrefueled range of 1,864 miles, and is equipped with the AWG-9 radar. It carries a 20mm M61 cannon and can carry eight air-to-air missiles, often operating with a mix of AIM-54 Phoenixes, AIM-7 Sparrows, and AIM-9 Sidewinders. The plane first joined the Navy in 1974. The only export customer was Iran. The Tomcat was primarily designed to counter Soviet bombers trying to sink carriers, but it was intended to also fight for air superiority.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

The one clear advantage the F-14 has over the F-15 is reach — the AIM-54 Phoenix has much longer range than the AIM-7 Sparrow, but the Phoenix isn’t good at killing fighters. (U.S. Navy photo by Capt. Dana Potts)

The Air Force selected the single-seat F-15 Eagle for its air-superiority needs. This plane, which entered service in 1976, is equipped with the APG-63 radar, a 20mm M61 cannon, and also could carry eight air-to-air missiles. However, it could only carry the AIM-7 Sparrow and the AIM-9 Sidewinder. It had a top speed of 1,875 miles per hour and a maximum unrefueled range of 2,402 miles. It got far more export orders than the F-14 and was purchased by Israel, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight
The best chance the F-15 Eagle would have in a fight with the F-14 is to get in close and use superior performance and endurance. (USAF photo)

Which of these planes would come out on top? Well, much depends on which gets to play to their own strengths. The F-14’s best chance against the Eagle is to initially fight at a distance – using the Phoenix missile. This may not be much help as the Phoenix isn’t designed to engage fighters, but there’s always a chance. Even then, this advantage is offset by the fact that the Phoenix could displace as many as six AIM-7 Sparrows, which perform better. That said, the Eagle needs to manage to get close and to use its performance and endurance to win a dogfight.

Intel

The Pentagon’s New Concept Vehicle Ditches Armor For Speed

This new ground vehicle concept is way outside the box.


For over 100 years, protection for ground vehicles has always meant adding more armor, but that’s not the case with DARPA’s new concept vehicle. While the practice of adding armor yields more mass, cost, and protection, this vehicle’s approach is to be much faster and utilize interesting technology to stop potential threats.

Also Read: DARPA Is Making A Real-Life Terminator (Seriously)

Meanwhile, modern weapons have significantly outpaced armor improvements. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to break the “more armor equals more protection” cycle by introducing the Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program.

According to DARPA, the program’s mission is to:

  • Reduce vehicle size and weight by 50 percent
  • Reduce onboard crew needed to operate vehicle by 50 percent
  • Increase vehicle speed by 100 percent
  • Access 95 percent of terrain
  • Reduce signatures that enable adversaries to detect and engage vehicles

To accomplish these goals, DARPA will develop advanced technologies in the following areas:

  • Stealth – Reducing all traces that a vehicle is present. This includes visibility and other detection methods such as infrared and electromagnetic traces.
  • Augmentation – This technology is what pilots have been using in cockpits for decades. It overlays graphics over their line of sight to enhance situation awareness. Augmentation technology has also found its way to cell phones and tablets, here and example of augmented reality in mobile devices.
  • Agility – Naturally, anything that’s lighter can move faster. But, DARPA plans to take it a step further by implementing technologies that will deploy without driver assistance, such as active repositioning of armor (0:30 of video) and dodging maneuvers (0:35 of video).
  • Enhanced Mobility – The ability to navigate through rough terrain.

The following video of DARPA’s concept vehicle focuses on agility rather than armor and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIzU4bU9DcA

NOW: DARPA Is Building A Drone That Can Tell What Color Shirt You’re Wearing From 17,500 Feet

OR: The US Military Once Considered Making A ‘Gay Bomb’

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5th generation fighters prove that tech is king

When a group of hot-shot fighter pilots praise computers over speed, it’s clear times have changed. Fifth generation aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II, aren’t just powerful — they’re exponentially superior tactical machines.


When he first flew the F-22, Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew the Raptor as an Air Force exchange pilot and now flies the jump-jet F-35B, remarked, “I was enamored by just how powerful the airplane is … but [that’s] the least important thing about the F-22.”

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight
The F-22 is a supercomputer with a fighter jet wrapped around it. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

No pilot who flies a fifth generation fighter “will tell you that what’s impressive is what’s on the outside,” Berke said during a Nov. 7 conference sponsored by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

Although fourth generation fighter pilots might have felt a “need for speed”, now information is what wins battles. In a high technology war, Berke suggests that the fastest airplane could be the first to die.

Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Gunn said the F-35A that he now flies “is a lot of sensors and computers … a processing machine that has an aircraft wrapped around it.”

Air Force Maj. David Deptula, who flew the F-22 in combat in Iraq and Syria, said what was “particularly useful” to U.S. and allied air forces was the Raptor’s ability “to detect targets in the air and on the ground and distribute that information in near real time.

“With that information, you’re enabling everybody else,” he said.

As potential adversaries field more advanced defensive systems, Berke said a key question about new airframes is “how survivable they are, and how lethal.” The information processing capabilities of fifth generation fighters “improves both of those, exponentially,” he said.

And with their ability to share the information, the fifth generation planes also “make the fourth gen aircraft more survivable,” he added.

Several of the pilots noted that the F-22 and F-35 not only collect massive amounts of data on the threats and other elements of the combat environment, they process the data and present it as crucial information that the pilot can use to make decisions.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight
An F-35C Lightning II on USS George Washington during F-35C Development Test III. (Photo from Lockheed Martin)

“The big thing is not so much the sensors on the airplane, it’s the computers,” Gunn said. Instead of the pilot having to devote a lot of effort operating the sensors and analyzing data, “the airplane is doing that. I’m the one who gets to make the decisions.”

Major Andrew Stolee, an F-22 instructor at the Air Force Weapons School, said an increased speed of decision making is an important factor “in how we conduct air warfare. The biggest gain we get out of these airplanes is what they allow the human to do.”

Although the F-22 currently has problems sharing its sensor information digitally with fourth generation aircraft, Gunn said the F-35 has a Link 16 system that allows it to share battlespace information with the older airframes.

“In a recent exercise,” he said, “when the F-22s ran out of missiles the older fighters asked them to stay to help them find targets.”

“Enabling all the fifth generation aircraft to share battlespace information with the older aircraft, which will make up most of the fighter forces for decades, is one of the major requirements for the future,” said Maj. Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of the Air Force Air Combat Center.

Another “bill to pay,” VanHerck said, is the need to greatly improve the current air combat training ranges, which cannot adequately duplicate the integrated air defense threats the new fighters must be able to handle. “We’re going to see a lot of our training in the virtual, simulated environment,” he said.

With their unmatched technological advancements and superior aerodynamic designs, fifth generation fighters don’t just exceed air domination capabilities–they define them.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How forensics experts help in counterinsurgency warfare

A relatively new weapon to combat the enemy is being used in Afghanistan and Southwest Asia. It’s been around a little more than a decade and fits into the counterinsurgency warfare necessity of being able to identify who the enemy is by person versus just identifying an enemy organization.

The Afghanistan Captured Material Exploitation Laboratory is aiding combat commanders in their need to know who is building and setting off the enemy’s choice weapon — Improvised Explosive Devices. With this positive identification of enemy personnel, coalition units working within NATO’s Resolute Support mission can then hunt down the enemy for detention or destroy if need be.


“The commanders are starting to understand it more and seeing the capability and asset it provides,” said Kim Perusse, incoming ACME lab manager at BAF.

Perusse said commanders are embracing it and wanting more forensics exploitation.

Personnel from ACME deploy from the Forensic Exploitation Directorate which is part of the Defense Forensics Science Center located at the Gillem Enclave, Forest Park, Ga. DFSC also contains the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, and the Office of Quality Initiatives and Training.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

Shown is an RFT2 device which consists of a CWC-11 A/0 receiver module with a custom switching circuit. The RFT2 functions as a receiver and switch of IED’s initiators.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

The DFSC’s mission is to provide full-service forensic support — traditional, expeditionary, and reachback — to Army and Department of Defense entities worldwide; to provide specialized forensic training and research capabilities; serve as executive agent for DOD Convicted Offender DNA Databasing Program; and to provide forensic support to other federal departments and agencies when appropriate, its website stated.

ACME provides forensic/technical intelligence, analysis, and exploitation of captured enemy material. The findings are then provided to coalition forces and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to counter the IED threat, attack the counterinsurgent networks, advise the Afghanistan government’s exploitation labs, and provide prosecutorial support to the Afghan justice system, an ACME slide presentation stated.

ACME capabilities include latent print examination; explosive/drug chemistry; electronic engineering; explosive triage; DNA; firearm/toolmark analysis; weapons technical intelligence analysis; and, provide assistance to the Afghan Ministry of Interior, National Directorate of Security, and Afghan National Security Forces.

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

Triage, the first stop for all evidence, tests an unknown substance on the HazMatID for any hazards.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

As part of employment with DFSC, FXD, personnel must deploy every 18 months to a deployed lab for six months, as there are currently two, one here and one in Kuwait.

The Forensic Exploitation Laboratory — CENTCOM in Kuwait supports military operations in Iraq and Syria, and is located at Camp Arifjan.

ACME’s primary mission “is to allow the commanders on the ground to understand who’s within the battlespace,” said Lateisha Tiller, outgoing ACME lab manager.

Whether this is people coming onto the coalition locations as part of employment or those building the IEDS, forensics exploitation results in positive identification of such individuals.

“Our mission is to identify nefarious actors that are in the CJOA [Combined/Joint Operations Area] right now,” Tiller said.

“We don’t want them putting IEDs in the road, and blowing up the road, blowing up the bridge. We want that type of activity to stop,” Tiller said. ” ‘How do you stop it?’ You identify who’s doing it; identify the network of people who’s doing it. Eliminate them from the battlespace” as evidence collected is then shared with military intelligence, she said.

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X-rays are taken of all evidence in Triage to ensure no hazards such as Trojan horses are observed. This x-ray shows a pressure plate containing a hazard.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

“It’s never just one person; identify the network,” she said. By taking people out, the network “eventually is going to dismantle itself.”

“The secondary mission is the Rule of Law,” Perusse said. “Helping get the information out to the Afghans to potentially prosecute those nefarious actors that we may identify” through biometrics, chemistry, firearms, and toolmarks.

The conclusive findings and evidence — criminal activity analysis reports — is then shared with the Afghan laboratories as they work to build a case against alleged personnel who could be tried in an Afghan court.

The reports are also shared with military intelligence — U.S. and NATO — and also sent to the Justice Center in Parwan to assist in the prosecution of the enemy. The JCIP is located in the Parwan Province where BAF is located too in east-central Afghanistan.

The justice center was a joint U.S.-Afghan project to establish Afghanistan’s first national security court. Established in June 2010, the JCIP exists to ensure fair and impartial justice for those defendants alleged of committing national security crimes in the Afghan criminal justice system. Coalition forces provide technical assistance and operate in an advisory capacity.

The reports are accepted in the Afghans courts because the Afghans understand and trust the findings of ACME. “Building that alliance is absolutely part of the mission,” Tiller said. “The lines of communication are definitely open.”

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The evidence room is the hub of the lab that distributes and stores the evidence while located at ACME.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

Because of this fairly new application of forensics to counterinsurgency warfare, the Afghans initially didn’t understand it, the lab managers said.

“They didn’t understand forensics. They didn’t trust it,” Perusse said. “Especially DNA, it was like magic to them.”

But as she explained, the U.S. also took a long time to accept DNA as factual and evidential versus something like latent prints. Latent prints are impressions produced by the ridged skin, known as friction ridges, on human fingers, palms, and soles of the feet. Examiners analyze and compare latent prints to known prints of individuals in an effort to make identifications or exclusions, internet sources stated.

“Latent prints you can visualize, DNA you can’t,” she said.

The application of forensics exploitation as part of the battle plan started in the latter years Operation Iraqi Freedom, the lab managers said. OIF began in March 2003 and lasted until December 2011.

This type of warfare — counterinsurgency — required a determination of who — by person — was the enemy in an effort to combat their terrorist acts.

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A latent print examiner develops a latent print on the neck of a plastic bottle with Superglue Fuming and Rhodamine 6G processing, then visualized with a forensic laser.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

“I think there was a point where the DOD realized that they weren’t utilizing forensics to help with the fight,” Tiller said.

The operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were not big units fighting other big units, with mass casualties, but much smaller units engaging each other with an enemy using more terrorist-like tactics of killing.

Forensics told you “who you were fighting. You kind of knew the person in a more intimate way,” Tiller said, adding, it put a face on the enemy.

Forensics exploitation goes hand-in-hand with counterinsurgency warfare, Perusse said. “They’re (Taliban/ISIS) not organized like a foreign military were in the past” but instead have individuals and groups fighting back in a shared ideology, she said.

Because of the eventual drawdown in NATO troop strength in Afghanistan, the ACME labs at Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar Province, and Camp Leatherneck, Helmand Province, were closed and some assets were relocated to BAF’s ACME in 2013.

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A DNA analyst prepares DNA samples for analysis on the Lifetech 3500XL Genetic Analyzer.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

The evidence is collected at the sites of detonation by conventional forces — explosive ordnance personnel, route clearance personnel — through personnel working in the Ministry of Interior’s National Directorate of Security, and other Afghan partners, Perusse said.

From January 2018 to December 2018, the ACME lab was responsible for:

  • 1,145 cases processed based on 36,667 individual exhibits
  • 3,402 latent prints uploaded; 69 associations made from unknown to known
  • 3,090 DNA profiles uploaded; 59 unique identifications made from unknown to known
  • 209 explosive samples, 121 precursors, 167 non-explosives/other, and 40 controlled substances analyzed
  • 55 firearms/toolmarks microscopic identifications

Adding credibility to ACME was that it became accredited by the International Organization of Standard in 2015. Both lab managers said they believe that ACME is probably the only deployed Defense Department lab accredited — besides the FXL-C in Kuwait — in the forensics field.

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Forensic chemist conducts a single-step extraction to prepare the samples for analysis by Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

The International Organization for Standardization is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations comprised of members from 168 countries. It is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards and facilitates world trade by providing common standards between nations. It was founded in 1947.

Tiller and Perusse said this accreditation is quite meaningful, personally and professionally.

Interestingly, both lab managers offer extensive deployment experience to the ACME lab.

Tiller has deployed four times for FXD — three times to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait — for a total of 26 months. Likewise, Perusse has 28 months of deployment experience too with FXD, with now four deployments in Afghanistan and one to Kuwait. And, because of mission requirements, no rest and relaxation periods — vacations — are allowed during their deployments. The reason is because most positions are one-person deep and the mission cannot continue without all sections working collectively, they said.

Currently, there are 17 people working at the BAF ACME lab.

FXD’s mandatory deployment policy can be viewed as positive and negative depending on a person’s particular situation.

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An electronic exploitation examiner uses the Advanced Aggregate Data Extractor test equipment to perform testing on an RFT2 device. The AADE produces the following tests: Filter Analyzer, Emissions Analyzer, Peak Harmonic Distortion and Bit Error Rate.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

As Perusse points out, there are plenty of other places to work that do not require mandatory deployments which require forensic skills such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Homeland Security to name several.

So those who do work at ACME do so because they want to be.

“There is nowhere else in the world where you’re going to get a [final] forensic result of the quality that you’re going to get from the ACME as quickly as you do,” Tiller said, which often brings immediate gratification to one’s work.

Whether it’s producing a DNA profile or finding a latent print on some material, finding this evidence within two days is a big reason why people at ACME find their work rewarding.

“It happens nowhere else,” Tiller said, describing it as the “ultimate satisfaction,” knowing the evidence produced will ultimately save lives.

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Shown are incoming ACME lab manager Kim Perusse (left) and outgoing ACME lab manager Lateisha Tiller. Tiller has deployed four times for FXD for a total of 26 months. Perusse has 28 months of deployment experience with FXD, with four deployments in Afghanistan and one to Kuwait.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

As Perusse put it, there is no place like ACME’s lab in Afghanistan.

“We are in war zone. We are around everything, we get IDFed,” she said, referencing the periodic indirect fire of mortar attacks at BAF. She said it is much different type of deployment than at the Kuwait lab where examiners can “have more freedom to include going into the city and shop at the mall.”

“There’s a reason why we’re doing this,” Perusse said, of identifying the enemy, which leads to saving lives and helping the NATO coalition.

“It’s very powerful to be able to see that and be with the people who are going out the field and risking their lives,” she said of those who look for and submit items for evidence.

As Tiller redeploys back to her normal duty station in Georgia, she knows ACME will continue in experienced hands with Perusse who will now take over as lab manager for a third time.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines experiment with first-of-its-kind 3D printing operation

Marines from Marine Corps Systems Command and 7th Engineer Support Battalion along with engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory conducted the first known 3D concrete printing operation with a three-inch print nozzle at the CERL headquarters in early August 2019 in Champaign, Illinois.

The CERL, MCSC and 7th ESB team tested a new continuous mixer and three-inch pump for this print operation after successfully printing multiple structures, including a barracks and a bridge using, a two-inch pump and hose.

“This is really the first time we’ve ever printed something large with this system,” said Megan Kreiger, project lead for the Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures — or ACES — team at CERL. “It is experimental right now and we are trying to push the technology forward. This is the first time in the world anyone has really tried using these larger bead systems with these larger pumps.”


Increasing from a two-inch to a three-inch nozzle allows Marines to print larger structures faster and with less waste, according to Kreiger. The teams have envisioned printing with up to a four-inch nozzle in the future.

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Marines from 7th Engineer Support Battalion along with engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory pose with a concrete bunker during a 3D concrete printing exercise Aug. 15, 2019, in Champaign, Illinois.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Michael Smith, 7th ESB)

While this was the first known printing of concrete with a three-inch hose and nozzle, the exercise was also significant because it incorporated a continuous mixer similar to the one currently fielded to Marines.

“The new mixer we are testing is a commercial model of a mixer that is already within the Marine Corps repertoire in the Airfield Damage Repair Kit,” said Capt. Matthew Audette, project officer for the Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell at MCSC. “That means we don’t have to field a new piece of gear in addition to the printer to make this work.”

This time the team printed a bunker that was designed by the Drafting and Survey combat engineers from 7th ESB based on practical field experience.

“The Marines from 7th ESB are the ones who designed what we are printing today,” said Audette. “They came up with the plans themselves, [Computer Aided Designed] the model, sliced it and then fed it through the printer.”

Airmen practice getting the A-10 Warthog ready to fight

Marines from 7th Engineer Support Battalion along with engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory construct a concrete bunker during a 3D concrete printing exercise Aug. 15, in Champaign, Illinois.

(U.S. Marine Corps courtesy photo from Staff Sgt. Michael Smith, 7th ESB)

The 7th ESB Marines plan to build a conventional bunker similar to this 3D-printed version and compare them in blast or demolitions testing on a range.

The combat engineers envisioned a system like this being deployed to a forward operating base, and being operational within a few days of arrival. The system would quickly print small structures that can be transported to entry control points and operating posts in an efficient and timely manner using fewer Marines and less material.

According to ACES team data, 3D printing concrete structures reduces cost by 40 percent, construction time by 50 percent and the use of concrete materials by 44 percent. Additionally, it more than doubles the strength of walls, improves thermal energy performance by 10 times, reduces manpower by 50 percent and reduces the overall need for hard labor.

“With vertical construction, we are still in the realm of what we were doing 100 years ago,” said Audette. “Working with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop this technology we are reducing the man-hours involved, the labor involved and the materials involved.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps excited for full-rate production of G/ATOR system

The Marine Corps has reached another acquisition milestone decision by gaining approval for full-rate production of the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition on May 23, 2019. The G/ATOR system combines five legacy radar systems into a single, modernized solution with multiple operational capabilities, providing Marines with comprehensive situational awareness of everything in the sky.

“G/ATOR is a phenomenal capability that lends itself to warfighting dominance for years to come,” said John Campoli, program manager for Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “We’ve received tremendous positive feedback from Marines on the system, and are excited to get this capability to warfighters across the MAGTF.”


G/ATOR provides real-time radar measurement data to the Common Aviation Command and Control System, Composite Tracking Network, and Advanced Field Artillery Data System. All G/ATOR systems share a common hardware and operating system software baseline to satisfy the warfighter’s expeditionary needs across the MAGTF with a single solution.

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U.S. Marines set up the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system on Feb. 26, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Leo Amaro)

The highly expeditionary, three-dimensional, short-to-medium-range multi-role radar system is designed to detect, identify and track cruise missiles, manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles as well as rockets, mortars and artillery fire. The Corps started fielding G/ATOR to Marines in 2018, reaching initial operational capability for air defense and surveillance missions in February 2018 and counter-fire and counterbattery missions in March 2019.

As previously reported, G/ATOR is being developed and fielded in three blocks that will support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force across the range of its capabilities. Block 1 — which began fielding a year ago — provides air defense and surveillance capabilities; Block 2 supports MAGTF counter-fire and counterbattery missions; and Block 4 — a future iteration — will provide expeditionary airport surveillance radar capabilities to the MAGTF. With this full-rate production decision, the Corps will procure 30 additional G/ATOR units.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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