On September 30, 2020, U.S. Army Contract Command awarded a $77,168,400 contract to SIG Sauer to equip soldiers with the Direct View Optic for use on the M4A1 carbine. The outgoing M150 Rifle Combat Optic, manufactured by Trijicon as the TA31RCO, provides soldiers with a fixed 4x magnification and is effective out to 500 meters. The new DVO allows the end-user to quickly switch between 1x and 6x magnification and boasts an increased effective range of 600 meters.
Introduced by the Army in 2007, the RCO makes up a relatively small portion of the service’s M4 carbine optics. Though equipment varies by unit, the majority of soldiers are issued rifles equipped with the M68 Close Combat Optic. Manufactured by Aimpoint as the CompM2, the CCO was accepted by the Army in 2000 and is a non-magnified red dot reflex sight designed for use with the M4 out to an effective range of 300 meters.
The Army has not said whether or not the DVO will eventually replace the CCO as well. While the CCO excels at close-quarters fighting thanks to its reflex reticle, the Army’s requirement for the DVO stated that, “The DVO will be capable of variable power magnification with minimum magnification of 1.0x with no rounding and maximum magnification greater than or equal to 6.0 power.” The “1.0x with no rounding” is important because it calls for the DVO to provide a true 1x magnification setting; many commercial Low Power Variable Optics provide close to, but not true, 1x magnification. This requirement is given reasoning in the Army’s notice. “Variable power magnification optics combine the capabilities of the non-magnified optic’s ability to engage close quarter targets with a fixed-magnification optic’s ability to detect, recognize, identify, and precisely engage targets at extended ranges,” the Army explained. “This allows the Soldier to have both critical capabilities without the limitations of either non magnified or fixed magnification optics.”
Given these requirements, it would not be unreasonable to think that the Army may try to distribute the DVO across entire infantry squads. After all, the Marine Corps has already done just that with its new Squad Common Optic. On February 23, 2020, the Marine Corps announced that it had awarded a $64,000,000 contract to Trijicon to supply its infantry with the Variable Combat Optical Gunsight 1-8×28 mm rifle scope for use on the M4 carbine and M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle weapon systems. The SCO is set to begin replacing the Corps’ RCO during the first quarter of fiscal year 2021.
While the exact model of SIG Sauer LPVO is unknown, there is speculation that the DVO may be the company’s Tango6T 1-6×24 mm SFP scope. The Tango6T has already been selected for use on the Army’s M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, a derivative of the Heckler & Kock G28/HK417, and general use by Special Operations Forces.
The contract allows for delivery of the DVO over the next five years. However, it is unknown how many of the new optic the Army plans to acquire from SIG Sauer, further lending to the theory that the DVO may replace the CCO as well.
The Spruance-class destroyer USS Hayler (DD 997) served for 20 years before she was sunk during a training exercise.
During that time, she was a standard Spruance-class vessel. This meant she had two five-inch guns, an octuple Mk 29 launcher for the RIM Sea Sparrow missile, a Mk 16 Mod 1 launcher for the RUR-5 Anti-Submarine Rocket, two Mk 15 Phalanx Close-in Weapon Systems, two triple Mk 32 torpedo tube mounts, and space for two SH-2 or SH-60 helicopters (which could swapped out for a single SH-3).
But the Hayler could have been very different. In fact, when ordered, Congress had actually given the Navy a choice: Hayler would either be built by herself as the 31st and last Spruance-class destroyer, or the Navy could get both Hayler and an unnamed sister ship as the lead vessels of a new class of helicopter destroyers.
At the time Congress gave the Navy the choice, Japan had brought the Haruna-class helicopter destroyers into service. Haruna and Hiei, both named after Kongo-class battlecruisers, had a similar armament suit to the baseline Spruance-class destroyers. The big difference: The Japanese vessels could carry up to three HSS-2 anti-submarine helicopters, a locally manufactured variant of the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King.
Litton-Ingalls had done some of the basic design work and had modified the Spruance design to carry up to four SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. However, the Navy chose not to buy the new design and decided to just build the Hayler. With the struggles that the littoral combat ship has faced, including breakdowns and one being stuck in ice, perhaps a modified Spruance-class destroyer with four helicopters would have been an excellent choice for the Navy. We’ll never know.
The Senate Committee on Armed Services seapower subcommittee will hold hearings this spring to reexamine the future of the frigate program.
“The frigate acquisition strategy should be revised to increase requirements to include convoy air defense, greater missile capability and longer endurance,” McCain said at an event outlining the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments’ recent U.S. Navy fleet architecture study, U.S. Naval Institute News reported.
The littoral combat ship program (LCS) is the skeleton for the Navy’s frigate strategy. Currently, the Navy pans to release a request for proposals on the new frigates in March or April.
McCain criticized the LCS program in December for costing $12 billion, but producing 26 ships, which have “demonstrated next-to-no combat capability.”
“When you look at some of the renewed capabilities, naval capabilities, that both the Russians and the Chinese have, it requires more capable weapon systems,” McCain said.
Each LCS costs around $478 million initially. But as repairs cost increase, the total amount for the 26 ships already delivered to the fleet amounts to $12.4 billion, and the Navy wants to buy a total of 40.
Should the Navy continue to purchase the LCS to bring the total number to 40, the cost will be closer $29 billion for ships that have failed to live up to capabilities promised, and continually breakdown.
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It’s hard to let go. If you’re a sports fan, then you’ve probably watched your favorite players age well past their primes. They cling to their identities as athletes, as competitors, and they refuse to hang up their titles even as the competition gets younger, faster, and stronger around them. Well, this same thing can happen to planes, too.
The Boeing P-26 Peashooter was a technological breakthrough when it first flew in 1932. But, when combat came in 1941, it was hit by a double whammy of being obsolete and badly outnumbered — and the loss rate was abysmal.
The Boeing P-26 Peashooter was the first all-metal monoplane fighter to see service in the United States. It officially entered service in 1934 and remained the fastest fighter in the skies until 1938.
The P-26 Peashooter was the first all-metal monoplane to enter American service, but within a decade of its first flight, it was greatly outclassed.
Not only that, this plane was also the first to introduce flaps to U.S. aviation — a piece of technology used to make landings easier and safer. The plane needed flaps because it had a then-blistering landing speed of just under 83 miles per hour.
In the skies, it reached a top speed of 227 miles per hour and had a range of 360 miles. The plane’s initial armament included two .30-caliber machine guns — one of which was later upgraded to .50-caliber. Either two 100-pound bombs or five 31-pound bombs could be carried for ground-support missions.
P-26 Peashooters on the flight line at Hickam Field, Hawaii.
The last P-26s to serve defended the Panama Canal until 1942, when they were exported to Guatemala. There, they hung on until 1957, four years after the Korean War saw jets fighting for control of the air.
Watch a classic video of these legendary planes in service below!
While the F-35 has been in the headlines and the F-22 is perhaps the most dominant jet in the sky, there are some other advanced jets in the air that are not from the U.S., Russia or China. Two of them are the French-designed Dassault Rafale and the multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon.
The Rafale is a purely French design. The French did face the challenge of coming up with a fighter meant to not only replace older Mirage fighters for the French air force, it also had to operate from the French navy’s aircraft carrier, the Charles De Gaulle, replacing aging F-8 Crusaders and the venerable Super Etendard.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Rafale has a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour, a range of 1,150 miles, can carry almost 21,000 pounds of ordnance, and is equipped with a 30mm cannon. Among the ordnance it can carry are Mica air-to-air missiles, the ASMP nuclear cruise missile, the Exocet anti-ship missile, laser-guided bombs, rocket pods, and various dumb bombs.
The Eurofighter Typhoon, on the other hand, is a joint design primarily from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy. Those same countries teamed up to create the Panavia Tornado, an aircraft that had air-defense, strike, and “Wild Weasel” versions. The Eurofighter team was a bit larger as this time, Spain joined in.
MilitaryFactory.com notes that the Typhoon has a range of 1,802 miles and a top speed of 1,550 miles per hour. It can carry 16,500 pounds of ordnance, and has a 27mm cannon. It carries a very wide array of weapons, including the AIM-120 AMRAAM, the AIM-132 ASRAAM, the IRIS-T air-to-air missile, the MDBA Meteor air-to-air missile, the S-225 air-to-air missile, the Brimstone anti-tank missile, the AGM-88 HARM, the ALARM, laser-guided bombs, dumb bombs, and even land-attack missiles like the Storm Shadow and KEPD 350.
Perhaps the only thing the Eurofighter can’t carry is the kitchen sink.
Which plane is more likely to win in a head-to-head fight? Given the wider variety of ordnance, including long-range air-to-air missiles like the S-225 and Meteor, the Eurofighter has an edge – at least when it comes to land bases. The Rafale, though, can operate from an aircraft carrier, and that gives France a very potent naval aviation arm.
Check out the video below to see how these planes stack up.
Most people are familiar with the basics: Slap together enough uranium or plutonium and — kaboom! — you have a nuclear blast. But the details of how these complex devices are made, delivered, and controlled can make the difference between keeping the peace and sparking a cataclysm.
It doesn’t help that there’s more than 60 years’ worth of convoluted terminology surrounding the complex policies and politics of nuclear weapons. There are words like isotopes, tritium, and yellowcake; abbreviations such as HEU, LEU, SSBN, and CVID; and the subtle yet striking difference between uranium-235 and uranium-238.
As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo resumes talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, we’ve defined some of the most important (and misunderstood) words, phrases, and acronyms here.
That effort could take years to pan out, and it’s guaranteed to get very, very complicated.
A mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device.
(U.S. Department of Defense photo)
1. Nuclear weapon
A conventional explosive device rapidly burns up a chemical to cause a blast. A nuclear weapon, meanwhile — such as a bomb or warhead — splits atoms to release thousands of times more energy.
Yet the term “nuclear weapon” can also refer to a vehicle that’s able to deliver a nuclear attack, such as missiles, fighter jets, stealth bombers, and truck-like mobile launchers. (If flying dinosaurs were alive today and trained to drop nuclear bombs, the creatures may be considered nuclear weapons.)
During weapons inspections like the ones between the US and Russia, nuclear warheads are actually concealed with a piece of cloth; it’s the vehicles, missiles, and launch or bombing bays that are the focus. Without them, a warhead can’t get anywhere quickly.
A Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, launching from North Korea.
Technically speaking, an ICBM is any missile capable of delivering a warhead from more than 3,415 miles away. The missile silos in the US in which they’re stored are sprinkled around the country, with most stationed in middle America.
Fallout describes the dangerous leftovers of a nuclear weapon: a cloud of dust, dirt, sand, pebbles, and bits of debris that an explosion has irradiated.
Bombs or warheads detonated near the ground vastly increase the amount of fallout by sucking up soil and debris, irradiating it, and spreading it for dozens if not hundreds of miles. Very fine particles can circle the globe and be detected by special airplanes.
Part of CNO cycle diagram, made just to be illustrative for nuclear reactions in general.
Each element on the Periodic Table has a unique chemical identity but can have different weights, or isotopes.
For example, hydrogen is the smallest atom and is usually made of just one positively-charged proton in its nucleus, or core. Its shorthand name, H-1, specifies its atomic weight. If a chargeless neutron gets added, you get the isotope deuterium, or H-2. Add two neutrons and you have the isotope tritium, or H-3.
All three forms of hydrogen have nearly identical chemistry and can, say, bond with oxygen to form water. But their nuclear properties differ significantly: deuterium and tritium can fuel thermonuclear explosions because their extra neutrons can encourage helium atoms (which have two protons) to fuse together far more easily than H-1 alone.
5. Uranium — including U-238, U-235, and U-233
Uranium is a dense element and a key ingredient in nuclear weapons production. It occurs naturally in ores and minerals and has a few important isotopes.
U-238 makes up about 99.27% of natural uranium and is inert. Less than 1% of the uranium in ore is U-235 — the “active ingredient” that can be used for nuclear reactor fuel or bombs.
U-235 is special because it becomes very unstable when it catches a flying neutron. This capture causes it to split (known as fission), release a huge amount of energy, and shoot out more neutrons. Those neutrons can then split other atoms of U-235 in a chain reaction.
Although plutonium (which we’ll describe in a moment) is now the favored bomb-making material, U-235 was used in the Little Boy bomb that the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
U-233 is another isotope that’s weapons-ready, but it’s only made inside special reactors that no longer exist (for now).
6. Plutonium, including Pu-238, Pu-239, and Pu-240
Plutonium is a metallic element that doesn’t occur in nature, and it most often refers to the isotope Pu-239: the go-to material for modern nuclear weapons.
Only nuclear reactors can make Pu-239. They do so by irradiating U-238 with neutrons. The plutonium can then be separated from the uranium, concentrated, and formed into weapons pits — the cores of nuclear weapons.
Pu-239 can more easily trigger a nuclear explosion than uranium, and with less material; as little as about 10 lbs can be enough.
Plutonium-240 is an unwanted and pretty radioactive byproduct of making Pu-239. It can make bombs prematurely explode and fizzle because it’s fairly radioactive. Pu-238 is a byproduct of Cold War weapons production that generates a lot of warmth and powers NASA’s most adventurous robots in the cold, dark depths of space.
7. Yellowcake uranium
Yellowcake is a powder of uranium oxide that’s made by leaching uranium from natural ores and chemically treating it. Despite its name, it’s most often brown or black in color.
The powder is a concentrated form of natural uranium — about 99.72% U-238 and 0.72% U-235. It’s an important commodity because it can be stockpiled and later processed to extract and enrich U-235.
The U-235 and U-238 isotopes are chemically identical and nearly the same weight — so they’re very hard to separate. However, one of the easiest ways to separate uranium is a centrifuge.
The process starts with converting yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride (UF 6), then heating the compound into a gas. The gas then enters a centrifuge: a tall, hollow tube that spins faster than the speed of sound. The rotation pulls heavier U-238 toward the centrifuge’s outer wall while leaving more U-235 near the middle.
Cascades of centrifuges — one linked to another in long chains — further separate and concentrate each isotope. U-235-rich gas moves through an “upstream” line of centrifuges, growing until a desired level of concentration is reached. Meanwhile, U-238 moves “downstream” until it’s mostly depleted of U-235.
9. Highly enriched uranium (HEU) and low-enriched uranium (LEU)
Highly enriched uranium is any amount of uranium with 20% or more U-235 — the kind that can spur a nuclear detonation.
HEU with a concentration of 85% or more U-235 is considered “weapons-grade,” since that is enough to cause a large and efficient nuclear explosion. But it’s rarely used anymore: It most often goes into special reactors that power naval ships and submarines, can make plutonium, or create medically important isotopes (such as molybdenum-99, which can help diagnose certain heart diseases and cancers).
10. Lithium deuteride (sometimes called lithium hydride)
Lithium deuteride is a whitish salt made of one lithium atom and one deuterium atom (hydrogen-2).
It’s a key ingredient in thermonuclear weapons, also called hydrogen bombs — the most powerful type of nuclear arms. (Russia’s Tzar Bomba thermonuclear weapon, detonated in 1961, was about 3,300 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb in 1945.)
A thermonuclear weapon is actually two bombs in one. Energy from the first explosion is absorbed by and “ignites” the lithium deuteride, leading to fusion — where two atoms combine — and creating a plasma many times hotter than the sun.
The process also creates a lot of neutrons. These bullet-like particles can then ram into and split a lot of nearby U-238 in the bomb, vastly multiplying the weapon’s destructive energy.
A UGM-96 Trident I clears the water after launch from a US Navy submarine in 1984
11. Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
An SLBM is a nuclear-tipped rocket that shoots out of launch tubes in an underwater attack submarine.
Unlike most land-based missiles, SLBMs are mobile and very difficult to track. Some models can fly nearly 7,500 miles, which is about 30% of Earth’s circumference. That’s plenty of range to strike any inland target from a coast.
12. Ballistic-missile submarines (SSBN or SSB)
Attack submarines that can launch ballistic missiles are known as SSBs or SSBNs. The “SS” stands for “submersible ship,” the “B” for ballistic” (as in ballistic missile), and the “N,” if present, means “nuclear” (as in powered by a nuclear reactor).
These vessels can stay underwater for 90 days and carry more than a dozen nuclear-warhead-tipped SLBMs — each of which can strike targets thousands of miles inland.
13. Complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)
CVID is the strategy that was pursued in disarming Libya of its nuclear weapons. The Trump administration pursued it in initial talks with Kim Jong Un and North Korea.
The approach allows inspectors into a country to count weapons, witness their destruction, disable nuclear reactors, prevent the development of missiles, and perform other watchdog work.
Weapons experts think North Korea will reject CVID, mostly because it’d bar the use of nuclear reactors to produce energy and rule out the development of rockets, which can launch satellites and people into space.
Experts also point out that the strategy has a nasty historical precedent: Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi followed through on a US-led CVID program but ultimately ended up dead in the streets.
Deterrence is the idea that if countries have nuclear weapons, the threat of an overwhelming retaliation in response to an attack will keep the peace.
In 1995, a few years after the Cold War ended, Reagan-era government officials wrote:
“Deterrence must create fear in the mind of the adversary — fear that he will not achieve his objectives, fear that his losses and pain will far outweigh any potential gains, fear that he will be punished. It should ultimately create the fear of extinction — extinction of either the adversary’s leaders themselves or their national independence, or both. Yet, there must always appear to be a ‘door to salvation’ open to them should they reverse course.”
Some nuclear weapons experts worry that deterrence will only keep the peace for so long. They also think belief in deterrence encourages the development and spread of nuclear weapons— so if and when nuclear conflict does break out, the catastrophe will be much worse.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The F-15 Eagle, arguably the most successful fighter jet of the modern age, could be in for an early retirement with the US Air Force thanks to skyrocketing upgrade and refurbishment costs.
In a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Air Force and Air National Guard brass informed the panel that a plan was recently formed to retire and replace the F-15C/D variant of the Eagle far ahead of schedule by a matter of decades, though no decision had been made on that plan. While the Air Force did plan to keep the Eagle flying till 2040 through a $4 billion upgrade, it was recently determined that a further $8 billion would need to be invested in refurbishing the fuselages of these Eagles, driving up the costs of retaining the F-15C/D even higher than originally expected — presenting what seems to be the final nail the Eagle’s eventual coffin.
So, what will the Air Force likely do to replace this 40-year-old wonder jet?
The Air Force had at first planned to replace the F-15 with the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, but successive cuts to the Raptor program left the branch with only 187 fighters, a substantially lower quantity than the planned buy of around 700. This forced the decision to keep the Eagles in service longer, and thus, the aforementioned investment of over $4 billion was made towards upgrading all combat coded F-15C/Ds with new radars, networking systems, and avionics to keep these fighters in service up till around 2040, when it would be replaced with a newer sixth-generation fighter, also superseding the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor.
Once the F-15 gets pulled by the mid-2020s, the Air Force claims it already has a solution to replace what was once a bastion of American air power.
This solution comes in the form of enhancing F-16 Fighting Falcons with new radars from Northrop Grumman, and networking systems to take over the Eagle’s role in North American air defense, at least in the interim until the Air Force begins and completes its sixth-generation fighter project, which will bring about an even more capable air superiority fighter replacement for both the F-22 and the F-15.
The Air Force has already begun extending the lives of its F-16s till 2048, through a fleet-wide Service Life Extension Program that will add an extra 4,000 flight hours to its Fighting Falcons. Air Force leadership has also advocated buying more fighters, namely the F-35A Lightning II, faster, so that when the hammer does eventually drop on the Eagle, the branch’s fighter fleet won’t be left undersized and vulnerable.
Even with upgrades, however, the F-16 still has some very big boots to fill.
The F-15 was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, meaning it was built to excel at shooting other aircraft down; all other mission types, like performing air-to-ground strikes, were secondary to its main tasking. To perform in this role, the Eagle was given stellar range, sizable weapons carriage, fantastic speed (over two and a half times the speed of sound), and a high operational ceiling. Conversely, the F-16 was designed as a low-cost alternative to the F-15, able to operate in a variety of roles, though decidedly not as well as the F-15 could with the air-to-air mission. Its combat range, weapons load and speed fall short of the standard set by the Eagle. Regardless, the Air Force still believes that the F-16 will be the best interim solution until the 6th generation fighter is fielded.
The USAF’s most decorated F-16 pilot, Dan Hampton, doesn’t disagree with these plans. In an interview with The War Zone, Hampton argues that though the F-16 lacks the weapons payload that the F-15 possesses, advances in missile guidance and homing make carrying more air-to-air weaponry a moot point, as pilots would likely hit their mark with the first or second shot, instead of having to fire off a salvo of missiles. Hampton adds that the F-16’s versatility in being able to perform a diverse array of missions makes it more suitable for long-term upgrades to retain it over the Eagle. Whether or not this will actually work out the way the Air Force hopes it will is anybody’s guess.
The United States Navy has a history of honoring women – one that goes way back to 1776, when a row galley was named for Martha Washington (George’s wife). Currently, seven Navy ships named for women are in active service with the United States Navy, and an eighth is on the way. Here’s a rundown on these ships:
The destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) has a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System with a total of 90 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standard missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets. She also has eight RGM-84 Harpoons in two Mk 141 launchers, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, and two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes.
In January, 2008, the Hopper was one of several U.S. Navy warships that had close encounters with Iranian speedboats.
2. USS Roosevelt (DDG 80)
This Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is named in honor of both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady for 12 years, then served as a diplomat and spokesperson for the United Nations.
The destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) has a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) with a total of 96 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standards, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes, and the ability to carry two MH-60R helicopters.
According to a 2006 US Navy release, the Roosevelt and the Dutch Frigate De Zeven Provincien took part in an attempted rescue of a South Korean fishing vessel captured by pirates. In 2014, the DOD reported the destroyer took part in delivering a rogue oil tanker to Libyan authorities.
3. USNS Sacagawea (T AKE 2)
This Lewis and Clark class replenishment ship was named for Sacagawea, the Native American woman who guided the expedition lead by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark across the Louisiana Purchase. A previous USS Sacagawea (YT 326) was a harbor tug that served from 1925 to 1945.
The 41,000-ton replenishment ship USNS Sacagawea carries ammo, food, and other supplies to keep the United States Navy (and allies) fighting. The ship also can transfer some fuel to other vessels. She can carry two MH-60 helicopters to help transfer cargo and have as many as six .50-caliber machine guns.
In 2013, the Sacagawea took part in Freedom Banner 2013 as part of the Maritime Prepositioning Force.
4. USNS Amelia Earhart (T AKE 6)
The first woman to make a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Earhart was one of the few women who earned a Distinguished Flying Cross. Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 under unknown circumstances. DANFS notes that a Liberty Ship was previously named for the famous aviator.
The 41,000-ton replenishment ship USNS Amelia Earhart carries ammo, food, and other supplies to keep the United States Navy (and allies) fighting. The ship also can transfer some fuel to other vessels. She can carry two MH-60 helicopters to help transfer cargo and have as many as six .50-caliber machine guns.
DANFS notes that on Nov. 20, 2014, the Amelia Earhart collided with USNS Walter S. Diehl (T AO 193).
5. USNS Mary Sears (T AGS 65)
Mary Sears was the first Oceanographer of the Navy during World War II. According to the website for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, her research on thermoclines saved many American submariners’ lives by enabling our subs to hide from enemy forces.
Fittingly, the U.S. Navy named the Pathfinder-class oceanographic research vessel USNS Mary Sears in her honor. The 5,000-ton vessel has a top speed of 16 knots, and carries a number of sensors for her mission. In 2007, the Mary Sears helped locate the “black boxes” from a missing airliner.
6. USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10)
Former Arizona Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — whose husband is astronaut and Navy Capt. Mark Kelly — served for five years before resigning her seat in the aftermath of an assassination attempt.
The Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords has a 57mm gun, four .50-caliber machine guns, and a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile. The vessel can carry two MH-60 helicopters and MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles.
The ship just entered service in December, 2016, and had a cameo in Larry Bond’s 2016 novel, Red Phoenix Burning, where it was rammed by a Chinese frigate, suffering moderate damage.
7. USNS Sally Ride (T AGOR 28)
Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, flying on two Space Shuttle missions (missing a third after the Challenger exploded during launch), who died after a battle with pancreatic cancer in 2012.
A sister ship, the USNS Neil Armstrong (T AGOR 27), named for the first person to walk on the moon, is operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts.
8. USS Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123)
Lenah Higbee was the first woman to receive the Navy Cross – being recognized for her service as Superintendant of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps in World War I. She was recognized with a Gearing-class destroyer in 1945, according to DANFS, that saw action in the last months of World War II.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee will have a 5-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) with a total on 96 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standards, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes, and the ability to carry two MH-60R helicopters when she enters service. MarineLog.com reported in January that construction of the destroyer had started.
As Russian propaganda blows up the internet with the unveiling of a new laser weapon, this is just a friendly reminder of a couple things. First, Russia lies about new tech all the time. Second, it hasn’t shown the weapon fire. And, most importantly, this weapon was originally announced in a press conference filled with other over-hyped weapons.
Russia originally released footage of its Peresvet Combat Leaser System a few months ago, and it actually showed the weapon in more detail than what came out in December. Neither video actually shows the weapon in action.
(YouTube/Russian Ministry of Defence)
That’s not to say that the Russians can’t build a functioning laser weapon or that America shouldn’t be prepared for its enemies to deploy lasers, but it is to say that we should take our time while pricing mirrored caps for our bomb shelters (save money by cutting old disco balls in half!).
Peresvet has been teased one time since the annual address but is now receiving a lot of publicity as Sputnik, a Russian propaganda outlet, has released a new video of the laser “in service.”
Except, as everyone buzzes about the laser, we all seem to forget that the video is only showing the foreskin of a tent being pulled back to reveal a shiny laser head as a Russian with no face takes a firm grasp of the stick. That is literally as sexily as I can possibly describe this actually very boring video.
Is this a new laser weapon? Probably, but it could just as easily be the trailer for a professional gamer who only uses Apple keyboards and discount joysticks while playing his flight sims on the road.
Assuming it is a weapon, could it tip the balance in a ground war with the U.S. as it shoots down incoming missiles, drones, jets, and helicopters by the thousands? Again, sure. Anything is possible. But lasers are actually super hard to make work as weapons, and they require a ton of energy per each shot.
A U.S. Air Force C-130 flies with an experimental laser in 2009. The laser was later canceled because it couldn’t engage enemy missiles at a significant range.
(U.S. Air Force)
They require somuch energythat America’s first few laser prototypes barely used electricity because the battery and power-generation requirements were technically infeasible. Instead, we filled a C-130 with vats of chemicals that could, yes, create a laser of sufficient strength to down a missile, but not at ranges sufficient to work in a real-world scenario.
With advances in electronics, it is now possible to create lasers powered by electricity that have sufficient strength to bring down objects in the sky or destroy targets on the ground. How can I be so sure? Well, the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Army prototypes have all been publicly demonstrated and fired.
A target at sea is destroyed by the prototype laser mounted on the Navy’s USS Ponce during a 2015 test. Note that the fireball comes from explosives in the target, not the energy from the laser.
(U.S. Navy video screenshot)
They’ve even been demonstrated working on actual combat platforms like the Army Stryker and the Navy’s amphibious transport dock, USS Ponce. The Air Force demonstrated the aforementioned chemical laser on a C-130 years ago and currently has a contract with Lockheed for high-energy lasers for fighter jets, a weapon it wants combat ready by 2021.
So yeah, there’s no reason to think that Russia can’t develop a similar weapon. And warfighters, especially drone operators, should begin training to operate in environments where Russian lasers can shoot them down (but only when using massive trailers). But America still, obviously, has the edge in laser technology. And we don’t need to panic because Russian propaganda has made an impressive claim.
Remember, Russian leaders also claimed that the Su-57 and T-14 Armata were game-changing weapons that they could build relatively cheaply and would tip the worldwide balance of power. Spoiler: Both weapons are too expensive for Russia to afford and neither appears to work as well as advertised.
Improvised explosive devices have long been a problem for American troops in the War on Terror. So robots have become a valuable tool in defeating these deadly devices.
But what about the bigger bombs? Well, sometimes you just need a bigger robot for the job. Especially when that IED is more along the lines of truck bomb than pipe bomb.
Thankfully, one is available. According to Endeavor Robotics, the Kobra is the answer for those who realize, “We need a bigger bot.”
The 710 Kobra comes in at 500 pounds between its 367-pound mobility platform (including the replaceable battery pack) and its 133-pound manipulator. But that size has 10 hours of endurance. That’s perfect for when you have a very tough bomb-disposal job to do.
The Kobra can also lift 330 pounds. That’s more than most NFL offensive and defensive linemen!
But it isn’t just weightlifting that make this robot impressive, it’s its reach. The Kobra can grab objects more than 11 feet above it, and it also can reach speeds of eight miles per hour. This robot also can ascend a 55-degree slope, and climb stairs. But the Kobra can also serve as a relay for other robots, and it carries various disruptors that can neutralize IEDs.
In short, this Kobra’s bite saves lives.
The Kobra also has four cameras, which help the operator remain aware of situations. The video below from Endeavor Industries has more on this robot, including an impressive display of the robot righting itself. In any case, this is one Kobra that grunts love to have along for the deployment.
Elon Musk’s plan to station thousands of satellites above the Earth is already starting to annoy astronomers.
Starlink is the project launched by Elon Musk’s space exploration company SpaceX which aims to put up to 42,000 satellites in orbit with the aim of bringing high-speed internet to even the most remote corners of the globe.
Though only 120 of the satellites are up and running, they’re already wreaking havoc with astronomical research.
The brightness of the satellites mean that when they cross a piece of sky being watched by a telescope, they leave bright streaks that obscure stars and other celestial objects.
Last week astronomer Clarae Martínez-Vázquez of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile tweeted that 19 Starlink satellites crossed the sky and disrupted the work of the observatory because they were so bright they affected its exposure. “Rather depressing… This is not cool,” she added.
Dr Dave Clements of Imperial College London told Business Insider that SpaceX is applying a typically Silicon Valley approach to Starlink, rushing it through without fully thinking through the consequences.
“I’m very concerned about the impact of SpaceX’s Starlink constellation on all aspects of astronomy,” he said.
“Move fast and break things might be workable when you’re breaking a competitor’s business model or the outdated assumptions of an industry, but in this case Musk is breaking the night sky for personal profit. That is unacceptable, and is not something you can fix when you’re out of beta. The launches should stop until a solution is agreed with astronomers, professional and amateur.”
Clements added that the Starlink satellites also interfere with radio astronomy.
“They transmit in bands used by radio astronomers, especially at high frequencies. While these bands are used by other transmitters on the ground, we cope with that by having radio silent preserves around the telescopes. This won’t work when the Sky is full of bright satellite transmitters so Musk might be ruining several kinds of astronomy at once,” he said.
View of Starlink satellites.
Researchers working on a new state-of-the-art observatory due to open next year told the Guardian that private satellites launched by SpaceX, Amazon, and other private firms threaten to jeopardise their work.
Astronomers at the yet-to-open Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) ran simulations which suggested the vast majority of images taken by the telescope could be ruined by bright private satellites passing by.
The disruption caused by Starlink has not come as a surprise to the scientific community.
When SpaceX launched its last batch of 60 satellites earlier this month James Lowenthal, Professor of Astronomy at Smith College told the New York Times the project could majorly complicate astronomical research. “It potentially threatens the science of astronomy itself,” he said.
SpaceX was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Army aviation leaders offered details on Oct. 10, 2018, about recent solicitations to industry designed to advance the attack-reconnaissance and advanced drone aircraft programs for the service’s ambitious Future Vertical Lift effort.
Future Vertical Lift, or FVL, is the Army’s third modernization priority, intended to field a new generation of helicopters such as the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk, as well as the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), by 2028.
The FARA will be designed to take targeting information from FVL’s Advanced Unmanned Aerial System and coordinate “lethal effects” such as long-range precision fires to open gaps into a contested airspace, Rugen said.
Released Oct. 3, 2018, the RFP for the FARA asks industry to submit proposals for competitive prototypes.
“All the offerors will basically get us their designs by Dec. 18, 2018; we will down-select up to six in June 2018 and, in 2020, we will down-select to two,” Rugen said.
The Army plans to conduct a fly-off event in the first quarter of fiscal 2023 to select a winner, he added. “It’s a tremendous capability … that we think is going to be the cornerstone for our close combat control of contested airspace.”
UH-60 Black Hawk.
The service also released a Sept. 28, 2018 Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems RFP for industry to present platforms to conduct demonstrations for Forces Command units.
“Future Tactical UAS is really something that we have been asking for; it’s a [Brigade Combat Team]-oriented UAS,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Todd III, commander of Program Executive Office Aviation. “It isn’t necessarily a replacement for the [RQ-7] Shadow, but it could be, depending on how it goes with industry … so we are ready to see what you’ve got.”
The Army plans to pick three vendors to provide “future tactical UAS platforms to FORCOM units, and they are going to go and basically demonstrate their capabilities,” Rugen said, adding that the Army is looking for features such as lower noise signature and better transportability.
The service plans to “do a fly-off in the next couple of months and down-select in February,” he said. FORCOM units will then fly them for a year in 2020.
The results of the demonstrations will inform future requirements for the FVL’s Advanced UAS, Rugen said. “If it’s something we really, really like, we may move forward with it.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Air Force has begun early testing, software development, and weapons integration for its upcoming Block 4 variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an emerging model intended to give the multi-role fighter a new dimension of weapons and attack mission possibilities, service leaders said.
The new version, to emerge in the early 2020s, will add new long-range precision-tracking weapons such as the newly named StormBreaker weapon — previously called the Small Diameter Bomb II.
“StormBreaker™ successfully completed Developmental Testing and the Government Confidence Testing phase in early 2018. StormBreaker demonstrated all operating modes, the capability to send, receive, and process data-link messages via both link-16 and UHF, Tara Wood, an official with Raytheon’s weapons development unit, told Warrior Maven.
The Air Force and F-35 weapons integration office are also integrating a new upgraded AIM-9x air to air missile, which will enable pilots to attack enemy fighters “off-boresight,” a term which refers to an increased target envelope.
An “off-boresight” AIM-9s will give pilots an ability to target and destroy enemies behind and to the sides of the F-35, Joe Dellavedova, an official with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
US Navy F-35C.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King)
“The next step for F-35 weapons integration will be to address the weapon requirements within Block 4. Integration of the Small Diameter Bomb II has already begun, and flight test is scheduled to start as early as 2019,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a statement a short time ago.
StormBreaker – Small Diameter Bomb II
StormBreaker, described as a key element of Block 4, is a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.
Wood further explained that StormBreaker detects, classifies, and tracks a wide array of targets, both moving and stationary. It also has an ability to prosecute moving targets through adverse weather conditions. StormBreaker™ is currently in Operational Test, Wood said.
GPS and laser-guided weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions have been around for decades, however, they have primarily been designed for use against fixed or stationary targets. StormBreaker has already completed a series of wind tunnel tests.
While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, the SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight, Raytheon developers told Warrior Maven.
Operational Testing will utilize the weapon in real world conditions in operationally relevant scenarios, she explained.
A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.
Raytheon weapons developers say the tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.
Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground, Raytheon officials told Warrior.
One Raytheon SDB II developer told Warrior in a previous interview that “the millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology.”
The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air dropped bombs, so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.
If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.
About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.
The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could for example be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.s, this will no longer remain the case.
StormBreaker, which is also being integrated on the F-15E, is carried on the BRU-61, a 4 place miniature munitions rack that fits in the F-35’s internal weapons bays. The weapons will be integrated on the F/A-18E/F and F-35B for the Navy and Marine Corps before the F-35A and F-35C, developers explained.
“StormBreaker™ uses Universal Armament Interface protocol to make the weapon/aircraft interface compatible with a wide range of aircraft, including F-35,” Wood added.
Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, previous test-firings of the AIM-9X were intended to further the missile’s ability to demonstrate this “off-boresight,” attack technology. Previous test data and observers have confirmed the F-35 identified and targeted the drone with its mission systems sensors, passed the target ‘track’ information to the missile, enabled the pilot to verify targeting information using the high off-boresight capability of the helmet mounted display and launched the AIM-9X from the aircraft to engage the target drone, a statement from the F-35 JPO said.
F-35 to 2070
The current consensus among senior Pentagon weapons developers holds that, at the moment, the F-35 is the most capable 5th generation plane in the world. Maintaining this edge, however, is anticipated to quickly become more and more difficult now that both Russia and China are building 5th-gen stealth fighters.
“Block 4 is important with the national defense strategy to make sure we are modernizing the plane to keep it dominant on the battlefield. We are close to knowing the strategy for how to go after it,” Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told a group of reporters in early 2018.
While the applied impact of Block 4 will incorporate a range of mission-expanding technologies, much of the ongoing preparation work is in the realm of software development, Roper said.
“The physical pieces of the plane are moving in a good direction. Most of what we have left to do is software. The department (DoD) has not historically been good at software development. That will take a little longer. I cannot imagine building anything for the Air Force that is not software intensive,” Roper said.
The Block 4 initiative is part of a long range trajectory planned for the F-35 described by Pentagon developers as C2D2 – Continuous Capability Development and Delivery. The idea, officials say, is to position the multi-role fighter such that it can consistently accommodate new weapons, stealth materials, sensors, and guidance technology as it becomes available
“We own today’s fight,” said Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, F-35 Test Director, Edwards AFB, told reporters in early 2018. However, Tucker went on to say that, in the absence of aggressive modernization, sustainment and various improvement efforts.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.