U.S. Army robotics officials got their first look Aug. 30, 2018, at an innovative new technology for launching and recovering unmanned aerial systems (UAS) from a moving combat vehicle.
“Think of a drive-through Venus flytrap,” Don Sando, deputy to the commanding general of the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, told defense reporters Aug. 30, 2018, following a robotics and autonomous systems industry day.
Hosted by the Capabilities and Integration Directorate, the event drew 200 participants representing 100 defense industry firms.
“Ten percent of them were first-time participants with the Department of Defense and Department of the Army as we look at expanding our collaboration beyond traditional big defense companies to some of the smaller companies that may have some creativity and innovation that we are just not aware of yet,” Sando said.
One of the small firms that stood out was Target Arm LLC, which is developing the Talon UAS launch and recovery system.
Talon is a very “simple design, applicable to any vehicle, wheeled or tracked. That’s very innovative in my judgment,” said Sando, who was impressed with a YouTube video he saw Aug. 30, 2018.
“I was like, ‘Hey, that is simple, yet elegant,’ ” he said. “The ability to launch and recover aircraft from a moving platform really helps our ground formations on a battlefield, where we know they have to move quickly. Anytime you stop, you become a target.”
While there were no demonstrations at the event, many of the companies brought white papers to showcase new technologies that might meet the needs of the service’s new Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Initial Capabilities Document, said Col. Thomas Nelson, director of Robotics Requirements at Benning.
The document was approved at Army level in July 2018 and “essentially approved by the Joint Staff in August 2018,” Sando said, adding that it will help the service focus its goals for how new RAS technology will communicate with soldiers and other Army systems.
Many of the industry day attendees will take part in experiments scheduled for November and December 2018 in the United Kingdom, said Lt. Col. Nick Serle, commanding officer of the U.K. Infantry Trials and Development Unit.
“That really ties into the great partnership that we have between [Benning’s] Maneuver Battle Lab over here and the work that we do back in the U.K.,” he said. “We will be learning together.”
For now, there isn’t an Army requirement for the Talon system, but the technology could be submitted to the Robotic Enhancement Program (REP), Nelson said, adding that the company could submit a proposal “and potentially, there may be Army funding to explore that potential innovative solution further and test it by letting soldiers get hands on.”
Currently, combat vehicles are limited to line-of-sight targeting and surveillance systems, Sando said. “But what if it had its own [UASs] that it could dispatch kilometers and miles in advance just to help me see, help me target beyond line of sight?
“So the next thing is how I start to describe and quantify that combat advantage to being able to do that. … Put it in the hands of soldiers and say, ‘OK, how would you use this? Does it really make you better as opposed to stopping and launching a system and then recovering?’ Or ‘Hey, I don’t have to stop at all; I can maintain my momentum. I don’t have to hazard my soldiers by taking them out of a protective combat vehicle.'”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Even though President Donald Trump’s defense budget is committed to keeping the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane, as many as three squadrons could still be shut down.
According to a report in DefenseNews.com, the Air Force says that unless funding to produce more new wings for the A-10 is provided, three of the nine squadrons currently in service will have to be shut down due to fatigue issues in their wings. Re-winged A-10s have a projected service life into the 2030s.
“We’re working on a long-term beddown plan for how we can replace older airplanes as the F-35 comes on, and we’ll work through to figure out how we’re going to address those A-10s that will run out of service life on their wings,” Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command told DefenseNews.com.
Presently, only 173 wing kits have been ordered by the Air Force, with an option for 69 more. The Air Force currently had 283 A-10s in service, but some may need to be retired when the wings end their service lives.
The A-10 has a number of supporters in Congress, notably Rep. Martha McSally, who piloted that plane during her career in the Air Force. In the defense authorization bill for Fiscal Year 2017, Congress mandated that at least 171 A-10s be kept in service to maintain a close-air-support capability.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the A-10 was originally designed to bust enemy tanks, and was given the 30mm GAU-8 gatling gun with 1,174 rounds. It can also carry up to eight tons of bombs, rockets, missiles and external fuel tanks.
Fully 356 Thunderbolts were upgraded to the A-10C version, which has been equipped with modern precision-guided bombs like the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM. A total of 713 A-10s were built between 1975 and 1984.
The major nations of the world have been in an air-to-air arms race since the first fighter pilots fired pistols at each other in World War I. From machine gun mounts to jet engines to stealth technology, the race has always been about making the human in one cockpit more lethal than the other.
It now appears that the race is moving to an entirely new stage where the goal is to make autonomous drones that can kill while the pilot is either in another cockpit or an office far away. While the manned F-22 Raptor is still the king of the roost and F-35 pilots are gearing up for their combat debut, these are the unmanned fighters in development to replace them in the future:
The Navy is still interested in developing a next-generation unmanned fighter, but that’s far in the future, while unmanned F-16s could be fighting within a few years.
3. DRDO AURA
India’s Autonomous Unmanned Research Vehicle is a technology demonstrator under development by the country’s Defense Research and Development Organisation. The final weapon is designed to carry its weapons internally and be capable of self-defense, reconnaissance, and striking ground targets.
China’s Sharp Sword is so wrapped in secrecy that no one’s sure what its ultimate mission will be. It has gone through some iterations and prototypes, but a blended-wing design that flew in late-2013 is the best known version.
That means it will need something to defend itself against fighters from U.S. carriers. If it doesn’t get integrated air-to-air weapons, expect it to act as a sensor for ground-based defenses and possibly take on an anti-ship role.
The Dassault nEUROn is a Pan-European UCAV designed for strike capabilities and technology testing. (Photo: Aerolegende CC BY-SA 3.0)
In addition to the UCAVs discussed above, there are a number of new drones designed to surveil and strike ground targets. Russia’s Skat was canceled, but its technology is incorporated into a new platform developed by Sukhoi, the same company that makes the PAK FA T-50.
The Russian military has reportedly obtained one of Israel’s most advanced air defense missiles from the David’s Sling battery, the Times of Israel reports, raising the possibility that Russia could quickly figure out how to defeat a cutting-edge system designed to destroy ballistic missiles in flight and share that with US and Israeli foes like Iran.
The Russian military reportedly obtained the missile in July of 2018, when Israel fired it against Russian-made Syrian rockets headed toward Israeli terrority. Of the two missiles the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired at Syria, one was self-detonated by the Israeli Air Force when it became clear the Syrian weapons wouldn’t breach Israel’s border.
The other missile reportedly landed intact within Syria, where, as Chinese news agency SINA reported Nov. 2, 2019, it was picked up by Syrian forces and handed over to Russia, which is fighting alongside the regime troops under Bashar al-Assad.
The David’s Sling is a medium-range missile interceptor and was built by Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and US company Raytheon as a replacement for the Patriot missile battery built to defeat ballistic missiles. Israel first obtained the system in 2017; July 2018 is believed to be the first operational use of the system, which fires the Stunner missile.
David’s Sling Weapons System Stunner Missile intercepts target during inaugural flight test.
(United States Missile Defense Agency)
“It’s certainly a concern. If I was at Rafael, I’d be nervous right now,” Ian Williams, deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic International Studies, told Insider.
The concern, Williams said, is not so much that Russia will produce a copy of the system for its own use as other countries might. “If Iran captured this thing, we would see an identical system two years from now,” he told Insider.
But if Russia has indeed got its hands on the Stunner missile, it could study the technology and figure out how to defeat the David’s Sling system, which would be a massive problem for the countries — like Poland — where Israel is attempting to sell the system, not to mention Israel itself.
“If I was Israel, my big concern is that if Russia can get the intelligence to defeat the interceptor to Iran,” Williams said.
David’s Sling Missile System -⚔️ New Israel Missile Defense System [Review]
Dmitry Stefanovich, Russian International Affairs Council expert and Vatfor project co-founder, told Insider that Russia could also potentially use the missile to refine its own systems — “both offensive and defensive.”
“In terms of air defense interceptors, they’re no slouches themselves, they do have pretty advanced, very sophisticated interceptors as is,” Williams said, citing the S-300, S-400, and S-500 systems.
SINA also reported that the United States and Israel requested that Russia return the missile to Israel; however, that effort was unsuccessful. Neither Russia nor the IDF has confirmed reports of the missile coming into Russian possession, according to the Times of Israel.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The standard U.S. Armed Forces field ration is, above all other considerations, designed to make you emotional.
Sure, an MRE needs to be nutritious. Obviously, it also needs to be lightweight, packable, durable, quick, and easy to prepare. It’s got to have a long shelf life because who knows when it’ll be called up for active duty. And at the end of the day — and not just because it’s the end of the day — the damn thing ought to taste good.
After years of research and development, laboratory refinement, and testing in the field, the military has the MRE dialed to within an inch of its life. Private, does your dinner have “Vegetable Rotini” stamped on its olive drab shrink wrap? Yes? Then, by God, you can trust that when you just add water, the thing you find rehydrated on the end of your spork will resemble a rotini (Vegetable Class) to the highest degree achievable by military science.
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl trusted in the prowess of the military’s culinary industrial complex. After all, he named his show after its signature offering.
When he visited the labs and testing facilities of the United States Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA, he was excited to spend some quality time covering familiar territory. What he didn’t count on was the depth of the emotional response that many of his interview subjects had to meals they’d eaten as soldiers in the field. And it turns out, that response is no accident.
We want it to be a quality meal that we provide to them. We don’t know if that’s going to be their last meal.
Watch host August Dannehl and fellow veteran Mike Williams, currently the Executive Chef of West Hollywood restaurant Norah, transform the military’s utilitarian ration MRE into a mouthwatering “Jambalaya Risotto with Duo of Duck.”
Meals Ready to Eat can be seen on KCET in Southern California, on Link TV Nationwide (DirecTV 375 and DISH Network 9410), and online at KCET.org.
Part of the Memex suite of tools, Tellfinder reveals trafficking activity and summarizes the behavior of and relationships between the entities that post them. (DARPA graphic)
Wade Shen, a program manager in DARPA’s Information Innovation Office, said in a recent DoD News interview that the program, called Memex, is designed to help law enforcement officers and others perform online investigations to hunt down human traffickers.
“Our goal is to understand the footprint of human trafficking in online spaces, whether that be the dark web or the open web,” he explained, characterizing the dark web as the anonymous internet, accessed through a system, among others, called Tor.
“The term dark web is used to refer to the fact that crimes can be committed in those spaces because they’re anonymous,” Shen said, “and therefore, people can make use of [them] for nefarious activities.”
Point of Sale
The approach he and his team have taken is to collect data from the Internet and make it accessible through search engines.
“Typically, this is data that’s hard for commercial search engines to get at, and it’s typically the point of sale where sex trafficking is happening,” Shen explained. “Victims of sex trafficking are often sold as prostitutes online, and a number of websites are the advertising point where people who want to buy and people who are selling can exchange information, or make deals.
“What we’re looking for,” he continued, “is online behavioral signals in the ads that occur in these spaces that help us detect whether or not a person is being trafficked.”
When a prostitute is advertised online as being “new in town” or by specific characteristics, those are hints that person might be trafficked. New in town means a person might be moving around, and the term “fresh” often means a person is underage, Shen explained. “Those kinds of things are indicators we can use to figure out whether or not a person is being pimped and trafficked,” he added.
Before the Memex program formally began in late 2014, Shen’s team was working with the district attorney of New York to determine if they could find signals associated with trafficking in prostitution ads on popular websites.
DMA modern slavery info graphic.
“We found that lots of signals existed in the data, whether they be phone numbers used repeatedly by organizations that are selling multiple women online, or branding tattoos that exist in photos online, or signals in the text of the ads,” Shen said.
Shen’s team had been working on text-based exploitation programs for big data — extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions. But they thought that if they extended the technology to understand images and networks of people, then they could apply it to detecting rings of traffickers and behaviors associated with trafficking online.
“If we could do that,” he said, “we could … generate leads for investigators so they wouldn’t have to sift through millions of ads in order to find the small number of ads that are associated with trafficking. So that’s what we did.”
Early on, the team realized that search wasn’t quite the right modality for doing such investigations and that there was a lot more work to do before the technology could be adapted to trafficking. That’s when the Memex program began, Shen said.
“Since the beginning of the program, we’ve had a strong relationship with the district attorney of New York, but they’re not the only user of the technology. Over time, we have engaged with many different law enforcement agencies, including 26 in the United Kingdom, the district attorney of San Francisco, and a number of others,” he said.
Investigators for the district attorney of New York were able to use Memex tools to find and prosecute perpetrators, and that resulted in an arrest and conviction in the program’s first year, he added.
“Since then,” Shen said, “there have been hundreds of arrests and other convictions by a variety of law enforcement agencies in the United States and abroad.”
Today, more than 33 agencies are using the tools, he added, and an increasing number of local law enforcement agencies are using the tools.
“As word of mouth spreads about the tools and the fact that we give free access to the tools to law enforcement, more and more people are signing up to use it,” he said.
Shen said it’s easy for his team to work with state, local and federal partners in the United States, but it’s harder to work with agencies abroad.
“But we’re committed to do that,” he added, “so we are in the process of working out deals with a number of those agencies so they have access to the tools we currently deploy and to allow them, after we exit [when the program ends in a year] … to continue to run their own versions of these tools.”
DARPA funds the Memex project, which, according to the agency’s budget office, has cost $67 million to date. But rather than do the work, as with its other projects, DARPA catalyzes commercial agents, universities and others to develop the technology, Shen said.
“They are experts in their fields — image analysis, text analysis or web crawling and so on — and we engage the best of that community to work on this problem. What they’ve essentially done is form coalitions to … build the tools [needed] to solve the problem, because no one of the entities that we call performers is able to do that on their own,” he added.
The Memex program has 17 different performers, and many of them also work with partners. “So all in all,” Shen said, “we have hundreds of people who are working on this effort. All of them are very dedicated to this problem, because the problem of human trafficking is real.”
When Shen’s team started the program, one of the things they realized was that the cost of people in these spaces, the cost of slaves, is essentially zero, he added.
“That means our lives are essentially worthless in some sense, and that just seems wrong,” he said. “That motivated us and a lot of our performers to do something, especially when we build technology for all sorts of commercial applications for profit and for other motives. That’s what a lot of our folks do on a day-to-day basis, and they felt the need to make use of their technology for a noble cause. We think Memex is one of these noble causes.”
On Tuesday, the first ever F-15EX took to the skies in a test flight that brought the U.S. Air Force that much closer to fielding what may be the most capable 4th generation fighter on the planet. The F-15 has been in service for more than 45 years to date, and is widely regarded as the most successful air superiority fighter in history.
“Today’s successful flight proves the jet’s safety and readiness to join our nation’s fighter fleet,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager.
“Our workforce is excited to build a modern fighter aircraft for the U.S. Air Force. Our customer can feel confident in its decision to invest in this platform that is capable of incorporating the latest advanced battle management systems, sensors and weapons due to the jet’s digital airframe design and open mission systems architecture.”
The last time the U.S. Air Force took delivery of an F-15 was in 2004, but the aircraft’s design has not stagnated in the 17 years since. Boeing, who absorbed the F-15 program when they merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, has been updating and improving the F-15 for foreign sales throughout. In fact, foreign purchasers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar have funneled more than $5 billion into improving the F-15 Eagle as America moved on to sourcing more advanced, stealth fighters. The result of all this time and money is an incredibly capable iteration of the F-15 that couples advanced avionics with the low maintenance cost of non-stealth fighter.
Most of the world still relies on 4th generation fighters for engagements in the sky, which means the F-15EX may have some stiff competition… but this new bird isn’t resting on the F-15’s historic laurels. Instead, it just may be the baddest fighter of its generation anywhere on the planet.
Why doesn’t the Air Force just buy more F-35s?
In this era of flying stealth supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor, many have questioned the wisdom of purchasing a slew of new old fighters. The F-15EX does not boast any stealth capabilities, nor does it have the same knack for sensor fusion that has earned the F-35 the unofficial nickname of “quarterback in the sky.” Despite this apparent lack of capability, the Air Force is procuring F-15EXs at a cost of around $87.7 million each, as compared to the now lower F-35 price of just $77.9 million per aircraft.
This price differential only emboldens the F-15EX’s critics, who point out that the F-35 offers a far wider variety of capabilities and is considered much more survivable in contested airspace (thanks to its stealth capabilities). When you only consider those figures, the F-15EX may seem like a pretty poor choice.
However, the reality of military acquisitions and combat capability are far more nuanced than a side-by-side tale of the tape might represent. While the F-15EX may indeed cost more per airframe than the latest batch of F-35s, it may actually be the savvier purchase. The F-35 is intended to have an operational lifespan of around 8,000 hours, whereas each F-15EX is expected to last 20,000. In other words, in order to fly the same number of hours as an F-15EX, the Air Force would need to purchase not one, but three F-35As.
That price reduction is further bolstered by operational costs. Keeping a high performance fighter in tip-top shape is expensive and time consuming, but in that portion of the ledger, the F-15EX once again shines. The Air Force expects to spend around $29,000 for every hour the F-15EX is in the air, far cheaper than the F-35’s figures recorded in 2018 of around $44,000 per hour. Now let’s do a bit of back-of-the-envelope math to assess how much these aircraft will actually cost in a fight.
The F-15EX costs $87.7 million per aircraft, and can fly for up to 20,000 hours at a cost of $29,000 per hour. So $29,000 per hour x 20,000 hours + $87.7 million for the aircraft comes out to a pretty serious $667.7 million dollars.
In order to match that operational lifespan, it would take three F-35As. So the math would look like $44,000 per hour x 20,000 hours + $233.7 million for three F-35s… and it comes out to more than a jaw dropping $1.1 billion. The F-15EX, then, offers a saving of around $446 million per aircraft over the lifespan of the jet (if things were this simple, anyway).
To give the F-35 a slightly more realistic shake, let’s use larger volumes of aircraft, rather than 1:1 comparisons. The Air Force plans to purchase at least 144 F-15EXs, but for the sake of simple math, let’s call it 100. The above per-aircraft cost times a hundred comes out to $66,770,000,000 spent on aircraft and 2,000,000 flight hours. You would need 250 F-35s to match the same flight hour total, which combined with operating costs come to $109,925,000,000. In this more realistic comparison, the F-15EX offers a less pronounced advantage, but still comes to the tune of some $43,155,000,000 in savings over the span of the program. $43 billion is certainly nothing to scoff at.
Now, it’s important to note here that this math is egregiously simplified: Lockheed Martin and the Air Force are already working tirelessly to reduce the operating costs of the F-35 (because the Air Force says they can’t afford them if they don’t).
The cost per hour of the F-35 is sure to drop in the years to come — and just as importantly, the F-35 is a stealth platform built largely to engage ground targets. The F-15EX, on the other hand, is an air superiority fighter designed to duke it out in the skies. Both of these aircraft are capable of either role, but at a fundamental level, these jets simply aren’t built to do the same jobs. It might help to think of them as NASCAR and Formula 1 racers: Both are extremely capable platforms, but they’re each highly specialized for their specific use. The new F-15EXs the Air Force buys won’t fill F-35 spots, but will instead replace aging F-15s in America’s existing arsenal.
What makes this new F-15 better than our old ones?
The United States currently maintains a fleet of around 230 F-15s in various trims (C/D). These jets represent the crux of America’s fourth generation air intercept fighters. The F-22 Raptor was intended to serve as a replacement for the F-15, but the program was canceled after just 186 Raptors were delivered.
The new F-15EXs boast updated cockpit systems, an enhanced sensor suite and data fusion capabilities, and the ability to carry up to 29,500 pounds of ordnance split into 12 air-to-air hard points or 15 air-to-ground hard points. Its new twin engines aren’t just more efficient, they’re also more powerful, making the fastest fighter in America’s inventory even faster.
The F-15EX isn’t stealthy, but it does boast an electronic warfare suite that will help make it more survivable in contested airspace. Its streamlined pilot interface borrows from some 5th generation technology, integrating information into easier to manage displays that allow the pilot to focus more on the battle space than the gauge cluster. This not only improves pilot performance, it also reduces fatigue on long missions.
In order to keep pace with new weapons as they emerge, the F-15EX leverages what Boeing calls an Open Mission System architecture designed specifically to be able to absorb new tech as it reaches the field. Importantly, however, the new F-15s retain around 80% of the old F-15 design, making them easy for maintainers to adapt to. Instead of having to train for an entirely new platform, they need only to train for the more modern additions to a jet they’re already intimately familiar with.
How does the F-15EX stack up against the top fighters from other countries?
Despite its upgrades, the new F-15EX remains squarely within the 4th generation of fighters. There are currently four operational 5th generation fighters on the planet: America’s F-35 and F-22, Russia’s Su-57, and China’s J-20. If the F-15EX were to square off against these platforms, it would be at a huge disadvantage–and platforms like the F-35 or F-22 would likely be able to engage and destroy the F-15 before its pilot was even aware of their presence. Questions remain about the stealth and avionics found in the J-20 or Su-57, but even if their stealth isn’t quite as advanced, they’d still have a real leg up on the F-15EX.
But to be honest, the chances of such an engagement are incredibly small. Russia’s troubled Su-57 program has seen setback after setback, and to date, there are only around 13 of the fighters in existence. Production is expected to pick up, but Russia lacks the funds to really field a large scale fleet of these stealthy fighters. China’s J-20 has also faced woes in its engine compartment, though China has managed to field more than 50 of these jets already. The new J-20B will incorporate thrust vector control (like America’s F-22) and is expected to be an even more capable aircraft… but again, it exists in extremely limited numbers.
Their rarity notwithstanding, if American jets were to square off against Chinese or Russian ones, America would leverage its fleet of hundreds of F-35s and F-22s. There would be no reason to send the F-15 into such a fight. However, F-15EXs could see a great deal of use in the uncontested airspace of trouble spots like Syria and Iraq, where stealth is as unnecessary as it is expensive.
But what about the 4th generation fighters that make up the backbone of Chinese and Russian air forces? The Su-35, operated by both Russia and China, as well as the J-10 operated by China are both considered to be highly capable platforms, and the MiG-29 operated by a number of nations is also considered rather formidable (among others). However, the F-15 has already squared up against a number of capable fighters and emerged on top. In fact, of the 104 air-to-air duels the F-15 has entered, it has lost exactly zero of them. Not too shabby.
With the addition of 21st century avionics and more capable engines, it seems likely that the F-15 will maintain its advantage of the competition.
Ask most people about ducks, and they think of the birds that you’d feed in a park or what they would go hunting out with some buddies in the spring or fall. Others may think of it as the middle bird in a turducken. But World War II veterans will think of a very different thing – a truck that was a very crucial piece to victory in that conflict.
Well, the truck wasn’t officially called a duck. It wasn’t even officially called the DUKW. That name came about from General Motors, which had an in-house designation system (many companies that build fighters do the same thing). According to Olive-Drab.com, D stood for a vehicle that first began production in 1942. The U stood for a utility vehicle. The K meant that it was an all-wheel drive vehicle, and the W signified a dual-rear axle arrangement.
It was a modified two and a half ton truck, intended to be able to operate on water as well as on the land. The amphibious capability came from adding a boat hull and a propeller to the standard truck then in service.
The DUKW was used to haul troops and cargo through water, to the beach, and then inland.
(Photo by U.S. Army)
The DUKW first rolled off the assembly line in June, 1942, just as the United States Navy won the Battle of Midway. Production was well underway by later that year, which meant this vehicle missed Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa.
The DUKW could haul troops or cargo over most terrain. Here, one is being loaded with cans of fuel.
(Photo by U.S. Army)
But when it came time to storm Sicily, the DUKW was ready, and proved to be very valuable. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the DUKW had a top speed of 50 miles per hour, could go 398 miles on a tank of gas, and had a crew of two. Over 21,000 ducks were built, and some of them continued in military service until 2012 – seventy years after the first one was made!
Many DUKWs that are still operating in the civilian world carry out “Duck tours” in cities across the world.
(Photo by Arnold Reinhold)
Today, most “ducks” still in service are with civilians owners and operators, some of which appear in “duck tours,” one of which was featured on the TV series Undercover Boss. Learn more about this troop and cargo-hauling duck in the video below.
The mortar is an indirect fire weapon that rains freedom down from high angles onto an enemy within a (relatively) short range. But the compact and mobile mortar systems we have today are the result of a long history of indirect fire systems in the American military. Decades of effectively marking, lighting, and destroying targets has earned the mortar many friends — and many more enemies — on the battlefield. In short, a well-trained mortar team often means the difference between victory and defeat for infantry troops in contact.
When nature creates a successful apex predator, she rarely deviates from her original design. Warfare evolves in a similar fashion — the most successful systems are tweaked and perfected to guarantee effectiveness, preserving our way of life.
This is an ode to the mortar, and all of its beautifully complex inner-workings.
Preparation and Firing Stokes Mortars 1 Min 12 Sec
The mortar was born in the fires of conquest at the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. In that engagement, the new weapon proved just how effective firing explosives over short distances across an extremely high arc could be. Since that day, more than 500 years and countless wars ago, the general concept hasn’t changed.
One of the biggest evolutions in the mortar design was put forth by the British in World War I: the Stokes Mortar. It had 3 sections: a 51-inch tube, a base plate, and a bi-pod. This new type of mortar system fired twenty-two 10-pound pieces of ordinance a maximum of 1,000 yards. Mortars today still use the bi-pod and base-plate improvements that were first deployed in the trenches of the Western Front.
COMBAT FOOTAGE Marines in firefight beat Taliban ambush with 60mm Mortar Fire
A mortar crew consists of at least three members: the squad leader, gunner, and the assistant gunner. More members could be attached depending on manpower available.
The mortar system has a large tube closed at the the bottom and attached to a base plate. Within the barrel of the tube is a firing pin used to ignite a mortar shell’s primer. Some models have a moving firing pin that can be fired via a trigger mechanism.
The controlled explosion fills the chamber with gas and propels the shell out of the tube. A set of bi-pods add stability and allow on-the-fly adjustments. It can be fired from defilade (a fighting position that does not expose the crew to direct fire weapons) onto entrenched enemy not protected from overhead fire.
Sometimes referred to as a ‘bomb’, the shell and its components consist of the impact fuse, high explosive filler, a primary charge, fins, and augmenting charges. Illumination and smoke rounds differ depending on the model of the weapon system. Augmentation charges on the outside ‘neck’ near the fin can be added or removed to manipulate firing range as needed.
The gun is aimed, the round is half loaded until the ‘fire’ command is given and freedom rings.
Steel drizzle vs steel rain
The differences between artillery and mortars are night and day. Artillery fires on a horizontal trajectory, at faster speeds, and at longer ranges. The cost of these advantages are sacrificed in mobility.
Mortars, however, are light enough that they can be carried across difficult terrain and quickly assembled to take control of the battle space. Ammunition can be dispersed to individual troops to carry and then dropped off at the gun crew rally point.
There’s an old military saying that goes, “if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.” As enlisted personnel rise through the ranks, they tend to encounter more and more questionable practices that somehow made their way into doctrine. This isn’t anything new. Most of the veterans reading this encountered at least one “WTF Moment” in their military careers. Few of these bizarre scenarios will get a troop wounded or worse.
Then there are the tactics that could mean the difference between life and death – and you have to wonder who decided to do things that way and why do they hate their junior enlisted troops so much? These are those tactics.
“Walking Fire” with the Browning Automatic Rifle
When introduced in the closing days of World War I, the Browning Automatic Rifle – or “B-A-R” – was introduced as a means to get American troops across the large, deadly gaps called “no man’s land” between the opposing trenches. The theory was that doughboys would use the BAR in a walking fire movement, slowly walking across the ground while firing the weapon from the hip.
Anyone who’s ever used an automatic weapon has probably figured out by now that slowly sauntering across no man’s land, shooting at anything that moves will run your ammo down before you ever get close to the enemy trench. It’s probably best to stay in your own trench, which is what the Americans ended up doing anyway.
Soviet Anti-Tank Suicide Dogs
The concept seems sound enough. In the 1930s, the USSR trained dogs to wear explosive vests and run under oncoming tanks. In combat, the dogs would then be detonated while near the tank’s soft underbelly. It seems like a good idea, right? Well, when it came time to use the dogs against Nazi tanks in World War II, the Soviets realized that training the dogs with Soviet tanks might have been a bad idea. The USSR’s tanks ran on diesel while the Wehrmacht’s ran on gasoline.
Soviet tank dogs, attracted to the smell of Soviet diesel fuel, ran under Soviet tanks instead of German tanks when unleashed, creating an explosives hazard for the Red Army tanks crews.
Flying Aircraft Carriers
In the interwar years, the U.S. military decided that airpower was indeed the wave of the military’s future, and decided to experiment with a way to get aircraft flying as fast as possible. For this, they developed helium airships that housed hangers to hold a number of different airplanes. It seemed like a good idea in theory, but it turns out the air isn’t as hospitable a place as the seas and flying, helium-borne craft aren’t as stable as a solid, steel ship on the waves.
After the two aircraft carriers the Navy built both crashed, and 75 troops were dead, the military decided to go another way with aircraft.
In World War II, there wasn’t always a metal detector around. Sometimes, troops had to get down and dirty, literally. In areas where land mines were suspected, soldiers would get down on the ground, with their heads and bodies close to the ground and – without any kind of warning or hint of where mines might be, if there were any at all – poke into the ground at a 30-degree angle.
The angle helped avoid tripping the mines because the trigger mechanisms were usually located at the top of the mines. If the terrain was a bit looser, the mines could be raked up by the prodders instead.
A heavily armed man is patrolling the hallways of a Florida school. His only job? Prevent a mass shooting.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that Harold Verdecia, a 39-year-old U.S. Army veteran who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan has been hired as the first guardian at the Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Florida. Verdercia wears body armor and carries a Glock 19X handgun, but it’s his Kel-Tec “Bullpup” rifle, loaded with exploding rounds, that’s raising eyebrows.
MSA Principal Bill Jones outlined to the Herald-Tribune a specific scenario — shooter armed with a rifle, clad in body armor, looking to cause maximum damage — in justifying the unusual move of arming his school’s guardian with a rifle.
Verdercia completed 144 hours of training facilitated by the Manatee County Sherriff’s Office. He also went through extra training to carry the rifle on school grounds.
Palmetto’s Manatee School of the Arts Ramping up more Safety and Security
Security experts, however, seem skeptical of Jones’s insistence that a semi-automatic rifle is appropriate for the job. Walt Zalisko, a retired police chief and police management consultant, told the Herald-Tribune that the school would be safer with its rifles locked away and its guardian building relationships with students, not singularly focused on a mass casualty event.
Michael Dorn, president of a company that has performed security assessments of dozens of school systems in Florida, told the New York Times that a long gun is a more dangerous weapon for someone to take from an officer and that it’s harder for an officer to subdue and handcuff a suspect when he’s carrying such a gun.
Jones doesn’t seem to mind the criticism. He’s currently reviewing applications and hopes to hire a second rifle-toting guardian soon.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The Department of Defense has released video of the combat debut of the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb.
FoxNews.com reported that the April 13 air strike which killed 36 members of the Afghanistan-based affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also called ISIS-K or the Khorasan Group, targeted a cave and tunnel system in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. Heavy fighting between Afghan government forces and the terrorist group has been reported, and local residents were eager to see more bombings.
“I want 100 times more bombings on this group,” Hakim Khan told FoxNews.com.
On April 8, a Green Beret died of wounds suffered in a firefight with ISIS in that province. Pentagon officials denied that the use of MOAB was in retaliation for the loss.
“As ISIS-K’s losses have mounted, they are using [improvised bombs], bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense,” Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan said in a Department of Defense release. “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K.”
The GBU-43 is a 21,700-pound bomb that uses GPS guidance to hit its target with over 18,000 pounds of high explosive. The bomb replaced the BLU-82, a 15,000-pound bomb used since the Vietnam War. Both bombs are dropped from the back of MC-130 cargo planes modified for use by Special Operations Forces.
Below is the 30-second video of MOAB’s combat debut.
US soldiers have started receiving pocket-sized drones that could be a game changer for troops on the battlefield.
Soldiers with the 3 rd Brigade Combat Team, 82 ndAirborne Division recently got their hands on FLIR Black Hornet personal reconnaissance drones, a part of the Army’s Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) Program.
These drones, which are small enough to be carried on a soldier’s person, allow troops to see the field of battle more clearly without putting themselves in harms way.
A soldier with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division trains with a personal drone at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
(US Army photo by Patrick Ferraris)
The personal reconnaissance system includes two drones, one for day and one for night, as well as a base station, which connects to a handheld controller and a display.
These drones are small — only about 6 inches in length — and extremely lightweight, making it possible for soldiers to carry these tiny unmanned aerial vehicles on a utility belt.
Able to fly out to roughly one and a half miles, these little drones allow soldiers to assess the situation beyond them without abandoning their cover.
This technology, according to the Army’s PEO Soldier, “mitigates future losses of life and injuries by having a drone complete dangerous work that combat soldiers would usually perform on their own,” such as sending out a fire team to gather intel and conduct field reconnaissance.
One of the engineers involved in the project likened the new drones to flying binoculars that allow soldiers to see their surroundings like never before.
A personal reconnaissance drone flies in the sky at Ft. Bragg.
(US Army Photo by Patrick Ferraris)
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division will take these drones with them on their upcoming deployment, which will be the first time these UAVs will be deployed at the squad level.
Soldiers trained for a week at Fort Bragg in North Carolina with the new drones, getting a feel for the possibilities provided by this technology.
“This system is something new that not a lot of Soldiers have touched or even seen before, so it’s cool to test it out and push it to its limits before we take it with us on our deployment,” Army Sgt. Dalton Kruse, one of the operators, said in a statement.
He further commented that most of the operators who were trained on this new system had never flown a drone before, but they were able to adapt to the technology quickly.
“It was easy to pick up and fly, very user-friendly, and I can already tell that this system will benefit my unit downrange,” Kruse explained.
A soldier with the 3rd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division gets his turn during the recent fielding at Fort Bragg.
(US Army Photo by Patrick Ferraris)
This is life-saving technology that helps reduce the risk soldiers face on the battlefield.
“This kind of technology will be a life-saver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on,” Sgt. Ryan Subers, another operator, said in a statement.
The Army plans to eventually equip every squad with its own personal reconnaissance drone.
“It is the start of an era where every squad will have vision beyond their line of sight,” Nathan Heslink, the Assistant Program Manager for SBS with PEO Soldier, explained. “This allows soldiers to detect threats earlier than ever, meaning it is more likely Soldiers won’t be harmed during their missions.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.