Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

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.”

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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.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 of the worst errors the living made at the Battle of Winterfell

If you haven’t yet seen the third episode of the final season of Game of Thrones, then stop reading this, go watch it, then come back and finish reading this. If you have, and you were reasonably frustrated for most of the episode, then this posting is for you. Be sure and comment about the tactical and strategic decisions you would have made. They can’t be much worse than the brain trust running Winterfell right now.


Strategically, their premise was flawed. They hinged their success on killing the Night King, something they could only do if he revealed himself, if they could kill him at all. Everyone else was expected to just fall back to a series of positions, expecting to be overrun. This plan fell apart immediately, except for the plan to fall back expecting to die – that part went just as they all thought it would.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

“Now you guys will at least see what is about to kill you.”

They deployed their maneuver forces first.

Not only did they send the Dothraki horde against the undead, the Dothraki were sent charging in head-strong against an enemy they couldn’t even see. The Dothraki have zero experience fighting in the dark, in the cold, or against an army that isn’t already afraid of them by the time they arrive. There was no reason to send them into the fighting first or to rely on them to do much damage to an overwhelming undead wave.

Reliance on maneuvering troops in an overly surrounded stronghold is what ended the French Army in Indochina, and it almost ended the army of the living.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

Why are you not using this superweapon? You know the Night King will.

They made little use of air superiority.

Everyone talks about these dragons as if they’re going to level the playing field or give Daenerys Targaryen the perpetual upper hand. And if I were a ground troop at Winterfell, I would have felt pretty good about the dragonfire death from above we had at our disposal. So what were Daenerys and Jon Snow waiting for? Dany was the least disciplined person on their side anyway, so once the plan went out the window, the dragons should have been playing tic-tac-toe all over the undead horde.

The enemy dragon didn’t show up until halfway through the battle and was using undead dragonfire like it was the key to beating the living because it was.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

If only they had some source of unlimited fire that not only killed the enemy but also lit the battlefield…

They had no eyes on the battlefield.

Every time the dragons lit up part of the enemy, it not only took enemy soldiers off the battlefield but it gave them living targets for their artillery and archers. A huge chunk of Winterfell’s defenders were barely used because they couldn’t see the incoming enemy. The Dothraki rode straight into the swarm, quickly overrun by a force they couldn’t fight because they couldn’t see them.

The only time the living army had any kind of chance or was able to use their natural abilities to their advantage was when they could see the enemy to shoot at them. Ask Theon Greyjoy and the crew from the Iron Islands as they stood around defending the group project’s least productive partner. They made every arrow count. If Arya Stark hadn’t actually killed the Night King, then Melisandre would have to be Winterfell’s MVP – she actually gave the defenders light to see.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

Another Tarley being recruited by the Night King.

They failed to plan for the enemy’s reserves.

All the Night King had to do was raise his arms by 90 degrees to bring in an entirely new wave of fresh troops to finish off whoever was left standing among the living. No fewer than 10 of the Winterfell defenders knew this, but failed to relay that message. Would it be so hard to take a swing at a corpse with your dragonglass just to make sure you don’t have to fight your friend later on?

Still, everyone was surprised and overwhelmed when the Night King raised the dead. Especially those who decided to hide out in a crypt.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

You know things are going badly when the Air Force has to pick up weapons.

The living still somehow managed to underestimate their enemy.

As Jon Snow ran up behind the Night King, the enemy leader stopped, turned, and raised another army of the dead. Jon Snow seemed very surprised by this. Why wasn’t the Night King giving him the one-on-one duel of honor Jon Snow knows he deserved? Because the Night King doesn’t care about things like that. All he does is win. He has no problems with winning a lopsided fight, even if he never has to fight it himself.

Jon and Daenerys thought they could just swoop down and kill the night king with dragonfire, despite there being a huge lack of evidence that he could be killed at all, let alone with fire. Then they assumed he would just reveal himself and allow himself to get splattered with fire. In their plan, every minute they didn’t know where the Night King was hiding or flying, there were hundreds of troops fighting for their lives and souls. Every minute their dragons weren’t spewing fire on anything else, the Night King was heavily recruiting for the White Walker Army Reserve.

Thank the old gods and the new for Arya Stark. Somewhere, CIA agents from the 1960s are nodding their heads in approval.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army finally gets new night-vision gear after year-long delay

A top U.S. Army Futures Command leader told Congress recently that the service will field its new, binocular-style night-vision goggles, one year after the previously announced fielding date.

“In six months, we will be putting in the hands of soldiers a night-vision goggle that is 5X,” said Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, describing the improvement of the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-B over the night-vision gear soldiers currently carry.

The new ENVG-B — which features a dual-tube technology that equips soldiers with infrared and thermal capability — is scheduled to go to an armored brigade combat team in October before the unit leaves for a rotation to South Korea, Army modernization officials told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland subcommittee on April 16, 2019.


The Army first announced in February 2018 that it had funded the ENVG effort in the fiscal 2019 budget to give infantry and other close-combat soldiers greater depth perception than the current monocular-styled ENVGs and AN/PVS-14s.

In March 2018, Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, who then led the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, announced that the Army would begin fielding the ENVG-Bs in October 2018.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

(U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center)

Richardson did not mention that the proposed ENVG-B fielding had been delayed by a year.

Military.com reached out to Army Futures Command for an explanation of the delay but did not receive a response by press time.

Richardson praised the new ENVG-B’s ability to project the soldier’s sight reticle in front of the firing eye, day or night — a feature that has vastly improved marksmanship, he said.

“I have used the goggle. I have shot with the goggle, and it is better than anything I have experienced in my Army career,” he said.

Subcommittee chairman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said most civilians think that the Army’s night-vision goggles are the “size and probably the weight of a quarter, maybe a silver dollar.”

“Could you explain to us the difference of weight and shape of this next generation of night-vision goggles versus what our troops have been using?” he asked.

Richardson said the new ENVG-B is “lighter than the goggles that we have today, even though it is dual-tubed versus monocular.”

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

(U.S. Army photo)

Currently, most soldiers still use the AN/PVS-14. The Army began fielding the first generation of the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle in 2009. The ENVG technology consists of a traditional infrared image intensifier, similar to the PVS-14, and a thermal camera. The system fuses the IR with the thermal capability into one display.

But the new ENVG-Bs are a short-term capability that will be replaced by the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, made by Microsoft, Army officials have said.

IVAS is meant to replace the service’s Heads-Up Display 3.0 effort to develop a high-tech digital system designed to let soldiers view their weapon sight reticle and other key tactical information through a pair of protective glasses, rather than goggles.

“You are able to train and rehearse that mission with a set of glasses,” Richardson said. “The tubes have gone away; it’s embedded in the glasses, which will significantly reduce the weight of where we are going.

“We believe in the next two years we will put the IVAS system on soldiers, beginning in the fourth quarter of 2022,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia hasn’t shown its laser weapon fire a single time

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!).

The laser in question, if you haven’t seen it, is the Peresvet Combat Laser System. It was first announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a March annual address to the Russia’s Federal Assembly where he also discussed new nuclear missiles, including a nuclear-powered missile that he claimed was ready put in the field. It later came out that the missile has never had a successful test and crashed at sea, forcing Russia to try and find it.

Russia actually also claimed another laser weapon at the same time, a plane-mounted, anti-satellite laser. The Peresvet is, almost certainly, not the same weapon. This thing would not fit on a high-flying fighter jet.

The Peresvet Combat Laser System Is Now In Service

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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.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

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.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

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.

Articles

This is why there are no urinals on the Navy’s newest supercarrier

The United States Navy commissioned the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) this past weekend. The ship is noted for many advanced technologies on board, but what is also notable is what the ship doesn’t have.


According to a Navy Times report, though the Ford has a compliment of America’s most advanced fighters, it’s missing urinals in the men’s head.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run
Tugboats maneuver the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) into the James River. | US Navy

The Navy claimed that the elimination of the urinals increase flexibility when it comes to shifting berthing arrangements for the crew on board the $13 billion vessel. However, there are some drawbacks to this new arrangement, according to experts.

Chuck Kaufman, president of the Public Restroom Company, is among those critical of the design change. The Public Restroom Company specializes in designing public restrooms that have been used in parks, rest areas, playgrounds – just about anywhere.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) | US Navy photo

“[A toilet is] by far a less clean environment than a urinal. By far,” Kaufman told the Navy Times, citing the fact that men tend to miss normal toilets more often than they miss urinals.

“What is a problem is [with a water closet] you have a very big target and we can’t aim very quickly,” he added, noting that the only way to ensure men didn’t miss was to make them sit down. Furthermore, Kaufman explained, toilets take over twice the space of urinals. The Navy Times noted that about 18 percent of the Navy’s personnel are women.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run
USS Gerald R. Ford in the drydock. (WATM archive)

The Gerald R. Ford replaced the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which was taken out of service in 2012.

The ship will carry out its first deployment in 2020, according to a report from USNI News and incorporates almost two dozen technological improvements over the Nimitz-class carriers currently in service,

Articles

Here’s what the US military’s future helicopter fleet could look like

In what the participants call a “unique” collaboration, government agencies and aerospace corporations are working together to develop advanced platforms and technologies for vertical lift that are intended to replace virtually all the current rotary wing and tilt-rotor aircraft being used by the four U.S. military services.


The results of those efforts are likely to also influence future civilian and international vertical lift programs.

The ultimate goal is to produce a family of vertical lift aircraft that can serve as transports for personnel and cargo and perform attack, scout, search and rescue, anti-submarine and anti-surface ship missions from land or sea at speeds and ranges far exceeding existing capabilities.

During a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, the industry and government representatives said the focus was on achieving the maximum commonality of aircraft components and open architecture in mission systems to reduce production and sustainment costs and promote interoperability among individual aircraft and services.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run
The Sikorsky X-2. (Courtesy photo)

The coalition of talent is working on two separate but closely related programs: Future Vertical Lift and Joint Multi-role Technology Demonstration, which are managed by the Army with participation by the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

Under the FVL part of the effort, Bell Helicopter is working on an advanced tilt-rotor aircraft called the V-280 Valor, which advances the technologies produced for the V-22 Ospreys that are operated by the Marines and Air Force Special Operations Command and in the future by the Navy.

For FVL, Boeing-Sikorsky team is building a “coaxial” helicopter called the SB-1 Defiant, which uses counter-rotating rotors for vertical operations and a rear-mounted propeller for high-speed level flight. It builds on technology demonstrated by Sikorsky’s X-2 that hit speeds of 260 knots, or 300 miles an hour.

At CSIS, Chris Van Buiten, vice president of Sikorsky Innovations, and Vince Tobin, VP for advanced tilt-rotor systems at Bell, said their aircraft will fly next year in preparation for a competitive “fly off” for the FVL program.

Both of those firms, Rockwell Collins and other companies are participating in the JMR program, which is focused on developing a new generation of mission systems and avionics that would go into any future vertical lift aircraft and, the panelist said, could be retrofitted into some of the legacy platforms that are likely to remain in service for decades.

The Rockwell Collins officials said the advanced computer systems being developed in the JMR effort would allow the future vertical lift platforms to be “optionally manned,” meaning they could be operated as unmanned systems as well as flown by humans.

Bell has also introduced an unmanned tilt-rotor proposal, the V-247 Vigilant, with a folding wing and rotor for the Marines.

Dan Bailey, program director of JMR/FVL for the Army, said the technology demonstration program is expected to culminate in 2020, and will “set the conditions for the future” as they seek to replace all the military’s vertical lift systems over decades.

The FVL competition for the air frame should conclude in 2019, he said.

Bailey said the vertical lift “airframe designs we have today are very limited on what we can get out of them.” And the ability to increase efficiency in those platforms “is limited.”

“We need new platforms,” he said.

Bailey and the others stressed the importance of pushing open architecture capabilities in the systems developed under JMR. Open architecture generally means the software within mission systems and other aircraft avionics is independent of the hardware. That allows rapid and relatively inexpensive changes in the systems as technology improves or mission requirements change.

Bailey said the FVL/JMR program provides the ability to partner with industry “that is unique” and will allow the government “to do this efficiently.”

To meet the multi-service requirements of the FVL program, Van Buiten and Tobin said their aircraft could be produced with the rotor and wing folding capabilities that the Navy and Marines require for shipboard operations.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This amazing robot could be the future of amphibious drones

Marines can fight in the air, on the ground and at sea – and soon they’ll have a robot that can tag along for at least two of those. Pliant Energy Systems’ Velox robot can track you on both land and sea. Snow, sand, ice, mud, it doesn’t matter the terrain; the Velox can follow you anywhere. But its true “natural” habitat is underwater, where its undulating propulsion system and efficient electrical drive can keep up with any target.


Its official designation is the Agile Amphibious Swimmer, and it first appeared at the 2017 Naval Future Force Science and Technology Expo in Washington, D.C. What’s special about it is that its undersea mode is not driven by the usual propeller system, but rather a pair of versatile, undulating fins that glide through the water, acting as both thrust and guidance systems.

What’s amazing is how the robot performs when it makes an amphibious landing, moving just as mobile on difficult terrain as it does in the water.

To the Brooklyn-based designers of Pliant Energy Systems, the smoothly undulating fins are a step far ahead of current, propeller-based systems. Undulating drives mean a lower environmental impact and a lower rate of entanglement in aquatic plants and animals. The fins create movement underwater in much the same way that manta rays do while crawling over land like a snake. This is its biggest selling point to the Office of Naval Research: it can handle any terrain during a single mission.

“The robot’s swimming performance alone is unprecedented outside of the natural world,” claimed Benjamin Pietro Filardo, founder, CEO, and CTO of Pliant. “But that’s only half the story because it can deploy its swimming fins to travel over various land topographies in ways that don’t seem to have been explored yet in the field of terrestrial robotics.”

The robot’s biomimic propulsion is just the beginning. Future versions of the robot could feature a propulsion system that can recharge itself in wind and in waters at sea. The secret is in the substance that makes up the robot’s fins, electroactive polymers. As it expands and contracts, it generates electricity. When an electrical current is applied to the material, the material moves, much like biological muscles.

In the future, Pliant looks to create electrical generators powered by the movement of water in waves, rivers, and streams from the same materials that power the Velox drone (like in the video above).

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This amazing video shows how rifle suppressors work using a see-through silencer

It’s pretty clear that in today’s military, rifle suppressors are a thing. 


Long relegated to James Bond movies and secret squirrel types in the U.S. military, firearms mufflers now are becoming more popular in line units. Infantry leaders are beginning to recognize the benefits of silencers, with their ability to help mask a shooter’s location by suppressing both sound and flash.

Experts also preach that a suppressor makes shooting a lot easier on the trooper by reducing recoil and tamping down the “flinch” reaction that inevitably comes from firing a 165 decibel rifle shot.

 

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run
(US Marine Corps photo)

“Cans,” as they are colloquially known, reduce an M4 rifle shot’s report an average of about 20 decibels — that’s not enough to “silence” them, but it’s enough to meet hearing safety requirements for government regulators.

In fact, the Marine Corps has been experimenting with equipping entire infantry units with suppressed rifles, and sees them as enough of a game changer that they’re pushing to include cans with almost every rifle they shoot.

But how these little tubes of steel or titanium do what they do has always been a bit of a mystery to most shooters. The internal architecture of the suppressor’s baffles are part engineering mastery, part material science part alchemy and each manufacturer has its own design to get the sound down.

Now, an Alabama-based silencer maker has built his cans with a clear, hardened acrylic that shows in vivid detail exactly what’s going on inside when the smoke and flame eject from the muzzle. And YouTuber SmarterEveryDay took his high speed camera to the range and got some amazing footage of the gas and blast dissipating trough a silencer.

It’s a very cool look at a device silencer expert and current 2nd Marine Division Gunner Christian Wade says “increases the effectiveness of your weapon.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what the US Air Force has planned for all its bombers

The US has three bombers — the B-1B Lancer, the stealth B-2 Spirit, and the B-52 Stratofortress — to deliver thousands of tons of firepower in combat.

Some form of the B-52 has been in use since 1955. The B-1B took its first flight in 1974, and the B-2 celebrated its 30th year in the skies in 2019. A new stealth bomber, the B-21, is in production and is expected to fly in December 2021, although details about it are scarce.

The US Air Force has been conducting missions in Europe with B-52s and B-2s in order to project dominance against Russia and train with NATO partners, but the bomber fleet has faced problems. The B-1B fleet struggled with low readiness rates, as Air Force Times reported in June 2019, likely due to its age and overuse in recent conflicts.

Here are all the bombers in the US Air Force’s fleet.


Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

A B-1B Lancer takes off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on Oct. 11, 2017.

(US Air Force)

The Air Force’s B-1B Lancer has had problems with mission readiness this year.

The Lancer is a long-range, multi-role heavy bomber and has been in service since 1985, although its predecessor, the B-1A, was developed in the 1970s as a replacement for the B-52.

The B-1B is built by Boeing and has a payload of 90,000 pounds. The Air Force is also looking at ways to expand that payload to carry more weapons and heavier weapons, including hypersonics.

The Lancer has a wingspan of 137 feet, a ceiling of 30,000 feet, and can hit speeds up to Mach 1.2, according to the Air Force. There are 62 B-1Bs currently in service.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

A US Air Force B-1B Lancer over the East China Sea, Jan. 9, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

The B-1B was considered nuclear-capable bomber until 2007, when its ability to carry nuclear arms was disabled in accordance with the START treaty.

The B-1B is not scheduled to retire until 2036, but constant deployments to the Middle East between 2006 and 2016 “broke” the fleet.

Service officials and policymakers are now considering whether the Lancer can be kept flying missions, when it should retire, and what that means for the bomber fleet as a whole.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

B-52F dropping bombs on Vietnam.

(US Air Force)

The B-52 bomber has been in service since 1955.

The Air Force’s longest-serving bomber came into service in 1955 as the B-52A. The Air Force now flies the B-52H Stratofortress, which arrived in 1961.

It has flown missions in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm and during operations against ISIS.

The B-52H Stratofortress can carry a 70,000 pound payload, including up to 20 air-launched cruise missiles, and can fly at 650 mph. It also recently dropped laser-guided bombs for the first time in a decade.

The Stratofortress is expected to be in service through 2050, and the Air Force has several upgrades planned, including new engines, a new radar, and a new nuclear weapon.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

A B-52 bomber carrying a new hypersonic weapon.

(Edwards Air Force Base)

As of June 2019, there were 58 B-52s in use with the Air Force and 18 more with the Reserve.

Two B-52s have returned to service from 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, also known as the “boneyard,” where retired or mothballed aircraft are stored.

One bomber, nicknamed “Ghost Rider” returned in 2015, and the other, “Wise Guy,” in May.

“Wise Guy,” a Stratofortress brought to Barksdale Air Force Bease in Louisiana to be refurbished, had a note scribbled in its cockpit, calling the aircraft, “a cold warrior that stood sentinel over America from the darkest days of the Cold War to the global fight against terror” and instructing the AMARG to “take good care of her … until we need her again.”

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is the only stealth bomber in operation anywhere.

The B-2 was developed in a shroud of secrecy by Northrop Grumman. It is a multi-role bomber, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.

It has a payload of 40,000 pounds and has been in operational use since 1993. July was the 30th anniversary of the B-2’s first flight, and the Air Force currently has 20 of them.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

A B-2A Spirit bomber and an F-15C Eagle over the North Sea, Sept. 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

The Spirit can fly at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet and has an intercontinental range.

The B-2 operates out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and three of the bombers are currently flying out of RAF Fairford in the UK.

From Fairford, the B-2 has completed several firsts this year — the first time training with non-US F-35s, its first visit to Iceland, and its first extended flight over the Arctic.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

(US Air Force)

Little is known about the B-21 Raider, the Air Force’s future bomber.

What we do know: It will be a stealth aircraft capable of carrying nuclear and conventional weapons.

Built by Northrop Grumman, the B-21 is named for Doolittle’s Raiders, the crews who flew a daring bomb raid on Japan just a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Air Force said last year that B-21s would go to three bases when they start arriving in the mid-2020s: Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

The B-21 stealth bomber.

(Northrup Grumman)

Air Force Magazine reported in July that the B-21 could fly as soon as December 2021.

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said on July 24 that he has an application on his phone “counting down the days … and don’t hold me to it, but it’s something like 863 days to first flight,” according to Air Force Magazine.

The B-21 also loomed over the B-2’s 30th anniversary celebrations at Northrop’s facility in Palmdale, California, where the B-2 was built and first flew.

Company officials have said work on the B-2 is informing the B-21’s development, and recently constructed buildings at Northrop’s Site 7 are thought to be linked to the B-21.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The M16 was originally intended to fire the 7.62mm NATO round

Today, the M16 rifle and M4 carbine are ubiquitous among American troops. These lightweight rifles, which both fire the 5.56mm NATO round, have been around for decades and are mainstays. The civilian version, the AR-15, is owned by at least five million Americans. But the troops hauling it around almost got a similar rifle in the 1950s that fired the 7.62mm NATO round.

It’s not the first classic rifle to be designed to fire one cartridge and enter service firing another. The M1 Garand, when it was first designed, was chambered for the .276 Pedersen round. The reason that round never caught on? The Army had tons of .30-06 ammo in storage, and so the legendary semi-auto rifle was adapted to work with what was available.


The story is much different for the M16. Eugene Stoner’s original design was called the AR-10 (the “AR” stood for “Armalite Rifle” — Armalite was to manufacture the weapon). This early design was a 7.62mm NATO rifle with a 20-round box magazine.

According to the National Rifle Association Museum, this rifle went head to-head with the FN FAL and the T44 to replace the M1 Garand. The T44 won out and was introduced to service as the M14. This doesn’t mean the AR-10 was a complete loss, however. Sudan and Portugal both bought the AR-10 for their troops to use and, from there, the rifle trickled into a few other places as well.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

Portugal bought the AR-10 and used it in the Angolan War.

(Photo by Joaquim Coelho)

Armalite, though, wasn’t ready to give up on getting that juicy U.S. military contract, so they began work on scaling down the AR-10 for the 5.56mm cartridge. The Army tried the resulting rifle, the AR-15, out in 1958 and liked what the saw, pointing to a need for a lightweight infantry rifle. It was the Air Force, though, that was the first service to buy the rifle, calling it the M16, which serves American troops today.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

The AR-10 made a comeback of sorts during the War on Terror. Here, a Marine general fires the Mk 11 sniper rifle.

(USMC photo by Cpl. Sharon E. Fox)

Despite the immense popularity of the M16, the AR-10 never faded completely into obscurity. During the War on Terror, operation experience called for a heavier-hitting rifle with longer range. In a way, the AR-10 made a comeback — this time as a designated marksman rifle in the form of modified systems, like the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System and Mk 11 rifle.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

Variants of the AR-10 are on the civilian market, including this AR-10 National Match.

(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

Over the years, the AR-10 has thrived as a semi-auto-only weapon, available on the civilian market, produced by companies like Rock River Arms and DPMS. In a sense, the AR-10 has come full circle.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

With a $716 billion budget and the mission to be the best at everything, the Pentagon finds some pretty creative ways of going about it. No, they didn’t have an actual underground boxing club among the military’s highest-ranking chiefs at the Pentagon (that we know of), but they did have some experiments that could have proven fruitful in giving America’s enemies a black eye.

The only problem is that Congress found out about it. That’s why the first rule is not to talk about it.


Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

The Mantis Shrimp, club cocked (more on that later).

In 2015, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake decided he was going to take on wasteful spending, releasing a Wastebookthat detailed what he believed was government spending run amok.

Quoting the movie Fight Club, Flake says, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have,” in the Wastebook, which is titled The Farce Awakens. Flake is referring to a 6,800 research grant given to Duke University researchers, who allegedly used it to pit 68 Panamanian mantis shrimp against each other to see who would win and why.

“To see so much money so outlandishly wasted, it’s clear that Washington’s ballyhooing over budget austerity is a farce,” Flake said. “Hopefully, this report gives Congress – which only ever seems to agree when it comes to spending money – something to Chewie on before the taxpayers strike back.”

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

This is the cover of the wastebook, no joke.

But the study wasn’t really useless, as it turns out. In fact, there’s an entire field of science called biomimetics dedicated to the idea of solving human problems with abilities and designs from animals found in nature. Duke University was doing research in just that vein. So far, they’ve been able to harness the mantis shrimp’s weapons and armor for human needs. It turns out the mantis shrimp (neither mantis nor shrimp) is one of the ocean’s premier brawlers.

The study didn’t really spend 0,000 on a fight club of shrimp. The grant covered the entire span of research on the mantis shrimp. What they discovered is a roving tank on the ocean floor. Its two main appendages act as underwater clubs to knock its prey out in a single punch – and that punch is what had the researchers so fascinated.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

Did you see that? I doubt it. Read on!

The mantis shrimp punch goes from an underwater standing start to 50mph in the blink of an eye. It generates 1,500 newtons of force, the equivalent of a 340-pound rock hitting you in the face. If a human could manage 1/10th of that force with its arms, we’d be chucking baseballs into low Earth orbit. To top it all off, those clubs pop out with the velocity of a .22-caliber bullet (one that isn’t underwater) and the sudden change in water pressure causes the water around them to boil at several thousand degrees Kelvin. If the punch doesn’t kill the prey, the punch’s shockwave still can.

But wait, there’s more.

The researchers also wanted to know how mantis shrimp defend against this kind of attack – how their natural armor protects them from other mantis shrimp super weapons. This punch goes right through the shells worn by crabs and clams as well as the natural protections of some species of fish (and aquarium glass, FYI. In case you’re thinking you want one). The clubs themselves are also intensely durable, maintaining their performance throughout the mantis shrimp’s lifespan.

Its primary weapon is a complex system of three main regions, all lightweight and durable, tougher than many engineered ceramics. Civilian applications could improve the performance of cars and airplanes while military applications include body armor and armor for vehicles and potentially aircraft.

“That’s the holy grail for materials engineers,” said University of California professor and researcher David Kisailus, who is pioneering such studies these days.

Articles

This is what a Mk 38 Bushmaster can do to an Iranian speedboat

You’ve probably followed the reports of how Iranian speedboats have harassed U.S. Navy vessels. Frustrating, aren’t they? Well, think about it this way… we’ve been “showing restraint.”


The thing is, those speedboats are not really Iranian Navy. Instead, they belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. These speedboats, which are often equipped with heavy machine guns, rockets, and other weapons, got a reputation for attacking merchant traffic in the Iran-Iraq War. Back then, they were called “Boghammars” after the Swedish company that built the first boats used by the Iranians.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

Today, their primary threat to an American warship could be as a suicide craft. That said, American ships have options to address these craft. Two of the most prominent are the Mk 38 Mod 2 Bushmaster and the M2 heavy machine gun. The M2 is a legend. It’s been used on everything from tanks to aircraft to ships, and against just about every target you can imagine.

Now, the Mk 38 Mod 2 Bushmaster is not as well-known. That said, it’s been in quite common use. It got its start on the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, where the Army calls it the M242.

It needs a lot of luck to kill a tank, but it can bust up other infantry fighting vehicles, trucks, groups of infantry, even helicopters and aircraft. The Bushmaster made its way to the Marine Corps LAV-25.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run
A Task Force Liberty Soldier from 3rd Infantry Division stands guard in an M3A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle near an Iraqi police checkpoint in Tikrit, Iraq. The Bradley main armament is the M242 25mm (Bushmaster) Chain Gun. The standard rate of fire is 200 rounds per minute, and has a range of 2,000 meters making it capable of defeating the majority of armored including some main battle tanks. (DOD photo)

The Navy put the Bushmaster on ships, and it comprises the main armament of the Cyclone-class patrol craft. Each Cyclone has two of these guns, one of which is paired with a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. The guns are also used on other surface combatants as well. The guns can do a lot of damage.

You can see the Mk 38 and the M2 go to work on a speedboat in the video below. One almost an imagine that the Iranian speedboat crews may be asking themselves the question that Harry Callahan told a bank robber to ask himself: “Do I feel lucky?”

Well, do they?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Whatever happened to the military’s ‘grease gun’

Few weapons are more closely associated with World War II than the M3 Submachine Gun – also known as the “Grease Gun” for its distinctive shape. The Grease Gun actually saw service for decades after the war, becoming the standard-issue weapon for crews manning the M-48 through M-60 battle tanks. It was the longest-serving SMG, from 1942 to 1992.

Its World War II use of the .45 round, already in use by the Thompson submachine gun and the M1911 pistol, made it a weapon that could be easily adapted for more situations and more troops. Sadly, it was also the weapon’s ultimate undoing.


Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

A U.S. soldier from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division fires an M3 submachine gun during a training exercise.

By many accounts, the M3 was still in use by the 1990s. Unlike many of its contemporary weapons, the Grease Gun did not have adjustable sights and was mainly intended for tank crews to use in close quarters so they could get back in the tank and continue firing the big gun. The stopping power of a spray of .45-caliber rounds will go a long way toward making that possible.

Its main competitor was the Thompson submachine gun, but the Thompson had problems of its own. It was heavy and expensive to build. The U.S. wanted a more lightweight model for tankers and paratroopers, but didn’t want to spend all the money per item. The M3 was the answer, despite a few shortcomings.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

A U.S. troop in Vietnam carrying the M3 SMG.


The short barrel, while making it possible for crews to carry around the cramped quarters of a tank, also added to its inaccuracy. The real trouble comes after a tanker has to expend all of his pre-loaded magazines. The M3 submachine gun has a magazine that appears to be longer than its barrel. A large magazine is a great thing for a fully-automatic weapon like the Grease Gun, but as anyone who’s sprayed an automatic before knows, the bullets run out really fast.

Tankers were issued four magazine for the tank’s two grease guns. Once they were out, the magazines would have to be reloaded. Now imagine trying to fully reload an M3 submachine gun magazine, especially when it’s almost full.

Army wants units to launch and recover UAVs on the run

The M3 cost around .00 to produce in 1942, equal to about 0.00 today.

Eventually, the M3 was phased out by more efficient weapons for anyone who might need a personal weapon on the battlefield as the .45 round gave way to the 5.56 and 9mm standards.

After the 1991 Gulf War, the M3 began to disappear from the U.S. Military altogether after some 50 years in service.