Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials

Not since the year 1066 have the British home islands been successfully invaded by an outside power. One of the reasons for that is the United Kingdom’s unfailing, stout supply of able British seamen. But the UK may no longer be dependent on the bravery of those men. Instead, the Royal Navy might be filled with robotic, autonomous submarines to rule the high seas. 

In February 2021, the government of the United Kingdom announced that it will be accepting submissions for sensors, computers, and other technology to outfit its new crewless fleet of submarines.

Formally referred to as the Extra Large Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle (XLUUV), the robot submarines are still in the very early experimental phases, but critical to its development is its ability to move and see as it traverses the depths of the world’s oceans. 

The first trial submarine in the series of experiments will be 30 feet long and displace about 10 tons. The technology being developed for the new robot fleet will be tested in the water, in a real-world setting. 

Not much else is known about the future of this fleet, either by those who will be submitting potential technology or by the Royal Navy itself. One of the objectives, says Popular Science, is that the UK’s navy will be determining its own future needs as well as the potential abilities and limitations of underwater autonomous vehicles.   

There are at least two companies already using their tech to build similar submarines. Boeing’s Echo Seeker is one example as is the UK’s home-built Manta sub. But the proposed electronic sensors and other components will be installed on the Royal Navy’s existing XLUUV (made by MSubs, Ltd.), tested in the sea trials, and then removed. 

For companies looking to develop their technology in this area, it’s a chance to build, develop, and test their wares in real-world environments under the auspices of a real military purpose. The Royal Navy, while testing the equipment, will not be signing contracts to buy any of it. 

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
The British Royal Navy, Type 42 Class Destroyer, HMS NOTTINGHAM

“The main aim of this activity is to help the Royal Navy shape future requirements and design future capabilities and concepts of operation,” the Ministry of Defence said in an announcement, “whilst providing innovators in industry and academia the opportunity to develop and test technology aligned to this future capability.”

The call for technology is not limited to defense contractors or corporations. The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is opening it to anyone who has technical expertise in underwater sensors. Tech startups, individual innovators, and even universities are welcome to propose technology for the new robot submarines. 

The United Kingdom’s engineers will be on hand to fix any external technology to the XLUUV and integrate it into the submarine’s operations. 

While the future defenses and nuclear capabilities of the Royal Navy may one day be in the hands of robotics underwater vehicles, there are some functions that will still require the UK’s cadre of brave sailors. These are missions like underwater intelligence gathering, tracking enemy submarines, and the myriad other things submariners do while deployed for months on end, things they just can’t talk about. 

But crewless subs operating unseen in the depths around America’s greatest ally may give enemies pause to wonder what’s down there – and how long they can stay hidden from view.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this part of a missile silo is important

America’s force of inter-continental ballistic missiles, also known as ICBMs, has long been a component of the nuclear triad. The 450 LGM-30 Minuteman IV missiles split between F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, and Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana provide a very responsive retaliatory option – capable of hitting a target in less time than it takes to get a pizza delivered.

These missiles are kept in silos at those three bases. The silos protect the missiles from the elements – and thus, a lot of work goes into making sure that the missiles are protected, but can be quickly launched. These silos also provide protection from nuclear strikes by the enemy trying to take them out (America, it seems, never got into road-mobile or rail-mobile ICBMs). How do they balance the need for a quick response with protecting the missiles?

The key to this is the door of the missile silo.


This is one of the little secrets about ICBMs. For a very powerful weapon (each LGM-30 carries a single W87 warhead with a yield of 300 kilotons – about 20 times as powerful as the 15-kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima), they are very delicate instruments. As in: “Fragile, handle with care.”

In other words: “Use these and it’s the end of the world.”

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials

Even “routine” maintenance of a LGM-30 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile is a high-stakes affair.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

For instance, according to a report by Time magazine, a dropped tool destroyed an Air Force LGM-25 Titan II missile, and its silo, in 1980. This fatal incident (one airman died) shows just how little it can take for things to go wrong with an ICBM.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials

A dropped socket wrench destroyed a Titan missile, like this one.

(Photo by Mathew Brooks)

Now, when nukes are involved, the stakes are high. This is also true when using them. Things have to work, and they have to work the first time. If the roof on your convertible is stuck in the down position, you can get it fixed and the car detailed. That’s just a major inconvenience.

An ICBM silo door getting stuck – that can be devastating.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials

Thankfully, this Minuteman launch was only a test. If this had been for real, we’d be seeing lots of mushroom clouds.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Fortunately, there has never been a need to use ICBMs against an enemy. But the effort is always made to ensure the systems are reliable – because one can never know. You can see the testing of an ICBM silo door in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNnrThhV7kU

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The first home-built Japanese supersonic fighter was a ship-killer

In the 1960s, Japan was importing a number of high-speed fighters to replace Korean War-vintage F-86s. After all, Godzilla needs to practice using the halitosis from hell. Or maybe he wanted a more challenging target.


Actually, in all seriousness, the Korean War-era planes were old. Japan was replacing them with F-104 Starfighters and F-4 Phantoms. But they needed a trainer. Ultimately, they decided to build one. That became the Mitsubishi T-2. The plane proved to be an excellent trainer, but the Japanese discovered it could be armed. Once Japan got 28 T-2A unarmed trainers and 62 T-2Bs that were equipped to carry some weapons, notably AIM-9 Sidewinders and a M61 20mm Gatling gun, the line was available, and Mitsubishi went to work.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
Mitsubishi T-2, which formed the basis for the F-1. (Wikimedia Commons)

The F-1 took the T-2’s limited weapons capability to a new level. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the F-1 became Japan’s first indigenous supersonic fighter. Mitsubishi was a logical choice – not only had they license-built F-4s and F-104s, but its best-known fighter was the A6M Zero. The F-1’s primary weapon is the ASM-1 anti-ship missile.

This missile, also known as the Type 80, carried a warhead that was roughly 330 pounds of high explosive. The initial version with a rocket engine had a range of roughly 31 miles. Swapping out the rocket for a turbojet gave the missile a range of almost 112 miles.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
Mitsubishi F-1 coming for a landing at Misawa Air Base. (Wikimedia Commons)

The F-1 had a top speed of 1,056 miles per hour, could carry two ASM-1s, two drop tanks, and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, plus it carried a 20mm M61 Gatling gun. Japan built 77 of these planes, which served from 1978 to 2006. The replacement was the Mitsubishi F-2, Japan’s F-16 on steroids, which also has taken over the supersonic trainer role.

You can see a video about this fighter below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr8bWnequxU
MIGHTY TACTICAL

These flashbang grenades are legal for civilians

IWA International is a company based out of Miami, FL that specializes in importing unique tactical gear from all around the world. We recently got a chance to play with a couple of their latest releases — civilian-legal flashbang grenades.

Actual flashbangs produced for military and law enforcement use are classified as destructive devices by the ATF and are not available on the commercial market. They typically consist of an explosive charge and fuse mechanism inside a steel or aluminum grenade body. We have seen simulators and training aids available for unrestricted purchase that use shotgun blanks or even CO2 cartridges to create the bang, popular for use in airsoft and paintball matches.


Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials

But the IWA bangs are a little different. They consist of a small charge inside a cardboard tube. The design actually reminds us of some of the first-generation concussion grenades that used a similar cardboard or paper body. The IWA grenades are classified as pyrotechnics and are governed by the same restrictions that apply to fireworks. Because of this, shipping is limited to ground-transport only which means only those in the Lower 48 will be able to purchase them, state and local laws notwithstanding.

There are currently three models available from IWA – the M11 multi-burst, the M12 Distraction Device, and the M13 Thermobaric Canister. The M11 gives off a single loud bang followed by two smaller bangs. The M12 is a single charge, and the M13 Thermobaric produces a single loud bang and a “mild overpressure” as described by the folks at IWA. Fortunately, they sent us a couple of each for testing. All three models sport OD green cardboard bodies and pull-ring fuses with a safety spoon that flies free when the safety ring is pulled. Each grenade is individually labeled and, though the bodies look identical, the labels are large and clearly marked so you know what you’re getting when you pull the pin. They are roughly the same size as an actual flashbang and seem to fit in most nylon pouches made for the real deal.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials

There are, of course, some differences between the IWA products and the real thing. The biggest difference is sound output. The products made by DefTec and ALS produce about 175 decibels on detonation. The IWA grenades are rated for 125 decibels. The other major difference is time delay. Tactical-grade flashbangs usually have a 1.5-second delay, while the IWA versions are currently advertised at 2.5 seconds. They tell us they are working on an improved fuse that will bring the delay down to 2 seconds or less.

The folks we spoke to at IWA say that these are meant primarily for training and simulation purposes. Not to mention the obvious f*ck-yeah-factor of getting to toss grenades for whatever special occasion you can come up with. The lower sound output makes them a more akin to a sophisticated M80 than a tool for post-apocalyptic home defense, but we don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Who needs a reason to set off explosives? All three versions of the IWA flashbang are available for .99 each, with bulk pricing available.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials

The photos here will have to hold you over for now but stay tuned to RecoilWeb and RecoilTV for video of our tests of these unique products. In the meantime, check out iwainternationalinc.com and pick up one or two for yourself.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

Intel

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

Israel’s SPICE (Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-Effective) kit converts unguided bombs into precision-guided ones.


There’s no hiding from a SPICE enabled bomb, it will find you in the dark and chase you on the battlefield. The kit is highly precise in that it combines GPS and EO technology. The GPS side enables the bomb to engage camouflaged or hidden targets in all weather conditions by inputting coordinates. On the other hand, the EO side provides the flexibility of remote control guidance to engage relocatable targets.

With 12 control surfaces on three groups (fore, mid-body and tail), the kit provides a glide range of about 60 kilometers (approx. 37 miles), turning any bomb into a true fire-and-forget weapon. With this much distance between the target, the striking aircraft is safe from short and medium range defense systems.

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GujLif0VZIg

ArmedForceUpdate, YouTube

Articles

This is why the F-4 Phantom II had so many fans

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials


As he slides his hands across the edges of the wings and walks from nose to tail, inspecting all aspects of the jet, a wave of emotion begins to hit Jim Harkins.

His weathered features appear calm and determined, but they hide the tears he is fighting back.

While he walks around the aircraft, he greets each maintainer and says, “Thank you.” Harkins rubs and taps the bulging nose of the QF-4 Phantom II, like an aged cowboy saying hello to a trusty steed, and then climbs into the cockpit.

“One last time,” Harkins says and the canopy closes around him.

For Harkins and the F-4, this is a day of lasts. For Harkins, it’s the last time he will fly for the Air Force and, for the Phantom, the last time it will take to the skies.

It’s their final flight.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
Ground crew of 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 perform maintenance on a QF-4 Phantom, left, and its replacement, the QF-16, at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 20, 2016. The final variant of the Phantom II, the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s, was the QF-4 unmanned aerial target flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. Pilots of the 82nd flew the F-4 for the last time prior to a retirement ceremony for the storied aircraft on Dec. 21, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“It’s not really sad, because in the military you get used to a lot of lasts, but it’s humbling,” Harkins said.

Harkins isn’t the only one feeling nostalgic and emotional about the aircraft affectionately referred to as “Old Smokey.” Hundreds of “Phantom Phixers,” “Phantom Phliers” and “Phantom Phanatics” gathered on the flightline at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to watch the final F-4 flight.

Some used to work on the aircraft, some are just fans and others, like retired Col. Chuck DeBellevue, had the privilege of actually flying the fighter.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials

DeBellevue flew the F-4 in Vietnam, where he had six confirmed kills – two against the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 and four against the MiG-21, the most of any U.S. aviator during the war.

He’s not just saying farewell to an amazing machine, he’s saying goodbye to an old friend.

“A friend who got me home more times than I care to remember,” DeBellevue said. “Being back on the flightline today brought back a lot of memories, not all are good. I lost a lot of friends, but it was a great airplane. I loved to fly that airplane. It’s very honest and it got me out of a lot of tight spots during the war.”

DeBellevue recalls the Navy originally bought the F-4 to be a fleet interceptor and the Air Force bought it in 1963 to do everything – and it did do everything. It served as the primary air superiority fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, but it also served roles in ground-attack and aerial reconnaissance and, once taken out of active service, was designated the QF-4 where it flew as aerial targets.

The F-4 was a workhorse weapons system for the Air Force through the 1990s and it still hold the distinction of being the first multi-service aircraft. During it’s heyday, the F-4 set 16 speed and altitude records and demonstrated its effectiveness time and again throughout its lengthy career.

The Phantom looked cool doing it, too.

“You didn’t get into the F-4, you put it on, it became you,” DeBellevue said. “It was a manual airplane, not like an F-16 or F-15, they were aerodynamic and designed well. The F-4 was the last plane that looked like it was made to kill somebody. It was a beast. It could go through a flock of birds and kick out barbeque from the back.”

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials

On the flightline at Holloman, the final flight of four F-4s prepare to take off for the last time. The engines rumble and smoke flies.

In his jet, Harkins looks over the crowd, dancing in the cockpit, revving up the on-lookers and saluting those in attendance. Everyone cheers as the final four F-4s begin their last taxi.

Harkins is first to pass the crowd, followed by pilots Eric “Rock” Vold, Jim “Boomer” Schreiner and finally Lt. Col. Ronald “Elvis” King, the last active duty F-4 pilot and commander of Det. 1, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron. Together these men will fly the Phinal Phlight demonstration before King officially retires the QF-4 program during a ceremony following the flight.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials

“I don’t want to sound cheesy, but every time I get into the F-4 I can’t help but think of all the stories of all the pilots and all the maintainers who made this aircraft great,” King said. “The history and the heritage to me is the biggest satisfaction of flying the airplane.”

King had no concept when he became the squadron commander he would be the last active duty pilot. It didn’t really set in until he and Harkins began taking the F-4 on a farewell tour during to air shows and aviation expos last year. King felt obligated to take the F-4 on the road, to give admirers the chance to see it, touch it and share their stories one last time. It was then he realized this tour piloting the F-4 would be something special.

“It’s going to be sad to shut those engines down for the last time, but she’s served our country well,” King said of the F-4. “It’s exciting too, because our mission is to provide full scale aerial targets and we are going to be able to do that now with an airplane that’s better suited, provides higher performance and is more representative of the threats we face today in the QF-16.”

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
Two McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 steak over the flightline during the final military flight of the storied aircraft at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 21, 2016. The F-4 Phantom II entered the U.S. Air Force inventory in 1963 and was the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The F-4 flew bombing, combat air patrol, fighter escort, reconnaissance and the famous Wild Weasel anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. The final variant of the Phantom II was the QF-4 unmanned aerial targets flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

King said it was getting more and more difficult to keep the F-4’s in the air, and the only reason the QF-4 lasted as long as it did was because of the maintainers of the 82nd ATS.

Unfortunately, he says, there is no longer a need for the F-4. All remaining aircraft will be de-militarized at Holloman and used as ground targets at the White Sands bombing range.

King says most people don’t like to hear the fate of the last F-4s, and he understands, but it’s too costly to maintain as a heritage piece or to preserve them for museums.

“At the end of the day, the Air Force isn’t real sentimental,” King said. “It will have a warrior’s death.”

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials

Engines roar and a flume of dust and smoke signals to the crowd the final four F-4s are off. The first two jets, piloted by King and Schreiner take off in a two-ship formation. Harkins follows in the third position and Vold in fourth. The last two jets perform an unrestricted climb, staying low to the ground in afterburner before pulling into a vertical climb at the end of the runway. The crowd goes crazy.

The sound of the F-4 is distinct. As Harkins passes over the crowd in a low-altitude turn it sounds like the jet is ripping the sky.

Multiple passes are made in four-ship, two-ship and stacked formations over the crowd of hundreds in attendance. Camera shutters clicking at a furious pace can be heard down the tarmac.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
A McDonnell Douglas QF-4 Phantom II of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 steaks over the crowd gathered to witness the final military flight of the storied aircraft at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 21, 2016. The F-4 Phantom II entered the U.S. Air Force inventory in 1963 and was the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The F-4 flew bombing, combat air patrol, fighter escort, reconnaissance and the famous Wild Weasel anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. The final variant of the Phantom II was the QF-4 unmanned aerial targets flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Out of nowhere, the sky cracks open and multiple booms shake the ground, buildings and cars, setting off alarms across the base. The concussions signal the F-4s going supersonic high above.

Harkins swoops down out of the sky passing over the crowd multiple times, and makes his final approach. As his wheels touch back to Earth, Harkins enters the history books as the last pilot to fly 1,000 hours in the F-4.

“I can’t imagine a better way to go out than with the F-4, it’s a special moment and a special jet and then … done,” Harkins said. “Although I flew F-16s and I went down to the F-4, but I consider myself going out on top.”

As climbs down from his jet he’s doused with water from his comrades and sprayed with champagne. In the distance, King lands his F-4 and with the front landing gear touching the asphalt, the history books close on the aircraft’s legacy.

But while the Phantom’s time in the sky may be over, the tales of its exploits are far from done. For those who flew the F-4, there is always time to wax poetic about the good ‘ole days, tearing across the wild blue yonder on “Old Smokey.”

AirmanMagazineOnline, YouTube

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

The U.S. has some of the best special operations units in the world, but they can’t do everything on their own. The American military relies on allied special operators from places like Britain, Iraq, and Israel to collect intelligence and kill enemy insurgents and soldiers. Here are 6 of those special operations commands.

A quick note on the photos: Many allied militaries are even more loathe to show the faces of their special operators than the U.S. The photos we’ve used here are, according to the photographers, of the discussed special operations forces, but we cannot independently verify that the individuals photographed are actually members of the respective clandestine force.


Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
A British Special Forces member from the 22nd Special Air Service at Hereford, England, uses binoculars to locate a target down range.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rick Bloom)

1. SAS and SBS

These could obviously be two separate entries, but we’re combining them here because they’re both British units that often operate side-by-side with U.S. forces, just with different missions and pedigrees. The Special Air Service pulls from the British Army and focuses on counter-terrorism and reconnaissance. The Special Boat Service does maritime counter-terrorism and amphibious warfare (but will absolutely stack bodies on land, too).

Both forces have deployed with U.S. operators around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan where they were part of secretive task forces that hunted top Taliban members, ISIS, and Iraqi insurgents.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
The Sayeret Matkal does all sorts of hush-hush missions for Israel, everything from intelligence gathering to direct action to hostage rescue.
(Israel Defense Forces)

2. Sayeret Matkal

Israel’s Sayeret Matkal has generated rumors and conjecture for decades, and it’s easy to see why when you look at their few public successes. They rescued 103 Jewish hostages under gunpoint in Uganda after a plane hijacking. They hunted down the killers who attacked Israel’s 1972 Munich Olympic team, killing 11 coaches and athletes. The commandos in the unit are skilled in deception, direct action, and intelligence gathering.

The U.S. is closely allied with Israel and Sayeret Matkal is extremely good at gathering intelligence, which is often shared with the U.S. One of their most public recent successes came when they led a daring mission to install listening devices in ISIS buildings, learning of a plan to hide bombs in the battery wells of laptops.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
French Army special operations troops conduct a simulated hostage rescue during a 2018 demonstration.
(Domenjod, CC BY-SA 4.0)

3. French Special Operations Command

French special operations units are even more close-mouthed than the overall specops community, but they have an army unit dedicated to intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism, a navy unit filled with assault forces and underwater demolitions experts, and an air force unit specializing in calling in air strikes and rescuing isolated personnel behind enemy lines.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said that France deployed its special operators to Syria in April where they helped defeat ISIS.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
A German Special Forces soldier lines his sites on a target 500 meters away, and awaits direction from an International Special Training Centre instructor to engage the target in 2006.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gina Vaile-Nelson)

4. Kommando Spezialkräfte

Germany’s Kommando Spezialkrafte is a unit of elite commandos split into four companies with five platoons each, and each platoon specializes in a specific mission types, from airborne operations to sniper to polar. A support company provides medical, maintenance, and logistics support.

The commandos have reportedly deployed to Syria in recent years to fight ISIS. And while Germany is fairly tight-lipped about the unit, they have confirmed that the unit was deployed to Iraq for a few years in the early 2000s. On these missions, they help U.S.-led coalitions achieve success.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) operators demonstrate forward repelling during the 2nd School graduation in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 1, 2018. The ceremony included a ribbon cutting for the repelling tower, which will be used by future 2nd school classes.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

5. Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service

The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service was created by the U.S. and, oddly, does not fall within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, making this one of the few special operations units that isn’t part of the traditional military. It has three special operations forces brigades and, in recent years, has largely focused on eliminating ISIS-controlled territory and the surviving forces.

The operators have also fought against other groups like Al Qaeda-Iraq. The unit was originally formed in 2003, meaning it has only existed while Iraq was at war with insurgents, so the force has operated almost exclusively within Iraq’s borders. It earned high marks in 2014 when its troops maintained good order and fought effectively against ISIS while many of the security forces were falling apart.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
An Afghan National Army Special Operations Commando instructor assesses Commando recruits in training as they perform security duties during a training exercise in Camp Commando, Kabul, Afghanistan, May 6, 2018.
(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Felix Figueroa)

6. Afghan National Army Commando Corps

Afghanistan’s National Army Commando Corps is one of the great bright spots in its growing military. While it’s had growing pains and the Taliban has infiltrated it at some times, it has a reputation for professionalism and skill and has led the way on top-level operations. It’s even capable of the rapid nighttime raids that U.S. forces became famous for when they were in the lead in that country.

The Afghan president ordered the size of the unit be doubled between 2018 and 2020 because the soldiers, all expert marksmen and commandos, have a reputation for getting results. Afghanistan also has the Ktah Khas, a counter-terrorism unit known for daring raids like their 2016 rescue of 59 prisoners in a Taliban hideout.

Articles

Did Russia actually get its LCS right?

America’s Littoral Combat Ship program has generated more than its share of controversy. Despite a promising SOUTHCOM deployment by USS Freedom (LCS 1) in 2010, it is more in the news for engine problems than for its potential.


The ship’s armament has been criticized for being too light. Heck, the Navy couldn’t decide between the two designs (it should be noted, both had their strong points).

Also read: The 11 most powerful weapon systems in the Russian military

Life may have gotten worse for the LCS. According to NavyRecognition.com, Russia’s Derzky-class combatants are on the way – and the Russians may have gotten the concept right.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
Concept photo of Russian Projekt 20386 littoral combat ship. (Photo from Thai Military and Region blog)

Officially known as Projekt 20386, the 3,400-ton Derzky has a single 100mm gun, two eight-cell launchers for the Redoubt system, two four-cell launchers for the Kalibr anti-ship missiles, two quad torpedo tube mounts, and two AK-630 close-in weapon systems. It also has the ability to carry a helicopter, a multi-mission bay, and a top speed of 30 knots.

What does the LCS bring to the table? A single 57mm gun, a RAM launcher (either the Mk 31 or the SeaRAM), and a few .50-caliber machine guns. The Freedom-class LCS displaces 3900 tons, the Independence-class, about 3,100. They both have top speeds in excess of 40 knots (44 for the Independence, 47 for the Freedom). Both can also carry two MH-60R helicopters. Earlier this year, the Navy test fired both the Harpoon and NSM anti-ship missiles from USS Coronado (LCS 4). The Navy’s Small Surface Combatant program is slated to add heavier armament to either the Freedom or Independence design.

The Russian vessel is packing a lot more firepower into a hull that is a little smaller than the LCS. The Derzky gives up anywhere from 14 to 17 knots of speed when compared to the LCS, but the LCS cannot outrun the Kalibr anti-ship missile. The LCS has more helicopter capacity, but the MH-60s are only equipped with the AGM-114 Hellfire anti-ship missile (older SH-60Bs had the AGM-119 Penguin). Some off-the-shelf systems could make the LCS a much closer match for the Derzky.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials

The good news is that the Russians will not get the Derzky until 2021, and they are only planning to buy 10 of these vessels. By then, the United States will have most of the Flight 0 littoral combat ships in service and those ships will have some upgrades.

The bad news for the United States is that Russia may have built the better LCS.

Articles

This is why the Army selected Sig over Glock for its new handgun

The dust has finally settled in the battle between firearms giants Sig Sauer and Glock over the Army’s program to replace more than half a million M9 Beretta handguns after government investigators sided with Sig over a protest that claimed the company was selected unfairly.


In a June 5 report, the Government Accountability Office denied the protest by Glock of the January award of a massive contract to replace nearly 550,000 handguns in the Army and other services with a militarized version of the Sig P320 striker-fired pistol.

Britain’s Royal Navy is testing new robotic submarine tech in deep water trials
U.S. Marines with Combat Marksmanship Company, Weapons Training Battalion, fire Glock 17 pistols at Altcar Training Camp, Hightown, United Kingdom on May 15, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gregory D. Boyd)

While the GAO said each was very close in performance and other factors that evaluators looked into, Sig came in with a program price nearly $130 million less than Glock.

“Based upon the technical evaluation and my comparative analysis of the proposals, the Sig Sauer proposal has a slight technical advantage over the Glock proposal,” the GAO said in its final report. “The advantage of the Sig Sauer proposal is increased when the license rights and production manufacturing factors are brought into consideration … making the Sig Sauer proposal overall the best value to the government.”

The evaluators said the Sig and Glock basically ran neck in neck when it came to reliability, accuracy, and ergonomics. But the Army hit Glock on its safety during the “warfighter evaluation” phase of testing, giving Sig an edge and prompting Glock to factor that into its protest.

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Sig Sauer says its Model P320 is the first modular pistol with interchangeable grip modules that can also be adjusted in frame size and caliber by the operator. (Photo courtesy Sig Sauer)

The report is unclear on how the Glock safety negatively impacted the Army’s decision, but most commercial versions of both candidate handguns do not have a thumb safety, so each company had to design that into their submissions.

According to the report, Glock submitted one full-sized handgun (presumably the G17 or G19) and Sig submitted two, a full-sized and compact version of the P320. Sig is the only company of the two that manufactures a fully-modular handgun — one that can convert from a full-sized handgun into a sub-compact for concealed carry by changing out a few parts.

Reports indicated that soldiers at Fort Campbell will be the first issued the new Sig-made M17 later this year.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A day in the life of a Vietnam War chopper pilot

Hollywood tends to get military life wrong — and portrayals of helicopter pilots in the Vietnam War are no exception. Despite what you’ve seen in movies, daily operations didn’t always involve pulling troops from a hot landing zone or going in with guns and rockets blazing — and it wasn’t always done in a Huey, either.

In fact, while it’s best-known for playing a key role in Operation Enduring Freedom, the CH-47 Chinook saw a lot of action in the Vietnam War. This helicopter has served with the Army for over half a century and year and is still going strong — new variants, the CH-47F and MH-47G, are rolling off the production lines as we speak!


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CH-47 Chinooks and UH-1 Hueys load troops during Operation Crazy Horse. Over 30,000 troops were moved into difficult terrain in that 1966 operation.

(US Army photo)

For a lot of helicopter pilots, especially those who flew the CH-47A, CH-47B, and CH-47C models of the Chinook, the Vietnam War was mostly about moving cargo from one part of the operating theater to another, often hauling upwards of 7,000 pounds of cargo inside its cavernous cabin. The Chinook has a history of doing precisely that, whether in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Desert Storm, or any number of peacetime operations.

In Vietnam, CH-47s were also used to recover planes and helicopters. These would often be taken back to repair depots, like USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T ARVH 1). Chinooks were also often used for moving artillery pieces — and their crews and ammo — to new locations. It was faster and safer than going by ground, even though the helicopters sometimes found themselves overloaded by troops. In 1966, the Chinook made a name for itself during Operation Crazy Horse, during which over 30,000 troops were transported by chopper into very difficult terrain.

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A CH-47F in Afghanistan. The latest versions of the Chinook carry three times as much cargo as the ones that flew in Vietnam.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Hoskins)

At least 200 CH-47s were lost during Vietnam, either to enemy action or operational losses. Those harsh experiences, however, led to improvements. Today’s CH-47s haul 24,000 pounds, more than three times the 7,000 pounds carried by early Chinooks in Vietnam.

See what a day in the life of a Vietnam War Chinook pilot was like in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvXcgz-2u9g

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Bradleys are now fitted with heat-seeking anti-drone missiles

The Army is arming Bradley Fighting Vehicles with heat-seeking Stinger air defense missiles to give the infantry carriers an improved ability to track and destroy enemy air threats such as drones, helicopters and low-flying aircraft.

Most current Bradleys are armed with TOW anti-tank missiles, a land weapon predominantly used for attacking enemy armored vehicles, bunkers or troop formations. Adding Stinger missiles will increase the attack envelope for the vehicles and potentially better enable them to protect maneuvering infantry and mechanized forces in combat.


“As directed by the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Army is conducting a proof of principle to incorporate Man Portable Air Defense Systems back into the Armored Brigade Combat Teams by modifying two dozen Bradleys to carry Stinger Missiles in lieu of TOW Missiles,” Ashley Givens, spokeswoman for Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Warrior Maven.

As anti-armor weapons, TOW missiles are not typically used to attack enemy air threats.

“Current versions are capable of penetrating more than 30 inches of armor, or “any 1990s tank,” at a maximum range of more than 3,000 meters. It can be fired by infantrymen using a tripod, as well from vehicles and helicopters, and can launch 3 missiles in 90 seconds,” the Federation of American Scientists writes in a paper.

Stinger missiles, by contrast, are infrared-guided surface-to-air weapons with nearly twice the range as TOW missiles.

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U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, fire a TOW missile from a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during training at Fort Riley, Kansas, May 18, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jonathan Camire)

Adding Stingers to Bradleys is entirely consistent with the Army’s broad strategic aims for the Bradley, which call for a highly-networked infantry carrier increasingly able to maneuver in support of ground infantry using long-range, high-tech sensors to find and hit targets.

“The Army has chosen to increase the cross-country mobility of the Bradley, allowing it to go further into off-road situations to support infantry formations,” Givens said.

An extended range TOW 2B Aero, engineered with a one-way radio link and range enhancing nose-cap, can hit targets more than four kilometers away; a Stinger missile, however, can reportedly hit targets out to eight kilometers.

Army information says a TOW Bunker Buster warhead consists of a blast type warhead designed to penetrate and then detonate inside Military Operations in Urban Terrain targets such as 8-inch double reinforced concrete, brick-over-block, and triple brick walls. The warhead utilizes both a cast titanium body and chisel style nose to allow better penetration capability while reducing ricochet probability.

The latest TOW upgrade uses Target Acquisition Systems that incorporate Far Target Location capability (ITAS-FTL), a technology which incorporates a global positioning satellite-based position attitude determination subsystem, Army officials said.

An Army paper says ITAS is the fire control system for the TOW missile and consists of integrated optical and second-generation forward-looking infrared sights and an eye-safe laser range finder. It offers improved hit probability by aided target tracking, improved missile flight software algorithms, and an elevation brake to minimize launch transients”

The TOW ITAS system provides the Soldier an instant grid location of his position and of the target that he sees in his ITAS sight. It is accurate to a 60-meter CEP (circular error of probability),” an Army report said.

Although described by Givens as a “limited effort,” integrating Stinger onto Bradley is a part of the broader Army Short Range Air Defense Strategy, an effort to strengthen air defense weapons across infantry brigade combat teams.

“This is a limited effort designed to inform the Army on Short Range Air Defense employment techniques and considerations,” she said.

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Pvt. Denzell Darden, a Kansas City native and cavalry scout with Company A, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pushes a simulated tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missile into the turret on a M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf, 3rd BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.)

The Army SHORAD program, already being built into Stryker vehicles, represents a service-wide strategic and tactical need to respond to near-peer type mechanized combat threats. Focused on heavily during the Cold War, when facing a Soviet threat, SHORAD faded a bit during the last 15 years of ongoing ground wars. The Taliban and Iraqi insurgents did not possess much of an air threat.

However, today’s global threat environment is vastly different. Potential adversaries can easily acquire drone attack technology, as it is readily available on the international market. This means enemies could hold Army units at risk from the air in newer, more dangerous ways — and at farther ranges. Furthermore, the advent and proliferation of weaponized drones, enabled by growing levels of autonomy, could use long-range EO/IR to target and attack advancing infantry and armored units in ways previously not possible.

Chinese or Russian helicopters and drones, for instance, are armed with rockets, missiles and small arms fire. A concept with SHORAD would be to engage and hit these kinds of threats prior to or alongside any enemy attack. SHORAD brings an armored, mobile air defense in real-time, in a way that most larger, less-mobile ground missiles can. PATRIOT missile, for instance, is better suited to hit incoming mid-range ballistic missiles and other attacking threats. While mobile, a PATRIOT might have less of an ability to support infantry by attacking fast-moving enemy helicopters and drones.

Also, it goes without saying that any kind of major enemy ground assault is likely to include long range fires, massive air support as well as closer in helicopters and drones to support an advancing mechanized attack.

As a result, ground infantry supported by armored vehicles, will need mobile air defenses to address these closer-in air threats. This is where the Stryker or Bradley SHORAD comes in; infantry does not have the same fires or ground mobility as an armored Stryker or Bradley, and hand held anti-aircraft weapons such as a hand-fired Stinger would not have the same defensive impact as a Hellfire or Stinger armed armored vehicle. In a large mechanized engagement, advancing infantry needs fortified armored support able to cross bridges and maneuver alongside foot soldiers.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Germany wants a new nuclear-capable fighter

Germany wants to replace its fleet of 89 Tornado combat jets with a new aircraft that retains the plane’s nuclear capability, but doing so may mean the US gets a say about which aircraft the Luftwaffe ultimately picks, according to Defense News.

As part of a Cold War-era NATO deal, Germany’s Tornados were equipped to carry nuclear weapons in case of a major clash between the alliance and the Soviet Union. That threat waned after the Cold War, as did the number of US nuclear weapons in Germany, but about 20 of the weapons are still there.


Germany is deciding between three US planes — the F-35 and variants of the F-15 and F/A-18 — and a version of the Eurofighter Typhoon being developed by a European consortium.

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A German air force Eurofighter Typhoon taxis to the runway at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska before a combat-training mission, June 11, 2012.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Michael Holzworth)

Berlin wants to replace the Tornado — which has been plagued by technical issues— by the mid-2020s. (Germany’s Typhoons have also had problems.) It is leaning toward the European-made Typhoon, but its desire to maintain that nuclear capability could mean the Trump administration will try to play politics with the purchase.

This spring, Berlin asked Washington whether it would certify the Typhoon to carry nuclear weapons, how long it would take to do so, and how much it would cost.

The certification process can take years. European officials working on the Typhoon have said they were confident it could be nuclear-certified by 2025, but US officials have said the process could take seven to 10 years, according to Reuters.

US officials have said that the F-35 and other aircraft must be certified for nuclear weapons first, and a Pentagon spokesman told Defense News that while Germany’s Tornado replacement was “a sovereign national decision,” the US believes “that a U.S. platform provides the most advanced, operationally capable aircraft to conduct their mission.”

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F-35As taxi down the flight line at Volk Field during Northern Lightning, Aug. 22, 2016

(Photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

The Trump administration has pushed European countries to spend more on their own defense, and Trump’s broadsides against NATO have helped inspire European officials to do so. But the Trump administration has also sought to boost exports of US-made weaponry, and US officials have grown concerned about European defense initiatives reducing US defense firms’ access to that market.

Those latter concerns mean the Trump administration could try to nudge Germany toward a US-made aircraft.

But Trump’s contentious dealings with Germany have reinvigorated debate in that country about acquiring its nuclear weapons or developing them with other European countries — ideas that are still anathema for many in Germany, where memories of the destruction and division of World War II and the Cold War linger.

That aversion to nuclear weapons and wariness of Trump may mean Germany will continue doing what it has been doing — paying the financial and political price to keep the nuclear-capable Tornadoes in the air.

“That’s why they will keep flying the Tornados, despite the price tag and despite having asked about a Eurofighter nuclear certification in Washington,” Karl-Heinz Kamp, president of government think tank the Federal Academy for Security Policy, told Defense News.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How an F-35 pilot landed safely after losing a flight computer in mid-air

From initial pilot training to mission qualification training, US Air Force pilots complete intensive training and preparation to learn critical skills to fly, fight and win, as well as prevent mishaps.

However, F-35 and F-16 trainees in the 56th Fighter Wing also receive cutting edge human performance optimization training across physical, mental, and emotional domains.

In May 2019, Capt. Robert Larson, a 61st Fighter Squadron student pilot, was on a training mission when he found himself faced with an in-flight emergency. Larson called upon his human performance optimization training and saved not only himself but the F-35A Lightning II he was flying from any damage.


“I was pretty high up, about 34,000 feet, and all of a sudden everything got really quiet,” said Larson. “I tried to call my flight lead and realized I couldn’t talk to anybody. I started descending, working through my checklist and rocking my wings to try and let my flight lead know that I didn’t have a radio. As I got further into the checklist I realized I had lost one of the flight computers that was responsible for controlling oxygen, pressurization, and some parts of communication.”

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Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II returning to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, after a two-month European deployment, July 31, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Larson eventually visually communicated with his flight lead to relay the situation and decided to return to the base. As he worked through multiple checklists with additional failures, he determined that the aircraft’s landing gear could possibly collapse upon landing.

“At that point my plan was to land and if the gear collapsed as I was landing I was going to eject,” said Larson. “Luckily it didn’t and I was able to pull off to the end of the runway and shut down there and wait for maintenance.”

Larson succeeded due to his ability to keep a level head during a high-stakes emergency, and his training helped prepare him for it. Unique to Luke AFB, student pilots receive holistic performance training and support to optimize their physical and mental skills for the stress of flying and coping with an emergency situation.

The Human Performance Team’s Fighter Tactical Strengthening and Sustainment (FiTSS) program is normal part of the F-16 and F-35 Basic Course training, and also available to all Luke AFB instructors and student at all levels.

“We have an academic portion that covers mindfulness, awareness, intensity regulation, focus and attention, self-talk, goal setting, confidence, motivation and team cohesion,” said Dr. John Gassaway, Clinical Sports Psychologist with the Human Performance Team. “Then we meet one-on-one about twice a month to talk about how they are implementing these strategies.”

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An F-35A Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

In an advanced, fifth-generation fighter like the F-35 serious malfunctions are extremely rare. For Larson, the incident was solved not only by his knowledge of the jet’s systems but his ability to assess the situation with composure.

“I had practiced for all this time and it worked in a way where I was able to stay calm, successfully work through everything, bring the jet back and land safely,” said Larson. “All those mental skills helped so much, and it’s not until you have the time to reflect that you realize how useful and necessary they are.”

Emergencies or life threatening situations are never ideal when flying; however, Larson believes the experience reinforced the importance of his training.

“It’s not what your hands and feet are doing to fly the jet but what you’re doing mentally to process what you’re going through,” said Larson. “How you can improve that whole process has been my biggest take away for it.”

For Gassaway, the incident emphasized the importance of practicing and improving mental skills.

“The thing that was so impressive with Larson, and the thing that I really take the greatest amount of pride in, was the fact that when he was flying, he didn’t think about any of these skills until he landed,” said Gassaway. “That showed me he was aware he had used the skills, but they were automated, ultimately that is the optimization of these skills.”

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

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