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MIGHTY TACTICAL

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone

Drones are being used by companies from Amazon to Uber, but one company built a flamethrower you can hook up to your personal drone for all your fire-spewing purposes.

In a video from company Throwflame, the TF-19 WASP flamethrower drone attachment is seen spewing long streams of fire into the air and engulfing dead bushes in flames.

Although Throwflame advertises using the flamethrower drone for mundane things like cleaning up vegetation and getting rid of wasp nets, the video paints a terrifying view for what the future of drone flight could entail.

It’s important to note that the $1,500 price tag is only for the flamethrower attachment itself. You’ll have to buy the drone separately — the one that Throwflame recommends for its flamethrower will cost you at least $1,500.

Check out the features of the TF-19 WASP flamethrower drone attachment and what it can do:


You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone

(Throwflame/YouTube)

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone

(Throwflame/YouTube)

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone

(Throwflame/YouTube)

Throwflame envisions the flamethrower drone being used for tasks such as “clearing vital infrastructure, igniting remote vegetation, and eliminating pests.”

In the past, flamethrowing drones have been filmed burning off garbage and debris from electrical wires.

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone

(Throwflame/YouTube)

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone

(Throwflame/YouTube)

The flamethrower attachment can be used with any drone that has a payload capacity— how much weight the drone can hold — of 5 pounds or more. In the video, the TF-19 WASP is attached to a DJI S1000 octocopter drone, which sells for id=”listicle-2639318262″,500.

The DJI S1000 drone goes for id=”listicle-2639318262″,500 on websites like eBay and in stores such as BH.

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone

(Throwflame/YouTube)

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone

(Throwflame/YouTube)

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

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This is India’s version of the A-10 Warthog

In the 1970s, the Soviet Union designed the MiG-27 Flogger as a dedicated ground-attack plane based on the MiG-23 Flogger, an air-superiority fighter turned multi-role fighter. It was well-built for that mission, able to haul just over 8,800 pounds of ordinance, according to globalaircraft.org.


It also could bring two varieties of BRRRRRT! Airforce-Technology.com reports that the MiG-27 had a 30mm Gatling gun, the GSh-6-30, with 260 rounds that could kill tanks. In addition to the 30mm gun, this Flogger also packed twin-barrel 23mm gun with 200 rounds that the MiG-23 had. Double the BRRRRRT!, double the fun?

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone
A close look at the nose of a MiG-27, showing its sensors. (Wikimedia Commons)

The F-15 Eagle made a similar transition in the late 1980s, going from an air-superiority plane to a deadly ground-attack bird (albeit still with powerful air-to-air capabilities). For the MiG-27, though, its only mission was to be ground attack. The Soviets removed the radars but did armor up the cockpit. The MiG-27 stayed in production until 1986 in the Soviet Union, but India then got a license to build the plane.

In Indian service, the MiG-27 is known as the Bahadur. India acquired a production license for the MiG-27, starting with 80 kits from Russia. Then, India began to build MiG-27s from scratch – eventually acquiring a total of 165 in that manner. India also imported MiG-27. According to FlightGlobal.com, India has 84 MiG-27s in service.

But these are not the Cold War MiG-27s.

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone
Indian Air Force MiG-27. (Wikimedia Commons)

GlobalSecurity.org noted that India carried out one upgrade starting in 2002, which included new navigation systems, improved target tracking systems, and a cockpit that made things easier for the pilot. That was finished by 2009. But a more advanced MiG-27 has been designed by India

MilitaryFactory.com reports that this advanced version of the MiG-27, known as the MiG-27H, would take it beyond a ground attack machine. The MiG-27H not only lightened the plane, but added multi-function displays to the cockpit, and a multi-mode radar that would enable the Flogger to fight aircraft and carry out anti-shipping missions.

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone
MiG-27 graphic showing some of its weapons configurations. (Wikimedia Commons)

According to a 2016 report from the India Times, India’s MiG-27s are to be retired no later than 2018, but other reports point to the Flogger sticking around until as late as 2020.

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Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy

The Air Force is working closely with industry partners to strengthen cybersecurity for larger service platforms such as an F-22 or F-35 fighters.


“We have to understand that today’s weapons systems are not operating in isolation. They are operating as part of a netted enterprise. Each weapons system will interface with a broader DOD network,” Allan Ballenger, vice president of the Air Force division at Engility Corp, told Scout Warrior.

Engility was recently awarded a $31 million task order deal from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center,  at Hanscom AFB, Mass.

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone
F-22 pilot releases flares during a training flight from JB Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. (Photo: John Dibbs | Lockheed Martin)

The F-22, often referred to by Air Force developers as an “aerial quarterback,” relies upon data link technology connecting to other aircraft and ground stations as more of the F-22’s technologies and avionics–such as radar warning receivers, mission data files, navigation and target mapping systems–are computer based.

The emerging F-35’s “sensor fusion” is entirely contingent upon modernized computer algorithms able to help gather, organize and present combat-relevant information to a pilot by synthesizing otherwise disparate data  such as targeting, mapping and sensor data onto a single screen.

“The real focus is on the cyber vulnerability assessments across many Air Force platforms, such as command-and-control and battle management systems,” Ballenger said.

Engility’s focus is closely aligned with cybersecurity priorities recently articulated by senior Air Force leaders.

Air Force Chief Information Security Officer, Peter Kim, recently told Scout Warrior that the service was vigorously invovled in expanding cyber security beyond IT to inlcude larger platforms.

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone
That’s a beautiful bird. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Oelrich)

Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Commander of Air Force Material Command, has articulated seven lines of attack that are essential to better securing networks, data and command-and-control systems. One of the key intiatives informing this effort is an attempt to “bake-in” cyber security provisions into the earliest phases of weapons development.

Part of the focus, Ballenger explained, is to examine trends and current security controls with a mind to the kinds of attacks likely to emerge in the future against IT systems, platforms and networked weapons.

While increased interoperability among networks, weapons and platforms vastly expedites combat efficacy in a wide range of scenarios, Ballenger emphasized that greater connectivity can also increase vulnerability to malicious penetration and server attacks, among other problems.

“We are looking much earlier in the life cycle of these systems with a concern not just about their security but how they interface with other elements of the network. We want to embed cybersecurity earlier in the process,” Ballenger added.

Seeking to emulate threat vectors and anticipate potential methods of attack — such as how a web-based application could be exploited or the extent to which a trap door may interact with other elements – is an important ingredient in establishing the most effective security protocols.

Also, much of this begins and ends with network IP protocol–codes which can both further enable interoperability between networks and systems while also possibly exposing networks to additional vulnerabilities

“When you have an IP address that is assigned to you, you need to have the appropriate controls in place to reduce that vulnerability,” Ballenger added.

The need for better information security extends from larger systems down to an individual soldier or airmen on a particular combat mission. Tactical Air Controllers are an instance cited where ground targeting technology is used to identify and secure targets for nearby air assets. This kind of air-ground synergy is itself reliant upon computer networking technologies, he explained.”You do not want someone to manipulate data going from airmen on the ground to a shooter in the air,” Ballenger said.

F-22 and Air Superiority

As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.

“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview last year.

The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.

Drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.

At the moment, targeting information from drones is relayed from the ground station back up to an F-22.  However, computer algorithms and technology is fast evolving such that aircraft like an F-22s will soon be able to quickly view drone video feeds in the cockpit without needing a ground station — and eventually be able to control nearby drones from the air. These developments were highlighted in a special Scout Warrior interview with Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias last year.

Zacharias explained that fifth generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22 are quickly approaching an ability to command-and-control nearby drones from the air. This would allow unmanned systems to deliver payload, test enemy air defenses and potentially extend the reach of ISR misisons.

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained in an interview last year.

Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.

The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.

“The addition of SAR mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.

“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.

F-22 Technology

The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.

“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.

The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.

“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone
The cockpit of a Raptor. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.

Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said.  It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.

The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.

“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.

The Air Force’s stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.

Also read: 5 videos that show how the F-22 Raptor is an awesome dogfighting machine

After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.

“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,”

Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.

“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.

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The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football

Light, soft and easy to throw, Nerf footballs have been a staple of nearly every American boy’s childhood, helping them play out dreams of throwing a game-winning touchdown pass in backyards and parks across the country.


Because of their small size, light weight and popularity among young males — especially in the military — the US Army once actually tried to turn these toys into deadly anti-tank weapons.

In the late 1960s, Parker Brothers released its Nerf line of toys — foam footballs that would fly longer and farther than regulation pigskins, essentially turning anyone with an okay arm into the equivalent of Joe Montana. Nerf footballs surged in popularity, quickly becoming a best-selling hit for the toy manufacturer.

Around the same time in Europe, Army brass were wringing their hands over the potential for a Soviet invasion that would surely involve mechanized units. Tanks rolling through tight German streets in towns and cities would be a nightmare for American soldiers to deal with, especially since they lacked anti-tank grenades which would be effective against the latest tanks and armored vehicles fielded by the Soviet Union.

Soldiers were completely ill-equipped to wage war against armor in these conditions.

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone
During a possible Soviet invasion, USAREUR troops would have to face tanks like this T-62 in the streets of European cities and towns (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

To fix this problem, infantry commanders at US Army Europe contacted the Land Warfare Laboratory in Aberdeen, Maryland, with the intent of creating a highly portable and easy-to-use hand-thrown weapon which could quickly disable a tank at close quarters. Engineers theorized that a football-shaped grenade would be a decent concept to explore further because “most U.S. troops are familiar with throwing footballs,”  as the official test report read.

The lab came up with a prototype that consisted of a hollowed-out Nerf football, packed to the brim with explosive charges and a detonator. The working theory was that once thrown, the football grenade would spiral perfectly up to a tank and blow up, irreparably damaging the vehicle and rendering it useless. This would do well for USAREUR soldiers fighting off a possible Soviet invasion.

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone
The M72 LAW was the Army’s standard infantry anti-tank weapon, though it could not be safely used in close-quarters situations (Photo US Army)

Theories don’t always equate to reality, however. In tests, the flight path of the football grenade was scarily unpredictable, thanks to the uneven weight distribution inside the device. Instead of a toss that would be worthy of an NFL scout’s approval, the grenade fishtailed and spun wildly.

By this point, it would have been more of a danger to the troops who were issued it than the tanks it was designed to destroy.

Interestingly enough, this wasn’t the first time the military had tried to relate sports to warfare. Around the time of WWII, it was largely assumed that every young American male would hypothetically be able to throw a baseball with a decent level of accuracy. To that end, the Office of Strategic Services tried to develop and field a hand grenade with a size and weight similar to that of a regulation baseball, known as the BEANO T-13.

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone
A T13 on display at the CIA’s official museum. The OSS, which came up with the idea of the T13, served as a predecessor to the CIA (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

As with the Nerf anti-tank grenade, this project proved to be highly dangerous to the troops who were issued these unique weapons in limited quantities. Grenades would often ignite prematurely after being armed or even if just jostled around, maiming the soldier or OSS operative attempting to use it against Axis foes. By the end of the war, an order was passed down to destroy all T-13s, though some inert models still survive today as curiosities for collectors.

Fast-forward to 1973, and the Nerf grenade project was killed off altogether. Despite the Land Warfare Lab’s efforts, USAREUR never received the anti-tank grenade it sought, leaving troops to have to rely on M2 heavy machine guns and M72 Light Antitank Weapons, which both required a degree of separation between themselves and the targets for effective usage — completely unfeasible in close quarters battle.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army to issue newest groin protection to paratroopers

Soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina will soon receive the Army‘s latest attempt at armor protection for the genitals and groin area.

Beginning in late March 2019, Program Executive Office Soldier officials will issue the Blast Pelvic Protector to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team as well as other items in the Army’s new Soldier Protection System such as the Modular Scalable Vest and the Integrated Head Protection System.


The Blast Pelvic Protector resembles a pair of loose-fitting shorts designed to wear over the Army Combat Uniform trousers. The device is intended to replace earlier attempts at groin protection such as the Protective Under Garment, or PUG, and the Protective Over Garment, or POG.

The PUG resembled a pair of snug-fitting boxers.

“They were underwear that had pockets for ballistics to go into,” Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, product manager for Soldier Protective Equipment said recently at a media event.

The POG looked like a tactical diaper.

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The Pelvic Protection System: Tier I Protective Under Garment (PUG) and Tier II Protective Outer Garment (POG).

(US Army photo)

“And then there was an outer garment — it felt like a perpetual wedgie; soldiers hated that,” Whitehead said.

“That’s why we moved to the Blast Pelvic Protector and the cool thing about this is … there is a ballistic insert that can stop certain types of rounds, and the rest of this provides fragmentation protection.”

The new protective device features open sides with two straps on either side that connect with quick-release buckles.

Earlier attempts at protecting the groin and femoral arteries on the Improved Outer Tactical Vest, or IOTV, consisted of triangular flap of soft ballistic material that hung in front of the crotch.

In addition to the pelvic protector, soldiers from 3rd BCT will receive the new Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, which will replace the Enhanced Combat Helmet in close combat units.

The new helmet offers the same ballistic protection as the ECH, but doubles the amount of protection against blunt impact or trauma to soldier’s head. Each side of the helmet has rail sections, so soldiers can mount lights and other accessories for operating in low-light conditions.

Equipment officials will also field the Modular Scalable Vest, or MSV, to 3rd BCT soldiers. The MSV weighs about 25 pounds with body armor plates. That’s about a five-pound weight reduction compared to the current IOTV.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why no one uses water-cooled machine guns anymore

It was a common sight in World War I – the image of a machine gun spewing bullets from a barrel protruding from what looks like a giant canister. That canister is a healthy indication that the barrel of the machine gun in question is being cooled by water in the canister and that the water will soon be as hot as the barrel.


For the troops who wanted to continue using the machine guns to keep wave after wave of enemy troops in their own trenches and not coming into yours and sweeping you all out with shotguns, this was going to become very important, very fast.

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“The Kaiser says this will not be a problem!” The Kaiser was wrong.

Water-cooled machine guns, as it turned out, required water to cool them. And the more you used them, the more they needed that water changed out. This may not have been terribly difficult during World War I, when movement along the front was restricted to just crossing no man’s land into the next series of trenches a hundred yards away. Unfortunately for everyone’s infantrymen, the water-cooled MG lived well past the Great War. So, the infantry were stuck hauling water for the guns, well into the Korean War.

But eventually, the guns were replaced with the less efficient but more manageable air-cooled guns. The problem with those was the barrels did not disburse heat quite as well as water-cooled weapons. So if a gunner isn’t shooting in bursts to prevent overheating, there is a chance the barrel could melt or become deformed during use. The solution? Interchangeable barrels. Watch U.S. troops do it:

That video is sixteen seconds long. So as efficient as water cooling those barrels really is, asking machine gunners to carry the weapon, its ammo, and tanks of water on a journey to Mordor is just not as effective as swapping out the actual problem: the barrel.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch Russian tanks cut fruit, dance, and draw pictures

The Russian Army showed off the precision of its tank crews in a bizarre demonstration.

According to Zvezda, the media outlet of the Russian armed forces, T-80 tank crews conducted demonstrations during Army-2019 forum, held near Moscow. One tank crew had a marker attached to its main gun and, with the help of its stabilizer, drew five-sided star on an easel.


“Undeniable proof that American tank crews have been outgunned by their Russian counterparts in arts and crafts,” Rob Lee, a Ph.D. student focused on Russian defense policy, joked on Twitter.

The demonstration also included a fruit-focused portion.

With a knife attached to the tank’s gun, the crew halved a watermelon, sliced through what appears to be a smaller melon, and then, as the finale, chopped an apple in half.

In a nod to the classical Russian arts, two T-80 tanks also “danced” to a piece from Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” a ballet in which a prince falls in love with a woman who is cursed to be a swan during the daytime hours.

According to Zvevda, this exercise was intended to show off the maneuverability of the tanks as they moved in unison in a muddy field.

US forces have also done silly things, although in a less official capacity. In 2017, a Navy fighter pilot drew a penis with contrails from his jet in the sky over Washington state, a stunt for which the flier was disciplined.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why that stunning Russian missile video is nothing to worry about

Recently, Russia released new video of the KH-35U “switchblade” anti-ship cruise missile in action, a weapon that can be fired from surface ships or aircraft and flies extremely quickly towards target ships, which are then destroyed in a massive explosion.


www.youtube.com

The video shows a Su-34 being prepared for takeoff, then jumps to ships being struck by a missile before cutting again to a Su-34 landing. The KH-35U carries an over-1,000-pound warhead and is reportedly capable of destroying vessels of up to 5,000 tons.

The Russians test fired eight missiles during the exercise, according to the Russian Defence Ministry, and all eight hit their targets.

The missile video is impressive and fun to watch, but it’s left many U.S. observers worrying. Russia claims the weapon is impossible to stop and that it renders all current ship defenses powerless.

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Both the Su-57 and the T-14 were impressive programs on paper that slowly wilted in the bright light of day. Now, there are few orders for either platform, even from within Russia, as the capabilities ended up being low and the costs high.

(Alex Beltyukov and Vitaly V. Kuzmin, CC BY-SA)

But these are Russian defense claims about a Russian weapon, so it’s prudent to take them with a grain of salt. After all, the T-14 Armata and PAK FA (which became the Su-57) programs haven’t lived up to the hype.

But the KH-35U is a fielded weapon. The first KH-35 came out in the 1980s, and the U variant has been in the field for years. It flies close to the water, can be fired from aircraft ranging from helicopters to jets, and can be carried by surface ships. If Russia’s claims are accurate, it can eliminate destroyers and littoral combat ships with just one shot. Carriers would likely be crippled or destroyed with a shot, but certainly couldn’t withstand sustained bombardment.

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone

A ship is destroyed by a KH-35U anti-ship cruise missile during a Russian test.

(YouTube/Star Channel)

So, should America be shaking in its boots? Well, the target ship in the Russian video is a stationary, civilian vessel, and hitting that with a missile is a far cry from getting a cruise missile into the hull of an American carrier sailing at a decent clip with its Phalanx close-in weapon systems firing off rounds.

That, and the missile has a range of approximately 185 miles. Meanwhile, the Super Hornets that protect carriers have a range of 500 miles, and the Navy is already looking to increase that range with the addition of conformal fuel tanks, fuel tanks semi-permanently added to the aircraft that would increase range by 300 miles.

Meanwhile, the F-35C will have a range about 10 percent greater before aerial refueling. So, aircraft carriers will have plenty of breathing room as long as they keep the radars and patrols up.

But some task forces have little-to-no jet support, and a Su-34 or a similar aircraft could get within range and release the missile. And what’s worse is that the Russians may have already sold the missile to at least one other country. North Korea’s Kumsong-3 anti-ship cruise missile bears a striking resemblance to the KH-35U, meaning that a rogue state may be able to strike American ships from 500 miles away.

Though, again, we should avoid getting too far into speculation without our grains of salt. After all, the Russian military has a history of stripping down the export versions of their weapons, just like the U.S. And, ownership of a missile doesn’t mean you have the expertise and tactical excellence to properly employ it.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is still working on a Tomahawk variant that could be used in an anti-ship configuration. It has an expected range of over 1,000 miles, same as the land-attack variant with years of successful service. That would allow the U.S. Navy to strike Russian ships carrying the KH-35U from 835 miles outside of the Russian engagement envelope.

So, enjoy the Russian propaganda, but sleep well tonight. The KH-35U demonstration is an impressive fireworks display, but it doesn’t represent a Russian technology edge against anyone but fishermen.

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Why the Japanese knee mortar terrified Marines

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Army quickly mobilized to engage with Japan in the Pacific Theater. Fortunately for America, we had a few advantages on the ready. Not only did we have the semi-auto M1 Garand to face up against Japan’s bolt-action Arisaka. We also had the M1911 paired against the Japanese Nambu. For the most part, our weapons were far superior to the Japanese – with one major exception. Japan had the Knee Mortar and that was pretty scary. 

Don’t let the name mislead you. The knee mortar was really a grenade launcher. Japan called it Type 89, since it was introduced in the 2,589th year of Japan’s existence. 

The Knee Mortar makes its appearance

The Knee Mortar was created so Japan’s soldiers stood a chance facing off with the US. Even though their Army included some well-trained infantrymen, the Knee Mortar was definitely their back pocket weapon. 

A little history

The short version: Japan had pretty crappy tanks. Their artillery was not much better. When it came down to anti-tank weapons, they didn’t have much there, either. Furthermore, the Imperial Japanese Navy got a lot of the RD priority for new ships and planes. Japan figured – correctly – that their best course of action was to try to ensure naval dominance.

According to a U.S. Army manual, the Type 89 fired a 50mm round and weighed ten pounds. Depending on the round used, it had a maximum range of just under 750 yards. It could fire incendiary rounds, smoke rounds, and high-explosive rounds. Think of it as kind of an M79 grenade launcher on steroids. You didn’t want to fire it from your knee, unless you wanted to be on a medevac flight or ship home. Instead, you braced it on the ground.

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Two Marine Corps legends, “Chesty” Puller and Merritt Edson, both came away very impressed by this weapon. Edson, who lead the Marine Raiders on Guadalcanal, noted that a Japanese soldier could carry that weapon and ten rounds with no problem. The weapon was issued in large quantities to Japanese troops and had a high rate of fire. As a result, it was believed to have caused 40 percent of American battle casualties in the Pacific.

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Today, the knee mortar is out of service, but the concept is alive in the form of “commando mortars” like the British L9A1, the South African M-4, and the Iranian 37mm “marsh mortar.” In short, grunts have options for lightweight firepower.

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Air Force officials present united front to counter F-35 critics

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Trail aircraft in a section of F-35s banks away while firing an anti-IR missile flare. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)


NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — In spite of recent setbacks that grounded 15 F-35s right after the Air Force declared them ready to go to war, service officials at the Air Force Association’s annual gathering outside of Washington DC presented a measured if not upbeat assessment of the program’s progress and how the airplane will improve air dominance.

“I will tell you, in my opinion, that over time, although there are sometimes bumps in the road and you really don’t always get everything the way you want to to being with, as we develop and field this airplane and we get it into the hands of our airmen and allow them to do with it what they’re capable of doing, I firmly believe this airplane will continue to get better and better and better,” Gen. “Hawk” Carlisle, head of the Air Combat Command, said during his opening remarks. “It’s a great airplane.”

Carlisle was followed by Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the Joint Strike Fighter program head, who contextualized the state of the F-35 in terms of the problems engineers and test team members have solved.

“I would tell you that if you build a test program and you don’t find anything wrong then you didn’t do a good enough job,” Bogdan said. “So it’s not a surprise to me that on any given day we encounter things wrong with this airplane. What I like to tell people is now is the time to find those things and fix them.”

Bogdan listed the most recent problem — one involving faulty insulation around the engines — that grounded 15 airplanes as a “perfect example.”

“If this problem was found three or four years from now we have hundreds of airplanes out there,” Bogdan said. “The mark of a good program isn’t that you have no problems. The mark of a good program is you find things early, you fix them, you make the airplane better, you make the weapons system better, and you move on.

“I think we have a pretty good track record of doing that over the last few years,” he continued. “We don’t talk about engine fires anymore. We don’t talk about a hook on the ‘C’ model that doesn’t catch a cable. We don’t talk about a helmet that has multiple problems with it — in fact, talk to the aviators about how much they like this helmet. We don’t talk about landing gear problems. All of those things are behind us.”

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(L-R) Carlisle, Bogdan, Pleus, and Lyons at AFA Convention briefing on state of the F-35 program. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

“I’m hopeful that as we grow the fleet that we all take the time to form opinions on this airplane from experts,” Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, Director of the Pentagon’s F-35 Integration Office, said.  “And the only experts in the F-35 business are those that fix, maintain, and fly the F-35 on a day-to-day basis.”

Scott claimed that pilots flying the F-35 out of Luke AFB and Eglin AFB, when polled about what airplane they’d want to be in if faced with an enemy pilot of equal ability today, unanimously chose the F-35 over the F-15C, F-15E, F-16, or A-10 in a “beyond visual range” environment and picked the F-35 by a factor of 80 percent over those other airplanes in a dogfight.

Col. David Lyons, commander of the 388th Fighter Wing, explained that the Air Force’s Initial Operational Capability, or “IOC,” ruling was organized into four categories:  availability, deployability, access to required support equipment, and the readiness of trained aircrew, maintenance, and support personnel.

“Our achievement of each IOC milestone gave us increased confidence,” Lyons said. “The outcome speaks for itself. The jet has proved to be both survivable and lethal while allowing the technological growth required to become a viable weapons system for decades to come.”

Lyons touted that the 7-aircraft “graduation” detachment based out of Mountain Home AFB last year yielded a 97.5 percent hit rate for dropped bombs, a 92.3 percent mission capable rate, and 100 percent sortie completion rate — all of which exceed the standards set by the legacy aircraft the F-35 is supposed to replace. He also stated there were zero F-35 losses from “Red Air,” the term used for simulated enemy aircraft in a training scenario.

Lyons characterized his overall impressions of the jet as “overwhelmingly positive.”

“It’s a pilot’s airplane and the technology will prove to be game-changing,” he said. “I think our adversaries will worry, and I think they have every reason to feel that way.”

The sanguine outlook of the high-ranking panel at the Air Force Association Convention was mitigated by the recent news that 57 jets — 15 in operational use and 42 on the production line — had substandard tubing that caused insulation to migrate into fuel tanks. The discovery resulted in the fleet airplanes being grounded while technicians perform an intrusive procedure to remove the insulation by drilling through the wing to access the fuel tanks. Bogdan said he expects the affected jets to be back in service sometime in December. He also said the grounding action does not affect the ‘B’ and ‘C’ models of the F-35.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Croatia’s new F-16s are Israel’s old ones

When a country needs to replace increasingly obsolete fighters but can’t afford to buy new ones from the manufacturer, getting them second-hand is always an option. Croatia has found themselves in that very boat recently while seeking to upgrade their air force.


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A MiG-21 Fishbed with the Croatian Air Force. These aircraft were left after the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Wikimedia Commons photo by Tomislav Haraminčić

According to a report by Agence France Presse, they found a solution in the form of 12 Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Israeli Air Force. The total cost of this deal was €403 million, nearly 0 million USD. That might seem pricey, but it’s a great deal when compared to the 5 million per new F-16 that Iraq paid, according to a 2011 Time Magazine report.

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This Israeli F-16A shot down six and a half enemy planes and took part in the 1981 Osirak reactor strike. Israel retired these planes in 2015, but some will have new life in Croatia.

Wikimedia Commons photo by Zachi Evenor

Israel’s used Falcons provide a cheap upgrade

Currently, the Croatian Air Force has 12 MiG-21 Fishbed fighters on inventory. The Fishbed entered service with the Soviet Air Force in 1959. Almost 11,500 Fishbeds were produced by the USSR and the plane was widely exported, seeing service with dozens of countries, including Vietnam, North Korea, Serbia, and Iraq. The MiG-21 is equipped with a twin-barrel 23mm cannon as well as AA-2 Atoll and AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missiles. It has a top speed of 1,381 miles per hour and an unrefueled range of 741 miles.

Compared to the newer F-16, the Fishbed looks like ancient technology. An Air Force fact sheet reports that the F-16 Fighting Falcon has a top speed of 1,500 miles per hour and a maximum range of over 2,000 miles. The F-16 is capable of carrying out a wide variety of missions. While the AFP report did not state which model of F-16s Israel is selling to Croatia, GlobalSecurity.org notes that Israel retired its force of F-16A/B models in 2015.

Not Israel’s first used plane sale

This is not the first time that Israel has sold off old warplanes. Argentina bought IAI Nesher fighters from Israel that saw action in the Falklands War. Additionally, a private company acquired former Israeli Air Force A-4s, which will soon see action in a multi-national exercise hosted by the Netherlands.

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The F-16 could transition to an unmanned aerial asset

In its quest to meet and exceed the challenges of the future, the U.S. Air Force has been increasingly looking to unmanned systems — and a recent test proved that an unmanned F-16 can now think and fight on its own.


The U.S. has used F-16 drones before as realistic targets for the F-35 to blow up in training, but on April 10 it announced fully autonomous air-to-air and ground strike capabilities as a new capability thanks to joint research between the service and Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunkworks.

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An F-35 Lightning II from Eglin AFB flies with an F-16 Fighting Falcon from Luke AFB at the Luke Airshow. Was the Viper just bait? (Lockheed Martin photo)

Not only did the F-16 drone figure out the best way to get there and execute a ground strike mission by itself, it was interrupted by an air threat, responded, and kept going.

“We’ve not only shown how an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle can perform its mission when things go as planned, but also how it will react and adapt to unforeseen obstacles along the way,” said Capt. Andrew Petry of the Air Force Research Laboratory in a Lockheed Martin statement.

But having F-16 drones plan and fly their own missions is only part of a much larger picture. The future of the U.S. Air Force may well depend on advanced platforms like F-35s commanding fleets of unmanned drones which can act as additional ears, eyes, and shooters in the sky during battles.

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F-16 Fighting Falcons from Kunsan Air Base and South Korean KF-16s taxi to the runway together during Exercise Buddy Wing 14-8 at Seosan Air Base, Republic of Korea Aug. 21, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force has what’s called an “open mission system” where it designs all platforms to network together and share information. Essentially, even an unmanned drone will have decision-grade data fed to it from everything from satellites in the sky to radars on the ground.

Lockheed Martin calls it the “loyal wingman” program, where drone systems like old F-16s can seamlessly network with F-35s and think on its feet.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

More A-10s will get new life via new wings

It’s a signal that the effort to kill the A-10 is dead, instead of the A-10 itself – which is what usually happens to anything trying to kill the A-10 Warthog. After trying to bury the plane for nearly a decade, the Air Force has not only finished refitting some of its old A-10 Thunderbolt II airframes, the branch has decided to expand the effort to more planes. The re-wing projects will cover 27 more of the Warthogs through 2030.

So the Marines can expect excellent close-air support for the foreseeable future.


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“Hey Taliban, what rhymes with hurt? BRRRRRT.”

The news comes after the Air Force finished re-winging 173 A-10s in August 2019 when the Air Force awarded a 0 million contract to Boeing to expand the re-winging effort to include more planes. Even as the battle over the future of the airframe raged on in the Air Force, at the Pentagon, and in Congress, the A-10s were undergoing their re-winging process, one that first began in 2011. Ever since, the Air Force has tried to save money by using the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for close-air-support missions or even giving that role to older, less powerful planes like the Embraer Super Tucano.

Despite its heavy use in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fact that the airframe is beloved by warfighters on the ground, the Air Force effort to retire the plane stems from the perception that close-air-support missions can be done better and with less risk to the plane and pilot by higher-flying, more advanced aircraft like the F-35.

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Talk BRRRRRT-y to me.

The A-10 was first developed in the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, to bust tanks and provide the kind of cover artillery might otherwise give, but with a faster, more mobile, and efficient delivery. A slow flyer, the A-10 is a kind of flying tank. But it’s more than an aircraft built around a gun (the GAU-8 Avenger fires so powerfully, it actually slows the A-10 down) the Thunderbolt II features armor, redundant systems, and a unique engine placement that makes it a difficult threat against most conventional anti-air defenses.

The Air Force’s main reason for getting rid of it was that the Thunderbolt II isn’t suitable for modern battlespaces and that most of its missions could be done by the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The new re-winging effort is a signal that fight is likely to be over and that the Air Force’s close-air support mission is a much bigger deal than previously expected.

While some may question why the A-10 is getting an extended life when the F-35 can supposedly fill that role, the guys on the ground will tell you it’s all about the BRRRRRT – they live and die by it, sometimes literally.