China’s Chengdu J-10 multirole fighter jet may be getting an engine upgrade that will increase its maneuverability and make it harder to detect on radar.
Defense News reports that a photo of a J-10C in an unknown Chinese defense magazine features an engine that appears to be equipped with a thrust vectoring nozzle. The engine also appears to have sawtooth edges, according to Defense News, and the bottom part of the compartment that houses the fighter’s drogue parachute was removed.
The new nozzle will enable the J-10 to be capable of thrust vectoring, sometimes referred to as thrust vector control or TVC. TVC happens when the engine itself is directed in different directions, directly manipulating the thrust generated from the engine.
This gives the pilot greater control of altitude and angular velocity, and enables the aircraft to make better turns, substantially increasing maneuverability.
The new nozzle suggests that the Chinese have made gains in their attempts to add TVC technology to fighter jets.
But increased maneuverability is not the only thing that the engine provides. The sawtooth edges around the nozzle are similar to those used by other stealth aircraft like the F-35 and F-22. Russia’s Sukhoi Su-30/35 Flanker series of fighters also utilize the same edges.
The J-10C is actually an improved version of the J-10. It features enhanced 4th generation electronics, like an active electronically scanned array radar, and also has a diverterless supersonic inlet, an air intake system that diverts boundary layer airflow away from the aircraft’s engine lowering its radar cross section.
The J-10 itself is rumored to be a Chinese copy of the American F-16.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando A. Schwier-Morales)
In the 1990s, Israel was hoping to make its own domestic fighter jet that could compete on the international market. It required assistance from US companies and ended up making the IAI Lavi, a fighter that heavily resembled the F-16.
After it was discovered that up to $1.3 billion of US aid to Israel was spent on the development of the Lavi, and that the US was essentially funding a potential competitor, the project was canceled.
The plans for the fighter were then said to have been sold to China. Some US government officials even believed that Israel and China were collaborating with each other to develop the fighter. China and Israel have both denied all such claims.
China has been aggresively pursuing stealth capability for its jets. In September 2017, the government officially announced that its stealth fighter jet, the J-20, was in active service.
The Marlin is an unmanned underwater vehicle that is currently used in a variety of applications, but primarily for searching for stuff.
You may be wondering – why would you use an unmanned vehicle underwater? After all, we’re paying through the nose for nuclear-powered attack submarines. Why can’t they do they job? It’s a very good question. One of the big reasons is that nuclear attack submarines are primarily designed to sink enemy ships and attack. This requires that they be built very differently.
The Marlin can be deployed from the surface or from underwater.
(Photo by Lockheed)
Unmanned underwater vehicles, or UUVs (also called drones) are very useful for looking for things on the ocean floor. First of all, you can send them into hostile territory or a dangerous area (like a minefield), and really you just have to worry about the accountants if the drone hits the mine. Second, they can spend a lot of time searching, because they don’t need to take breaks to feed themselves or sleep or other time-consuming human endeavors. Third, because they don’t have to haul around the stuff that humans need to survive and function, they can be a lot smaller.
The Marlin Mk 2 can operate at depths of up to 1,000 feet, and has a top speed of four knots.
(Photo by Lockheed)
According to information obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, two versions of the Marlin are available or in the works. One, the Marlin Mk 2, is able to operate at depths of up to 1,000 feet and operate for up to 24 hours. It has a top speed of four knots. The Marlin Mk 3 is much larger, has a minimum endurance of 20 hours, a top speed of five knots, and can operate at depths of up to 4,000 feet. They can be deployed from a surface vessel or from underwater.
These days, when you are searching for something in the ocean, it can take a lot of time. And unlike the character from Finding Nemo, these Marlins won’t give you some snarky sass.
Early August 2018, a decorated US Army Special Force soldier was arrested and charged in relation to an attempt to smuggle 90 pounds of cocaine from Colombia to Florida, but he may just be one player in a multimillion-dollar operation.
Army Master Sgt. Daniel Gould was arrested in Florida on Aug. 13, 2018, in connection with an attempt to bring 90 pounds of cocaine into the US on a military aircraft, defense officials told NBC News early August 2018. That haul would be worth several million dollars on US streets.
Gould was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group based at Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida. The group’s area of responsibility is Latin America south of Mexico and the waters surrounding Central and South America. The unit is heavily involved in counter-drug operations in the region.
Gould is a veteran of Afghanistan, where he earned a Silver Star, the Army’s third-highest award, for fending off an ambush in late 2008.
His arrest came after US Drug Enforcement Administration agents found more than 90 pounds of cocaine in two backpacks aboard a military airplane that was bound for Florida. A military official told NBC News that a service member found the drugs and alerted authorities while the plane was still in Colombia.
A US sniper team assigned to the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group competes in an unknown-distance event in Colombia during the Fuerzas Comando competition, July 26, 2014.
(US Army photo by Master Sgt. Alejandro Licea)
Gould had been on vacation in the city of Cali in southwest Colombia the week prior to his arrest. He was already back in the US when the drugs were discovered. Officials told NBC News that someone else put the two backpacks on the plane in Colombia but could not say whether that person was complicit in the smuggling attempt.
Now the investigation has reportedly turned to finding out what Gould was doing in Colombia during that vacation, whether others were involved in the smuggling attempt, and if this plot was undertaken by a larger network that has previously been linked to US military personnel.
According to an Aug. 26, 2018 report by Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, DEA investigators in Colombia are focusing on establishing who may have helped Gould acquire and transport the cocaine and whether military personnel involved in getting the drugs onto a plane knew what was going on.
Gould reportedly planned to leave Colombia on a commercial flight on Aug. 12, 2018, connecting through Miami before arriving at Fort Walton Beach, which is just a few minutes’ drive from Eglin Air Force Base.
However, according to El Tiempo, he changed his plans abruptly, switching his final destination to Pensacola, about an hour’s drive from his original destination — which may indicate he was aware the drugs had been discovered.
Investigators in Colombia are also trying to establish whether Gould had any connection to a trafficking network uncovered after the Oct. 2011 arrest of Lemar Burton, a US sailor caught with 11 pounds of cocaine in his luggage as he boarded a flight from Colombia to Europe.
Burton, assigned to Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily at the time, was in Colombia on personal leave, the US Embassy in Bogota said after his arrest. His arrest prompted an investigation that uncovered an international smuggling ring operating out of airports in Cali and Bogota, moving drugs to Europe.
The ring relied on couriers, mainly foreigners, to carry drugs in parcels like suitcases with false bottoms. In the months after Burton’s arrest, arrests were made in the US and Colombia. Several other US citizens were involved.
A Blackhawk helicopter supports the US Army’s 7th Special Forces Group and Naval Special Warfare members during an exercise at in El Salvador, Dec. 2, 2016.
(US Army photo by Master Sgt. Kerri Spero)
The drugs Burton and Gould were attempting to transport were sourced to Buenaventura and Tumaco, two main drug-producing regions on Colombia’s Pacific coast that are part of the area in which Gould’s unit was supporting anti-drug operations, according to El Tiempo.
A source with knowledge of the case told El Tiempo that Colombian authorities had not been given information about the investigation and that the military aircraft in question did not leave from a Colombian base. A military source told the paper that it was not clear which US plane in Colombia was involved.
A DEA spokesman said the agency does not comment on ongoing investigations. A spokeswoman for the US Attorney for the Northern District of Florida said the office had no public information to offer about the case.
A spokesman for US Army Special Operations Command, which oversees the 7th Special Operations Group, said a service member was being investigated and that the DEA was leading the probe but declined to comment further. The command has said it was cooperating with law-enforcement on the case.
The investigation is ongoing and the nature of Gould’s involvement remains uncertain, but US military personnel getting involved in drug smuggling, particularly in Colombia, is not unheard of.
“It’s not unusual for servicemen to take advantage of the drug trade to make a lot of money,” said Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for DEA.
They “have access to these foreign countries. They have contacts, and a lot of times they actually smuggle the drugs on military aircraft,” Vigil added, pointing to cases he was involved in during the 1970s in which US service members smuggled heroin from Southeast Asia to the US, often carrying it in their personal luggage.
Authorities are trying to determine the timeline, the source of supply, and other people who may have been involved, Vigil said, adding that Gould may have gotten involved through his official duties or may have been connected with criminal groups, like remnants of the Cali or Valle de Cauca cartels, through personal contacts.
The smuggling attempt uncovered this month seemed “very sloppy,” suggesting those involved were “just getting into the business,” Vigil said.
“Anybody with a great knowledge [of trafficking] would’ve used a different transportation method or covered their tracks a little better.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Following their meeting in Helsinki, Donald Trump hailed Vladimir Putin as a potential partner in Syria, who can provide humanitarian relief and preserve Israeli security. But if the United States hopes to deny Iran “open season to the Mediterranean,” as the President previously said, Russia is anything but an ally. Putin has no interest in pushing out the Iranian forces that defend the Assad regime by taking heavy casualties on the ground while Russia fights mainly from the air. Rather, the most recent offensive by pro-regime forces — a sprint towards the Israeli and Jordanian borders — demonstrates that Russia enables Iranian operations in Syria.
In late June 2018, Russia began to unleash hundreds of airstrikes on Deraa, a flagrant violation of the U.S.-Russian ceasefire agreement that Trump and Putin personally endorsed November 2017. While Russia struck from the air, forces nominally under the control of Damascus conducted a major ground offensive.
Closer examination shows that the dividing line between Assad’s military and Iranian-aligned forces has become ever blurrier. Before the offensive began, Lebanese Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militias staged apparent withdrawals from the region, only to return after donning regime uniforms and hiding their banners and insignia. Tehran is also directly involved. On July 2, 2018, a senior commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) died in Deir al-Adas, a village in northern Deraa province along the strategic M5 highway. Persian sources describe him as the commander for Deraa province.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps tank in 2012 in Tehran.
Two Iranian-aligned militant groups comprised of Iraqi Shias, Liwa Abu al Fadl al Abbas (LAFA) and Liwa Zulfiqar, have also participated in the offensive. LAFA was one of the original foreign Shia militias to deploy to Syria in 2012, ostensibly to defend the Sayyida Zainab mosque in Damascus, a major Shiite religious site. Since then, however, the group has integrated into the Syrian Republican Guard, even to the point where it openly identifies as a Republican Guard unit. LAFA’s trajectory illustrates how forces nominally under the control of Damascus are permeated with troops that are at least as close to Tehran.
Since the current offensive began, LAFA has posted numerous photos and videos on its Facebook page showing its men alongside regime troops in Deraa. Its leader, Abu Ajeeb, has also been pictured with Syrian military officers in several of the photos. Opposition sources report that a LAFA commander met with Russian military officers in Deraa.
Liwa Zulfiqar has also confirmed its involvement in the offensive, as well as its integration into the regime’s military. The militia, which has been fighting alongside Syrian regime troops since 2013, posted several photos from the town of Busra al Harir in which it asserted it was participating in the offensive. The militia’s leader, Haidar al Jabouri, appeared in a video shot inside the Syrian 4th Division’s military operations command room, demonstrating Zulfiqar’s integration into the Syrian command structure.
Reports have also suggested that other militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have been taking part in the offensive, sometimes disguised as Syrian troops. In late June 2018, the Washington Postbriefly noted Hezbollah’s participation. Quoting an official in Damascus, Reuters reported that “Hezbollah is a fundamental participant in planning and directing this battle.” Another pro-regime source reportedly confirmed the use of Syrian military uniforms by Hezbollah and other militias to the wire service.
Hizbollah flag in Syria.
It’s also becoming clear that Russian aircraft are supporting the efforts of Iranian-backed units nominally under the control of Damascus. On June 24, 2018, Russian warplanes conducted at least twenty strikes on Busra al Harir, spurring on a stalled regime offensive. Within two days, Liwa Zulfiqar announced its participation in operations there. On July 4, 2018, Russia hit Saida and Tafas, supporting offensives involving Zulfiqar and LAFA, respectively. Russia has also now deployed military police to hold terrain captured by Iranian-aligned forces, demonstrating a level of coordination as well as Russia’s unwillingness to use its forces for more dangerous offensive operations. These terrain-holding forces free up Iran-aligned actors to continue undertaking offensives toward the Golan.
Reported meetings between militia commanders and Russian officers suggest these operations are coordinated. But even without formal coordination, Russian air cover and Iranian ground offensives are mutually dependent and reinforcing. Iran can’t be in the sky, and Russia refuses to put significant forces on the ground, lest too many return home in body bags. Thus, Putin requires Iran’s forces on the ground to secure his ambitions in Syria.
Trump should remain highly skeptical of Putin’s interest and ability to serve as a partner in Syria. The humanitarian relief Putin proposes is designed to fortify the regime, not rehabilitate children brutalized by Assad. Putin also has limited interest in curtailing Iran’s deployment. Russia itself admits that Iran’s withdrawal is “absolutely unrealistic.” Trump should not concede American positions, notably the strategic base at Tanf which blocks Iran’s path to the Mediterranean, for empty promises from Russia. Putin can afford to lie to America, but he can’t afford to control Syria without Iranian support.
WWI was an interesting time for the military. Our force was still new to being centralized, and converting state-led militias into one cohesive force took time and money. At the start of WWI, the Army had a scant 127,000 soldiers with 181,000 National Guard service members. What we needed were millions of soldiers to help the forces in France and England defeat Germany. In addition to needing qualified troops for ground movements, the US needed to find a way to offset its paltry military artillery units with the latest and greatest fighting technology.
But what is a howitzer, anyway?
If you don’t have a Red Leg in your family, you might not know the difference between artillery equipment. Never fear! We’re here to help. Here’s a quick primer on the difference between a howitzer compared with cannons.
Let’s take it way back to the early 1830s when the Army realized they needed a smaller, lighter, and more versatile cannon that could still have almost the same range as a regular cannon. Their answer to this problem was to shorten the barrel and change the shape to be more funnel-shaped instead of cylindrical.
The result was what we now know as a howitzer, a name taken from the Prussian word Haubitze, which means sling or basket.
Cannons can be direct fires weapons or indirect fires weapons, whereas a howitzer is strictly used for indirect fire – incredibly useful when the terrain of a battlefield is challenging to navigate. Howitzers can hit targets by arching rounds over objects, whereas cannons are directly aimed at a target and fired.
In full swing production since the 1830s, howitzers in all their forms have proved to be incredibly useful as part of the war effort … when they’re available.
There weren’t enough regiments
Before the US involvement in WWI, the Army only had nine authorized artillery regiments. By comparison, the Army currently has 27 active duty artillery regiments and 42 Reserve components. To say that we needed to grow our force quickly at the onset of WWI. But in lieu of a well-trained and combat-ready force, military leaders looked to other types of ways to bridge the gap. This is the story of the 155mm Howitzer of WWI and how it helped win the war.
Shortly after entering the war, the US formed 12 additional artillery units, bringing the total up to a rounding 21 regiments. These units helped supplement the National Guard and organized reserve artillery regiments, but it wasn’t nearly enough to stand up to German forces.
Regiments are great, but they weren’t enough
Sure, 21 units were better than nine, but it wasn’t enough since we didn’t have experienced personnel to arm the guns. In addition to needing soldiers, the Army also didn’t have enough guns or ammunition. The simplest solution for the WWI Army was to supply our forces with guns from France since there were plenty of qualified French artillery instructors and more than enough guns and ammunition.
Light artillery wasn’t the best choice
As the US entered the war, we only had a handful of 3-inch guns and 6-inch howitzers. The French forces replaced those with 75mm guns, 155mm, and 240mm howitzers. However, Army leaders held onto the idea that light artillery was more suitable for the current conditions. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
The changing face of battle
In fact, WWI’s trench warfare increased the need for heavy artillery like the 155mm howitzer and decreased the need for light field guns, like those in our arsenal. Howitzers have a greater range and are far more powerful, better suited for destroying fortified enemy targets, and reaching rear areas of the battlefield.
Without the use of the 155m howitzer, it’s possible that the conclusion of WWI would have looked very different. And, if it weren’t for the French, who were willing to share their artillery, ammunition, and knowledge with us, the US involvement in the war might have been incredibly altered, as well.
America’s longest-serving bomber just took flight with a new air-launched hypersonic weapon for the first time, the US Air Force announced on June 13, 2019.
A B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bomber took to the skies over Edwards Air Force Base in California on June 12, 2019, with an inactive, sensor-only prototype of the new AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), one of a handful of hypersonic weapons the Air Force is developing for the B-52s.
Hypersonic weapons are a key research and development area in the ongoing arms race between the great-power rivals Russia, China, and the US. Hypersonics are particularly deadly because of their high speeds, in excess of Mach 5, and their maneuverability, which gives them the ability to evade enemy air-and-missile defense systems.
The hypersonic weapon carried by the B-52 on June 12, 2019, did not contain explosives and was not released during testing, the Air Force said, explaining that the focus of the test was to gather data on drag and vibration effects on the weapon, as well as evaluate the external carriage equipment.
A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress.
(US Air Force photo)
For the B-52, a nonstealth bomber that might struggle to skirt enemy air defenses, the standoff capability provided by a weapon like the ARRW helps keep the decades-old aircraft relevant even as the US prepares to fight wars against high-end opponents.
Standoff is one area the US military has been looking closely at as it upgrades its B-52s to extend their service life.
The Air Force, much like the Army and Navy, is pursuing hypersonic weapons technology as quickly as possible.
“We’re using the rapid prototyping authorities provided by Congress to quickly bring hypersonic weapon capabilities to the warfighter,” Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a release.
A B-52H Stratofortress.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele)
The Air Force’s ARRW is expected to achieve operational capability by fiscal year 2022.
“This type of speed in our acquisition system is essential — it allows us to field capabilities rapidly to compete against the threats we face,” Roper said, apparently referencing the challenges posed by near-peer competitors.
Russia, for instance, has developed the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile that can be carried by both bombers and interceptor aircraft.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Paul Allen may have made a name for himself as the co-founder of Microsoft, but within the aviation community, the late entrepreneur was known for something different: owning some of the most incredible aircraft ever to hit the market. When Allen passed last October, he left behind a sizeable collection of vehicles that included two superyachts and a veritable air force worth of jets, helicopters, and specialized planes.
Now, it seems that portions of Allen’s estate are being liquidated, placing some of the rarest and most exotic platforms in the world on the market. Among these treasures is perhaps a one of a kind Cold War-era MiG-29 — a fourth-generation fighter built just before the fall of the Soviet Union that even saw operational use in Ukraine during the Soviet dissolution.
This MiG-29 is up for sale (in case you really want to impress your prom date).
Despite the number of headlines garnered by fifth-generation fighters like America’s F-35 and F-22, the vast majority of the combat operational fighters in the world remain squarely within the fourth generation. These jets, like the F-15, F-16, and Russia’s Su-35 are considered highly capable despite lacking the stealth and network capabilities that differentiate them from their successors, but in many ways outside of those qualifiers, fourth-generation platforms are more capable than even the high-cost F-35. And the MiG-29 in question is certainly no exception. In fact, it remains in use in the Russian (and a number of other) air forces to this day.
This particular MiG-29 was demilitarized by the Ukraine Air Force and put on the private market in 2005, where it began its long and treacherous journey to Allen’s collection here in the United States. By the time it arrived, the aircraft needed to be restored and reassembled, a task left to importer and military aviation aficionado John Sessions. Sessions not only restored this aircraft to its former glory, when he was finished, it was perhaps the single best example of a MiG-29 left in existence, along with a few uniquely American accents like changing the gauging and cockpit indicators to English.
With a top speed of 1,491 mph (around Mach 2.25) this MiG would leave even America’s premier F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the dust. In fact, this MiG would beat just about anything that isn’t an F-15 in a drag race, which is impressive for a combat aircraft, but even more so for a civilian jet with functioning ejection seats you could feasibly take to visit your mom in Orlando. In fact, at top speed, you could get there from New York in less than an hour.
The fighter is up for sale through the Mente Group, and according to the listing the entire airframe has only 570 operational hours on it, with only 60 of those hours taking place after the entire aircraft (including the engines) were completely overhauled. In other words, this jet may have been built in the late ’80s, but its cockpit still very much possesses that “new fighter” smell.
Because its been demilitarized, this MiG-29 lacks the machine gun and seven hardpoints used for mounting missiles or bombs, as well as the infrared search and track (IRST) ball it originally used for targeting, but as Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone points out, IRST systems from the MiG’s era never worked all that well anyway.
A fully loaded Bangladesh Air Force MiG-29 with six missiles and an external fuel tank.
(Bangladesh Air Force via WikiMedia Commons)
The MiG-29 likely won’t see use as an aggressor aircraft (used by the U.S. Air Force for mock combat training exercises) in large part because the U.S. military has already gotten their hands on a number of MiG-29s and most of its performance capabilities can be mirrored by other available platforms. That means this MiG likely won’t see use in military contractor circles, making it that much more promising as dad’s new grocery getter.
There’s no price on the listing, but seeing as Sessions has stated in the past that it cost him at least million to restore the aircraft to its current white-glove condition and the fact that Allen’s purchase price has never been divulged, it’s safe to say that this Cold War fighter will probably set you back quite a bit more than most commuters on the market.
Robin Williams went on six separate USO tours from 2002 to 2013. Williams inspired countless other comedians and performers to pack their bags and head overseas to share their light with the world. There are hundreds of stories that surround the humanity of each and every visit Williams had.
For example, take the time on the 2007 USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour, where Williams saw a group of soldiers waving at him from behind a fence across a grassy berm. A wave and a loud joke across the field would’ve surely made those soldiers day… But according to USO VP of Entertainment Rachel Tischler, “… he jumped across the berm and went running over to them. Obviously, our security team completely freaked out. Again – height of the war here. But he didn’t care. He just wanted to go over and shake their hands and thank them. And that is what he was like.”
That’s the thing with Williams. He didn’t just go overseas and perform a couple of comedy sets and dip out. That, in and of itself, would still be a beautiful act of service. But that wasn’t enough for Williams. He jumped the berm in everything he did.
“What was great about him on tour was that he always took the time to sit down and talk to people about what they were going through, what life on the base was like, about personal experiences,” Tischler said. “And then he’d get on stage and he’d be telling a joke about Mexican Night in the [dining facility].”
Robin Williams as troops “Retreat” at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
Williams wasn’t just a loose cannon of human decency on USO Tours, either. He was also a respectful observer of military tacit codes. Just watch this video of Williams’s set being cut short by Taps at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
At the first sound of the beagle, you can almost feel his gut lurching to make a joke. Every single time that Williams had gone on stage, he was a comedic amoeba, calling out things happening in the present moment. He had conditioned himself to make a joke there. But he resisted. He pulled against his greater impulses, and respectfully lowered his head.
You can tell it meant something to him, as he said “I’m never going to forget that.” And what happened next is quintessential Robin Williams— he made a joke about the present moment that unified the entire camp.
Holiday Tour, International Airport in Baghdad (2003)
(Mike Theiler. EPA.)
Unity is the central theme of Robin Williams USO tours, and that’s the legacy left behind. Every man and woman stationed who got to see him took a piece of Williams back with them. Williams loved it too, “There’s nothing I enjoy more than traveling with the USO and giving back to our troops in whatever way I can,” he said, “They work hard, sacrifice a lot and deserve to be treated like the heroes they are. The very least I can do is bring a smile to their faces.”
Many comedians have followed in his footsteps of unity since: Lewis Black, Louis CK, Ralphie May, and Stephen Colbert, just to name a few. As our country feels increasingly disjointed, it’s important to focus on the “Robin Williams” moments; we can reach across the aisle and truly connect with each other.
Whenever we feel distant from each other, we don’t have to shout from behind a fence. We can jump the berm.
The US military, together with its industry partners, makes some of the finest weapons in the world, but the programs that produce them rarely run as smoothly as intended.
Some of the most problematic of the military’s recent projects belong to the US Navy.
The big problem for the Navy is that the service, just as other branches of the military have in the past, has rushed to develop platforms before the required technologies were ready, Bryan Clark, a naval affairs expert, told Business Insider, pointing to the new Zumwalt-class destroyers and the Ford-class supercarriers.
“We still have technology that is not fully mature even though the ship has been delivered,” he said, advising the service to slow things down and mature the technology rather than build an entire platform around an idea.
This issue is not unique to the Navy though. The Army is rethinking innovation at the newly-established Army Futures Command in the wake of past development failures, such as the Comanche helicopter or Crusader self-propelled artillery.
Here are 5 troubled projects the US military is desperately trying to get sorted right now.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)
1. F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
“The F-35 program and cost is out of control,” then-President-elect Donald Trump tweeted on Dec. 12, 2016.
US Air Force Lt. Gen Chris Bogdan briefed Trump on the F-35 program a week later. The presentation highlighted the program’s “troubled past,” which includes premature production problems, ballooning costs, delivery delays, and numerous technical challenges, among other issues, The Drive reported.
The Air Force presentation concluded that it is “difficult to overcome a troubled past, but [the] program is improving.” Still problems persist.
The Pentagon’s latest operational testing and evaluation assessment noted continued reliability and availability issues. And, according to Bloomberg, the lifetime program cost for the world’s most expensive weapons program has grown to id=”listicle-2638634792″.196 trillion.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has colorfully described the F-35 program as “f—ed up.”
USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000)
2. Zumwalt-class destroyer
The US Navy has invested two decades and tens of billions of dollars into the development of these advanced warships, which lack working guns and a clear mission.
The two 155mm guns of the Advanced Gun System are incredibly expensive to fire. One Long-Range Land Attack Projectile costs around id=”listicle-2638634792″ million. Procurement was shut down two years ago, leaving the Zumwalt without any ammunition.
The guns never provided the desired range anyway, so now the Navy is talking about possibly scrapping the guns entirely.
The Zumwalt has also struggled with engine and electrical problems, as well as a potential loss of stealth capabilities due to the use of cost-saving bolt-on components.
While the Navy had planned to field more than 30 Zumwalt-class destroyers, the service now plans for only three.
The USS Independence, a Littoral Combat Ship.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe)
3. Littoral Combat Ship
The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), sometimes referred to as the “Little Crappy Ship,” has suffered from uncontrolled cost overruns, delivery delays, and various mechanical problems.
The Navy has pumped around billion over roughly 20 years into this project, which was started to create an inexpensive vessel that was small, fast, and capable of handling a variety of missions in coastal waterways.
The LCS was specifically designed to carry out anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasure, and surface warfare missions in contested littoral waters, but there have been a lot of problems with the modular mission packages designed to be loaded aboard.
There are also concerns that the ships are not survivable in high-intensity conflict and that they are not sufficiently armed to perform their missions, according to the most recent Department of Defense operational testing and evaluation assessment.
While the Navy initially aimed to build a fleet of 55 ships, the LCS order has since been reduced to 35. The Navy, which has struggled to deploy the ships it already has, is currently looking at new missile frigates to replace the LCS.
USS Gerald R. Ford
(United States Navy)
4. Ford-class aircraft carrier
The billion USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier continues to suffer from a variety of problems even as the Navy moves forward with plans to build more Ford-class supercarriers.
The Ford was expected to be delivered to the fleet this summer, but delivery has been delayed until at least October due to persistent problems with the weapons elevators and the propulsion system.
This is not the first time the powerful ship has been delayed.
This massive flattop has also had problems with the basic requirements of an aircraft carrier, launching and recovering planes. The most recent Department of Defense assessment called attention to the “poor or unknown reliability of systems critical for flight operations.”
President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized, occasionally at inappropriate times, the new electromagnetic catapults, which still don’t work correctly. Just as he was critical of the rising F-35 costs, Trump has also frequently slammed the ballooning costs of the Ford-class carriers.
An artist rendering of a railgun aboard a US Navy surface vessel.
5. Electromagnetic naval railgun
The problem with the railgun was that the Navy began pouring time and money into research and development without really considering whether or not the weapon was a worthwhile investment militarily.
The railgun, which the Navy has invested more than a decade and over 0 million in developing, suffers from rate of fire limitations, significant energy demands, and other troubling technological problems that make this weapon a poor replacement for existing guns or missile systems.
“It’s not useful military technology,” Clark previously told Business Insider. “You are better off spending that money on missiles and vertical launch system cells than you are on a railgun.”
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson described the railgun project as a lesson in what not to do during a talk earlier this year. When asked about the program, the best answer he could offer was: “It’s going somewhere, hopefully.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Creating a fool-proof selection program as well as finding the right entry requirements to test candidates is something the military, police, special ops, and fire fighter worlds constantly seek to perfect. I recently was asked the following question by a few friends who are either active duty or former Tactical Professionals (aka military, special ops, police, swat, and fire fighters):
Do you think there will ever be a measurable test or metric to predict the success of a candidate in Special Ops programs?
My unqualified short answer is… maybe? I think there are far too many variables to test to create a measurable metric to predict success in selection programs or advanced special operations training. Now, this does not mean we should stop looking and creating statistical analyses of those who succeed and fail, or testing out new ideas to improve student success. There is no doubt that finding better prepared students will save money, time, and effort, and it’s worth remembering that much of the entry standards are based on those studies. The ability to measure someone’s mental toughness (aka heart or passion) may be impossible, but there are groups making great strides with quantifying such intangibles.
Recently, Naval Special Warfare Center (BUD/S) did a three-year study on their SEAL candidates attending Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL Training. If you are looking for the physical predictors to success, this is about as thorough of a study as I have ever seen to date.
The CSORT — Computerized Special Operations Resiliency Test is another method of pre-testing candidates prior to SEAL Training — while still in the recruiting phase. The CSORT is part of the entry process and has become a decent predictor of success and failure with a candidate’s future training. Together with the combined run and swim times of the BUD/S PST (500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, and 1.5 mile run), a candidate is compared to previous statistics of candidates who successfully graduated.
Can You Even Measure Mental Toughness?
This is a debate that those in the business of creating Special Operators still have. In my opinion, the “test” is BUD/S, SFAS, Selection, SWAT Training, or whatever training that makes a student endure daily challenges for a long period of time. The body’s stamina and endurance is equally tested for several days and weeks, as is one’s mental stamina and endurance (toughness) in these schools. The school IS the test. Finding the best student — now that is the challenge.
When Gen. “Stormin'” Norman Schwarzkopf was preparing for a counter-offensive against Iraqi invaders in Kuwait, he was disappointed by the initial plans put forward by his staff. The plans looked, to him, like they might fail — or at least require many more lives, time, and lost equipment than any coalition nation would be happy losing.
The SAMS graduates were like this — except for the mask and the lightsaber and the robes.
(Photo by Simon King)
The story started in September, 1990, when Schwarzkopf put out the call for new blood on his planning team. Four recent SAMS graduates were sent straight to him, arriving in theater within weeks of the call. When they were assembled, Schwarzkopf gave them a seemingly impossible task: Draft a new offensive war plan within two weeks while not telling anyone what they were doing or asking any questions that could expose their purpose. For the four top planners, led by Col. Joseph Purvis, this presented a series of challenges. They couldn’t tell any lower-level staff why they needed to know details, like exactly how many trucks a unit had or how quickly their slowest vehicles could move on sand up a hill.
I mean, everyone was glad for the help, but the more tank types you bring, the more details you have to keep track of.
(Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. H. H. Deffner)
If that wasn’t challenging enough, someone up their chain (many civilian and military leaders have claimed credit since the war) had envisioned a “Left Hook” attack that required an entire corps to secretly move through the massive desert with limited ability to resupply while facing a numerically superior force.
But this was the exact challenge that the year-long SAMS program prepared graduates for, infusing into them a deep understanding of strategic planning. Purvis’s team at Central Command reached out to other SAMS graduates at both American corps and every subordinate division they could find and set up a backdoor network for asking their detailed questions about equipment numbers and unit strengths.
What emerged from the planning cell, working with troops at Third Army, VII Corps, and XVIII Airborne Corps, was a plan for forces that focused on breaking the Republican Guard units and other forces and had little emphasis on holding ground. ‘Envelope and destroy,’ not ‘clear and hold.’
In other words, rather than focusing on liberating Kuwait and destroying Iraqi forces in the process, the coalition would focus on breaking Iraqi forces and allow liberation to naturally follow. Coalition units wouldn’t need to stay in place and hold ground.
The SAMS graduates across the force worked with the four planners at top to create realistic timelines for movements, emphasizing speed but acknowledging environmental facts, like how an armored column needs time to re-form, refuel, and rearm for attacks after long drives through the desert.
The “Left Hook” was a massive undertaking that needed to be accomplished with secrecy and finesse so the Iraqis would keep their attentions to the east until it was too late.
(Photo by U.S. Navy PHC D. W. Holmes II)
They recommended a large logistics buildup to support a “short duration, high tempo, high consumption ground offensive.”
Translation: If you throw everything at them in the first week, there won’t be anything left to fight against (or with) in the second.
Plans were drawn up that utilized most divisions for their specific strengths. Airborne forces moved throughout the battlefield, guarding supply lines and keeping isolated Iraqi forces cutoff. Air assault soldiers used their helicopters to strike deep into Iraqi territory and disrupt defenses.
The ketogenic diet is confusing. That confusion has sparked a growing craze in the diet by all kinds of zealots and gurus that preach the Holy Gospel according to Keto.
Here’s what it was originally intended for.
The classical keto diet is a diet that is 90% fat. This is actually not feasible and not recommended unless you are receiving help from a medical professional. It was used to treat children with epilepsy.
The keto diet that your roommate is doing is probably somewhere around 60-75% fat and has been shown to help fat loss and boost energy levels. Although an analysis of the research has shown no super special metabolic advantage of diets high in fat. It simply tricks you into eating fewer calories, that’s the common factor of all diets that work.
When you eat this much fat and less than 50 grams of carbs a day, your body creates an alternative fuel source called ketones.
The whole point of the diet is to get yourself to the point in which your body is running off of ketones rather than glucose, which is its normal form of fuel. This is where the disease-fighting benefits come from and where some claim that the real benefit of the ketogenic diet comes from. But it isn’t easy to get to a state of ketosis. Here’s some guidance to help you actually get there so you can test the suggested benefits for yourself.
Ketosis is like an exclusive hipster nightclub. If you don’t pass the test, you aren’t getting in…
How do you know if you’re running off of ketones for fuel? There are some signs that will help you. These include:
Experiencing the Keto flu
Having bad breath
Being extremely thirsty
But none of those things are a guarantee that your body is in a state of ketosis. You may just be a sick person with bad breath that is constantly neglecting their hydration requirements.
In order to know if you are actually in ketosis, you need to test your blood, urine, or breath with a device that is calibrated to do just that.
Otherwise, you may just be on a low-carb diet and not running on ketones. This would mean that you have little glucose in your system, since you get it from carbs, and you have no ketones in your system. This is a recipe for low performance and low energy.
That’s pretty much it. Most keto diets consist of lots of fatty meat and plenty of butter. Avocados are a staple; if you don’t like them, keto is not for you.
In addition, most keto diets have you eating close to 50 g of carbs a day. These should come from fruits and vegetables, not rice or bread. You need the micronutrients from these foods, or you run the risk of getting weird diseases like scurvy, as if you’re some dirty pirate circa 1632.
Just to hammer home the types of things you shouldn’t be eating on a keto diet, here’s a short list. Be prepared to say goodbye to all the good junk foods…
Basically all snack chips
Large quantities of fruit
Ice cream (unless it is minimally sugared and just high in fat)
Energy drinks with real sugar
To sum everything up, keto may be perfect for you if you:
Want to test your blood or pee on a stick every day
Enjoy counting your macros to ensure you don’t overeat on the wrong things
The Littoral Combat Ship has been nothing short of problematic for the US Navy. Engineering and mechanical issues have repeatedly sidelined a number of active LCS warships, sometimes in foreign ports for months at a time. Oddly enough, as much as the LCS has been a pain in the figurative neck, it’s far from the worst frigate-type vessel afloat in today’s modern navies.
In fact, that dubious distinction goes to the yet-to-be-accepted F125 series of “super frigates” commissioned by the German Navy.
Though the first of the F125 ships, the Baden-Württemberg, has already been built and has sailed under its own power, it was returned to its builder by the German government — which isn’t a very good sign.
The German military originally sought a replacement for its Bremen-class frigates in the early 2000s. While the Bremen boats were still fairly young at the time, they were rapidly walking down the path toward obsolescence. With operational costs steadily climbing at a time when the German military planned to make deeps cut in spending, a plan formed in the minds of the country’s highest-ranking civilian and uniformed defense officials.
Instead of ordering frigates that could fulfill just one or two types of missions, they would order and commission the largest frigates in the world to serve as multi-mission platforms. They would, hypothetically, be able to operate away from their German home ports for up to 24 months at a time, function using a smaller crew, and serve on humanitarian and peacekeeping operations around the world as needed.
Additionally, similar to the LCS frigates, these new surface combatants would be able to field modules for various missions, quickly swapped out in port as varying objectives demanded. Special operations forces could also use the new ships as floating staging areas, with the ability to carry four smaller boats and two medium-lift NH90 helicopters.
In 2007, the first contracts for the new frigates — dubbed the F125 class — were inked, outlining an order for a batch of four ships with the potential for more in the future. The deal tallied up to nearly $3 billion USD with an expected delivery date of 2015-2016.
During the construction program, problems began to manifest, and with them came delays and cost overruns. By the time of the lead ship’s christening in 2013, German officials anticipated a commissioning date in 2016 or 2017 at the latest. However, by 2017, the situation had worsened when scores of defects were discovered during testing and evaluation.
The F125 class is far closer in size and constitution to a destroyer than a frigate. Coming in at around 7200 tons, the weight of the vessel (which includes its mission systems, propulsion, machinery, etc.) makes for a major speed disadvantage. The Baden-Württemberg can’t go faster than 26 knots (30 miles per hour) while underway. By comparison, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which are just 15 feet longer than the F125s and are in a similar weight class, has been known to achieve speeds in excess of 30 knots (+35 miles per hour) with its engines are cranked up.
Not only does this have an impact on the F125’s performance, it also makes the ship considerably more expensive to operate in the long term.
Hardware and software woes are among the most damning issues plaguing the F125s. Defective mission-critical systems means that the ship is unreliable when at sea and probably completely unusable in combat situations. At this point, the F125s are more like extremely expensive military yachts than they are warships.
To top it off, the Baden-Württemberg has a consistent list to starboard, meaning that the ship is on a permanent lean to the right side.
In late December, 2017, the German military refused to accept the Baden-Württemberg for active service, citing the above flaws and defects. This is the very first time in German history where a warship was actually returned to its builder because it didn’t meet minimum operating standards and requirements.
There is no timeline on when the German Navy will finally accept the F125s into its surface fleet. That won’t happen until all four ships have been refitted and repaired to the satisfaction of German defense officials. Before that, millions of dollars will have to be reinvested into the already highly-expensive program.