7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

A war probably isn’t coming. It’s not in America’s best interests. Or China’s. Or Russia’s. But the military can’t just opt out of preparing for a conflict, just in case. If the U.S. stumbles into a war with China, that country has an ever-growing arsenal of weapons that will force the U.S. military to adapt — especially the Navy.


7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

Chinese hypersonic glide vehicles could allow conventional missiles to become a much larger threat.

(果壳军事, CC BY-SA 4.0)

1. Hypersonic missiles

China’s primary hypersonic missile play is the DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle, but the country is testing a variety of hypersonic components and has even tested an anti-ship ballistic missile that flies at hypersonic speeds during its final approach to the target.

Glide vehicles, like the DF-ZF, can be fitted to a variety of current missiles, extending their range by up to 50 percent while improving speed. Most of the focus on these weapons so far has been on the strategic level, as hypersonic missiles can carry nukes and bypass most existing defenses, but the missiles are also a huge threat on the tactical level, as they limit the effectiveness of current Navy fleet defenses.

If China and America go toe-to-toe in the Pacific, these hypersonic missiles will greatly threaten the fleet at sea as well as shore installations of the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

The Type 072A LST gives Chinese naval commanders a lot of options.

(樱井千一, CC BY-SA 3.0)

2. Type 072A LST

The Chinese Landing Ship, Tank Type 072A is part of a larger family of landing ships, but it’s really the crown jewel of the fleet — and China owns 15 of them. They can carry up to 10 tanks as well as a hovercraft, four landing craft, 250 soldiers, and a helicopter.

All that cargo can be quickly offloaded on most beaches and the ship’s 30mm gun can defend it throughout the process, allowing an armored or infantry company to disembark from each ship directly into combat. For U.S. troops racing China to occupy strategic islands or to defend American-held ground, these ships mean that China can always quickly exploit any toehold it gains.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

The Chinese AG-600, the world’s largest seaplane.

(Alert5, CC BY-SA 4.0)

3. The AG-600, that massive new seaplane

China’s massive new seaplane, the world’s largest by most metrics, including payload, has generated a lot of buzz. It is new, ugly, and a great tool for logistics in areas like the South China Sea. The weapon has few sensors and no weapons, but it has ability to take off from shallow water while carrying up to 13 tons of supplies. So, it could be just the ticket for re-supplying far-flung troops on islands or ships at sea with no carrier on which to land.

There has been widespread speculation about its suitability in an anti-submarine role. While it does have a lot of the traits of a large reconnaissance platform, mostly high range and payload, China’s own media has downplayed the possibility of it serving as an anti-submarine aircraft.

4. Golden Eagle CR500

Not all that much is known yet about the Golden Eagle CR500, but it’s an unmanned helicopter that can carry air-to-ground missiles. The rumor mill gives it a six-hour endurance and a maximum payload of four missiles. If everything works out, this and similar projects give China the capability to hunt U.S. forces ashore from relatively small ships.

Instead of needing to land a company to recon in force or wait for reconnaissance teams to sweep potentially occupied islands, they could send a couple of small ships carrying these bad boys and fly over the islands, engaging targets they find immediately.

5. CH-7 Drone

China’s newly unveiled CH-7 drone appears to be a direct ripoff of the Navy’s X-47B — and it probably is. But the Navy put combat drones on the back burner after pushback from U.S. pilots, potentially allowing China to take the technological edge. The CH-7, like the X-47B, is a carrier-based stealth drone capable of penetrating contested airspace, conducting reconnaissance and, if necessary, fighting its way free.

If it works even a fraction as well as the X-47B, the CH-7 could give China the ability to strike U.S. forces ashore and to disrupt jet formations without risking their own pilots. This could be a game-changer since one of the biggest limits on China’s large military and civilian aviation dreams is its lack of pilots.

6. H-20 Stealth Bomber

China’s new stealth bomber is still under wraps, technically, but information is leaking out and it appears to be a flying wing like the B-2 Spirit. If its radar absorption, spoofing, and infrared masking is anything like the B-2’s, that means that China might be able to fly through American defenses and strike at radars and missile sites in order to open up the skies for conventional aircraft.

The H-20 is nuclear-capable, but its the door-kicking ability of the plane that actually tips the scales in a conventional conflict. U.S. defenses rely on a distributed network of sensors and interceptors, but you can still open a gap to the heart of a carrier strike group with just a few good hits on Ticonderoga cruisers and Arleigh-Burke destroyers.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

Chinese Type 56 Corvette

(樱井千一, CC BY-SA 3.0)

7. Type 056 Jiangdao Stealth Corvette

Corvettes are small ships, but what they lack in size and muscle they can make up for in versatility. The Type 056 is no exception, as it displaces only 1,365 tons while capable of carrying four anti-ship cruise missiles, eight surface-to-air missiles, and two torpedo tubes as well as a 76mm main gun and two 30mm guns in support. And they can zip around at 35 mph.

They’re cheap and potent, even if they’re not the kind of big capital ships that fill propaganda ads. They’re lethal enough to pick off amphibious forces and smaller ships, potentially interrupting landings or helping force an opening during a fight between fleets. China commissioned its 41st Type 056 a few months ago.

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This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

The Saab Gripen is a beautiful fighter with a nifty little mane on its nose, and it’s popular with small militaries around the world because it’s cheap to operate, has high-mission readiness, and can take off from nearly anywhere. Seriously, if you’ve got a half mile of level pavement, you can probably get a Gripen in the air from it.


Gripen – Always combat ready

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You might need to cut down some light poles or whatever, but that’s on you.

The Gripen fighter, which recently saw its E-variant enter serial production, is squarely aimed at fighting whatever it needs to, including fifth-generation fighters like Russia’s Su-57. That might be surprising since it’s not as fast. Or have as many weapons. Or have much stealth coating or many materials.

But the Gripen’s manufacturer, Saab, isn’t trying to win at air shows, and it isn’t accepting the price point required to develop stealth aircraft. (Even Russia can’t actually afford its stealthy Su-57, which might not even be that stealthy.)

That’s because Saab makes weapons for Sweden and for export to countries like Thailand, Hungary, and South Africa. These countries don’t have the money to drop 0 million per F-35, a plane that costs ,000-,000 per hour of flight. And they don’t have the billion to develop a Su-57 and fail like Russia did.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

A Saab Gripen takes off from a public road.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

So Saab built the Gripen around a few complementary ideas. The first was that they could develop a capable jet fighter with a low cost per flight hour. Right now, new Gripens cost up to million per copy and come out to ,000 per flight hour.

Part of this low-cost per flight hour is making it easy to refuel, rearm, and maintain the plane on the ground. And, the way they did this allows operators to work the plane from nearly anywhere a 20-foot cargo container can be delivered on a truck, provided there are at least 875 yards of runway-ish concrete for the plane to take off from. So, Gripens can easily disperse during combat. Sure that’s not scary for an aggressor who has to face them.

But operators, obviously, still need them to be lethal. Paper planes are cheap and hard to spot, too, but there’s a reason they aren’t popular with militaries. But the Gripen is lethal, partially because it can fire most NATO-produced missiles and partially because the entire plane was designed around electronic warfare.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

A Saab JAS-39 Gripen in flight.

(Oleg V. Belyakov, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Electronic warfare, using radar and other signals to mask your own forces while also jamming the enemy’s machines, is one of the tools that’s supposed to keep the F-35 safe. But where the F-35 was laboriously and expensively built with its antennas and sensors in the stealth skin of the aircraft, Gripen took a more traditional route and just built fighters with electronic and conventional weapons, akin to the EA-18G Super Hornet.

But the Gripen’s electronic warfare is robust, so much so that Saab believes the plane can blind nearly all of the Russian fighters the Gripen is designed to deter, especially the large number of Flankers in Russia’s inventory but also the Su-57. Even better, Saab thinks the E-variant can fight the Su-57 on equal terms.

There is one serious caveat, though. Sweden doesn’t want the fighter jet’s electronic warfare tools recorded by adversaries who could create exploits against them. (Electronic warfare in combat turns into a game of tit-for-tat as each side tries to reconfigure their signals to defeat the other.) So, Sweden has rarely allowed pilots to turn on the full electronics suite in exercises with England.

And so, no one can be really certain how the Gripen E will perform against advanced air defenses and fighters. They can hide in the brush, they can take off from anywhere, but they can only probably cut their way through Russia’s air force.

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Check out this crazy double-barreled bolt action rifle

In 1989, Joseph Szecsei was charged by three elephants at the same time. He survived, but afterward, he decided the usual weapons for defense against giant animal attacks just weren’t sufficient. Szecsei sought out to make the perfect large-game animal stopper: The Szecsei & Fuchs “Mokume” bolt action double rifle.


7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

Of course, Szecsei had a lot of firearm types and designs to choose from in creating the show-stopper. He could have chosen a larger round to shoot from a regular bolt action rifle. He could have created a semi-automatic rifle. There were a few factors (other than how to kill a large animal running at him at full speed) to consider.

First, he couldn’t create a semi-automatic weapon because they’re actually illegal in many of the places in which one might safari or otherwise hunt. Africa isn’t a completely lawless land of civil wars and corruption, no matter what television and movies would have you believe. Secondly, he needed a weapon that wouldn’t jam up at the crucial moment. Defense is the entire reason for the weapon, after all. So a bolt-action was necessary, but Szecsei still wanted the extra oomph of another shot.

Another shot of a round that could stop a charging elephant, that is. And large-caliber rounds just aren’t something a semi-automatic can do for a civilian. Taking a .50-cal out on safari might be frowned upon by the locals, so Szecsei returned to the idea of a large-caliber double-barrel bolt action rifle. And the Szecsei Fuchs “Mokume” rifle was born out of that idea.

The weapon is made of titanium to keep the weight down, along with titanium for its unique double magazine. The weapon fires anything from a .470-caliber round to the U.S. 30.06 – a rifle you can buy for whatever animal might be ready to gore down on your guts. It has two triggers, one for each barrel. With just one movement of the bolt, both rounds are expelled, and new ones are loaded into the chamber.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the next three elephants to come for Joseph Szecsei are in for a huge surprise. Please don’t hunt the most dangerous game with this rifle.

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The unofficial nickname of the US largest cargo plane may surprise you

America’s airmen have long held unofficial nicknames for the aircraft they love — and for the aircraft they hate. Some are more well-known than others. For example, everyone knows the A-10 Thunderbolt II as the “Warthog” because when it first entered service, it wasn’t considered a very attractive airframe. Then there’s “BUFF” (Big, Ugly, Fat F*cker), the name somewhat-lovingly given to the B-52 Stratofortress.

But nicknames aren’t only doled out to combat aircraft. The C-5 Galaxy, the Air Force’s largest cargo mover has a nickname of its own, bestowed upon it by the men and women who maintain the USAF’s fleet: FRED, or “F*cking Ridiculous Economic/Environmental Disaster.”


7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

Guardsmen help push a C-130 fuselage out of a C-5. The training fuselage was transported from the Rhode Island Air National Guard. Loadmasters, aeromeds and aerial port personnel will now be able to train at any time.

(New York National Guard)

The C-5 is an incredible aircraft. Aside from being able to carry an entire C-130 cargo aircraft, it can also carry up to 75 passengers, the pilots, a flight crew, and (probably) a partridge with an entire pear tree. And it can carry all that with its 12 internal wing tanks, capable of refueling in flight.

But it takes a lot of fuel to power this monster. That’s where the “Environmental Disaster” part comes in.

The other reason for its nickname is far less funny. It costs more than ,000 per hour to fly the plane. And since it’s been around in its current form since 1995, they’re getting older and are starting to require more and more maintenance. Meanwhile, the much newer C-17 flies for around ,000 an hour. It carries less cargo, but it carries that cargo more efficiently.

Developing the C-5 Galaxy cost id=”listicle-2594635184″ billion more than the United States expected. That’s the “Economic Disaster.” Still, when you have to get a lot of stuff to the fight, the C-5 is one impressive show to watch.

When it first launched, the C-5’s weight put so much strain on the wings that they tended to crack before the military got its money’s worth from them. When the C-5 program was upgraded, so were its wings. But it’s been a long time and the plane is beginning to wear down with age, some airmen say. One Reddit user was quoted as saying,

“Sometimes the hatches don’t seal properly when the plane is trying to pressurize. In cases where they can’t afford to land and fix it properly they’ll wrap some t-shirts around a rope and soak it with water. Then they’ll pack it into the gap in the hatch and the water will freeze, thus sealing the leak enough for the aircraft to pressurize.”

Mission tempo, lack of parts, and crew turnover is turning the Galaxy into a Hangar Queen.

But the C-5 has been an essential element in almost every U.S. venture since its inception. From conflicts in Vietnam (yes, Vietnam) to Afghanistan, the C-5 was there. And since the program just finished a massive overhaul, giving the planes new engines, skeleton upgrades, and avionics, FRED-Ex is likely to be in business for a long time to come.

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Normalcy bias can make you lose a fight before it starts

Sometimes you just know something’s not right. You feel a twinge in the pit of your gut, a growing sense of uneasiness, and you start to notice things that you wouldn’t normally notice. Is that guy acting weird or am I just being paranoid? You ask yourself before dismissing the thought. Come on, nothing’s gonna happen in this neighborhood.


Despite the headlines saturating every media outlet in the country, the United States is (statistically speaking) an overwhelmingly safe place to live. Regardless of our ever-present concerns about violent crime, mass shootings, and terror attacks, the likelihood that you’ll find yourself faced with a violent end are far lower than you’ll find throughout much of the world… and as a result, Americans are at a disadvantage when it comes to cultivating a high level of situational awareness.

Instead, Americans tend to develop what’s called a normalcy bias. Put simply, normalcy bias is our natural inclination to shrug away concerns about potential threats, because we’ve developed a deep-seated sense of what’s normal.
7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

I’m sure these guys are just waiting for an Uber.

(Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Shejal Pulivarti, US Army)

Our minds are evolutionarily hard-wired to assess and prioritize risks, and after decades of living in a world where you’ve never faced an active shooter or a terror attack, our brains tend to file those potential threats way in the back, after more pressing concerns like crashing our cars or falling down the stairs. The sheer unlikelihood that we could find ourselves in the middle of a fight for our lives just tends to make us ignore those fights until they’ve already landed right in our laps.

Normalcy bias manifests as a delay in our processing of what’s going on around us, as we hush away our gut instincts and dismiss our seemingly “unfounded” concerns as paranoia. In a nutshell, it’s our way of clinging to reality as we’ve come to know it through a lifetime of nervous twinges that we’ve ignored, followed by confirmations that we were safe. Those times you hesitated before dragging your trash can through the dark alley behind your house growing up helped you to overcome a fear of the dark, but also helped to establish a bias toward dismissing your concerns about what could be a threat.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

Instead of dismissing your nervousness about dark alleys, listen to your gut and be objective about any potential threats.

(Courtesy of Franck Michel on Flickr)

That intellectual buffer is the source of normalcy bias. We discount concerns that seem unlikely and scold ourselves for being afraid of the dark, but those gut feelings are often actually the sum of a series of parts assembled subconsciously by the incredible, pattern recognizing computers we call our brains. The evidence of a threat may not be irrefutable, but something has our hair standing on end. We dismiss it as a product of our overactive imaginations and eventually, this even stalls our ability to process real evidence of threats; as they break through the cognitive barriers between what our lives have been to this point and what they are about to become.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to overcome the mental inhibitors of normalcy bias: simply practice maintaining an objective mindset when it comes to threats. When you catch yourself dismissing concerns about a bulge in the waistband of the rowdy drunk at the bar or the chances something dangerous could be waiting for you at the other end of a dark alley, stop and put some real thought into your situation instead of allowing normalcy bias to silence the warning bells in your head.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

I snapped this photo of the closest rooftop to us with my phone as we got out of dodge.

While in Alexandria, Egypt with my wife a few years ago, we were given a tour of a large building near the city’s port. As our tour reached the roof, our tour guide left us to enjoy the views and see ourselves out at our leisure, but before we could really take in the sights, I noticed a two-man sniper team perching themselves on a nearby roof. A bit further down the closed road to the port, I saw another team moving into position as well, and then another.. Chances were good that these guys were members of law enforcement preparing security for an arrival, or port security conducting training. Honestly, we’ll never know–because the minute I spotted what could be a sign of impending trouble, I made the decision that we were leaving.

I never heard any news about something terrible happening at that port in Alexandria that day, but as an American traveling overseas with my adorable (but not all that good in a fight) wife, I try my best to avoid situations that involve armed overwatch from guys that aren’t wearing Old Glory on their shoulders.

Overcoming normalcy bias isn’t about living in a constant state of paranoia, but rather about listening to your gut and making a rational decision. Sometimes the things we perceive as threats are nothing more than bumps in the night… but when those bumps in the night are caused by real people that mean you harm, it pays to trust your gut.

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This is the story behind that F-35 with ‘arctic camouflage’

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist.

Some of our readers asked us to investigate the story behind an F-35 mock-up painted in arctic color scheme, located at Lockheed Martin’s Forth Worth, after the mysterious model was featured on the reputable F-16.net forum.

The mock-up has been sitting in a LM yard, from at least April 2012 to December 2018, when it was moved (the aircraft can still be seen in the latest imagery). Since 2012, photos taken from space show the F-35 model in different locations, along with other test articles and mock-ups, including the X-35 and A-12.


7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

The LM yard with several mock-ups, including the F-35 in arctic paint scheme.

(Google Earth via Dragon029)

“There aren’t a lot of photos / points in time when the yard was shot from space, but in January 2016, January 2017 and February 2017 it’s also missing from the yard (there are no photos between those 3 times though, so it might have been gone for 13+ months, or it might have just been gone the days, weeks or months that those photos were taken),” says user Dragon029, who also pointed us to the somehow mysterious aircraft.

In this thread you can see all the satellite images Dragon029 has collected: they show all the locations the F-35 mock-up has been in the last 7 years.

As mentioned above, the “arctic F-35” was last moved in December 2018. User hawgwash took a clear shot of the mock-up as it was being moved. Here it is:

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

The mock-up being moved in December 2018.

(Photo by hawgwash)

We asked Lockheed Martin to provide some details about the mock up and here’s the reply we got from Michael Friedman, a Lockheed Martin spokesman for the F-35 program:

“The image is a model that resembles an F-35A that was originally used to test aspects of our Aircraft Test Facility. The model has since been used in various exercises and testing to include flight line safety and fire suppression testing. The paint scheme, which was created with spare F-16 paint, was chosen by the artisans and is not directly related to the model and its role in the program.”

Mystery solved.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

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Proper fire prevention would have saved the lost Argentinian sub

The loss of the Argentinean Navy submarine, ARA San Juan, last November cost the lives of 44 sailors. The cause of this tragic accident was traced back to a fire that occurred after seawater got caught in the submarine’s “snorkel.” But could the San Juan have been saved?

According to the capabilities of a Finnish fire-suppression system, maybe so.


That system is called HI-FOG, developed by the Marioff Corporation. According to official handouts, the system doesn’t use halon gas, but instead uses water in a unique fashion to suppress fires. The system creates a fine mist of water, with droplets as small as 50 microns across.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

The HI-FOG fire-suppression system creates a mist of water where the particles are as small as 50 microns.

(Marioff Corporation)

This changes the game in a few important ways. Halon gas knocks out fires, but has been out of production since 1994. You see, halon is a chlorofluorocarbon, or CFC, and CFCs were banned to protect the ozone layer. That’s great news for the environment, but when people desperately need a non-toxic way to quickly snuff out a fire in a confined area (like a submarine), they’re mostly out of luck.

The fine water mist is designed to do the same thing as halon used to: knock out fires quickly. Using a mist of water brings about other benefits, namely the ability to replenish supply with seawater when necessary. The system also allows crews to stay in the compartment as the mist is dispensed to carry out damage control measures.

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The system’s pumps can be operated by either a gas generator or electrical power. While we will never be able to know for sure whether this system could have saved the crew of ARA San Juan, it is safe to say it would have given them a fighting chance.

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China just slapped paint on its J-16 and called it ‘stealth’

China claims that its advanced strike fighter now has “near stealth” capabilities.

The Shenyang J-16 twin-engine, twin-seat multi-role fighter has reportedly been upgraded with radar-absorbent paint, also known as ferromagnetic paint.

“The silver-gray painting covering the J-16 is a kind of cloaking coating that gives the warplane a certain stealth capability, making it nearly invisible to the naked eye and electromagnetic devices,” the official Global Times reported, citing a recent interview with Chinese aviation brigade commander Jiang Jiaji conducted by state broadcaster CCTV.


The aircraft is a modified version of the J-11, which is a carbon copy of Russia’s Su-27. It was designed for maneuverability, not stealth. Chinese military expert Fu Qianshao told the Global Times that the new paint job reduces the plane’s radar cross-section, making detection less likely. “The enemy will only recognize it at close range, giving it a huge advantage in combat,” Chinese media reported.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

A Russia Sukhoi Su-27.

The J-16, a heavily-armed offensive companion for China’s J-20 stealth air superiority fighter, is said to be capable of carrying eight tons of weapons, including guided smart bombs, air-to-ground missiles, and even anti-ship missiles. China is also reportedly developing an electronic attack variant.

While Chinese military officers argue that the radar-absorbent paint makes the fighter “nearly invisible,” this is likely an exaggeration of the coating’s capabilities.

The US Air Force has been applying ferromagnetic paint to F-16s for decades, according to The National Interest. In 2012, the F-16s received new coats of paint similar to that of the stealthy F-35, the Aviationist reported at that time. Even with the upgrade, the F-16s have a radar cross-section of 1.2 square meters, much larger than the impressive 0.005 square meters of the F-22 and F-35.

No amount of radar-absorbent paint, TNI notes, can make up for the shape of the aircraft, which are not designed to significantly reflect radar waves. Despite improvements, the F-16 continues to be labeled a “fourth-generation aircraft,” with no mention of stealth capabilities. The same is likely true of China’s J-16, although the stealth paint may dampen part of the radar return making it relatively harder to pick up on radar.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

The J-16 advances China’s ability to conduct offensive strikes. “In the past the PLA Air Force’s combat division has been characterised more as a defensive arm, with limited range and offensive capabilities, confined mainly to its immediate region and territory,” Collin Koh, a research fellow with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, told the South China Morning Post.

The aircraft is expected to play a role in an armed conflict over Taiwan, a self-ruled island Beijing views as a renegade province.

Chinese military analysts explained to Chinese media that the J-16 could carry out a devastating assault against surface targets after the J-20 cleared away an enemy’s air defenses. It is unclear whether China actually has the ability to conduct such operations, as both aircraft are relatively new.

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

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Pilots get a chance to test their drone wingmen

The Air Force and DARPA are now testing new hardware and software configured to enable 4th and 5th Generation aircraft to command drones from the cockpit in the air, bringing new levels of autonomy, more attack options, and a host of new reconnaissance advantages to air warfare.

Working with BAE Systems at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Air Force test pilots are combining ground-based simulators with airborne learjets to demonstrate how 4th generation cockpit avionics can direct drones from the air, BAE Systems developers said.


“The airplane was structurally configured to allow us to take our autonomy hardware and connect it directly to the flight control system of the airplane,” Skip Stolz, Director of Strategic Development for Autonomy Control, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Demonstrations with specially configured learjets are intended as an interim step on route to integrating this kind of system into an operational F-15, F-16 or even F-35, developers said.

Using standard data-link technology, the jets operate with a semi-autonomous software called Distributed Battle Management, which enables new levels of compressed airborne data transfer, weapons integration, and sensor operations, Stolz explained.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

A recent Mitchell Institute paper, titled “Manned-Unmanned Aircraft Teaming: Taking Combat Airpower to the Next Level,” cites Distributed Battle Management software as a “system-of-systems future landscape for warfare, in which networks of manned and unmanned platforms, weapons, sensors, and electronic warfare systems interact.”

The paper adds that DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory successfully tested DBM in 2017.

At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators, Global Hawks and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations. However, due at least in part to rapid advances in autonomy, the concept of an autonomous or “semi-autonomous” wingman – is arriving even faster than expected.

DARPA, Air Force Research Laboratory and industry have been developing this concept for quite some time now. The current trajectory, or rapid evolution of processing speed and advanced algorithms is enabling rapid acceleration. A fighter-jet aircraft will be able to provide a drone with tasks and objectives, manage sensor payload and direct flight-path from the air.

For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-15, F-22 or F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

A pilot peers up from his F-22 Raptor while in-flight.

The Mitchell Institute essay also points to a less-frequently discussed, yet highly significant advantage offered by manned-unmanned teaming. Simply put, it could massively help mitigate the current Air Force bomber and fighter jet shortage. It is often mentioned that there simply are not enough Air Force assets available to meet current demand. As a result, having a massive fleet of fighter-jet operated drones could radically increase the operational scope of Air Force missions.

In particular, the Mitchell Institute paper mentions that ever since B-2 and F-22 production were cut well short of the initial intent years ago – the Air Force has since been forced to operate with insufficient air assets.

“A resource of 185 fighters (F-22s) and 20 bombers (B-2s) is fundamentally limited in world where their capabilities are in high demand. Airmen and their aircraft, no matter how well trained or technologically advanced, cannot be in two places at once,” the paper writes.

Fighter-jet controlled drones could also be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots. Furthermore, given the fast-evolving efficacy of modern air-defenses, drones could fly into high-threat or heavily contested areas to conduct ISR, scout enemy assets and even function as a weapons truck to attack enemy targets.

Advances in computer power, processing speed and AI are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Air Force scientists describe as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.

“Different people have different views. We believe in a control-based approach that leverages AI but does not relinquish control to AI. As a pilot develops trust, he knows what that aircraft can do and tells it to do something,” Stolz said.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.

Currently, there is widespread consensus that, according to DoD doctrine, decisions regarding the use of lethal force should always be made by a “human-in-the-loop,” despite advances in autonomy which now enable unmanned systems to track, acquire and destroy targets without needing human intervention.

Nevertheless, the Mitchell Institute paper introduces a way to maintain this key doctrinal premise, yet also improve unmanned enemy attacks through what DARPA and the Air Force Research Lab call “adaptive kill webs.”

“DARPA and AFRL will form adaptive kill webs in which autonomous aircraft flying in collaboration with manned aircraft could receive inputs from a range of actors… such as a pilot of a manned aircraft,” the paper says.

By extension, the paper explains that – in the event that a pilot is shot down – drone command and control operations could shift to a larger manned “battle manager” aircraft such as an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System or E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System.

Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities, the former Air Force Chief Scientist told Warrior Maven in a previous interview.

At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Air Force scientists have explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.

Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.

Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable. Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”

The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet — successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan. Army program managers have told Warrior Maven that manned-unmanned teaming enables Apache pilots to find and identify enemy targets, before they even take off.

Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, the B-21 Raider, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.

Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.

Interestingly, the Mitchell Institute paper references a current Air Force-Boeing effort to engineer older F-16s so that they could function as drones.

“In 2017, Boeing, the prime contractor for the QF-16 charged with reactivating the legacy fighters from their desert storage and making necessary modifications, was awarded a .6 million contract to convert 18 F-16s into QF-16 target drones,” the paper writes.

At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed — given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.

“When it comes to certain kinds of decision making and things requiring an intuitive contextual understanding, machines are not yet able to do those things. Computers can process huge amounts of data,” Stolz said

There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.

Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.

While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to make more subjective determinations or respond quickly to a host of interwoven, fast-changing variables.

However, sensor technology is progressing quickly, the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why US troops in World War I ditched the bayonet for the shovel

World War I brought a new kind of fighting to the world. Wars were no longer conducted on an open field of battle with colorful uniforms in an effort to outmaneuver the opposing armies. Wars from henceforth would be mechanized factories of wholesale slaughter, fought by men covered in mud, killing each other with any means at their disposal. But in those grim early days, it was a surprise to all involved. Like most troops, however, those fighting the Great War adapted pretty fast.

One of the weapons they adapted saw the development of their entrenching tool as a weapon of war.


7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

They had a lot to work with.

Trench Warfare was not something the troops or planners ever anticipated, so troops were sent into combat with pretty basic weapons and supplies. The primary weapons for American troops were the rifle and bayonet, even though the United States didn’t enter the war until much later. Fighting in the trenches changed the way soldiers fought the war and thought about future conflicts. Clubs and knives became common among all troops, and British troops in particular, brought maces and other medieval devices to the fight. Americans came with all sorts of ready-made weapons, including brass knuckles.

The most terrifying but effective battlefield innovation actually saw soldiers ditching their rifle-mounted bayonets in favor of a more versatile weapon that could be used at close range, over and over, with terrifying effect.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

There was way more to fear than just trench shotguns.

World War I soldiers found that using their bayonets could result in their primary weapon being lodged in the viscera of an enemy troop, leaving that guy dead but them at the mercy of anyone else whose bayonet was not lodged in an enemy. To get around this, some soldiers stopped leading with the bayonet and favoring their entrenching tool as a more effective means of dispatching someone who doesn’t want to leave their own trench.

It turns out the edges of American entrenching tools could be sharpened to an almost razor-fine edge, making it the perfect melee weapon for pouring into the German lines and pouring Germans out of those lines by force. Another great bonus of using an e-tool to entrench enemy troops into their new graves was that it was much shorter than the bayonet, and could be used more effectively in close quarters combat. As the war drug on, however, the armies of the world got the hint and developed better weapons. But soldiers on the front lines in every conflict since have always developed an easier means of killing the enemy with what was at their disposal.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

Articles

The world’s most expensive bomber traces its roots to World War II

The B-2 Spirit is the most expensive bomber ever built, with a $500 million fly-away cost that climbs much higher when the RD costs are taken into account. The B-2’s story, though, really starts in World War II – because the B-2 was the culmination of an idea.


Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that Jack Northrop, the founder of Northrop Aviation, had been pursuing the flying wing since 1923. By 1940, he got a technology demonstrator up.

The next year, the U.S. Army Air Force was looking for a long-range bomber that could hit Europe from bases in the U.S. in the event England were to be knocked out of the war.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III
XB-35. (USAF photo)

Northrop submitted a four-engine propeller-driven design that the Army Air Force designated the B-35. It was to have a range of 8,150 miles, a top speed of 391 miles per hour, and a maximum bomb load of 51,070 pounds. Production versions were to have up to 20 .50-caliber machine guns for defense.

The plane had a difficult development, and fell behind schedule. The Army Air Force, though, saw potential and kept it as a research project. Northrop was asked to develop a jet-powered version known as the YB-49, replacing the propeller-driven engines with eight jet engines. While this increased the top speed to 493 miles per hour, it cut the range down to about 4,000 miles.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III
YB-49 takes off. (USAF photo)

The plane had its share of problems. Keeping the plane steady was very difficult in the best of times, and it was missing targets when it dropped bombs. Then, one of the YB-49s crashed on June 5, 1948, killing all four crew, including United States Air Force Capt. Glenn Edwards.

There were also hot disputes over the plane’s manufacturing. Northrop insisted on having his company build the B-49 and its variants, while the Air Force wanted Northrop to work with Convair, which had designed and built the B-36 Peacemaker and B-32 Dominator bombers. Jack Northrop would later claim that the Secretary of the Air Force had demanded that Northrop agree to a merger of his company and Convair.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III
Photo by U.S. Air Force

Northrop would abruptly retire and sell off his interest in the company he founded. However, shortly before his death in 1981, he was returned to Northrop, where Air Force officials took the extraordinary step of showing him a scale model of what would become the B-2 Spirit. The B-2 would be able to reach operational status in 1997, largely because by this time, the technology to address the stability issues had been developed.

Today, 20 B-2s are in service with the Air Force, and the service plans to buy another flying wing, the B-21 Raider.

Articles

The Marines are ditching their desert cammies for everyday wear

The Marine Corps will now require most of its troops to wear a single camouflage uniform during both summer and winter months, changing a post-9/11-era rule that allowed Marines the option to don either a desert pattern uniform or a woodland one.


7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller addresses Marines wearing the woodland MARPAT cammie uniform. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

In a Corpswide administrative message issued Dec. 8, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller ordered most Marines at bases and stations in the U.S. and overseas to wear the green, brown and black woodland pattern camouflage uniform in all seasons.

Neller said in All Marine Corps Message 038/16 that Marines must wear their uniforms with the sleeves rolled down in the winter — marked by the end of daylight savings time — and rolled up in the warmer months when the clocks change again.

“This ALMAR prescribes the seasonal uniform change and applies to all Marines and Navy personnel serving with Marine Corps units,” Neller said. “The seasonal uniform transitions will occur semi-annually on the weekend in the Fall and Spring concurrent with change to and from Daylight Saving Time.”

The order does allow for commands to adapt to weather and missions that would make the desert cammies more appropriate for Marines to wear, including for Leathernecks in boot camp, in officer training or readying for deployment.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III
Recruits of Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, salute the nation’s colors during an emblem ceremony Oct. 25, 2014, on Parris Island, S.C. (Photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)

“MARFOR Commanders, due to the breadth of their area of responsibility, are authorized to set policy/guidance that may vary throughout their region, to include the adjustment of dates of transition and the respective [Marine combat uniform] for wear,” Neller said.

The new policy reverses a trend that began after Operation Iraqi Freedom and was officially adopted in 2008 to switch between the tan desert MARPAT uniform in the summer and the woodland green MARPAT in the winter months. Many Marines saw wearing the desert uniform on bases on installations in the U.S. and overseas as a tribute to their deployed brethren in Iraq and Afghanistan.

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

The order also says Marines will wear the Service “B” uniform with long-sleeve shirt in the cooler months, with Service “C” short-sleeve uniform in the warmer months.

The order was to take effect for all Marine commands Dec. 8.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why US troops don’t use ballistic shields

Note: For the sake of brevity, I will use the term “ballistic shields” to be an all-inclusive term for III-A rated shields used by law enforcement.

Even the Ballistic Resistant Protective Materials NIJ Standard 0108.01, a publication that is used by the U.S. Department of Justice, warns of highly technical jargon that may be confusing for the uninitiated when defining a ballistic shield:

“Because this NIJ standard is designed as a procurement aid, it is necessarily highly technical. For those who seek general guidance concerning the selection and application of law enforcement equipment, user guides have also been published. The guides explain, in non-technical language, how to select equipment capable of performance required by an agency.” – Lester D. Shubin, Program Manager for Standards, National Institute of Justice.

Related video:



An edge for the Thin Blue Line

Imagine, for a moment, a metropolis of crowded buildings, hours after nightfall. Strobes of red and blue paint the virtually empty streets. Police vehicles and personnel are poised with a single structure at their center. Negotiations are faltering, their demands are too ambitious, and the hostages are too far out of reach.

Your uniform declares “Special Weapons and Tactics” to the world. Your radio comes to life and the order is issued. Everyone is on high alert for what may happen next.

Leading a four-man formation with a shield and side arm, you glide, skirting the wall, right up to the front door. The second team arrives behind your stack. Protected by eyes and weapons pointed in all directions, you check the handle:

Locked.

After a moment of communication with a team member known as the breacher, he crosses to the opposite end of the door. You feel someone squeeze your arm; that’s the signal. You make eye contact with the breacher and he gives you a nod. The adrenaline pumping through your veins fuels a moment of clarity: You trained for this. You are ready for this. It’s time to lay down the f *cking law.

Every hallway, room, and staircase are methodically cleared using slow, but deliberate movements. Your shield never lowers, but the weight begins to take its toll on your strength.

Hostiles attempt to repel your advance by firing everything they’ve got. The roar of .44 magnums and 9mm pistols fill the air. Whatever your ballistic shield doesn’t block impacts around you.

You return the greeting — with interest — and push forward.

The outside world holds their breath, transfixed on the live-stream broadcast. The eyes of millions scan for every flash, boom, and bust from the safety of their phones. After what feels like an eternity, your team and the hostages emerge.

This is one of countless scenarios that law enforcement faces as “the thin blue line” separating the civilized world from the savagery of gangs and terror. Ballistic shields give officers an edge against an enemy that would otherwise prey on the innocent with impunity.

Could this edge be transferable to the battlefield?

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

A ballistic shield loses its edge on a battlefield – and more so against an unconventional foe.

First, its cumbersome size and weight reduces a rifleman’s speed and mobility — two very important traits that are not easily sacrificed by warriors. It’s always better to dodge a bullet than to block it (for obvious reasons). A modern troop will be equipped with heavy gear, ammo, and a chest full of patriotism.

The ballistic shield is lightweight only in the sense that it weighs under 20 pounds.

It just becomes another thing to lug around with no comfortable method of carry. It would be another asinine piece of gear that could potentially get you killed because some congressman and a defense firm shook hands. Firefights can sometimes last hours, days, or (in some of the most brutal circumstances) months, and you can literally and metaphorically find yourself fighting single-handed.

Second, unconventional enemies use high-caliber, armor-piercing rounds. Most of what you would find when fighting communists or terror organizations would turn a ballistic shield into Swiss cheese.

You won’t find the Islamic State imposing their twisted ideologies with a 9mm. An Improvised Explosive Device buried underneath the ground will effectively neutralize any benefit of that additional armor.

Third, most battles don’t devolve into a “Mexican Stand-Off,” sealed away from the rest of the city. If the enemy is fortified, but there are no hostages or prisoners of war, there are other options…

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

Ballistic shields have earned their place as a staple for law enforcement because they have a specific purpose. Those same shields offer little to no benefit in combat.