This is the Pentagon's not-so-secret civilian 'ghost' aircraft fleet - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

The Second World War saw the US government press a number of civilian aircraft into military service for use as transports and cargo haulers, thanks to a rising demand for vehicles. Known as the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, this force consists of hundreds of passenger and freight aircraft flown by companies such as JetBlue, UPS and United Airlines, which can be ushered into military service whenever the Department of Defense needs more aircraft to fulfill its various missions.


The CRAF was officially formed in December 1951 through an agreement brokered between the Department of Defense and the Department of Commerce that would streamline the realignment of civilian aircraft into military service if the military’s own airlift capabilities weren’t able to handle the volume of transport operations caused by national emergencies, crises, or war.

 

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
A Pan Am Boeing 747 passenger jet reconfigured to be used as an air ambulance during a training and testing scenario for the CRAF in 1986 (Photo US Air Force)

 

If called upon, airlines and freight carriers that have agreed to a CRAF contract would provide aircraft and aircrew (i.e. pilots and flight attendants) to the U.S. Transportation Command, which will then assign these airliners to airlift missions — from moving troops and gear to evacuating the injured and wounded in “air ambulance” roles.

At the moment, virtually all major American commercial aircraft operators — including international and domestic airlines and parcel delivery companies with aviation divisions — are fully-contracted members of the CRAF, making their aircraft available to USTRANSCOM as and when they are needed. This includes scores of short, medium and long-range airliners and cargo aircraft which can have their interiors reconfigured to carry gear or troops.

Long-range widebody airliners and cargo transporters, such as the Boeing 747 and 777, Airbus A330, or McDonnell Douglas MD-11, are operated in sizable numbers by carriers like FedEx, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. These aircraft, according to the CRAF’s guidelines, are slated to augment the Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III and C-5M Galaxy fleets because of their transoceanic range.

 

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
A civilian Boeing 747 offloading troops in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield while serving on CRAF duty (Photo US Air Force)

Smaller aircraft like the Boeing 737 series and the Airbus A320 series are also listed among the aircraft available to USTRANSCOM in the event of a CRAF activation. As they lack the range and capacity of larger widebody airliners, they are relegated to domestic roles instead.

The CRAF was last activated during the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s to transport scores of American troops and tons of military hardware to the Middle East in preparation for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Airlines like Pan Am, United and TWA were responsible for providing large passenger aircraft to haul Marines, airmen, soldiers and sailors from the continental United States to Saudi Arabia and other major staging points in advance of the coordinated assault on Iraqi forces.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
Airmen load gear and personnel aboard a CRAF Pan Am jumbo jet at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, for deployment to Saudi Arabia (Photo US Air Force)

In the years since, the US military has been mostly able to rely upon its own airlift abilities to fly troops and gear in and out of combat zones. However, should the need arise, the military also tenders contracts to civilian charter companies like Omni Air International, who provide aircraft and pilots to ferry personnel and equipment wherever the military requires.

Airlines can indeed opt out of joining the CRAF, but many choose not to as it makes them more competitive for government transportation contracts, including charter flights for military personnel across the world.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this weak, slow ship is the most important one in the fleet

She doesn’t look like much. Weighing in at just under 19,000 tons, this ship doesn’t have much in the way of firepower, either. She’s relatively slow with a top speed of 23 knots. So, when you look at a Blue Ridge-class ship, you may wonder to yourself, “just what the heck is this thing’s purpose?”


The short answer: She’s the brains of the fleet. To be more precise, she’s there to “provide command and control for fleet commanders” according to the United States Navy. But it’s not entirely uncommon for a lesser-armed ship to take on such an important role.

Back in World War II, the auxiliary USS Argonne (AG 31) served as a flagship in the South Pacific for Admiral William F. Halsey. The transport USS MacCawley (APA 4) was used as the flagship for Admiral Richmond “Kelly” Turner until its loss in a friendly fire incident in 1943. The United States even converted a pair of amphibious ships, USS Coronado (APF 11) and USS LaSalle (AGF 3), to act as fleet flagships during the Cold War.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Behnke)

The two-ship Blue Ridge-class, however, was built specifically for the task of enabling a fleet commander to handle his fleet. As a small, mobile command post, it is much less vulnerable to attacks from terrorists or enemies. There’s a lot of ocean to hide in, so you have to search really hard to find it.

If worst comes to worst, the Blue Ridge does have some emergency firepower. For self-defense, the ship is outfitted with two Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems. These 20mm guns are a last-ditch defense against incoming missiles, but this ship is intended to be well out of harm’s way. Its primary weapons are its array of communications antennae, allowing commanders to handle operations across an entire theater if need be.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

The reason for these ships in one photo: It provides a secure location for command and control, allowing admirals and generals to run operations.

(DOD photo by Cherie A. Thurlby)

The Blue Ridge-class command ships will be around for at least 20 more years, if not longer — not bad for ships that were commissioned nearly 50 years ago!

Learn more about the brains of the United States Navy’s fleet in the video below.

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

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Who would win a ‘Ma Deuce’ vs. Minigun shootout?

The M2, known as “Ma Deuce,” is a classic machine gun that is coming close to a century of service with the United States military. This gun fires about 600 rounds per minute, and has been used on ground mounts, on boats, and even was the main armament of most of America’s World War II fighters. When it comes to suppressive fire, you just can’t get much better than the M2.


Or can you?

 

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
US Army Photo

 

The M134 Minigun is a classic machine gun in its own right, first entering service during the Vietnam War – and it soon shows it could deliver a lot of BRRRRRT! in a small package. In one sense, it is a retro design since it’s based on the Civil War-era Gatling gun. The original Civil War Gatling guns were hand-turned affairs.

The Minigun, however, uses electric power to spin the barrels. As a result, the Minigun can put a lot of rounds downrange – as many as 6,000 rounds a minute. But is it fast enough to beat a Ma Deuce?

 

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
The AC-47D contained three miniguns mounted in the cargo hold. (Photo: Office of Air Force History)

 

In this video, the hosts of “Triggers” decide to find out which actually puts more on the target. A 55-gallon drum “volunteers” to be the test subject. Actually, as an inanimate object, it had no real choice in the matter. But hey, there’s plenty of 55-gallon drums where that came from, right?

The hosts then go a thousand yards away for the purposes of the test. The Ma Deuce takes the first five-second burst, then the Minigun takes its five-second burst.

Wait until you see the results from this little head-to-head competition between these two full-auto classics via the Military Heroes Channel.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force Special Operations is preparing for a major power war

Attacking enemy fighters in close-air-support aircraft, using ground-based laser designators to “paint” targets for aircraft, and training friendly forces for the rigors of high-casualty close-in combat are all US Air Force Special Operations Force skills tested and refined during the last decade and a half of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Drawing upon these Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs), Air Force Special Operations Command is accelerating a strategic shift from its recent counterinsurgency focus to preparing for “high-end” combat or major force-on-force warfare against a technologically advanced enemy.

“I would tell you there is definitely strategic value for Special Operations in the high-end fight. With our mentality, we think outside of the box and about how to present dilemmas for the enemy,” Lt. Gen Marshall Webb, said Sept. 17, 2018, at the Air Force Association Convention.


Webb emphasized that the Command’s counterterrorism focus will not diminish in coming years but likely increase as existing threats persist and new ones emerge. At the same time, he made it clear that AFSOC is “laser focused on the high-end” and currently adapting its well-established TTPs to support major power warfare.

“We have to extend the TTPs for high-end conflict as well, including multi-domain command and control,” Webb said.

Interestingly, migrating combat-tested TTPs to a high-end fight does not seem to be an insurmountable stretch but, rather, an extension of refined combat practices. Significantly, many TTPs fundamental to counterinsurgency are also of great tactical and strategic relevance to major-power warfare. For example, during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Air Force Special Operations, the Special Tactics Squadron, used advanced targeting techniques to guide aircraft attacking the Taliban. This included using Forward Air Controllers to radio strike coordinates to circling attack aircraft and using laser designators to paint ground targets.

AFSOC contributions to the war in Afghanistan are highlighted in a 2017 Special Operations Annex portion of Air Force Doctrine published by the Lemay Center for Doctrine, Maxwell AFB.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

An AC-130U gunship.

“AFSOC CCTs were instrumental in the first major gain of the conflict, leveraging airpower that led to the capture of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Nov. 9, 2001 — a major breakthrough in the struggle to oust the Taliban and al-Qaeda,” the doctrine writes.

This kind of integrated air-ground operation, used to great effect in Afghanistan, is also something of potentially great value in a high-end conflict as well. The prospect of needing close air support to fortify advancing units on the ground or attacking low-flying enemy air assets presents the kinds of scenarios anticipated in major war.

The Air Force Special Operations AC-130 gunship, for instance, often circled Kandahar in Afghanistan, to fire its 105mm side-firing cannons to attack Taliban fighters. While there are of course major differences when between attacking insurgents and engaging in major air combat with a near-peer enemy, some of the tactics, approaches and technologies do seem to cross over and offer value to both kinds of conflict.

Webb further elaborated upon AFSOCs role in close air support missions will be enhanced by the service’s emerging Light Attack Aircraft. The aircraft is designed for rugged counterinsurgency missions in combat environments where the Air Force has established air superiority. At the same time, the need for these kinds of attack missions are at very least conceivable, if not likely, in large-scale warfare also.

“The need for the Light Attack Aircraft is an excellent requirement for AFSOC,” Webb said.

Special Operations Forces (SOF) are also known for a substantial intelligence expertise, used to both train and equip friendly forces and offer crucial combat-relevant detail to the larger force. Advising allied fighters is yet another instance of skills likely to be of great value in major war. Part of this intel mission includes air and ground reconnaissance using sensors, scouting forces and unique positioning in combat terrain in support of the larger fight.

Operating in small units, often somewhat autonomously, SOF are experienced fighters in austere, or otherwise hard to reach, combat areas. This skill also, quite naturally, would add value in major force-on-force warfare, as well.

SOF is “out there in the hinterlands and don’t have the luxury of an F-16,” Webb explained.

The Air Force’s Curtis Lemay Center for Doctrine, Development and Education also cites the full range of Special Operations mission sets, many of which are specifically designed for large scale war. Combat areas listed in the Doctrine text include a range of missions relevant to both COIN and major war such as “information operations, precision strike, ISR, command and control and specialized air mobility.”

The overall strategic roadmap, such as that articulated by Webb, mirrors multi-domain concepts written into special ops doctrine materials. The Lemay Center’s 2017 Doctrine Special Ops Annex text identifies a “combat continuum” for Special Ops missions, to include low-intensity conflict such as security cooperation and deterrence, limited contingencies and major operations.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the term, “gadfly?” Do you think of some annoying person you wish you could just smack? Maybe you’re a rancher and you immediately think about an insect that bites your livestock. If you hear an Air Force or Navy pilot say “gadfly,” however, they’re not talking about some nuisance. They’re talking about a very deadly threat to themselves and their fellow aviators.


They’re talking about the SA-11/SA-N-7 “Gadfly,” a radar-guided surface-to-air missile fired from land-based mobile launchers and from a number of Russian, Chinese, and Indian warships. This missile earned infamy in 2014 when it was used by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine to shoot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, killing 298 people.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
A look at the SA-11 system shows a command vehicle and two of the launchers. Each launcher has four missiles and a tracking radar. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

The SA-11 is a radar-guided missile with a range of 20 miles. The system entered service with land forces in 1980 and was deployed by the Soviet Navy on the first Sovremennyy-class guided-missile destroyers in 1983.

The missile did not see combat action, however, until 2008, when both Russia and Georgia used it during the South Ossetia War of 2008. Russian forces shot down four Georgian drones. The Georgian military used the SA-11 to down a Tu-22M Backfire and three Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
The Gadfly went to sea as the SA-N-7, used on Sovremenny-class destroyers and other ships in the Russian and Chinese Communist navies. It’s also used on Indian Navy vessels, like the INS Talwar. (Indian Navy photo)

In the 1990s, the system was widely exported for use within a number of land-based and naval-based units. India initially used the SA-N-7 on its Delhi-class destroyers and later went on to use it on Talwar-class frigates. China bought SA-N-7s when it acquired Sovremennyy-class destroyers from Russia, and eventually put together a land-based version they call the HQ-17.

Learn more about this infamous Russian missile in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcOJyq13rlU
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle

The M1 Abrams main battle tank gets a lot of attention and respect. As well it should; it has a very enviable combat record — not to mention a reputation that is simply fearsome.


After all, if you were facing them and knew that enemy shells fired from 400 yards away bounced off the armor of an M1, you’d want to find some sort of white fabric to wave to keep it from shooting at you.

But the Abrams doesn’t operate alone. Often, it works with the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, or BFV. The “B” could also stand for “badass” because the Bradley has done its share of kicking butt alongside the Abrams, including during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Read more about why we love the Bradley here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This modern amphibious assault ship is carrying WWII planes

The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) is an integral part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force as a forward operating platform. Essex is capable of carrying up to 1,771 Marines as well as the landing craft to get them ashore.

Her aircraft suite includes AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft, F-35B Lightning II stealth strike-fighters, AH-1W/Z Super Cobra/Viper attack helicopters, MV-22B Osprey assault support tiltrotors, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters, UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters, and SH-60F/HH-60H anti-submarine warfare helicopters.


However, rather than her usual wing of modern jets and helicopters, USS Essex is currently carrying 14 WWII-era trainer, bomber and fighter aircraft.
This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

USS Essex usually carries Marine aircraft like these Ospreys (US Navy)

The 844-foot-long ship is on her way to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to participate in RIMPAC 2020, the world’s largest international maritime exercise. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Pentagon made the decision to cancel RIMPAC’s air exercises.

In January, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called for a number of WWII-era aircraft to assemble in Hawaii to participate in a commemoration of the end of the war in the Pacific. Known as V-J Day for “Victory over Japan”, the event is most commonly celebrated on August 15. On August 15, 1945, (which was August 14 in America due to the time change), Emperor Hirohito announced his decree to accept the Potsdam Declaration and surrender over the radio.

Since the Marines had to leave their aircraft behind, USS Essex had plenty of room for the WWII-era aircraft since the vintage planes were unable to make the flight to Hawaii. The planes will include five AT-6/SNJ advanced trainers, two PBY Catalina flying boats, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, an FM-2 Wildcat fighter, an F8F Bearcat fighter, a Stearman Model 75 biplane, a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber and a T-28 Trojan.
This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

The FM-2 Wildcat is lowered to the hangar deck (Commemorative Air Force)

The planes will conduct flyovers over Hawaii from August 29, the day U.S. troops began the occupation of Japan, to September 2, the day that the formal Japanese surrender was made aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Before embarking on the trip to Hawaii, the pilots, maintainers and ground crews accompanying the planes were required to spend two weeks in quarantine at Naval Base San Diego to prevent anyone with COVID-19 from boarding the ship.

The 14 planes headed to Hawaii aboard the USS Essex will return to San Diego with the ship following the conclusion of the V-J Day Commemoration and RIMPAC.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force lab on Mars-like island is straight out of sci-fi movie

Space has been the center of conversation in the news and entertainment. There was even a movie about future human inhabitants on Mars! But how would that happen? How would we be able to sustain growing food? Mars, a dry and dusty planet, would not be able to support human life organically.

And just like the case would be on Mars, the food choices on Ascension are very limited and depend completely on what supplies are flown to the island.

“If you’ve ever been to Ascension Island, or even looked at photos online, the island doesn’t differ much from Mars,” said Cathy Little, Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield agricultural specialist.


Supplies, including food, are flown to the island because Ascension’s water cycle, soil and topography make it very difficult for anything to grow on the island — what does grow, you cannot or would not want to eat, until recently.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

The 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield looks quite similar to Mars, per its physical characteristics. Food must be flown in because the topography of the island isn’t able to grow food organically. However, a team from the 45th Mission Support Group’s Detachment 2 has revamped the hydroponics lab so that fresh vegetables can be grown and consumed by the 700 inhabitants of the volcanic island.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Cathy Little)

Introducing Ascension Island’s own personal ‘garden’, the hydroponics laboratory.

Hydroponics, or the process of growing plants in sand, gravel or liquid instead of soil, can be seen in the movie “The Martian.” Though it seems like something only a screenwriter could come up with, the agricultural team on Ascension Island has taken the idea and run with it.

“The hydroponics lab isn’t a laboratory in the traditional sense,” Little said. “Our facility is an 8,721 square foot greenhouse that has two vine crop bays and one leaf crop bay.”

In the greenhouse, the team on Ascension uses two different systems to grow fresh produce on the volcanic island. For vining crops, like tomatoes and peppers, they use a nutrient injection system, bucket system and Perlite, which is a naturally occurring volcanic glass that has a relatively high water content. For leafy crops, like lettuce and herbs, they use a nutrient film technique, where a very shallow stream of nutrient-filled water is re-circulated past the bare roots of the plants.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

The 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield looks quite similar to Mars, per its physical characteristics. Food must be flown in because the topography of the island isn’t able to grow food organically. However, a team from the 45th Mission Support Group’s Detachment 2 has revamped the hydroponics lab so that fresh vegetables can be grown and consumed by the 700 inhabitants of the volcanic island.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Cathy Little)

Though the lab has grown over the years, hydroponics is not new to Ascension Island.

“During World War II, the shipping of fresh vegetables overseas was not practical and remote islands where troops were stationed were not a place where they could be grown in the soil,” said Rick Simmons, hydroponics expert, in a 2008 article. “In 1945, the U.S. Air Force built one of the first large hydroponic farms on Ascension Island, using crushed volcanic rock as a growing medium.”

“Growing conditions haven’t changed since World War II; therefore, the need for hydroponics still exists,” Little said. “Just as it was in 1945, shipping fresh vegetables to a remote island is not cost effective and with the lack of arable soil on the island. We face the same dilemma as our forebears — how to reduce costs and meet the nutritional needs of the troops and contractor personnel stationed here.”

With the revitalization of the hydroponics lab, Little thinks a shift could be on the horizon for Ascension Island.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

The 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield looks quite similar to Mars, per its physical characteristics. Food must be flown in because the topography of the island isn’t able to grow food organically. However, a team from the 45th Mission Support Group’s Detachment 2 has revamped the hydroponics lab so that fresh vegetables can be grown and consumed by the 700 inhabitants of the volcanic island.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Cathy Little)

“In addition to having a virtually limitless supply of fresh produce and reducing the cost of transportation, morale is greatly improved knowing that produce, picked that very day, is awaiting everyone in the base dining hall,” Little said. “Hydroponics allows us to meet demands, reduce costs and provide nutritional value for our personnel.”

As the team continues to experiment with different crops, they hope to expand the size of the lab and the list of what they’re able to grow.

“If we were to operate at a full greenhouse capacity, we could produce enough fresh produce to feed the entire population of Ascension Island,” Little said. “That’s about 700 people.”

For the 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield, neither the sky, nor Mars, is the limit.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Paratroopers get new platform for rapidly deploying equipment

Members of the 900th Contracting Battalion played a key role in revolutionizing the future of airborne operations at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the Aug. 10, 2018 contract award for the Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System.

In recent years, the 900th CBN embedded soldiers from its 639th Contracting Team into the 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters to better support their customer.

“The 639th CT is embedded with 82nd Airborne Division and remains empowered to prudently apply their contracting support expertise to help meet mission readiness,” said Lt. Col. Jason Miles, deputy director of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command-Fort Bragg contracting office and 900th CBN commander.


The Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System, or CAADS, is a new door bundle dolly system that has been in development and testing since early 2018. Modeled after a similar door bundle system used by French airborne forces, CAADS is specifically designed to increase the number of door bundles that can be rapidly deployed from a DOD transit aircraft while reducing deployment time. The 82nd AD spearheaded the successful testing, and on June 5 interim airdrop rigging procedures and training manuals were published for the innovative system.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

Capt. Colton Crawford and Capt. Lesley Thomas conduct a technical inspection of the Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as representatives from Carolina Material Handling Inc. look on.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Gunn)

“The acquisition of the Caster Assisted A-series Delivery Systems for the 82nd Airborne Division will help reduce jumper fatigue as well as triple the amount of supplies and equipment on a drop zone simultaneously with paratroopers exiting an aircraft” said Capt. Colton Crawford, 82nd AD parachute officer.

Equally impressive as the testing was the procurement process. The 639th CT was able to award a contract for the delivery of more than 948 units in less than 14 days after receipt of a funded purchase request. Fully involved in the acquisition planning since late 2017, the contracting team was able to conduct extensive market research and find a number of responsible vendors able meet the requirements the division.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

Capt. Colton Crawford, third from right, discusses specifications with Cape Terrell during a technical inspection of the Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Gunn)

“The 639th Contracting Team and the Acquisition Corps seem to have a unique skill to increase readiness on demand. They are paramount to meeting the Army’s ability to ‘fight tonight and win,'” Crawford added.

As the first samples are delivered and inspected for quality assurance by division parachute riggers, the 82nd AD moves onto the next operation armed with increased delivery capabilities.

“It is always impactful when a requirement you’ve been working on for months satisfies the customers’ needs and directly impacts the mission,” said Capt. Lesley Thomas, a contract management officer for the 639th CT.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

Contracting Soldiers from the 639th Contracting Team were joined by members of the 82nd Airborne Division and 82nd AD Sustainment Brigade as well as vendor representatives from Carolina Material Handling Inc. to conduct a technical inspection of the Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Gunn)


About the MICC:
Headquartered at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Mission and Installation Contracting Command consists of about 1,500 military and civilian members who are responsible for contracting goods and services in support of soldiers as well as readying trained contracting units for the operating force and contingency environment when called upon. The command is made up of two contracting support brigades, two field directorates, 30 contracting offices and nine battalions. MICC contracts are vital in feeding more than 200,000 soldiers every day, providing many daily base operations support services at installations, facilitate training in the preparation of more than 100,000 conventional force members annually, training more than 500,000 students each year, and maintaining more than 14.4 million acres of land and 170,000 structures.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Navy is preparing for an all-out fight at sea

The Navy is firing weapons, engaging in combat scenarios, and refining warfighting tactics through a rigorous training regiment aimed at better preparing the sea service for massive warfare on the open ocean.

Described by Navy officials as “high-velocity learning,” Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) is focused on speeding up combat decision making and responding in real time to emerging high-tech enemy weapons such as missiles, lasers, sea mines, long-range anti-ship missiles, and torpedoes, among others.

“We are focused on the high-end fight” Cmdr. Emily Royse, SWATT leader, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The emphasis also has a heavy academic focus, lead by specially prepared Warfare Tactics Instructors, aimed at briefing — and then debriefing — a range of operational maritime warfare scenarios.


“For each training type we focus on sea control type events. Warfare units are presented with a scenario and we are there to help them through the decision making process to help them fight that scenario. For surface warfare, for instance, they might plan how they are going to get all their ships through narrow, high-risk straights or how to respond to small boat threats,” Royse added.

The training crosses a wide swath of maritime combat missions, to include mine countermeasures, Amphibious Ready Groups, Carrier Strike Groups, and other elements of surface warfare. The idea is to further establish and refine tactics, techniques, and procedures needed for major warfare against high-tech enemies.

“Sea control objective is to ensure that our forces are able to move freely within the sea lanes and ensure that they are free from threats or able to counter threats,” Royse said.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

U.S. Navy ships assigned to the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group sail in formation for a strike group photo in the Caribbean Sea.

Some of the particular kinds of enemy weapons these courses anticipate for the future include a range of emerging new systems — to include lasers, rail-guns, and long-range missiles, among other technologies.

Not surprisingly, these courses appear as somewhat of a linear outgrowth or tactical manifestation of the Navy’s 2016 Surface Force Strategy document. Tilted “Return to Sea Control,” the strategy paper lists a number of specific enemy threat areas of concern focused upon by course trainers.

Examples of threats cited by the strategy paper include “anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, integrated and layered sensor systems, targeting networks, long-range bombers, advanced fighter aircraft, submarines, mines, advanced integrated air defenses, electronic warfare, and cyber and space technologies.”

Much like the training courses and the Surface Force Strategy, the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept also builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy, in place now for a number of years. This strategic approach emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed.

Having cyber, space, and missile weapons — along with over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons — are relevant to offensive attack as well as the “distributed” portion of the strategy. Having an ability to defend against a wider range of attacks and strike from long-distances enables the fleet to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations, making US Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower.

Interestingly, the pressing need to emphasize offensive attack in the Navy fleet appears to have roots in previous Navy strategic thinking.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Doug Pearlman)

Part of the overall strategic rationale is to move the force back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors, such as that which was emphasized during the Cold War. While the importance of this kind of strategic and tactical thinking never disappeared, these things were emphasized less during the last 15-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, securing the international waterways, counter-piracy and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure.

These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increase its offensive “lethality” given that rivals such as Russia and China have precision-guided anti-ship missiles able to hit targets at ranges greater than 900 miles in some cases. The advent of new cyber and electronic warfare attack technologies, enemy drones and the rapid global proliferation of sea mines all present uniquely modern nuances when compared to previous Cold-War strategic paradigms.

Nevertheless, the most current Naval Surface Warfare Strategy does, by design, appear to be somewhat of a higher-tech, modern adaptation of some fundamental elements of the Navy’s Cold-War-era approach — a time when major naval warfare against a Soviet force was envisioned as a realistic contingency.

A 1987 essay titled “Strategy Concept of the US Navy,” published by Naval History and Heritage Command, cites the importance of long-range offensive firepower and targeting sensors in a geographically dispersed or expansive open ocean warfare environment. The paper goes so far as to say the very survivability of US Naval Forces and the accomplishment of their missions depends upon offensive firepower.

“Integrated forces may be geographically distant, but their movements, sensors, and weapons are coordinated to provide maximum mutual support and offensive capability,” the paper writes.

The Cold War-era Strategic Concepts document also specifies that “Naval defensive capability should include long-range detection systems such as airborne early warning, quick reacting command and control systems and effective defensive weapons systems.”

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

Articles

How and why the Stryker would be the ultimate pillbox at Verdun

The Battle of Verdun lasted for nearly ten months in 1916 and according to some estimates, resulted in almost 950,000 casualties. In essence, it was perhaps the epitome of the trench warfare that dominated World War I.


Indeed, trench warfare really didn’t end until the emergence of the early tanks at the Battle of the Somme. Could some of America’s most modern armored fighting vehicles do better? Specifically, the Stryker family of wheeled armored fighting vehicles.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
M1126 Stryker Infantry Combat Vehicle. (U.S. Army photo)

At first glance, the Strykers seem very capable of punching through the trenches. With add-on armor, the Stryker can resist RPGs. They have a top speed of just over 62 miles per hour, according to army-recognition.com. The fire from a MG 08 would just bounce off a Stryker that didn’t have the add-on armor. But that misses one problem: Sheer numbers on the German side.

The Germans committed over a million troops to the battle. The Stryker Brigade would have roughly 4,500 troops and 300 vehicles, most of which are M1126 Infantry Combat Vehicles. The vehicles couldn’t roam in the enemy rear — resupply would be very difficult at best. But those vehicles have technology that would enable them to decisively rout the German offensives.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
A look at the Kongsberg M151 Protector Remote Weapon Station. (U.S. Army photo)

The key to what the Stryker would use, would not be in mobility, but in the M151 Protector Remote Weapons Station. The Strykers primarily use the M2 heavy machine gun and Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. These outclass the MG 08 by a significant margin. Furthermore, they can be fired from within the Stryker, which negates one of Germany’s most powerful weapons in 1916: poison gas.

This is the second advantage the Stryker would have. The NBC protection capabilities in the Strykers would enable the defense to hold despite German chemical weapons. In essence, rather than facing incapacitated – or dead – defenders, the German troops would be going across “no man’s land” into mission-capable defenders.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
The Stryker’s remote weapon system and NBC protection would make it a formidable presence on a World War I battlefield. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sandra M. Palumbo) (Released)

Worse for them, the M2 heavy machine gun and the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher would tear massed infantry attacks apart. The optics of the Protector remote weapons stations would allow the Americans to pick out the guys with flamethrowers first. In essence, the Strykers would be able to bleed the Germans dry.

It gets worse for the Germans when the inevitable counter-attack comes. The same optics what would let a Stryker gunner pick out a machine gun position and take it out. Here, the M1128 Mobile Gun Systems and M1134 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicles would also come into play, destroying bunkers. The M1129 Stryker Mortar Carrier Vehicles would be able to lay down a lot of smoke and high-explosive warheads on targets.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
The 105mm main gun would be a formidable bunker buster. (U.S. Army photo)

In essence, the Stryker would drastically alter Verdun, not by its mobility, but by virtue of being a poison gas-proof pillbox.

Articles

North Korea’s ballistic missiles aren’t as scary as you might think (yet)

North Korea’s inter-continental ballistic missiles still have a lot of work to do in order to be ready for prime time, the Defense Intelligence Agency claims. North Korea in the past has had problems getting its missiles up – but that technological hitch may not last long.


According to a report by Bloomberg News, North Korea still faces a number of “important shortfalls” in its longer-range missiles like the Taepo-dong 2 and the KN-08 inter-continental ballistic missiles. Last month, North Korea saw a failure when it attempted to launch a missile during a test.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. (KCNA/Handout)

That said, senior American intelligence officials note with concern that North Korea is not letting the failures prevent a push toward developing a reliable ICBM inventory.

“North Korea has also expanded the size and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces—from close-range ballistic missiles (CRBMs) to ICBMs—and continues to conduct test launches. In 2016, North Korea conducted an unprecedented number of ballistic missile tests. Pyongyang is committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States; it has publicly displayed its road-mobile ICBMs on multiple occasions. We assess that North Korea has taken steps toward fielding an ICBM but has not flight-tested it,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a written statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee prior to a May 11, 2017 hearing.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
Hwasong missile (North Korean variant). (Photo: KCNA)

“North Korea is poised to conduct its first ICBM flight test in 2017 based on public comments that preparations to do so are almost complete and would serve as a milestone toward a more reliable threat to the US mainland,” Coats added later in the statement.

The United States has currently deployed a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile battery to South Korea, and also operates MIM-104 Patriot missile batteries – systems also owned by South Korea and Japan. All three countries also have Aegis warships, capable of launching SIM-66 Standard SM-2 and RIM-161 Standard SM-3 missiles.

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet
USS Hopper (DDG 70) fires a RIM-161 SM-3 missile in 2009. (US Navy photo)

The United States has deployed a carrier strike group to the area around North Korea as tensions have increased.

Articles

This is why the SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest production plane ever

The SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest and highest-flying production aircraft ever to exist. It holds all of the world’s airspeed and altitude records, even after its retirement from the Air Force in the late 1990s.


It’s an incredible accomplishment considering the spy plane was developed during the 1950s and 60s without the help of computers.

The long-range, supersonic Blackbird was capable of flying at Mach 3 for more than an hour unlike its closest competitor, the Russian-made MiG-25 Foxbat, which could do it for a few minutes, according to the TechLaboratories video below.

The SR-71 was only about 45 feet shorter than the Boeing 727 passenger airliner. From nose to tail, the sleek jet measured 107.4 feet long, had a wingspan of 55.6 feet, stood 18.5 feet high and weighed about 140,000 pounds — including a fuel weight of 80,000 pounds.

Remarkably, the Blackbird had better gas mileage traveling at three times the speed of sound than at slower speeds. But it was still extremely expensive to operate, which is why Congress finally decommissioned the bird in 1998.

From its engines to its airframe, this TechLaboratories video explains the incredible engineering magic behind the SR-71 Blackbird:

TechLaboritories, YouTube
Do Not Sell My Personal Information