The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew

In 1999, U.S. military planners had to solve a tricky problem: How do you stop a ruthless dictator from breaking the rules without resorting to ruthless tactics yourself?


Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was ignoring “no-fly zones” established to keep him from attacking Kurdish and Sunni minorities in his own country. American and allied air forces were able to force Iraqi jets to stay on the ground, but Hussein ordered his anti-air units to antagonize the U.S. fighters from civilian areas. He also stationed other units in areas they weren’t allowed to be in, but made sure they were surrounded by civilians as well.

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew
Photo: Wikipedia/Flightsoffancy

To hit the targets without causing collateral damage, the U.S. turned to “concrete bombs.” The bombs were training aids repurposed to destroy actual targets. Weighing 500, 1,000, or 2,000 pounds, they wouldn’t explode when they struck an enemy vehicle but would transfer their kinetic energy into it. This would destroy even large vehicles like tanks without harming people nearby. If the crew was lucky, they might even survive a bomb that struck outside of the crew area of a vehicle.

France used the bombs in 2011, dropping concrete bombs during the liberation of Libya. Concrete bombs are still used by America in both training and real world missions. To see a simulated concrete bomb destroy a car, check out the National Geographic video below.

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This pint-sized German tank-killer packs a punch

When one thinks of German armored vehicles, massive tanks, like the Tiger and Tiger II, from World War II spring to mind. So does the Leopard 2, considered one of the best modern tanks in the world. But while Germany has developed some huge, armored powerhouses, it’s also developed a pint-sized vehicle that packs some serious firepower.


In the 1970s, the West Germans realized that their regular infantry didn’t stand much of a chance against hordes of tanks that the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact would deploy should World War III break out. To answer to this concern was the Rheinmetall Wiesel, a very capable, air-mobile armored vehicle.

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew
Weighing about 20 percent less than an up-armored HMMWV, the Wiesel can be carried inside a CH-53 helicopter. (Bundeswehr photo)

The Wiesel weighs in at 9,557 pounds. To put that into perspective, the M1114 Up-Armored HMMWV comes in at 12,101 pounds. The Wiesel, however, is no slouch in a fight. Depending on the version, it can carry the BGM-71 TOW missile or a 20mm autocannon.

The Wiesel also made for a natural reconnaissance vehicle. The Wiesel 1 was ordered in 1985, entered service in 1989, and 343 examples were purchased by the Bundeswehr. However, a larger version, the Wiesel 2, was designed and entered service in 1994. The Bundeswehr ordered 179 of those vehicles, which serve as ambulances, command-and-control vehicles, mortar carriers, and air-defense assets.

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew
The Wiesel can pack a 20mm autocannon, giving it an option to use against trucks, APCs, and IFVs. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew Hulett)

The Wiesel, though, hasn’t gotten a lot of export orders. The United States did acquire a few to test as unmanned vehicles but, to date, the only troops using the Wiesel have been Germans. The Wiesel has seen service in Operation Enduring Freedom and in peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Somalia.

Learn more about this pint-sized tankette that packs a big-time punch in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPgDLhyRgaM
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This is perhaps the fastest shotgun in the world

Fostech Outdoors’s Origin-12 is a beast of a weapon and may be the fastest cycling shotgun in the world.


The gas powered build of the Origin-12 allows it to unleash hell at an insane rate of fire — if your trigger finger can keep up.

“This thing can smoke an AA-12 in terms of speed,” said Eric in the IV8888 video below. “Bear in mind, an AA-12 is only about 360 rpm.”

via GIPHY

Released in 2013, the Origin-12 comes standard with a five-round 12-gauge magazine or an optional 30-round drum.

The design of the Origin-12 is made to greatly reduce recoil. The barrel is placed lower than the chamber and butt stock.

“In-line shotguns, when you shoot them, they climb. Pure physics will tell you about this firearm,” Fostech Outdoors executive Judd Foster said at SHOT Show 2016. “When you shoot it, it takes recoil out of it, and it punches you on target.”

via GIPHY

According to Fostech Outdoors, there will soon be conversion kits to allow 7.62 and 5.56mm fire coming in 2018. If you’re interested in having a forward grip, check out the Origin-12 SBV. It’s an arm braced, smooth bore, 12-gauge non-NFA Firearm.

“The Fostech Origin-12 is an awesome piece of hardware. As far as I know, its is the fastest cycling shotgun in the world, ” IV8888’s Eric said.

via GIPHY

Check out the IraqVeteran8888 video down below:

WRITER’S NOTE: I would like to personally thank you, the community, for bringing this beauty to my attention. The inspiration for this post goes to Marc Allen from this Facebook post. Thank you very much for your support. You rock!

Related: This automatic shotgun fires 360 rounds of bad intentions per minute

(Iraqveteran8888, YouTube)
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The F-16 could transition to an unmanned aerial asset

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


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

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew
An F-35 Lightning II from Eglin AFB flies with an F-16 Fighting Falcon from Luke AFB at the Luke Airshow. Was the Viper just bait? (Lockheed Martin photo)

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

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

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

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew
F-16 Fighting Falcons from Kunsan Air Base and South Korean KF-16s taxi to the runway together during Exercise Buddy Wing 14-8 at Seosan Air Base, Republic of Korea Aug. 21, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New flame-resistant uniforms will keep troops from feeling the burn

“Feeling the Burn” might be nice when you’re at the gym, but otherwise, it’s probably not good to be on fire.


Actually, burns are among the worst injuries to come out of war. They are disfiguring and excruciatingly painful — and the effects can be long-lasting.

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew
U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) on fire after air operations 14 January 1969. (U.S. Navy)

Unfortunately, burns are a military risk – particularly on ships, in combat vehicles, and around aircraft on flight lines. Take a good look at the photos of the fires on the USS Oriskany (CV 34), USS Forrestal (CV 59) or on USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Those three fires killed 206 sailors and injured 631, and caused over $198 million in damage. While the treatment of burns is improving, they are still very grave injuries. The best option is to avoid them in the first place.

Flame-resistant uniforms for the military have been a long-running pursuit. During World War II, sailors would be required to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants – even in the hot and humid climates of the South Pacific. Uncomfortable in the steamy conditions, long layers were still far better at protecting sailors from burns than the shorts worn by other Allied navies (notably the Royal Navy).

A release from the Marine Corps Systems Command details the latest advancements in the effort to prevent burns: a new fabric combining cotton, nylon, and meta-aramid fibers (for example, Nomex) used in the Enhanced Fire Resistant Combat Ensemble. This upgrade will replace the Flame Resistant Combat Ensemble currently in service with the Marines and sailors involved with the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC).

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew
Marines extinguish a fire during a controlled burn training exercise aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Feb. 17, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Jonah Lovy/Released)

These new uniforms also bring a bonus: they are twice as durable as the ones currently being used, which will save money previously spent replacing less effective uniforms.

Of course, more important than saving money is that these new uniforms could potentially save lives and will certainly mitigate flame-induced injuries — the real bargain of the Enhanced Fire Resistant Combat Ensemble.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Virtual reality training gives Air Force students ‘hands-on’ experience

The 334th Training Squadron incorporated the first virtual reality training for airfield management students in the Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, June 28, 2019, so they can get more of a “hands-on” learning experience.

Chief Master Sgt. Paul Portugal, Airfield Management career field manager, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virgina, relates this new technology to the mission of Air Education and Training Command.

“Innovation and the continuum of learning has always been a priority of AETC to make our airmen more effective and efficient,” Portugal said.


Master Sgt. Joshua Stillwagon, 334th TRS instructor, believes this new technology can teach the airmen more efficiently than the previous, lecture-based class because of the hands-on experience.

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew

An Airman from the 334th Training Squadron tries out new virtual reality technology of the 334th TRS at Cody Hall, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, June 28, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Seth Haddix)

“This system gives instructors the capability to not just tell airmen, but instantly show them a concept,” Stillwagon said.

The simulation includes the setting of an airfield and allows students to practice their job as if they were operational.

“The VR technology gives our students a visual representation of airfield hazards that can be unsafe,” Portugal said. “They don’t need to imagine it, they can visualize cranes, trees or other things that can affect flight safety.”

Portugal believes this training will not only help the future of airfield management training, but improve the overall training of airmen.

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew

U.S. Air Force Col. Leo Lawson Jr., previous 81st Training Group commander, speaks about the new virtual reality technology of the 334th Training Squadron at Cody Hall, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, June 28, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Seth Haddix)

“The technological jump that we are making in how we create a more efficient and effective airmen is the biggest part of this,” Portugal said.

Col. Leo Lawson Jr., previous 81st Training Group commander, was impressed with the quality of the new VR experience.

“The VR training simulations blew me away,” Lawson said. “Not only was it able to deliver the training our airmen need to understand the concept of the job, but it did so with great quality.”

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

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The world’s longest flight is moving one step closer to reality

Australian airline Qantas is taking the next steps towards its goal of having nonstop 19-hour flights between Sydney and London and New York.

The airline has openly discussed the endevour — internally known as “Project Sunrise” — for several years, following the successful launch of a slightly shorter, but still lengthy, nonstop flight between Perth and London in March 2018.

That route is measured as about 9,000 miles and takes around 17 hours, while the Sydney-New York route would be around 10,000 miles, and the Sydney-London flight is about 500 miles longer.


Qantas is scheduled to receive three new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft this fall — one each in October, November, and December 2019. The planes are being built at Boeing’s Seattle plant, and would normally be flown by Qantas pilots straight to Australia from there.

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew

(Photo by Suhyeon Choi)

Instead, the airline plans to fly the planes to New York and London first, and then fly nonstop to Sydney from there.

The planes won’t have paying customers — instead, they’ll each have about 40 people on board — including crew — most of whom will be Qantas employees. the airline says it plans to study how those on board react to the lengthy 19-hour flights.

According to the airline, “[s]cientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Centre will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement, and inflight entertainment to assess impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.”

Commercial flights with full or mostly-full passenger loads are not currently possible due to the range of the airplanes available today. Keeping the planes mostly empty will increase their range, making the test flights possible. A normal Qantas 787-9 can seat up to 236 passengers, plus crew, and carry both luggage and cargo, while still achieving a range of about 9,000 miles — the length of the Perth-London flight.

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew

(Photo by John Kappa)

The airline is considering new ultra-long-range aircraft from Boeing and Airbus for the eventual New York and London to Sydney flights — Airbus’ rumored A350-1000ULR airplane, and Boeing 777X project, both of which are still being tested. Qantas has previously said it would make a decision around the end of 2019.

The world’s current longest flight— from Singapore to New York’s Newark Airport — is operated by a Singapore Airlines A350-900ULR configured with only business class and premium economy seats— no regular economy cabin.

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

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China unleashes its ‘Reaper’ copy in exciting footage

The developers of one of China’s newest and most advanced combat drones have released a new video showcasing its destructive capabilities.

The video was released just one week prior to the start of the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong, China, where this drone made its debut in 2016.


China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation’s CH-5 combat drone, nicknamed the “Air Bomb Truck” because it soars into battle with 16 missiles, is the successor to the CH-4, which many call the “AK-47 of drones.”

CH-5 UAV appears in recent video released

www.youtube.com

Resembling General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper drone, the developers claim the weapon is superior to its combat-tested American counterpart, which carries four Hellfire missiles and two 500-pound precision bombs. The Reaper is one of America’s top hunter-killer drones and a key weapon that can stalk and strike militants in the war on terror.

The CH-5 “can perform whatever operations the MQ-9 Reaper can and is even better than the US vehicle when it comes to flight duration and operational efficiency,” Shi Wen, a chief CH series drone designer at the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, told the China Daily two years ago.

But, while the CH-5 and the MQ-9 may look a lot alike, it is technological similarity, not parity. The Reaper’s payload, for instance, is roughly double that of China’s CH-5. And, while China’s drone may excel in endurance, its American counterpart has a greater maximum take-off weight and a much higher service ceiling.

The sensors and communications equipment on the Chinese drone are also suspected to be inferior to those on the MQ-9, which in 2017 achieved the ability to not only wipe out ground targets but eliminate air assets as well.

Nonetheless, these systems can get the job done. The CH-4, the predecessor to the latest CH series drone, has been deployed in the fight against the Islamic State.

China has exported numerous drones to countries across the Middle East, presenting them as comparable to US products with less restrictions and for a lower price.

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

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Marines’ drone-killing lasers get even more powerful after upgrades

The Marine Corps‘ ground-based laser systems, which can be mounted to the tops of vehicles to take down drones, now have stronger beams to combat airborne threats.

The Corps has a new $2.5 million agreement with Boeing to service its Compact Laser Weapon System for the next five years. The system, which can be attached to combat vehicles, can be used on land or at sea.

Boeing just completed a round of updates to the service’s Compact Laser Weapon Systems, giving Marines the ability to take out bigger drones. The updates also made the laser weapon more reliable and faster, and they allow Marines to target more aircraft from greater distances, according to Boeing.

The changes come as the top U.S. general in the Middle East warned last month that cheap, off-the-shelf drones pose the most concerning tactical development in that region since terrorists began using improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.Advertisement

“These systems are inexpensive, easy to modify and weaponize, and easy to proliferate,” Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the head of U.S. Central Command, said last month.

The Islamic State group has used drones to fly IEDs. One such attack killed two Kurdish fighters in 2016.

Militaries are also using drones to target and surveil troops. Marines using another vehicle-mounted system in 2019 jammed at least one Iranian drone that flew within 1,000 yards of their Navy warship in the Strait of Hormuz, sending it plummeting into the sea.

The Compact Laser Weapon System doesn’t just jam drones but destroys them. Josh Roth, a spokesman for Boeing’s missile and weapon systems, said the lasers can take out what the Defense Department refers to as Group 1 and 2 unmanned aircraft, which weigh as much as 55 pounds and can operate below 3,500 feet.

Boeing’s system also has a counter-sensor capability at longer ranges for larger targets, Roth said. The system uses software to spot and track a threat. Once a drone is spotted, the weapon system focuses a high-energy laser beam on the threat until it’s disabled and defeated, he added.

Marines began testing the system, the first ground-based laser approved for military use, in 2019. The laser gives Marines a lightweight option to target drones, Roth said, since it can be carried and operated by just one person.

“It … affords the warfighter the opportunity to save more expensive air defense missiles for other threats and reduces the logistics footprint by eliminating resupply needs for conventional ammunition,” he said.

Roth declined to say how many of the laser systems have gone to the Marine Corps and what units received them, citing operational security. Marine Corps photos and videos show low-altitude air defense battalions on the East and West coasts testing the systems.

Last year, Marines tested the upgraded laser weapon in Yuma, Arizona, where they were able to take down 12 out of 12 drone threats, according to Boeing. Now, those upgraded systems have been delivered to Marine units, Roth said.

The system has also been used in real-world missions, though Roth declined to say where.

The Air Force tested it at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base in September.

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

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This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

While much of the world’s attention is focused on the effort by North Korea to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with working nuclear warheads, there is another weapon that is also quite deadly in the arsenal of Kim Jong Un’s regime. Ironically, it is quite low-tech.


That weapon is the An-2 Colt, a seventy-year-old design that is still in front-line service, which means it has the B-52 Stratofortress beaten by about eight years! So, why has this little plane stuck around, and what makes it so deadly in the hands of Kim Jong Un?

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew
An-2 Colt on skis. (Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl/CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the An-2 has a top speed of 160 miles per hour, and a range of 525 miles. Not a lot when you compare it to the B-52, which can go 595 miles per hour and fly over 10,000 miles. China is still producing the plane, while upgrade kits are being developed by Antonov. The plane was in production for 45 years, and according to the report from Korrespondent, thousands remain in service.

When it comes down to it, what seem like fatal weaknesses actually make the An-2 deadly in modern combat.

The reason? The plane usually flies low and slow – and as such, it is very hard for modern fighters like the F-22, F-35, and F-16 to locate, track, and fire on. Not only that, the slow speeds and low-altitude operations meant that large portions of the plane can be covered with fabric, according to Warbird Alley. There are also a lot of An-2s in North Korea’s inventory – at least 200, according to a report by MSN.com.

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew
A look at the inside of the An-2, showing seats for passengers. Or commandos. (Wikimedia Commons)

While the plane is often used to deliver troops or supplies, the real threat may be the fact that it could carry some other cargo. While North Korea is just now developing nuclear warheads that fit on missiles, there is the frightening possibility that a nuclear weapon could be delivered using an An-2.

That is how this 70-year-old biplane design could very well be North Korea’s deadliest weapon. You can see a video on the An-2 below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pljj4M8WhYs
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch this tow bar fail on a Marine helicopter

We don’t know when and where it was filmed, but the following video surely shows a pretty weird accident occurred to a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter. Indeed, the short clip shows the heavy Marine chopper (whose empty weight is more than 10 tons – 23,628 lb) with folded tail boom being towed aboard a ship using a “system” made of a tug towing another tug coupled to a tow bar attached to the Super Stallion’s nose landing gear.

At a certain point, the tow bar disconnects from the helicopter that starts to slide backwards towards the pier. The end of the story is that no one seems to be hurt by the giant chopper that comes to a stop when the folded tail hits the ramp that was being used to board it.


Here’s the video, shared by the always interesting Air Force amn/nco/snco FB page:


OOPS

www.facebook.com

Many have criticized the way used to board the helicopter, saying that the one shown in the footage is not a standard procedure. Others have highlighted the fact that no one was in the cockpit riding the brakes during the operation. We don’t know what the procedure called for in this case, whatever, based on the footage, it is safe to say that the ending could have been worse: despite a significant risk for all those involved or observing the boarding, perhaps the Super Stallion got (minor?) damages and an unscheduled inspection…

Thanks to its impressive lift capacity the Super Stallion is able to carry a 26,000-pound Light Armored Vehicle, 16 tons of cargo 50 miles and back, or enough Marines to lead and assault or humanitarian operation. For this reason it is used for a wide variety of tasks.

The latest version of the iconic CH-53, designed CH-53K King Stallion, will replace the current E variant in the coming years and will feature a lift capacity three times that of the Super Stallion retaining the same size of its predecessor.

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

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4 unmanned fighters that are being developed for the next war

The major nations of the world have been in an air-to-air arms race since the first fighter pilots fired pistols at each other in World War I. From machine gun mounts to jet engines to stealth technology, the race has always been about making the human in one cockpit more lethal than the other.


It now appears that the race is moving to an entirely new stage where the goal is to make autonomous drones that can kill while the pilot is either in another cockpit or an office far away. While the manned F-22 Raptor is still the king of the roost and F-35 pilots are gearing up for their combat debut, these are the unmanned fighters in development to replace them in the future:

1. BAE’s Taranis

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew
The British Taranis UCAV flies during testing. (Photo: BAE Systems)

The Taranis unmanned combat aerial vehicle has ruffled a lot of feathers in Europe where large groups oppose autonomous weapons of war. While Taranis will likely be capable of full autonomy, the Ministry of Defense and British Aerospace Engineering have said the unmanned combat aerial vehicle will function as a “man in the loop” system. A human decides what’s a target and the system engages approved targets.

Taranis is primarily a strike aircraft, meaning that it goes after ground targets. But it’s capable of fighting enemy planes and could fly from Britain to continents outside of Europe with limited input from pilots and crew.

 

2. F-16s (Yeah, those F-16s)

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew

America’s current entry for an autonomous fighter now that the X-47B will most likely become a flying gas station is actually an old airframe — the F-16 Falcon.

The “Loyal Wingman” program calls for upgrading fourth-generation aircraft like F-16s with autonomous controls, software and hardware upgrades that will let computers fly the jet. Then human pilots in F-35s or F-22s would be able to fight with a few drone F-16s and F/A-18 Hornets backing them up.

The Navy is still interested in developing a next-generation unmanned fighter, but that’s far in the future, while unmanned F-16s could be fighting within a few years.

3. DRDO AURA

India’s Autonomous Unmanned Research Vehicle is a technology demonstrator under development by the country’s Defense Research and Development Organisation. The final weapon is designed to carry its weapons internally and be capable of self-defense, reconnaissance, and striking ground targets.

The exact level of “self-defense” capability the AURA will have has not yet been announced, so this could be a ground-attack drone with limited air-to-air capability. The program appears to be behind schedule but was initially slated for a 2015 prototype and a 2020 completion.

4. Sharp Sword

The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew
China’s Sharp Sword UCAV conducts a taxiing test. (Photo: Youtube/arronlee33)

China’s Sharp Sword is so wrapped in secrecy that no one’s sure what its ultimate mission will be. It has gone through some iterations and prototypes, but a blended-wing design that flew in late-2013 is the best known version.

It appears that China’s Sharp Sword is based on Russia’s mothballed “Skat” UCAV which has languished for years. China’s primary need for a stealth UCAV is for naval operations in disputed regions of the South and East China Sea.

That means it will need something to defend itself against fighters from U.S. carriers. If it doesn’t get integrated air-to-air weapons, expect it to act as a sensor for ground-based defenses and possibly take on an anti-ship role.

European-NEUROn_-_Dassault_Aviation-UCAV-drone-sits-on-display The Dassault nEUROn is a Pan-European UCAV designed for strike capabilities and technology testing. (Photo: Aerolegende CC BY-SA 3.0)

In addition to the UCAVs discussed above, there are a number of new drones designed to surveil and strike ground targets. Russia’s Skat was canceled, but its technology is incorporated into a new platform developed by Sukhoi, the same company that makes the PAK FA T-50.

Countries in the European Union, including Britain, are working together to develop a new UCAV for hitting ground targets that is based on the Taranis and the nEUROn, a UCAV produced by France; Italy; Sweden; Spain; Greece and Switzerland.

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Air Force awards Boeing $1.2 billion for 8 F-15EX fighters

The U.S. Air Force has awarded a contract to acquire its first fourth-plus-generation F-15EX fighter aircraft from Boeing Co.

The service said Monday that the nearly $1.2 billion contract will cover eight jets, including initial design, development, test and certification, plus spare parts and support equipment, training and technical data, and delivery and sustainment costs.


“The F-15EX is the most affordable and immediate way to refresh the capacity and update the capabilities provided by our aging F-15C/D fleets,” Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, said in a release. “The F-15EX is ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line.”

In January, officials posted a presolicitation notice with the intent of awarding two sole-source contracts, one for the F-15EX and the other for its F110 engines. The move initiated the Air Force’s first fourth-generation fighter program in more than 20 years.

Last month, the Air Force awarded General Electric a 1.4 million contract for the first, unspecified number of engines; however, Pratt Whitney — which makes the current F-15 Eagle engine — can also submit designs at its own expense after the company pushed back on the service’s sole-source objective.

According to Boeing, the F-15EX will be able to “launch hypersonic weapons up to 22 feet long and weighing up to 7,000 pounds.” The company has said the fighter will be equipped with better avionics and radars and could carry more than two dozen air-to-air missiles.

“The F-15EX is the most advanced version of the F-15 ever built, due in large part to its digital backbone,” said Lori Schneider, Boeing’s F-15EX program manager. “Its unmatched range, price and best-in-class payload capacity make the F-15EX an attractive choice for the U.S. Air Force.”

The service said the aircraft’s most significant upgrade will be its open mission systems architecture, allowing the plane’s software to be upgraded and installed more easily compared to its aging F-15C/D cousin, which the service has been on a quest to replace.

Officials voiced concerns in 2017 about the older Eagle model’s longevity.

“We are already having serious problems with that airframe, with metal fatigue within the longerons on the side of the aircraft,” then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said during a forum in May 2019.

Senior defense officials with the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office told reporters that they arrived at the Boeing-made F-15EX decision because the aircraft would help keep a “robust industrial base” and provide “a higher-capacity” combination alongside Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Air Force expects to keep a well-rounded mix of fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft through the 2030s, including the F-35A, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, A-10 Thunderbolt II and F-15 Eagle/Strike Eagle, officials have said.

“One of the considerations was the diversity of the industrial base,” a senior defense official said at the Pentagon on March 22, 2019. “Maintaining a diverse industrial base is in the best interest of the Department of Defense. The more diversity, the more competition … and the better prices we have.”

The Air Force plans to purchase a total of 76 F-15EX aircraft over the five-year Future Years Defense Program, known as the FYDP, officials said Monday. It intends to build an inventory of at least 144 aircraft over the next decade.

The first eight F-15EX aircraft will be based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for the testing wing at the base. The first two aircraft are expected to be delivered in fiscal 2021, and the remaining six in fiscal 2023, the release states.

“When delivered, we expect bases currently operating the F-15 to transition to the new EX platform in a matter of months versus years,” Holmes said.

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

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