Getting through the door on an enemy-held compound can be one of the most dangerous parts of a military operation. Luckily, the Simon is a rifle-fired grenade that allows soldiers to blow the door open from 15 to 30 meters away. The weapon, which is currently in testing, is pretty crazy in action.
During tests that concluded on September 1, US Marine Corps F-35Bs proved their ability to multitask in the exact kind of way they would need to while breaching an enemy air-defense zone.
The Marines at Edwards Air Base, California, completed multiple tests of AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles in complicated air-to-air and air-to-ground scenarios, but the highlight of the test involved a 500-pound laser-guided bomb.
An F-35B successfully dropped the 500 pounder and supported it with onboard sensors to hit a ground target while simultaneously shooting down an unmanned F-16 drone with the AIM-120.
“This was a phenomenally successful deployment that was made possible by the close coordination between the JSF Operational Test Team, US Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and industry,” Lt. Col. Rusnok, the officer in charge of the testing said in a statement emailed to Business Insider.
This test exemplifies the “multi-role” aspect of the F-35, functioning as a fighter jet and a bomber in the same moment. This test also likely means that the Navy, Air Force, and any other partner nations flying the F-35 variants will have this capability too.
Furthermore, it’s much like what future F-35 pilots could expect when breaching enemy airspace, in that they’d have to deal with multiple threats at once.
Should an F-35 be detected, which would be difficult, air defenses as well as fighter planes would immediately scramble to address the threat. So for an F-35, multitasking is a must and now, a proven reality.
The US Navy has shed light on a previously highly classified project meant to protect aircraft carriers from the grave and widespread threat of torpedoes, and it’s been a massive failure.
Virtually every navy the US might find itself at war against can field torpedoes, or underwater self-propelled bombs that have been sinking warships for more than 100 years.
US Navy aircraft carriers represent technological marvels, as they’re floating airports powered by nuclear reactors. But after years of secretive tests, the US has given up on a program to protect the ships against torpedoes.
“In September 2018, the Navy suspended its efforts to develop the [surface ship torpedo defense] system. The Navy plans to restore all carriers to their normal configurations during maintenance availabilities” over the next four years, the report said.
(Photo by Michael D. Cole)
Essentially, the report said that over five years the program made some progress in finding and knocking down incoming torpedoes, but not enough. Data on the reliability of the systems remains either too thin or nonexistent.
This leaves the US Navy’s surface ships with almost no defense against a submarine’s primary anti-surface weapon at a time when the service says that Russia’s and China’s submarine fleets have rapidly grown to pose a major threat to US ships.
The US ignored the threat of torpedoes, and now anyone with half a navy has a shot
The new class of speedy torpedoes can’t be guided, but can fire straight toward US Navy carriers that have little chance of detecting them.
Torpedoes don’t directly collide with a ship, but rather use an explosion to create an air bubble under the ship to bend or break the keel, sinking the ship.
High-speed underwater missile Shkval-E.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
Other Russian torpedoes have a range of 12 miles and can zigzag to beat countermeasures when closing in on a ship.
In a combat exercise off the coast of Florida in 2015, a small French nuclear submarine, the Saphir, snuck through multiple rings of carrier-strike-group defenses and scored a simulated kill on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and half its escort ships, Reuters reported. Other US naval exercises have seen even old-fashioned, diesel-electric submarines sinking carriers.
Even unsophisticated foes such as North Korea and Iran can field diesel-electric submarines and hide them in the noisy littoral waters along key US Navy transit routes.
The US Navy can deploy “nixies” or noise-making decoys that the ship drags behind it to attract torpedoes, but it must detect the incoming torpedoes first.
A US Navy carrier at 30 knots runs just 10 knots slower than a standard torpedo, but with a flight deck full of aircraft and personnel, pulling tight turns to dodge an incoming torpedo presents problems of its own.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
One of the eight engines powering a Boeing B-52 bomber flying over Minot Air Force Base on Wednesday quite literally fell right off the aircraft.
The unarmed aircraft, which was on a training flight at the North Dakota base, landed safely and none of the crew were injured, an Air Force spokesman told Defense News.
The service has already initiated an investigation into what went wrong. All crew members of a B-52 that crashed in May 2016 escaped without injury, though a 2008 crash killed all six crew members on board.
The B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber jet aircraft powered by eight Pratt Whitney engines. It was first introduced in 1955, though it has continually been upgraded and maintained.
The Air Force has just over 75 B-52s still in service today, which are slated to last into 2040, according to Defense News.
The B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber is expected to replace the aging B-52 fleet once it’s introduced some time in the mid-2020s.
Conversations with Google Home or Amazon Alexa have never been strictly confidential — both companies have admitted that they send some audio snippets to workers who listen to voice recordings to help improve the software.
But a group of whitehat hackers have now demonstrated that third-party apps hosted by Google Home or Alexa can also log users’ conversations, even after tricking users into thinking the apps aren’t active.
Developers at Germany’s Security Research Labs created four Alexa “skills” and four Google Home “actions” that pose as astrology apps or random number generators but are designed to secretly listen to people’s voice and send a transcript back to third-party servers. Certain versions of the app mimic Alexa or Google Assistant, pretending to offer a software update and asking users to input their password.
All eight of the apps passed Amazon or Google security checks, meaning they could have been made available for public download on either platform, according to the researchers.
“Customer trust is important to us, and we conduct security reviews as part of the skill certification process,” an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider. “We quickly blocked the skill in question and put mitigations in place to prevent and detect this type of skill behavior and reject or take them down when identified. It’s also important that customers know we provide automatic security updates for our devices, and will never ask them to share their password.”
A Google spokesperson told Business Insider that the company is taking steps to prevent similar issues going forward.
“All Actions on Google are required to follow our developer policies, and we prohibit and remove any Action that violates these policies. We have review processes to detect the type of behavior described in this report, and we removed the Actions that we found from these researchers. We are putting additional mechanisms in place to prevent these issues from occurring in the future,” the Google spokesperson said.
Here’s how the apps work: First, they gave users the expected message — either a randomly generated number or a brief horoscope. Next, the apps go silent, giving users the impression that the software has closed, while still listening to conversations and sending a copy of transcripts to a third-party server.
The malicious apps can also impersonate Alexa or Google Home to ask users for sensitive information. As demonstrated in the videos below, the apps give the impression that the software has closed, then impersonate Alexa to prompt users to input their password to download a software update.
It leads the United States’ war against ISIS and with 75 aircraft on its deck has the ability to carry out numerous combat sorties a day. On July 3, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the USS George H. W. Bush docked opposite the Haifa Port and became the first sitting head of state to visit America’s largest and most lethal floating war machine.
The docking of the ship on July 1 marked the first time an aircraft carrier visited Israel in 17 years.
“The visit of the USS George H.W. Bush speaks to the enduring commitment to our shared interests and a commitment to fight against our common enemies,” Commanding Officer Capt. Will Pennington told reporters during a visit to the ship. According to a statement by the US European Command, the ship’s visit is meant “to enhance US-Israel relations as the two nations reaffirm their continued commitment to the collective security of the European and Middle East Regions.”
According to Pennington, the crew is constantly engaged in cooperation with Israel, including sharing intelligence.
“There is a tremendous network of shared intelligence. As you are aware the airspace in the region is very, very, busy with lots of different actors so the need to deconflict that and make sure that everyone understands their missions is very important,” he said.
Visiting the ship with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Netanyahu recalled his visit to another aircraft carrier 20 years ago.
“So much has changed since the first time I visited… our ties have gotten stronger and deeper,” he said. “It is a floating island of America. It is a symbol of freedom and strength and victory.”
The USS George H.W. Bush was in the region to participate in the fight against ISIS, carrying out its last operational mission on June 30. With 20-25 sorties per day, aircraft aboard the ship have carried out 1,600 sorties over both Syria and Iraq, striking targets in Mosul and in the vicinity of Raqqa on missions that can last seven to nine hours.
The targets which are directed by the coalition ground commander, are sometimes known prior to take-off and pilots have sometimes also received targets while in the air.
According to Carrier Air Wing 8 Captain James A. McCall, one of the real-time targets was the Syrian jet that was downed on June 18 in southern Raqqa province by one of the jets stationed on the aircraft carrier.
“The jet came within visual distance” McCall said, stating that US jets “warned the Syrian aircraft that they were approaching coalition friendlies. They (the Syrian regime jet) ignored the warning and even dropped bombs on the friendlies,” he said referring to the Syrian Democratic Force who are supported by the coalition.
Towards the end of its seven-month deployment, the USS George H.W. Bush arrived in Haifa after a 40 day voyage from Dubai.
While the ship will not be taking part in any joint exercises with the Israeli Navy, Israel provided security as it pulled into the Haifa Bay allowing the ship’s strike group to continue to other missions and port calls.
“We are very tightly linked with our colleagues and partners and allies from the IDF and have been for very many years,” Pennington said.
Speaking at a ceremony aboard the carrier, Admiral Michelle J. Howard, commander of the US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, stated that the visit marks “a special moment” between Israel and the United States which “has had long standing military to military engagements with Israel.”
“In this visit to Israel, the ship’s might is a metaphor for the strength of the bonds between our countries. I’d like to thank the Israeli people for hosting us and for taking care of our Sailors,” she added.
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, who visited the ship on Sunday stated that it was “a timely show of American power projection and deterrence capability.”
“Its support for the countries fighting Islamic extremism and terror and Iran is very important, especially now when Iran is working to create facts on the ground in Syria, including a port on the Mediterranean, and Hezbollah continues to build its arsenal with more advanced and precise missiles.”
Okay let’s be honest, it’s the combat planes that get most of the attention.
What airplane did “Top Gun” turn into a star? The F-14 Tomcat. “Iron Eagle’s” sex appeal came from the spritely F-16 Fighting Falcon. Even “Flight of the Intruder” made the portly A-6 Intruder attack plane the belle of the ball.
An E-2D Hawkeye and a C-2A Greyhound assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 fly over USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship travels to its new home port of San Diego, California. Zumwalt was commissioned in Baltimore, Maryland, Oct. 15 and is the first in a three-ship class of the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced multi-mission guided-missile destroyers. (U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt/Released)
So, where does that leave some of the support planes? Out in the cold, and that just ain’t fair.
A Navy release on Oct. 21 centers on one of the most important planes in a carrier’s air wing – the E-2 Hawkeye airborne radar and control plane. Specifically, the new E-2D, which is making its Pacific Fleet debut with Air Wing 11 on board USS Nimitz (CVN 68), is a game-changer for the Sea Service.
The E-2D made its debut with the fleet last year with VAW-125 when USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) deployed to the Middle East, Mediterranean Sea, and in the Western Pacific.
The E-2 has been in service since 1964 – sharing the same airframe as the C-2 Greyhound carrier onboard delivery, or “COD,” aircraft. Initially, it used the AN/APS-138 radar, which was later replaced with the AN/APS-145. The E-2C entered service in 1971, and since then has been continuously upgraded.
The E-2D, though, adds a new radar, the AN/APY-9. This Active Electronically Scanned Array radar not only provides more detection capability, it makes it harder for an opposing plane to know if it is being seen.
The E-2D has far more than better eyes, though. It also can help guide missiles like the AIM-120 AMRAAM and the RIM-174 SM-6 against aerial targets.
But wait, there’s more! The E-2D also has some other upgrades that will help make this plane even more of a game-changer than it was before. It will gain a mid-air refueling capability, enabling it to stay aloft longer. It also will feature a glass cockpit, which not only improves situational awareness for the crew, but will allow the plane’s co-pilot to serve as a tactical controller in emergencies.
So, give the E-2 its due. Without this plane, it’s a safe bet that Maverick and Iceman would probably have no idea where the bandits were until it was too late.
The U.S. Army has re-embraced sleeve rolling to the rejoicing of soldiers around the world.
But many soldiers have never rolled their uniform sleeves, and none have done it in the past few years. Plus, the current uniforms have pockets and pen holders that make it difficult to roll the sleeve in a neat manner.
Luckily, the Army spotted the problem and released a video through the Defense Media Activity that shows exactly how modern troops should roll camo-out sleeves.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
WATERS NEAR GUAM (Aug. 12, 2015) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) fires a Harpoon missile during a live-fire drill.
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Dionne/USN
PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 11, 2015) An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Raptors of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 prepares to land aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) as the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung Hoon (DDG 93) follows behind during a show of force transit.
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andre T. Richard/USN
SAN DIEGO (Aug. 11, 2015) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class Eric Brown moves his belongings from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 76) to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane/USN
A Marine with 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, engages his target during a deck shoot aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex. The Marines practiced shooting from behind a barricade to simulate staying behind cover during a fire fight.
Photo by: Cpl. Elize McKelvey/USMC
Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa practice clearing a house during a two-week infantry training package, August 4-15, 2015, aboard Naval Station Rota, Spain.
Photo by: Staff Sgt. Vitaliy Rusavskiy/USMC
Staff Sgt. Fred Frizzell, an 823rd Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron pavements and construction equipment operator, operates a drilling rig at a well site in Brisas del Mar, Honduras.
Photo by: Capt. David J. Murphy/USAF
Maintainers with the 801st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron were flown out to Eglin Range Complex, Fla., to perform routine repairs on a CV-22B Osprey.
Photo by: Senior Airman Christopher Callaway/USAF
Soldiers, assigned to 4th Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment, paddle across a lake on a water obstacle course, created by Polish soldiers from the 6th Airborne Brigade, during Operation Atlantic Resolve, at the Nowa Deba Training Area, Poland.
Photo by: Spc. Marcus Floyd/US Army
Soldiers, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, move through the smoke to clear their next objective during a live-fire exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Photo by: Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez/US Army
Thank you all for following CGC JAMES as we continue on with our inaugural adventure. These past few days have been remarkable and we look forward to continue to honor Joshua James’ memory and legacy.
Photo by: Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelley/USCG
CGC Stratton crewmembers open a semi-submersible in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
The media’s craze surrounding possible Russian interference with the US election through hacking isn’t going away anytime soon. Though the hype is primarily political, it’s important to separate fact from fantasy.
Tangibly, the overarching processes that corporations and nation-states use to gain advantage over a competitor or adversary are quite common. It’s important to evaluate how these attacks are used in the world today. The two main vectors used to attempt to exploit our election were Spear-Phishing and Spoofing.
Spear-phishing targets select groups of people that share common traits. In the event of the Russian hack, the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, and affiliated non-governmental organizations (companies, organizations, or individuals loyal to Russia), sent phishing emails to members of local US governments, and the companies that developed the voting-registration systems.
Their intent was to establish a foothold on a victim’s computer, so as to perpetrate further exploitation. The end-result of that exploitation could allow manipulation and exfiltration of records, the establishment of a permanent connection to the computer, or to pivot to other internal systems.
Spoofing is an act in which one person or program successfully masquerades as another by falsifying data, thus gaining an illicit benefit. Most people understand spoofing in terms of email, whereby an attacker spoofs, or mimics, a legitimate email in order to solicit information, or deploy an exploit.
As it relates to the Russian situation, spoofing a computer’s internet protocol (IP) address, system name, and more, could have allowed a successful spear-phisher to bypass defenses and pivot to other internal systems. This kind of act is so trivial, some techniques are taught in basic hacking courses.
Ignore the Hype
What we know from reporting, as backed by unauthorized disclosures, is that defense mechanisms appear to have caught each of the spear-phishing and spoof attempts. Simply put, there is no information to suggest Russia had success.
For political reasons, politicians have worked hard to make this a major talking-point. However, these same politicos cannot speak in absolutes, because there simply wasn’t a successful breach—let alone one able to compromise the integrity of our national election.
One piece of information to note: these attacks are some of the most common seen in the cyber world. There is nothing revolutionary about these vectors, or how they are employed against government, commercial, and financial targets. This isn’t to suggest it is a moral or acceptable practice, rather the reality of life in the Information Age.
I would be remiss if I didn’t make a note about the way Hollywood (and media in general) portrays hacking in a way that is mystical and comical. The portrayals only serve to conflate an issue that is easily managed with thoughtful consideration and implementation of best-practices.
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, military surplus gear is like a box of chocolates — you never know what’s inside until you open it up and look.
For one lucky buyer, Nick Mead, who owns a tank-driving experience business in the United Kingdom, a $38,000 purchase of a Chinese-built Type 69 main battle tank off of eBay was a bargain, since he scored $2,592,010 of gold that had been hidden in the vehicle’s diesel tank! That represents a net profit of over $2.55 million.
According to militaryfactory.com, a battle-ready Type 69 main battle tank is armed with a 100mm gun, a 7.62mm machine gun, and can be equipped with a 12.7mm machine gun. The tank has a crew of four. Over 4,700 of these tanks were produced by China.
But this tank, while produced by China, was exported to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Saddam bought as many as 2,500 Type 59 and Type 69 tanks. While many were destroyed during Operation Desert Storm, this one survived the BRRRRRT!
The tank is believed to have also taken part in the original invasion of Kuwait. During the occupation of that country, Iraqi forces looted just about everything that wasn’t blasted apart. That included gold and other valuables.
Mead discovered the gold when checking out the tank after he’d been told by the tank’s previous owner that he’s discovered some machine-gun ammo on board. Mead then discovered the gold hidden in the fuel tank.
Currently the five bars of gold, each weighing about 12 pounds, are in police custody as they try to trace the original owners.
The Air Force plans to arm its fleet of drones and fighter jets with high-tech laser weapons able to incinerate enemy targets from the sky, service officials said.
Aircraft-launched laser weapons could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.
Lasers use intense heat and light energy to precisely incinerate targets without causing a large explosion – and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“The promise of directed energy is that electricity is cheap. Plus, you get the speed of light working for you so incoming missiles are easier to shoot at,” Zacharias said.
Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.
Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, was slated to take place last year at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., service officials said. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.
The first airborne tests are expected to take place by 2021, Air Force officials have said.
The developmental efforts are focused on increasing the power, precision and guidance of existing laser weapon applications with the hope of moving from 10-kilowatts up to 100 kilowatts, Air Force leaders said.
Air Force weapons developers are also working on the guidance mechanisms to enable laser weapons to stay on-track on a particular target, Zacharias added.
Zacharias explained that much of the needed development involves engineering the size weight and power trades on an aircraft needed to accommodate an on-board laser weapon. Developing a mobile power-source small enough to integrate onto a fast-moving fighter jet remains a challenge for laser technology, he added.
“The other part is all the component technology. You are going to give up fuel or some armaments. It is not just getting enough power on board it is getting the aiming technology. Its dealing with turbulent air flow on a high-speed platform,” Zacharias said.
Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.
Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.
Air Force Special Operations Command has commissioned both Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.
A key advantage of using laser weapons would include an ability to melt or incinerate an incoming missile or enemy target without necessarily causing an explosion.
Another advantage is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapons system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts explained.
Drones Fire Lasers
Air Force drones will also one day fire high-tech laser weapons to destroy high-value targets, conduct precision strikes and incinerate enemy locations from the sky, senior service officials told Scout Warrior.
When it comes to drones, there does not yet appear to be a timetable for when fired lasers would be operational weapons – however weapons technology of this kind is moving quickly.
Zacharias also said future laser weapons could substantially complement existing ordnance or drone-fired weapons such as a Hellfire missile.
Laser weapons allow for an alternative method of destroying targets, rapid succession of fire, reduced expenditure of dollars and, quite possibly, increased precision, service officials have explained.
For instance, a key advantage of using laser weapons would include an ability to melt or incinerate an incoming missile or enemy target without necessarily causing an explosion. This would be of particular relevance, for example, in air attack such as the current campaign against ISIS over Iraq and Syria.
ISIS fighters are known to deliberately blend in among civilians, therefore making it difficult to pinpoint enemy targets without endangering innocent civilians. Precision attacks without an explosion, therefore, would provide a useful additional tactical option.
Zacharias said laser-armed drones could likely provide an impactful part of an on-the-move arsenal of weapons.
“You might want to put lasers on board so you have a distributed package when you have a bunch of different platforms carrying different parts – of weapons, sensors and even fuel in one very expensive fighter package. It is like having distributed satellite. You could have distributed fighter packages as well,” Zacharias said.
Firing laser weapons would certainly provide a different option than a 100-pound, explosive, tank and building-killing Hellfire missile.
Although firing lasers from drones is expected to be more complicated than arming fighter jets or aircraft with lasers, the existing development of laser weapon technology is quite likely to inform drone-laser development as well.
As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a drone will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.
While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacarias explained.
“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.
Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.
We think of drone warfare as a post-9/11 phenomenon, but they’ve been around a lot longer than that. Here are a few high points in the history of pilotless aerial war machines:
1849 — Austrians launch nearly 200 pilotless balloons mounted with bombs against the city of Venice.
1862 – Both sides of the American Civil War use pilotless balloons for reconnaissance and bombing sorties.
1898 – The U.S. military fits a camera to a kite during the Spanish-American War, producing the first ever aerial reconnaissance photos.
1916 — The Royal Flying Corps took over 19,000 aerial photographs and collected a staggering 430,000 prints during the five months of the Battle of the Somme. (This visual analysis upturned the horse as the dominant technology of military reconnaissance.)
1943 — The GB-1 Glide Bomb was developed to bypass German air defenses. It was a workable glider fitted with a standard 1,000 or 2,000-pound bomb. Made with plywood wings, rudders, and controlled by radio, the GB-1s were dropped from B-17s and then guided by bombardiers to their target below. One hundred and eight GB-1s were dropped on Cologne, causing heavy damage.
1945 — Operation Aphrodite was one of the most ambitious drone projects in the Second World War. The plan was to strike concealed German laboratories with American B-17 “Flying Fortresses” and B-24 bombers that were stripped down and crammed with explosives. A manned crew would pilot these planes before parachuting out once they crossed the English Channel. At that moment, a nearby “mothership” would take control, receiving live feed from an on-board television camera. Despite the inventiveness of the U.S. Air Force and Navy, Aphrodite was a military failure. It even claimed the life of Joseph Kennedy Jr, after his B-17 exploded over the English countryside.
1946 — “Pilotless Aircraft Branch” of the U.S. Air Force was established to develop three types of drones for use as training targets. Of the three, the airborne-launched Q-2 was the most important, becoming the “father” of a class of target drones.
1964 — The U.S. first began to consider sending drones to replace its U-2s in spying missions over Cuba. Lightning Bugs flown by U.S. Strategic Air Command were subsequently used for surveillance in so-called “denied areas” across an increasingly widening Cold War battlespace including Cuba, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China.
1968 – Drones used extensively over North Vietnam for surveillance, marking a shift from being “targets” to remote “sensor” platforms that could check out the landscape below.
1973 — The Philco-Ford Corporation developed a laser designator that could be attached to a Ryan BGM-34B Firebee drone, with the aim of creating a “strike drone.”
1989 – DARPA seed money funds development of the GNAT, which was equipped with GPS navigation that allowed for autonomous missions of up to 48 hours, and also housed infrared and low-light cameras in a moveable sensor turret under its nose.
1994 – CIA bypasses acquisition rules to rapidly field the GNAT-750 and begins flying top secret missions over Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the CIA director at the time, “I could sit in my office, call up a classified channel and in an early version of e-mail type messages to a guy in Albania asking him to zoom in on things.”
1995 — Predators – the follow-on version of the GNAT-750s — were shown in an aviation demonstration at Fort Bliss. Impressed by the drone’s capabilities, the U.S. Air Force soon established its very first UAV squadron, the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Indian Springs Auxiliary Airfield in Nevada, later named as Creech Air Force Base.
2000 — After the CIA’s Predator drone spotted who it believed was bin Laden at Tarnak Farm, Afghanistan, research went into shortening the kill-chain: getting Tomahawk missiles to fly from a submarine in the Arabian Sea to southern Afghanistan would take six hours to go through military protocols. The Predator’s Hellfire was the solution. At Indian Springs, Nevada, a program was born under the Air Force’s “Big Safari” office, a classified division in charge of developing secret intelligence programs for the military. In 2001 tests were made to turn the hunter into a killer.
2001 — The armed Predator program was activated days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, with Predators reaching Afghanistan by September 16th 2001, and armed Predators reaching the country on October 7th. About the same time President Bush signed a directive that created a secret list of High Value Targets that the CIA was authorized to kill without further Presidential approval.
2002 — The agency’s Predator unleashed a Hellfire missile at a “tall man” and his lieutenants in February near the city of Khost, believing the man to be none other than bin Laden. But the analysts had acquired the wrong target. This time, it was innocent civilians gathering up scrap metal. All were killed.
2003 — Drones’ cameras and sensors linked to the global telecommunications system. Now a drone can be piloted—and its live feed viewed and its missiles aimed—from anywhere in the world. The drone pilots are now insulated from the risks of combat.
2010 – The most prolific year of drone strikes on President Obama’s watch. CIA authorized to strike targets beyond approved kill list — individuals with a suspicious ‘pattern of life’ or daily behavior.
2011 –RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drones used to monitor Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, and that intel is used to plan and conduct the raid that results in his death.