Certain brand names become synonymous with their primary product, despite other companies making similar products. ArmaLite with AR-15 style rifles, Kleenex with facial tissues, Sharpie with permanent marker, etc. When it comes to the famous Swiss Army Knife, Victorinox is the brand that most people think of. However, it wasn’t the only brand.
Victorinox was founded in Switzerland in 1884. Later in the 19th century, the company began supplying knives to the Swiss Army. In 1897, the company patented its knife design which was later marketed as the Original Swiss Army Knife. Twelve years later, Victorinox adopted the Swiss coat of arms as its logo which it still uses today. However, between 1908 and 2005, there was one other supplier of knives to the Swiss Army.
Wenger was founded in Switzerland after Victorinox in 1893. Originally a manufacturer of utensils, the company expanded from spoons and forks and into knives to meet a contract for the Swiss Army. The contract was split 50/50 between Wenger and Victornix. Interestingly, the split contract also represented the two sides of Switzerland itself. Wenger was located in a French-speaking area of the country whereas Victorinox was located in a German-speaking area.
With both companies vying for their share of the civilian market, a compromise was reached between the Swiss Army Knife manufacturers. Victorinox marketed itself as Original Swiss Army Knifes while Wenger marketed itself as Genuine Swiss Army Knives. Though both claims were true, the two slogans led to some confusion between the two red pocket knives for the average consumer.
Following the events of 9/11, these types of knives suffered in the market. Increased security regulations prevented the carrying of pocket knives and eliminated a huge portion of sales through duty-free airport shops. On April 26, 2005, Victornix bought out Wenger and eliminated their competition. The Wenger brand was kept intact until 2013 when it was completely merged into Victorinox.
Today, the last remnant of the separate Wenger brand is the Victorinox Wenger knife. It features Wenger’s original logo and classic 7 functions. Still, original Wenger products can be found on the used market for the discerning enthusiast who appreciates a quality Swiss product from the past.
There’s a good chance that if you were to take a guess as to which warship was the most decorated ship in US Navy history, you’d probably get it wrong. In fact, you’d probably be shocked to learn that this vessel never once fired a shot in anger, despite being armed at all times throughout its career. If you’re confused now, that’s good… that’s exactly the way the Navy wanted it, at least while the USS Parche was still in active service during the Cold War and beyond.
When construction began on the Parche in 1970, nobody, not even the Mississippi shipbuilders toiling away at bringing the vessel to life, had any idea about what their project would eventually become. Indeed, Parche was just another hunter/killer nuclear submarine, designed to tail and destroy enemy surface and underwater combatants with its deadly loadout of torpedoes. Ordered as part of the Sturgeon class, it was commissioned in 1974 and served for two years in the Atlantic Fleet in its originally-intended role.
In 1976, Parche was moved to the Pacific fleet and modified for the first time. Not much is publicly known about this initial retrofit, but the submarine’s service exploits fell out of the public eye very quickly. As it turns out, the Navy selected Parche to support the National Underwater Reconnaissance Office — a highly secretive joint partnership between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Navy.
(US Navy photo by PHC Jones)
Over the next few years, Parche’s mission set rapidly evolved from functioning as a typical run-of-the-mill attack submarine, to a ghost-like spy submarine, outfitted with monitoring gear, reconnaissance, and surveillance systems. The submarine force is often known as the “silent service” due to the fact that submarines work best when undetected. NURO and the Navy took this a step further with crews assigned to the Parche, swearing them to absolute secrecy, owing to the nature of their command’s job.
By the end of the 1970s, Parche had already made multiple trips into the Sea of Okhotsk, along with the USS Halibut and the USS Seawolf, to wiretap Soviet communications cablesas part of Operation Ivy Bells. These wiretaps, undetected until a National Security Agency leak in the mid-80s, proved to be extremely invaluable in picking up Soviet military intelligence. The Parche also assisted with recovering the fragments of Soviet anti-shipping rockets, so that the Navy could analyze them and develop countermeasures to safeguard its own vessels.
Parche, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, underwent a number of additional overhauls that beefed up its surveillance apparatus, adding cameras and an elongated hull to make room for more gear and a larger crew complement, among other things. Like the USS Seawolf, the Parche was given a set of “skegs,” or underwater skids, earlier on. These skegs allowed it to sit on the ocean floor while divers moved in and out of the hull of the submarine on wiretap and debris recovery missions.
By the early 2000s, Parche had gotten too old for its missions. The Sturgeon-class was already almost fully retired from the Navy, having been replaced by the Los Angeles and Seawolf classes of hunter/killer nuclear boats. Eventually, in 2004, the decision was made to pull the aging spy submarine, euphemistically referred to as a “special projects platform,” from active service for its long-overdue retirement.
After around 30 years of service, Parche was decommissioned and scrapped, though her sail with its markings was removed and placed on display in Bremerton, Washington. Today, the USS Jimmy Carter, a Seawolf-class submarine, serves the same purpose and operates under the same conditions that Parche did, functioning as America’s premier spy sub.
Even though Parche’s exploits will remain hidden from public sight for decades to come, one only has to look at the marks that denote 9 Presidential Unit Citations, 10 Navy Unit Commendations and 13 Navy Expeditionary Medals, to know that Parche served her country faithfully in the most daring of circumstances throughout her hushed-up career.
It’s no secret the military is committed to drones, and manufacturers from around the world are coming up with crazy designs to capture defense dollars. To wit, at this year’s Atlanta Unmanned Systems conference, drones that resembled everything from miniature death stars to flying saucers were showcased. Check out this video to see some of them in action:
Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.
“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”
The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.
“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.
Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the
Small Arms Review.
Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.
This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:
Much has been written about the threat of Islamic State militants’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly known as drones, over the embattled city of Mosul.
IS was quick to weaponize UAVs with small improvised explosive devices.
On Jan. 24, they released a video showing up to 19 different aerial attacks by commercially purchased UAVs — the kind of drone you can buy in any shopping center. Iraqi forces have followed suit by attaching modified 40mm grenades with shuttlecock stabilizers onto their larger UAVs to drop on IS positions.
A crude inaccurate way of killing terrorists, its effectiveness is questionable. Weaponized IS UAVs have mainly been used to target Iraqi military commanders and troops congregating in the open near the front line.
It’s a low-end, low-altitude attack that can be thwarted by keeping in hard cover.
But both sides use the UAV’s more effectively as a means of providing Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, known as ISR.
Islamic State UAVs in the air, once identified, are the warning that something is about to happen — either mortar fire, which is typically one hastily fired inaccurate round — before coalition air superiority can locate and target the firing point.
Or, more devastatingly, the launching of a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device, an SVBIED.
Since the Battle for Mosul officially started on Oct. 16, 2016, hundreds of SVBIEDs have been launched.
Recently, Sky News’ Special Correspondent Alex Crawford and cameraman Garwen McLuckie faced a number of SVBIEDs during their reporting from West Mosul’s front line.
Each time a small UAV was hovering high above. One occasion two were spotted.
Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay, cameraman Nathan Hale and Producer Haider Kata were also targeted by a SVBIED. On this occasion the UAV filmed the SVBIED (an armored Fronting Loader) to its intended target, a tank.
Later, the video was posted on Islamic State websites.
Due to the built-up urban area and the ever-changing nature of the battle, IS drivers of the SVBIEDs are believed to be hiding in garages with their heavily armoured explosive-laden vehicles. Modified with armor at the front and cameras on the wing mirrors, they provide militants with a 360-degree view of the battlefield and are notoriously difficult to stop.
They wait as the Iraqi forces move slowly forward, seizing ground and minimizing the driving distance to strike.
If they launch too early, the SVBIED will be exposed to air strikes or anti-tank fire, the only two real ways of neutralizing the vehicle.
But hidden IS drivers may not know the exact location of the moving Iraqi forces or be familiar with the streets and or access routes to their targets.
This is where the UAV is the key component to the attack.
The operators of the UAV act as navigators for the suicide driver; guiding him by radio or cell phone through battle-worn streets, they can help deliver the driver to his intended target with greater efficiency and accuracy.
This is a deadly combination.
The coalition has attempted to blanket all of Mosul in a red no-fly zone for commercially purchased UAVs, but this has been thwarted by either smart software adjustments to the unit or by placing aluminum material over the GPS.
Other methods have included the Battelle Drone Defender gun (hand portable beam type weapon) and the Spynel infrared camera, which is used to locate incoming UAVs. Both have been very limited, as UAV use is usually confined within a few hundred meters at the very front of the fight where these systems are not always deployed.
If an IS UAV is sighted, the immediate response by Iraqi forces is to engage it with small and heavy weapons, a difficult shot when aiming at a high flying fast moving object of no more than a meter wide.
After the firing has stopped, all attention shifts to street level as experienced operators know the next thing coming will be more deadly.
Many harmless recreational drones have now become deadly tools of war.
The various developers of these off-the-shelf UAVs probably never envisaged that their products would be used in a lethal cat and mouse hunt through Mosul’s war-torn streets.
Developed over the course of decades, GPS has become far more ubiquitous than most people realize. Not just for navigation, its extreme accuracy in time keeping (+/- 10 billionths of a second) has been used by countless businesses the world over for everything from aiding in power grid management to helping manage stock market and other banking transactions. The GPS system essentially allows for companies to have near atomic clock level precision in their systems, including easy time synchronization across the globe, without actually needing to have an atomic clock or come up with their own systems for global synchronization. The problem is that, owing to a quirk of the original specifications, on April 6, 2019 many GPS receivers are about to stop working correctly unless the firmware for them is updated promptly. So what’s going on here, how exactly does the GPS system work, and who first got the idea for such a system?
On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. As you might imagine, this tiny satellite, along with subsequent satellites in the line, were closely monitored by scientists the world over. Most pertinent to the topic at hand today were two physicists at Johns Hopkins University named William Guier and George Weiffenbach.
As they studied the orbits and signals coming from the Sputnik satellites the pair realized that, thanks to how fast the satellites were going and the nature of their broadcasts, they could use the Doppler shift of the signal to very accurately determine the satellite’s position.
A replica of Sputnik 1.
Not long after, one Frank McClure, also of Johns Hopkins University, asked the pair to study whether it would be possible to do this the other way around. They soon found that, indeed, using the satellite’s known orbit and studying the signal from it as it moved, the observer on the ground could in a relatively short time span determine their own location.
This got the wheels turning.
Various systems were proposed and, in some cases, developed. Most notable to the eventual evolution of GPS was the Navy’s Navigation Satellite System (also known as the Navy Transit Program), which was up and running fully by 1964. This system could, in theory, tell a submarine or ship crew where they were within about 25 meters, though location could only be updated about once per hour and took about 10-15 minutes to acquire. Further, if the ship was moving, the precision would be off by about one nautical mile per 5 knots of speed.
Another critical system to the ultimate development of GPS was known as Timation, which initially used quartz clocks synchronized on the ground and on the satellites as a key component of how the system determined where the ground observer was located. However, with such relatively imprecise clocks, the first tests resulted in an accuracy of only about 0.3 nautical miles and took about 15 minutes of receiving data to nail down that location. Subsequent advancements in Timation improved things, even testing using an atomic clock for increased accuracy. But Timation was about to go the way of the Dodo.
By the early 1970s, the Navigation System Using Timing and Ranging (Navstar, eventually Navstar-GPS) was proposed, essentially combining elements from systems like Transit, Timation, and a few other similar systems in an attempt to make a better system from what was learned in those projects.
Fast-forward to 1983 and while the U.S. didn’t yet have a fully operational GPS system, the first prototype satellites were up and the system was being slowly tested and implemented. It was at this point that Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which originally departed from New York, refueled and took off from Anchorage, Alaska, bound for Seoul, South Korea.
What does this have to do with ubiquitous GPS as we know it today?
On its way, the pilots had an unnoticed autopilot issue, resulting in them unknowingly straying into Soviet airspace.
Convinced the passenger plane was actually a spy plane, the Soviets launched Su-15 jets to intercept the (apparently) most poorly crafted spy plane in history — the old “It’s so overt, it’s covert” approach to spying.
A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor.
Warning shots were fired, though the pilot who did it stated in a later interview, “I fired four bursts, more than 200 rounds. For all the good it did. After all, I was loaded with armor piercing shells, not incendiary shells. It’s doubtful whether anyone could see them.”
Not long after, the pilots of Korean Air 007 called Tokyo Area Control Center, requesting to climb to Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet) from Flight Level 330 (33,000 feet). This resulted in the aircraft slowing below the speed the tracking high speed interceptors normally operated at, and thus, them blowing right by the plane. This was interpreted as an evasive maneuver, even though it was actually just done for fuel economy reasons.
A heated debate among the Soviet brass ensued over whether more time should be taken to identify the plane in case it was simply a passenger airliner as it appeared. But as it was about to fly into international waters, and may in fact already have been at that point, the decision was made to shoot first and ask questions later.
The attacking pilot described what happened next:
“Destroy the target…!” That was easy to say. But how? With shells? I had already expended 243 rounds. Ram it? I had always thought of that as poor taste. Ramming is the last resort. Just in case, I had already completed my turn and was coming down on top of him. Then, I had an idea. I dropped below him about two thousand metres… afterburners. Switched on the missiles and brought the nose up sharply. Success! I have a lock on.
Two missiles were fired and exploded near the Boeing plane causing significant damage, though in a testament to how safe commercial airplanes typically are, the pilots were able to regain control over the aircraft, even for a time able to maintain level and stable flight. However, they eventually found themselves in a slow spiral which ended in a crash killing all 269 aboard.
As a direct result of this tragedy, President Ronald Reagan announced on Sept. 16, 1983, that the GPS system that had previously been intended for U.S. military use only would now be made available for everyone to use, with the initial idea being the numerous safety benefits such a system would have in civil aviation over using then available navigation tools.
This brings us to how exactly the GPS system works in the first place. Amazingly complex on some levels, the actual nuts and bolts of the system are relatively straightforward to understand.
To begin with, consider what happens if you’re standing in an unknown location and you ask someone where you are. They reply simply — “You are 212 miles from Seattle, Washington.”
You now can draw a circle on a map with radius 212 miles from Seattle. Assuming the person giving you that information is correct, you know you’re somewhere along that circular line.
Not super helpful at this point by itself, you then ask someone else, and they say, “You are 150 miles from Vancouver BC.” Now you’re getting somewhere. When you draw that circle on the map, you’ll see it intersects at two points. You are standing on one of those two points. Noticing that you are not, in fact, floating in the ocean, you could at this point deduce which point you are on, but work with us here people.
Instead of making such an assumption, you decide your senses are never to be trusted and, after all, Jesus stood on water, so why not you? Thus, you ask a third person — they say, “You are 500 miles from Boise, Idaho.” That circle drawn, you now know exactly where you are in two dimensional space. Near Kamloops, Canada, as it turns out.
This is more or less what’s happening with GPS, except in the case of GPS you need to think in terms of 3D spheres instead of 2D circles. Further, how the system tells you your exact distance from a reference point, in this case each of the satellites, is via transmitting the satellites’ exact locations in orbit and a timestamp of the exact time when said transmission was sent. This time is synchronized across the various satellites in the GPS constellation.
The receiver then subtracts the current known time upon receiving the data from that transmission time to determine the time it took for that signal to be transmitted from the satellites to its location.
Combining that with the known satellite locations and the known speed of light with which the radio signal was propagated, it can then crunch the numbers to determine with remarkable accuracy its location, with margins of error owing to things like the ionosphere interfering with the propagation of the signal, and various other real world factors such as this potentially throwing things off a little.
Even with these potential issues, however, the latest generation of the GPS system can, in theory, pinpoint your location within about a foot or about 30 centimeters.
You may have spotted a problem here, however. While the GPS satellites are using extremely precise and synchronized atomic clocks, the GPS system in your car, for example, has no such synchronized atomic clock. So how does it accurately determine how long it took for the signal to get from the satellite to itself?
It simply uses at least four, instead of three, satellites, giving it the extra data point it needs to solve the necessary equations to get the appropriate missing time variable. In a nutshell, there is only one point in time that will match the edge of all four spheres intersecting in one point in space on Earth. Thus, once the variables are solved for, the receiver can adjust its own time keeping appropriately to be almost perfectly synchronized, at least momentarily, with the much more precise GPS atomic clocks. In some sense, this makes GPS something of a 4D system, in that, with it, you can know your precise point in not only space, but time.
By continually updating its own internal clock in this way, the receiver on the ground ends up being nearly as accurate as an atomic clock and is a time keeping device that is then almost perfectly synchronized with other such receivers across the globe, all for almost no cost at all to the end users because the U.S. government is footing the bill for all the expensive bits of the system and maintaining it.
Speaking of that maintanence, another problem you may have spotted is that various factors can, and do, continually move the GPS satellites off their original orbits. So how is this accounted for?
Tracking stations on Earth continually monitor the exact orbits of the various GPS satellites, with this information, along with any needed time corrections to account for things like Relatively, frequently updated in the GPS almanac and ephemeris. These two data sets are used for holding satellite status and positional information and are regularly broadcast to receivers, which is how said receivers know exact positions of the satellites in the first place.
The satellites themselves can also have their orbits adjusted if necessary, with this process simply being to mark the satellite as “unhealthy” so receivers will ignore it, then move it to its new position, track that orbit, and once that is accurately known, update the almanac and ephemeris and mark the satellite as “healthy” again.
So that’s more or less how GPS came to be and how it works at a high level. What about the part where we said many GPS devices may potentially stop working very soon if not updated?
Near the turn of the century something happened that had never happened before in the GPS world — dubbed a “dress rehearsal for the Y2K bug”. You see, as a part of the time stamp sent by the GPS satellites, there is something known as the Week Number — literally just the number of weeks that have passed since an epoch, originally set to Jan. 6, 1980. Along with this Week Number the number of seconds since midnight on the previous Saturday evening is sent, thus allowing the GPS receiver to calculate the exact date.
Artist’s conception of GPS Block II-F satellite in Earth orbit.
So what’s the problem with this? It turns out every 1024 weeks (about every 19 years and 8 months) from the epoch, the number rolls back to 0 owing to this integer information being in 10 bit format.
Thus, when this happens, any GPS receiver that doesn’t account for the Week Number Rollover, will likely stop functioning correctly, though the nature of the malfunction varies from vendor to vendor and device, depending on how said vendor implemented their system.
For some, the bug might manifest as a simple benign date reporting error. For others, such a date reporting error might mean everything from incorrect positioning to even a full system crash.
If you’ve done the math, you’ve probably deduced that this issue first popped up in August of 1999, only about four years after the GPS system itself was fully operational.
At this point, of course, GPS wasn’t something that was so ubiquitously depended on as it is today, with only 10-15 million GPS receivers in use worldwide in 1999 according to a 1999 report by the the United States Department of Commerce’s Office of Telecommunications. Today, of course, that number is in the billions of devices.
Thankfully, when the next Week Number Rollover event happens on April 6, 2019, it would seem most companies that rely on GPS for critical systems, like airlines, banking institutions, cell networks, power grids, etc., have already taken the necessary steps to account for the problem.
The more realistic problems with this second Week Number Rollover event will probably mostly occur at the consumer level, as most people simply are not aware of the issue at all.
Thankfully, if you’ve updated your firmware on your GPS device recently or simply own a GPS device purchased in the last few years, you’re probably going to be fine here.
However, should you own a GPS device that is several years old, that may not be the case and you’ll most definitely want to go to the manufacturer’s website and download any relevant updates before the second GPS epoch.
That public service announcement out of the way, if you’re now wondering why somebody doesn’t just change the specification altogether to stop using a 10 bit Week Number, well, you’re not the first to think of this. Under the latest GPS interface specifications, a 13 bit Week Number is now used, meaning in newer devices that support this, the issue won’t come up again for about a century and a half. As the machines are bound to rise up and enslave humanity long before that occurs, that’s really their issue to solve at that point.
Ever notice that your cell phone tends to lock on to your GPS position extremely quickly, even after having been powered off for a long time? How does it do this when other GPS devices must wait to potentially receive a fresh copy of the almanac and ephemeris? It turns out cell phones tend to use something called Assisted GPS, where rather than wait to receive that data from the currently orbiting GPS satellites, they will instead get it from a central server somewhere. The phone may also simply use its position in the cell phone network (using signals from towers around) to get an approximate location to start while it waits to acquire the signal from the GPS satellites, partially masking further delay there. Of course, assisted GPS doesn’t work if you don’t have a cell signal, and if you try to use your GPS on your phone in such a scenario you’ll find that if you turn off the GPS for a while and then later turn it back on, it will take a while to acquire a signal like any other GPS device.
Starting just before the first Gulf War, the military degraded the GPS signal for civilian use in order to keep the full accuracy of the system as a U.S. military advantage. However, in May of 2000, this policy was reversed by President Bill Clinton and civilian GPS got approximately ten times more accurate basically overnight.
The military also created the ability to selectively stop others from using GPS at all, as India discovered thanks to the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999. During the conflict, the U.S. blocked access to the GPS system from India owing to, at the time, better longstanding relations between the U.S. and Pakistan than the U.S. had with India. Thus, the U.S. didn’t want to seem like it was helping India in the war.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The US Air Force’s $2.2 billion B-2 Spirit bombers, a key component of US nuclear deterrence, are protected from “catastrophic” accidents by a $1.25 part designed by a group of high-school students.
Switch covers designed by the Stealth Panthers robotics team at Knob Noster High School are installed in the cockpits of all operational B-2 bombers at Whiteman Air Force Base, Air Force officials told Stars and Stripes.
The B-2 is one of the most advanced bombers in the world, as its low-observable characteristics render the 172-foot-wide bomber almost invisible to radar, allowing it to slip past enemy defenses and put valuable targets at risk.
A B-2 Spirit bomber taxis on a flightline.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester)
Designed with Soviet air-defense systems in mind, the bomber has been serving since the late 1980s. Recently, a handful of B-2 bombers have been training alongside F-22 Raptors in the Pacific, where China has been expanding its military footprint.
But even the best technology can often be improved.
A B-2 stealth bomber from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman made an emergency landing at an airport in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after an in-flight emergency last fall, Air Force Times reported, saying at the time that the incident was under investigation.
Apparently, the emergency was triggered by the accidental flip of a switch, among other unusual malfunctions.
“The B-2 Spirit cockpit is equipped with state-of-the-art, cutting-edge technology, but is a very cramped space, so something was needed to keep the pilots or other items from bumping into the switches,” Capt. Keenan Kunst told Stars and Stripes.
A B-2 Spirit bomber.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)
There are a series of four switches that are of particular concern. “The consequences could be catastrophic — especially if all four were flipped, in which case, ejection would be the only option,” Kunst told Stars and Stripes. “We recognized the switch posed a certain risk of inadvertent actuation and that we should take action to minimize this risk — no matter how small.”
And that’s where a handful of Missouri high schoolers had the answer to this particular problem.
Base leaders already had an established relationship the school, and some of the pilots had been mentoring members of the robotics team. Base personnel presented the issue to the students, and they began developing a solution. Working with pilots in a B-2 simulator, they were able to design and test the suitable switch cover.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
DARPA wants “gremlins” to fly out of the bellies of C-130s or other large planes, assist jets in bombing missions, and then return to their motherships for the flight home in order to be ready for another mission within 24 hours.
The gremlins are semi-autonomous drones that would hunt targets and find air defenses ahead of an attack by a piloted fighter or bomber. In some cases, the gremlins could even find and identify targets that their motherships would engage with low-cost cruise missiles.
Some of the drones could be configured as electronic warfare platforms, hiding themselves and the other aircraft from enemy air defenses or jamming the enemy radar altogether.
A typical mission would play out like this: A stealth jet would approach unfriendly airspace ahead of the gremlins’ mothership. The drones would launch and proceed ahead of the jet into hostile territory, seeking out enemy air defenses and mission objectives on the ground.
The jet pilots would then use the intelligence from the gremlins to decide how to engage the target, either with weapons on the jet or with cruise missiles from the mission truck that is still flying just outside of the enemy air defenses. Once the bombs or missiles take out the radar, other aircraft can now force their way into the country while the drones fly back into the mothership.
If everything comes together, the gremlins will be part of DARPA’s “System of Systems” project. The idea is a new weapons system that would work with different aircraft as time went on. So, the gremlins could fly from C-130s in support of F-22s and F-35s now, then support new aircraft as they’re added to the U.S. military arsenal.
When it comes to things like air superiority, if you don’t have to think about it, you’re probably winning. The ground pounders in the Armed Forces of the United States have it pretty good in that regard. They can be reasonably sure that if they’re going into a combat situation, death will likely not be coming from above.
The Army and Marine Corps know they can count on airmen to have the best food and the worst PT tests, but as long as those airmen can lift bombs and bullets onto aircraft and get the stuff to the fight, everyone is blessed from on high. Everyone allied with the United States, that is.
But what happens to ground troops who can’t depend on US airpower to ensure “death from above” isn’t the last thing they hear? There are countries whose armed forces have to deal with things like that. Some countries go to war and send in ground forces without really thinking about an air force. If air power isn’t a priority, going to war in the 21st century is a terrible idea.
We’re not here to make fun of countries who don’t have an air force, especially if they aren’t going around rattling sabers all the time. You never hear about Costa Rica wanting to invade Belize for their strategic scuba gear caches. No, Costa Rica is too busy getting rich from Americans on yoga trips to worry about things like war. Meanwhile, Iran is constantly talking smack to Israel while rolling around in F-14 Tomcats that Israel can see from the the runways where their F-35s take off.
But just because something is a little old doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its uses. If it works and the country can maintain its effectiveness, then why get rid of it? If a country has antiquated equipment but is still rocking it after all these years, we won’t take points off. Some things are just timeless.
The reason a country’s air force makes the list is because they’re patched together with bubble gum and wishes and expected to fight a war with awful training, no funding, and little regard from the government for the lives of the people expected to keep their terrible air forces flying.
A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet gives a shrug as it parks on the flight line at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Chase Cannon)
It’s still hard to see such a stalwart U.S. ally make the list, but here we are. In our last rundown of the world’s airborne worst, Canada was the least worst of those listed. Last time, we specifically mentioned how terrible the state of Canada’s Ch-124 Sea King fleet was. Just to get them airborne required something like 100 hours apiece.
Replacing them was just as laborious; it took more than 20 years of political wrangling to get to a point where they could first fly its replacement, the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone. But the helicopter fun doesn’t stop there. The bulk of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s helicopter fleet is flying the Bell CH-146 Griffon, a bird known to cause constant, debilitating neck pain in most of the pilots who fly it.
Canada never learned from its own cautionary tale – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed the F/A-18 Super Hornet for Canada’s next-gen Strike Fighter to replace the aging CF-18s ordered by his father in the 1970s while the rest of its Western Allies are upgrading to the F-35.
Can you see this stealth fighter? So can everyone else’s radar.
Yeah, I know most of you are calling bullsh*t immediately, but hear me out. For all its talk, China isn’t currently capable of global reach, and isn’t expected to be until 2030. It has a relatively small number of early-warning aircraft and aerial tankers. Most of its aerial fleet are licenses or rip-offs of other, better fighting systems. And the vaunted Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighter was rushed into production with a less-than-adequate engine, which negates any stealth capabilities it has and weakens its performance as a fifth-gen fighter.
That’s a pretty embarrassing misstep for an air force that wants to strike fear in the hearts of the world’s second-largest air force: the U.S. Navy.
More than that, when was the last time China did anything with its air force other than attempt to intimidate weaker neighbors in the South China Sea? Historically, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has a tendency to get in way over its head. It wasn’t a real factor in the Chinese wars with India and Vietnam (though you’d think an air force in the 20th century would be), but where it was a factor – the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait Crises, and the U.S.-Vietnam War – a lack of any air combat doctrine and investment in air power led to heavy losses and big lessons for the PLAAF.
It wasn’t until after the Gulf War of 1991 that Chinese leaders decided to really give air power another shot, both in terms of technology and investment. China still has a long way to go.
Greece, full of historical artifacts – like its air force.
There are a lot of training accidents in the Hellenic Air Force. After a Greek Mirage 2000 crashed into the Aegean Sea April 2018, a look back at the incidents reported to Greek officials found 125 people died in 81 crashes between 1990 and 2018. Two of those were Greek fighter pilots trying to intercept Turkish jets.
Since the Greek government debt crisis, the Greek military has to be incredibly cautious with the money it spends. Every time a Greek fighter has to scramble to intercept a Turkish fighter in their airspace, it bleeds Greece of Euros better spent elsewhere. That might be why Turkey does it more than a thousand times every year – and there’s nothing the Greeks can do about it except go up and meet them with antiquated equipment due to the steep budget cuts demanded by Greece’s creditors.
Turkey will soon be flying F-35s like most NATO allies, while Greece (also a NATO ally, but Turkey doesn’t care) will be “intercepting” them with F-16s at best, and maybe an F-4 Phantom at worst.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani not sitting in a museum piece, but an actual Iranian Air Force F5F fighter, first build in the 60s and still used in Iran.
(FARS News Agency)
The F-14s flown by Iran these days were first introduced under President Richard Nixon. Don’t get me wrong, Iran’s air force should be given props (see what I did there?) for keeping the aging fleet airborne. Iran’s F-14s were purchased by the Shah or Iran and, when he was overthrown, the U.S. wasn’t exactly keen on providing spare parts to the Islamic Republic. They were able to kick ass against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi air force in the Iran-Iraq War, but that was then and this is now.
Those things are held together with duct tape and wishes by now, with only seven operational Iranian Air Force F-14s. The Islamic Republic now has to use homegrown technology to replace certain avionics systems and weapons on its aging aircraft, even going to far as to claim an old American F-5F was an Iranian-built fourth-gen fighter in 2018 because it had a lot of Iranian-built components.
In fact, Iran is just using F-5s as a blueprint to Frankenstein “new” fighters from its old garbage – most of which is leftover from the Shah or was captured from the Iraqis. Even the IRIAF’s ejection seats can’t save its pilots.
This Ukrainian Su-25 isn’t landing… at least, not on purpose.
Ukraine has a definite Russia problem. Not content to simply let his divorce with Ukraine happen, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is out to give Ukraine headaches wherever possible and Ukraine can do little about it. Russia-backed separatists operate with near-impunity in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region and, when the Ukrainian Air Force is able to act, they often either kill civilians or get shot down on the way.
Its aircraft go down without enemy help, as seen in the 2018 Su-27 crash in Western Ukraine that killed Lt. Col. Seth ‘Jethro’ Nehring of the California Air National Guard. The Flanker went down as the pilot was familiarizing the American with its capabilities. In fact, other Su-27s have crashed, including one at an air show that killed 83 people. The National Interest said these crashes are either a result of poor maintenance, poor training, and/or daredevil flying. The truth is probably a combination of the three.
To top it all off, Ukraine’s air force is so old it was mostly handed down from the Soviet Union after the fall of Communism in the east. The old airframes are no match for the advanced surface-to-air missile being fired at them from the separatists. When Russia captured 45 planes from Ukraine’s Su-29 fleet in annexing Crimea, they probably did Ukraine a huge favor.
PAF: Caveat emptor.
On any global list of sh*t-talkers, Pakistan has historically rated very high, especially toward its longtime arch-nemesis, India (although new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seems more conciliatory). The Pakistanis see India as an existential threat, and are not likely to stop anytime soon.
So, after fighting four pitched wars against India and losing all of them, prioritizing air power would seem to be the way forward if Pakistan was still going to rattle the saber every so often. RAND Corporation studies still declare that the Indian Air Force would have air supremacy in any war against Pakistan. Only very recently has Pakistan decided it would be best to upgrade their fighter aircraft. So, in a joint venture with China, they created a bargain-basement version of the F-16, the JF-17 Thunder, which now makes up the bulk of the PAF.
To give you an idea of how (in)effective the Thunder is, China doesn’t fly it. Neither does anyone else. Immediately dubbed the “Junk Fighter-17 Blunder,” the aircraft is dangerous to fly at lower speeds, it can’t fly as fast as older Pakistani airframes (and certainly not as fast as India’s fighters), and it can’t use similar avionics and munitions as its other fighters, which was one of the missions in creating the fighter in the first place. If all they wanted to do was replace their old fleet, then mission accomplished. If they wanted to beat India in an air war, well, it doesn’t look good, but it remains to be tested.
Aside from the JF-17, the PAF lags behind India in terms of both numbers of combat aircraft and the actual serviceable aircraft fielded at any given moment. It also lags behind its rival in terms of training and ability. Even when facing superior Pakistani firepower, skilled Indian pilots still manage to best the Pakistanis.
It’s a good thing the two countries face a nuclear detente.
Mexico has been fighting a war against the cartels for over a decade now, and all it got them was an increase in violence that made them the “Syria of North America.” In all that time, not only did the Mexican government decide not to invest in its air forces, it actively allowed all of its fighter aircraft to retire. Mexico has zero fighters.
While fighter aircraft aren’t necessary as a deterrent for aggressive neighbors, the cartels the country is actively fighting regularly uses aircraft to violate Mexican airspace and move illegal substances that fund the ongoing fight against the Mexican government and rival cartels. The aircraft the FAM does fly cannot fly high or fast enough to intercept aircraft used by drug smugglers and their leadership.
The Mexican Air Force has gone full Afghanistan with its fleet, focusing on drones, light attack aircraft, and troop transports. This is particularly bothersome to its northern neighbors, especially the United States, who considers the defense of the hemisphere a multilateral issue. Without Mexican air power, the U.S. may have a soft underbelly. Moreover, the Mexican Air Force is not a separate entity from the Army and the Air Force commander is tucked away in some headquarters building somewhere, giving air power guidance to no one.
As far as external threats go, an Army War College study says that the Mexican Armed Forces, including the Air Force, are incapable of defending Mexico from an external threat.
The Royal Saudi Air Force: Missing more targets before 9am than most air forces do all day.
3. Saudi Arabia
Despite being at war in Afghanistan for over 17 years, the one thing the United States can be sure of is the superiority of its Air Force. In a prolonged conflict, a good Air Force positions its resources so that it has positive control over that battlespace. When Saudi Arabia fights a prolonged war, not so much. Welcome to 2019, where the Saudi-lead coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen is about ready to begin another year of abject failure.
Not only has the Saudi coalition turned Yemen into an ongoing humanitarian crisis, no amount of foreign training is making the situation any better. Moreover, it’s just making the United States look bad. The U.S. Congress may soon vote over whether or not American participation in the conflict can continue after the Saudis used an American-made bomb to hit a school bus of civilian children in Yemen, killing 40.
That’s not even the first incident of indiscriminate killing of civilians. In October, 2016, Saudi warplanes hit a civilian funeral in an attack that killed 155 Yemenis. The problem with the Royal Saudi Air Force isn’t that their planes are antiquated, the problem is their choice of “military” targets.
Get your sh*t together, Saudi Arabia.
North Korean MiG, complete with glorious people’s revolutionary crocheted ejection seat cover.
2. North Korea
Of course North Korea is going to be near the top of the list. The only reason the DPRK is not at the very top is because it’s not actively trying to fight a war right now. Usually Kim Jong-Un is talking some kind of smack about invading the South or nuking America, but, in 2018, he mostly just got praise for not doing all that stuff.
But Kim still holds on to power with use of the North Korean military. While the Korean People’s Army isn’t exactly considered a formidable fighting force, the tactic of holding hundreds of artillery guns to South Korea’s head works for him. Of all the things Kim Jong-Un has done to the South, using his Air Force is not one of them.
The reason for this is probably because his air force is still relatively similar to the ones used by his grandfather Kim Il-Sung and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army against UN forces in the last full-scale war fought on the Korean Peninsula – the 1950-1953 Korean War. As a result, the North Korean air force is widely acknowledged as the least threatening arm of the North Korean military.
I imagine that the purpose of the North Korean Air Force is to take the brunt of any initial counterattack from U.S. and allied air forces in the event of a war. Sure, it’s a large air force, but it won’t last long in a war.
Syrian MiGs doing what they do best.
It’s a really good thing the Syrians are being backed up in the air by Russians because, if they didn’t, the Syrian Civil War would last a lot longer than it already has. Almost every other power present in the region violates Syrian sovereignty on a near-daily basis. Israel, Turkey, and even Denmark have entered Syrian airspace, with Israel and Turkey both scoring air-to-air kills against Syrian Sukhoi fighters old enough to have fought against the U.S. in Vietnam.
It’s also not great to be an airman in the Syrian Air Force. Besides getting shot down by everyone (including a U.S. F/A-18 Super Hornet), Syrian fighter pilots face advanced surface-to-air missiles their airframes are not prepared to evade, they accidentally veer into neighboring countries (even getting shot down in Israeli airspace), and were the first target of President Trump’s retaliatory strike for the Syrian military’s use of chemical weapons.
Within 16 months of the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, a Syrian Air Force pilot flew his MiG-21 to Jordan, where he defected. The only surprise is that there aren’t more SAF defectors – as of 2015, Syrian pilots have spent as many as 100 days behind the sticks of their aircraft. At one point, security in Syria’s air force was so bad, they had to move their fighters within Iran’s borders so they wouldn’t be targets for other, better air forces.
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is the follow-up to the uber-successful third-person shooter, Tom Clancy’s The Division. In a recent promo for the game, Tim Kennedy takes us on a stroll through about 5 minutes of absolute carnage that is so downright exciting that, after watching, gun nuts are gonna have to wait for the blood to return to their head before standing.
For those of you who don’t know, Tim Kennedy is a Ranger-qualified Special Forces sniper. Oh, and he has a bronze star with V device. Oh, and he was an accomplished UFC fighter. In short, he’s a certified American badass, the kind that the boogeyman checks his closet for before going to bed.
As badass as the whole video is (a cave literally f**king explodes), the part that really lures you in is seeing how emphatically Tim Kennedy talks about guns. You can tell the dude just loves shooting — it’s infectious to watch. I mean, he talks about a bolt action as passionately as Shakespeare talked about love or, like, a Danish kingdom…. And it’s much easier to watch Tim Kennedy blow s**t up for 5 minutes than it is to watch a prince whine about his daddy problems for 3 hours of a 5-act play. But hey, to each their own.
Thank god there’s no VR component yet for The Division 2 because if it got any closer to real life, I don’t think many would last long in a match with a dude who is so metal that he admittedly shoots guns as a way to quiet his mind.
Tim Kennedy showcases three separate weapons: the Macmillan Tac-50 sniper rifle, the M32A1 grenade launcher, and “the crossbow” (which happens to have a bolt with a little surprise attached).
The Macmillan Tac-50
This rifle was, as Tim Kennedy puts it, “originally made to shoot down enemy airplanes.” In real life, the lethality of one round can reach out to over a mile. In The Division 2, it seems like it could easily pin down an entire team behind cover while your teammates close in to finish them off with some CQB. Or, for all the sniper mains out there, it could be a deadly accurate way to eliminate an unsuspecting enemy from across the map.
The M32A1 grenade launcher
This thing functions as an explosive revolver. It carries 6 high-explosive grenades, and it’s perfect for a demolitionist build. A perfect gun for taking out clumps of enemies who stick in close proximity which, in the first Division, was of great tactical advantage. Maybe not anymore… Oh, and apparently Tim Kennedy makes the same sound we do when fake-firing an explosive weapon, “Doogah doogah, doogh dooghhh!”
This crossbow isn’t your run-of-the-mill crossbow. Even Tim Kennedy said he wouldn’t ever really bring one of these into a legitimate combat situation. But it’s a video game, and it’s fun, so… Why the hell not? Attached to the end of the bolt (don’t call it an arrow around Sergeant Kennedy) is a high-octane explosive. This weapon seems like the perfect thing to shake things up in a game and lay some destruction from high range — with high accuracy….
Oh, and did we mention Tim Kennedy blows up a van with it?
Get your hands on Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 for PS4, Xbox One, or PC on March 15th.
Chinese officials have touted their progress with a new type of rocket propulsion that they say could give them an advantage in a potential conflict around the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan mountains.
The project reportedly intends to add electromagnetic force to the launch of traditional rocket artillery, which is typically cheaper than missiles and can be fired in larger quantities.
Han Junli, lead researcher on the project, told the state-run Science and Technology Daily that an electromagnetic launch “can give the rocket a very high initial speed on its launching state.”
Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military expert, told the South China Morning Post that an electromagnetic catapult “may also be able to help stabilize the rocket during launch and improve its accuracy.”
Han, who researches the use of China’s ground forces, called the project the first of its kind and said work on it had been progressing steadily “with great breakthroughs.”
Chinese Type PHZ-89 122 mm 40-tube self-propelled multiple rocket launchers assigned to an army artillery regiment during a live-fire exercise in Jiangxi Province, Aug. 21, 2016.
(Wang Liang/Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China)
Han’s work has reportedly involved gathering data from the Tibetan Plateau, which has an altitude of about 13,000 to 15,000 feet and is surrounded by mountains that reach higher.
Han told Science and Technology Daily that the greater range of electromagnetically launched rockets would mean they don’t need to deploy to the front lines — a challenging task in the region’s rough terrain.
Thinner air at higher elections, which may hinder traditional rockets, would also not be as big an obstacle for electromagnetically launched rockets. Reduced friction from thinner air may also allow such rockets to hit higher speeds, though thinner air may mean less precision.
“Conventional artillery that uses powder may suffer from lack of oxygen on plateaus,” Song Zhongping, a military expert, told the state-run Global Times in early August 2018.
Electromagnetically launched rockets — which Song said could reach distances of 200 kilometers, or roughly 125 miles — would not face that issue, which “makes [them] very valuable in warfare on plateaus.”
“The plateau covers 26 per cent of China’s entire land territory,” Han was quoted as saying. “Rockets deployed in the field can cause severe damage to any invader in hundreds of square kilometres.”
“It is like in boxing,” he reportedly said. “The person who has longer arms and harder fists enjoys the advantage.”
Details about electromagnetic rocket artillery, like its range and how far along work on it is, remain unclear, but it is not the only potential venue for such technology.
Electromagnetic force is used in rail guns to fire projectiles with more precision and greater range that typical propulsion systems, and China’s military may include electromagnetic catapults on its next aircraft carrier.
China’s progress may be overstated, however.
While the rail gun appeared to be undergoing testing on a Chinese navy ship, sources told the Post that the vessel was a landing ship repurposed to hold the bulky electrical equipment needed to power the expensive-to-use weapon and that the new destroyers on which the rail gun is supposed to be deployed are not well suited for it.
A possible rail gun mounted on the Chinese Navy Type 072III-class landing ship Haiyang Shan.
Electromagnetic catapults for aircraft, which China is said to be considering for its next aircraft carrier, may not yet be viable either.
The US Navy — which has struggled with its own rail-gun research — has an electromagnetic catapult aboard its newest carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, but a Pentagon report released in early 2018 called into question that system’s ability “to conduct the type of high-intensity flight operations expected during wartime.”
A ‘win’ over a ‘bullying neighbor’
Han told Science and Technology Daily in early August 2018 that the necessity of rocket artillery was illustrated by a “military incident” that took place in a border region on a plateau in southwest China.
He did not specify what he was referring to, though he may have meant the 73-day border standoff between China and India in summer 2017 in the Doklam region where China, India, and Bhutan’s borders meet. After that incident, Han reportedly started making plans to target an unnamed opponent’s military installations in the area.
Chinese and Indian forces both backed away in late August that year, though troops from both sides have remained in the area and are believed to be reinforcing their positions, including upgrades to Chinese airbases in Lhasa and Shigatse and increased deployments to Indian airbases at Siliguri Bagdogra and Hasimara.
India has also moved forward with its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air-defense system, which is designed to intercept targets at greater distances and altitudes.
In the year since, Beijing and New Dehli have worked to mend relations, including the Chinese defense minister’s first visit since the standoff, during which he hailed their friendship as one dating to ancient times.
The two sides also agreed to “expand the engagement between their armed forces relating to training, joint exercises and other professional interactions” and to implement “confidence-building measures” along their border, including a hotline between armed forces there.
But China is reportedly still smarting from the incident. In the months since, Indian commentary has described the incident as a “win” for Dehli over a “bullying neighbor.” Comments this spring by India’s ambassador to China that attributed the standoff to Chinese actions drew a rebuke from Beijing.
“I imagine the Chinese are not pleased with how events unfolded last year, and there are some who felt like they were somewhat embarrassed by India,” Jeff Smith, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, said in an August 2018 interview. “So I’m sure they’re redoubling their efforts down there to ensure that something like that doesn’t happen again.”
Featured image: Two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems assigned to the 41st Fires Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, fire rockets during a live fire at the Udairi Range Complex, Camp Buehring, Kuwait, March 13, 2014.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — After the “explosive” increase in the capabilities of unmanned aerial systems over the last 15 years, the challenges for the future are to develop the ability to avoid being shot down and to reduce the cost of operating and processing the data coming from what the Air Force calls “remotely piloted aircraft,” a panel of industry and Pentagon officials said Sept. 20.
The RPAs have proven their value for collecting intelligence and conducting precision strikes in the 15 years of constant combat since 9/11. But that all has happened in a permissive environment against adversaries that have no air forces or even integrated air defenses, the officials said during a presentation at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber conference.
Airman 1st Class Steven and Airman 1st Class Taylor prepare an MQ-9 Reaper for flight during Combat Hammer May 15, 2014, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Fighter, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft units around the Air Force are evaluated four times a year and provided weapons, airspace and targets from Hill AFB, Utah, or Eglin AFB, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. N.B.)
Although the experts agreed that developing the ability to operate RPAs against high-tech adversaries in the future was crucial, none offered any proposals on how to do that. The Air Force already has some unmanned aircraft with stealth capabilities that allow them to reduce detection by enemy radars. And the Navy is planning to field a carrier-based UAS that will function primarily as an airborne tanker but also will have ISR capabilities.
Kenneth Callicutt, director of Capabilities and Resources at the U.S. Strategic Command, noted that other sensor platforms, such as the E-3 AWACs and E-8 JSTARS, also would be at risk in a future high-end conflict. So the issue would be how to get the sensors forward, he said.
Callicutt suggested that the solution could be the “unmanned wingman,” a low-cost RPA that could be operated by a manned aircraft into high-risk conditions.
James Gear, an advanced systems official with L3 communications, suggested one option could be deciding between the current reusable aircraft or expendable platforms.
“There are times when you don’t want to be burdened to recover that system,” he said.
But others raised the issue of justifying throw away sensor platforms in the current tight budget situation.
Tom Clancy, chief technology officer with Aurora Flight Science Corp, noted that with the great increase in capabilities that RPAs give the warfighters, the way they evolved led to a situation “where it takes more people to operate them than manned aircraft.”
Looking forward, Clancy said, the question is, “how can we deliver on lower cost, deliver more capability at lower cost? That leads to autonomous systems. … As a community, we need to drive to that.”
Christopher Pehrson, a strategic development director at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, offered two other options to cut the cost of using RPAs to collect intelligence. One, he said, would be to allow a ground commander on the scene to control the aircraft, rather than controllers at a remote location. He also suggested it would be cheaper to have a person who knows the region and the culture of the adversary to handle the ISR data, rather than trying to develop automated systems to process it.
Callicutt raised two other issues created by the proliferation of RPAs collecting vast amounts of data – how to get that data to those who need it and the limited amount available electromagnetic “bandwidth.”
He noted that Link 16, currently the best secure system of transmitting data between military systems, was created in 1964.
“I submit it’s time to start thinking about the next battle network,” and cited the concept of the “combat cloud” that senior Air Force officials have proposed. That would be a secure version of the cloud currently used by individuals and corporations to store their computer files.
“It’s no secret, we need better communications, like the combat cloud,” Callicutt said.
Sure, that sounds awesome. But let’s face it, those types of technologies built tough enough to be soldier-proof and deployed on a ground vehicle are still years off.
But what would happen if you slapped on a crap ton of totally badass weaponry that’s available today, wrapped it in some truly tough armor and gave it some go-anywhere treads?
Well, that’s what those mad scientists in Chelyabinsk (Russia’s main weapons development lab) did with the BMP-T “Terminator.” And by the looks of it, what trooper wouldn’t want this Mecha-esque death dealer backing him up during a ground assault.
This machine is festooned with about everything a ground-pounder could ask for, aside from a 125mm main gun. With two — count ’em — two side-by-side 30mm 2A42 autocannons, the Terminator can throw down up to 800 rounds of hate per minute out to 4,000 yards.
Take that Mr. Puny Bradley with your itty bitty 25mm chain gun…
Those 30 mike-mikes will take care of most ground threats for sure, but the Russians didn’t stop there. To blow up tanks and take down buildings and bunkers, the BMP-T is equipped with four launch tubes loaded with 130mm 9M120 “Ataka-T” anti-tank missiles. These missiles are capable of penetrating over two-feet of tank armor.
Enough badassery for one vic? No sir. The Terminator is also loaded with a secondary 7.62mm PKTM machine gun peeking out between the two 30mm cannons, and it’s got a pair of secondary, secondary 30mm grenade launchers just to add a little close in bang bang.
The Russians reportedly developed the BMP-T after its experience in Afghanistan and more recently in Chechnya, were the armor of a tank was needed in an urban fight, but with more maneuverability and better close-range armament than a tank gun.
Reports indicate the Terminator has been deployed to the anti-ISIS fight in Syria for field trials, but it’s unclear how many of these wheeled arsenals Moscow actually has in its inventory.
That said, the video below shows just how freaking full-on this infantry fighting vehicle is and the devastating punch it packs for bad guys.