The U.S. has been using drones for years, but now that technology has become more available to other nations how will the U.S. protect itself?
Also Read: A Navy F/A-18 Flew Low Over Berkeley, California And People Lost Their Minds
Vice News’ Ryan Faith discusses what the U.S. is doing to counter drones:
Earlier this year, VICE News was one of the first media outlets ever granted access to the US military’s annual Black Dart exercise, a decade-old joint exercise that focuses on detecting, countering, and defeating UAVs.As we watched tens of millions of dollars worth of military equipment go up against $1,000 drones, Black Dart demonstrated the way rapidly evolving drone technology is challenging the military’s most basic assumptions about controlling the air. (One civilian drone maker we visited told us that the technology he has at his fingertips is outpacing some RD efforts at big aerospace contractors.) And so Black Dart continues to encourage innovation in the effort to keep the US military one step ahead in the cat-and-mouse game between drones and drone killers.
Most Americans know of the elite sailors who serve on Navy SEAL teams, but there is another group of quiet professionals backing them up when they need a heavily-armed ride into or out of combat.
Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman, better known as SWCC, serve on high-speed attack boats that can effectively patrol rivers and coastal regions around the world. Tracing their lineage back to the PT boats of World War II and combatant craft of Vietnam, SWCC (pronounced “Swick”) operators today are mostly known for their skills at inserting and extracting Navy SEAL teams.
“We refer to it as the best kept secret in the Navy,” one operator says in the video below.
SWCC teams serve on state-of-the-art boats outfitted with plenty of firepower, which include the U.S. military’s standard M240 light machine-gun, heavy M2 .50 caliber, and the M134 Minigun, a belt-fed monster that can churn out up to 6,000 rounds per minute.
Check out the video of SWCC in action below, courtesy of the U.S. Navy:
Some know them as Task Force Brown, others fear them as thunderous ghosts who approach in the darkest hours of the night. To the public, they’re the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), but to the US Army and the special operations community, they’re known only as the legendary Night Stalkers.
Their motto, “Death Waits in The Dark,” tells you all you need to know. The Night Stalkers operate after sunset, flying through the blackness in some of the craziest scenarios and environments known to man. These are the best and most highly trained pilots the Army has to offer, undergoing months upon months of rigorous training until they are fully mission-qualified.
When the 160th deems its newest pilots and crew ready, Night Stalkers get sent on top-secret missions all across the world, from the deserts of the Middle East to the jungles of tropical Asia and everywhere in between, supporting American special operations units. Because of the nature of their missions, Night Stalkers rely on their helicopters to function well, even in extreme conditions.
These are the four helos they operate: unique, kitted out, and highly unlike any other in the US military today.
The Night Stalkers love the MH-60LM Black Hawk
The Black Hawk is the backbone of Army Aviation, having replaced the Huey in 1980s as the Army’s go-to medium lift utility helo. Highly adaptable, rugged, and dependable, it’s no surprise that the 160th would choose this aircraft as the core of their fleet.
Known as the MH-60 to Night Stalkers, these helos are refitted with a sensor suite, high-tech communications gear, a refueling probe for longer missions, forward-looking infrared radar systems, and terrain-following radars among a few other things. They can also be converted to an up-gunned attack variant as needed.
During the 2011 raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan, which saw the death of Osama bin Laden, Night Stalkers used a “stealthed out” version of the MH-60, fitted with a radar-defeating shell and other bells and whistles.
MH-60L Direct Action Penetrator
The Night Stalkers don’t fly the Army’s legendary gunship, the AH-64D/E Apache. Instead, they fly something just as fearsome, but slightly more versatile. Known as the Direct Action Penetator (or DAP), it’s been a staple of 160th missions worldwide since the early ’90s.
According to former Night Stalker CW4 Michael Durant (and recounted in his book, In the Company of Heroes), the DAP was developed in-house by the 160th using existing Black Hawks. After adding removable wing stubs to the sides of the helo and setting up a firing link to the cockpit, Night Stalkers managed to turn the MH-60 into a gunship.
The DAP comes with the ability to field Hydra rocket pods, Hellfire and Stinger missiles, 30 mm M230 chain guns (the same used by the Apache), and .50 caliber Gatling gun pods for some serious shock and awe. Unlike the Apache, the DAP has a refueling probe, giving it greater endurance and range.
Any MH-60 can be converted into a DAP using the kits created by the 160th, but it loses its ability to carry troops upon conversion.
MH-47G Chinook is one of the Night Stalkers’ favorites
The mighty Chinook heavy-lift helo has served Army Aviation well from Vietnam to Afghanistan and beyond. Because of its ability to carry tons of cargo, fly longer missions, and survive in austere conditions, the Chinook was one of the first aircraft inducted into Night Stalker service in the 1980s.
When the 160th first got its hands on CH-47s, they added a refueling probe, a fast-rope system for troop insertion, and a host of other features to bring them up to operational standards. Dubbed the MH-47D, these beasts were put to work right away. In a testament to the Chinook’s durability and heavy-lift capabilities, the 160th even used these tandem-rotor helos to “steal” a large, abandoned Libyan attack helicopter in the late ’80s during a sandstorm.
MH/AH-6M Little Bird
There’s a popular saying in the special operations community: “Six guns don’t miss.” This has nothing to do with revolvers and everything to do with the Night Stalkers’ Little Birds, sometimes referred to as “Killer Eggs” because of their shape. While the MH-6 is typically outfitted with outboard bench seats on either side of the aircraft for troop carriage, the AH-6 instead carries miniguns, rocket pods, and missiles.
The first Little Birds to enter service with the 160th were actually OH-6A Cayuses, small helos that were already on their way out of the Army and National Guard by the time SOAR was created. Because of their size, agility, and ability to be quickly disassembled and reassembled, these small aircraft were considered ideal for urban operations in tight spaces. From the early 1980s onward, the 160th has used the Little Bird in nearly every major conflict.
Upon entering a room lined with panels and LED lights, described solely as something out of a science fiction movie, people in polar white suits are ready to re-skin a new beast.
The airmen working across two shifts in the work center, paint and renovate the aircraft and equipment assigned to the Air Force’s largest combat F-16 Fighting Falcon wing.
The work being performed on the aircraft is intended to provide a protective finish that prevents damage to the structure and enhance the aircraft’s overall lifespan.
“Our mission here is to remove defective aircraft coatings,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Tinsley, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control noncommissioned officer in charge. “We also inspect for corrosion and reapply coats should the aircraft need it.”
Airmen assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control paint barn, work on an F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Nov. 13, 2018.
Tinsley went on to say the flight helps identify and troubleshoot paint fatigue that may be caused by consistent flights.
Within the facility, a locker room houses the protective gear of the airmen assigned to the 20th EMS aircraft structural maintenance flight.
“When we paint, no matter what we are working on that day, we keep safety in mind at all times,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Harris, 20th EMS corrosion control shift lead.
Each job requires the airmen to gear up from top to bottom to prevent any damage or poisoning that could be caused by the exposure to paint fumes.
During the painting process, corrosion control airmen inspect the aircraft for any cracks or wear that may have been caused through various aerial missions.
“Our airmen are the ones out there doing the hard work,” said Tinsley. “They are either sanding or painting anything that may come into the paint barn … they’re the real work horses, they’re killing it.”
With the continued support of these technicians the mission of the 20th Fighter Wing can thrive and allow the pilots to accomplish the suppression of enemy air defenses mission anytime, anywhere.
In 2011, Libyans took arms against the 40-plus year rule of Muammar Gaddafi. The dictator tried to brutally crush a demonstration against his regime in Benghazi. The response from the Libyan people was a nearly nine-month-long civil war which ended with the death of the dictator near his hometown of Sirte. But it was a victory that almost never was. The Libyan Rebels needed to level the playing field when it came to air superiority – they needed to be able to call in airstrikes.
That’s where Twitter came in.
Some people swear by it.
By mid-March 2011, Gaddafi’s loyalist forces were pushing the rebels back fast. All their hard-won gains liberated more than half of Libya from the dictator who promised to make the streets of Benghazi run red with rebel blood. Gaddafi’s air power was proving to be a decisive advantage in the civil war. Luckily for the rebels, there was a NATO task force assembling offshore.
American, French, British, and Canadian ships had all joined each other off the Libyan coast and began to hit Gaddafi’s positions with the full might of their respective sea-based air forces. They also began to enforce a no-fly zone. This was enough to turn the tide of the rebels, who were battle-hardened veterans, fighting for their lives. It was a strategic win for them, no doubt, but the tactical use of NATO air power proved problematic.
“I can just call a jet fighter and one will come kill these tanks? This must be what being a U.S. soldier is like.”
Many wondered how NATO fighters could know where to drop tactical missiles and bombs when their own JTACs are not on the ground with rebel forces, and NATO has no direct communications with the fighters it’s supporting. The answer is that the Twitter social media network became part of NATO’s overall “intelligence picture.” NATO allies began analyzing data gleaned from Twitter posts to understand Gaddafi’s movements but also to assist rebel fighters in pushing down pro-Gaddafi attacks.
Rebel fighters using their cell phones would gather coordinates from Google Earth and then tweet those coordinates to NATO, who would then come in and light up the loyalist forces. The top NATO brass says it’s a normal step any military would take.
That’s how Gaddafi would meet his end, and where his death would be posted for the world to see.
“Yes, right up his butt. It’s on YouTube.”
“Any military campaign relies on something that we call ‘fused information’,” said Wing Commander Mike Bracken, a NATO spokesman. “We will take information from every source we can… The commander will assess what he can use, what he can trust, and the experience of the operators, the intelligence officers, and the trained military personnel and civilian support staff will give him those options. And he will decide if that’s good information.”
Since NATO had no boots on the ground but deems it vital to support the Libyan rebels, extrapolating the information needed by commanders seems like a totally legitimate means of intelligence gathering – and an effective one to boot. NATO airplanes decimated Libyan air defenses and made the critical difference in the war for the Libyan people to liberate themselves from a terrible dictator.
Previously in episode 152, Borne the Battle’s guest was Denise Loring from Camp Valor Outdoors. She gave a brief overview of the nonprofit, Camp Valor Outdoors – which included the competitive shooting program. Camp Valor Outdoors’ shooting team competes in professional matches all over the country.
This week’s interview is Dan Duitsman. He is a Marine veteran and Camp Valor Outdoors’ Shooting Sports Program Director. His role is to get disabled veterans into competitive shooting – no matter the disability.
Camp Valor Outdoors Shooting Team at the Civilian Marksmanship Program Nationals, Camp Perry, OH.
While in the Marine Corps, Dan worked in security forces, counterintelligence and the infantry. Prior to his role at Camp Valor Outdoors, he was a weapons instructor with the U.S. State Department. In this episode he talked about his career, his transition, the recreational-therapeutic benefits of the shooting and how to get involved in Camp Valor Outdoors’ shooting program.
2019-11-20 Full Committee Hearing: Legislative Hearing on HR 3495 and a Draft Bill
If words like foil, epee, and sabre don’t excite you very much, now you can imagine the word “lightsaber” joining them on equal footing – at least that’s what the French Fencing Federation says. The primary governing body of a sport that appeared in every modern Olympic Game since 1904 recognizes the appeal of the glowing futuristic weapon. And so should you.
This means – in France at least – lightsaber dueling is now officially a sport, complete with rules, a governing body, and a growing number of combatants who will compete for its top prize, whatever that turns out to be. The lightsabers used in the tournaments are not (of course) real lightsabers. If this technology existed, it would be more than a news footnote, for sure. The fighters use polycarbonate weapons with different colors, shapes, and even sound effects.
Like its older cousin, the lightsaber duel’s fighters wear safety pads, follow a rigid time limit, and feature a scorekeeper. Points are awarded depending on where the fighters hit one another: five points for the head, three for the legs, and the first to 15 points wins the match.
There is a method to the madness. As one might have guessed by now, the recognition of the sport is partially a publicity stunt, but it’s a stunt for a good reason. The French Fencing Association wants to get kids away from video games and e-sports to compete in something more tangible. The real enemy is the life of a young video gamer, seldom moving from the couch. Instead, the body hopes kids will make it to the darkened room that really shows off the “blades” of the weapon while allowing the fighters to showcase their skills.
One former fencing fighter spent hundreds on his gear and has spent two years practicing the art of lightsaber swordplay. His lightsaber color is green because it’s the Jedi colors and “Yoda is my master.” But those interested in training in the lightsaber arts don’t need to wait for Master Yoda to give the okay – there’s plenty of time to train on your own before lightsaber dueling makes the Olympic Games.
Nazi Germany may have been one of the most evil regimes in history, but that regime also had some very good equipment. The Tiger tank, the Bf 109 and FW 190 fighters, the U-boat, and the MG42 machine gun were all very good.
Perhaps the most notorious weapon they had was called the “88.” Technically, it was called the 8.8 centimeter Flak 18, 36, 37, or 41, but most folks just described it with the number that referred to the gun’s bore diameter in millimeters. That was a measure of how notorious the gun was.
The first 88s were intended as anti-aircraft guns to kill bombers. They were very good at that – as many allied bomber crews found out to their sorrow. But the gun very quickly proved it was more than just an anti-aircraft gun, starting with its “tryout” in the Spanish Civil War. The gun also proved it could kill tanks.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, it could kill tanks from a mile away. When the Germans discovered that, they began to churn out 88mm guns as quickly as they could. As many as 20,700 were built, and they found themselves used on everything from Tiger tanks to naval vessels. Even after the war, the gun hung around, and during the war, it was something that allied forces quickly tried to neutralize. The 88 was even pressed into service with some Seventh Army units due to an ammo shortage.
The gun had a crew of seven, and weighed nine tons. The gun could be fired at targets as far as nine miles away. Very few of these guns are around now, but in World War II, many Allied troops wondered if the Germans would ever run out.
You can see video of one of the few surviving “88s” being fired below.
Securing a port can be the type of job that hits the three Ds: dull, dirty, and dangerous.
Often, those charged with that security operate using rigid-hull inflatable boats or other small craft – often in proximity to huge vessels like Nimitz-class carriers or large amphibious assault ships.
One wrong move, and Sailors or Coast Guardsmen can end up injured – or worse.
However, the Navy may be able to reduce the risk to life and limb, thanks to a project by the Office of Naval Research called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or “CARACaS.”
With CARACaS, a number of RHIBs or small craft can be monitored remotely, thus removing the need to put personnel at risk.
According to a U.S. Navy release, these “unmanned swarming boats” or USBs, recently carried out a demonstration in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where they were able to collaborate to determine which one would approach a vessel, classify it, and then track or trail the vessel.
The USBs also provided status updates to personnel who monitored their activity.
“This technology allows unmanned Navy ships to overwhelm an adversary,” Cdr. Luis Molina of the Office of Naval Research said. “Its sensors and software enable swarming capability, giving naval warfighters a decisive edge.”
A 2014 demonstration primarily focused on escorting high-value ships in and out of a harbor, but this year, Molina noted that this year, the focus was on defending the approach to a harbor.
The biggest advantage of CARACaS? You don’t need to build new craft – it is a kit that can be installed on existing RHIBs and small boats.
With the entire world focused on COVID-19, it’s a great time to build your bug out bag.
A bug-out bag isn’t just for secret agents anymore.
We Are The Mighty’s resident operator, Chase Millsap, served three combat tours as a Marine Infantry Officer in Iraq and as a Green Beret leading counter-terrorism missions in Asia.
We asked him what he’s packing in his bag in case he needs to escape on short notice for any reason. Here’s what he says you must have, at minimum.
12. Water filter.
Given optimal conditions, a person can last up to a week without water. Extreme conditions are likely to cut that time (and yours) short. Additionally, drinking water from untreated sources can lead to a number of infections and diseases.
If you’re unfamiliar with a “woobie,” it’s how some U.S. troops refer to their issued poncho liner. It makes for a great blanket, cushion, or pillow. It’s not waterproof, but in temperatures above freezing, it’s very effective at keeping in body heat.
10. Two days of food.
This should be self-explanatory, but in case it isn’t, remember: You can go for weeks without food. If you’re on the move, however, that time is cut short. You can’t carry all the food you need with you, but you should have enough to last until you can make it to an area where you can get more or be rescued.
9. Lockpick kit.
The reason one carries lockpicks is fairly obvious: to get into things that are locked. We can’t predict why you’ll be evacuating your home, but if you’re going to be out on foot for a while, you may need this. Think about it: When the looting stops, everything that was easy to get is already gone. What’s left is under lock and key.
8. Fire starter with dryer lint.
You can’t depend on a lighter or matches. You’re going to need to start a fire the old-fashioned way: with sparks and kindling.
7. Solar or hand-crank battery.
You should have electronic devices with you, namely your means of communication. A zombie apocalypse notwithstanding, you’re going to want to be rescued at some point, so secure the means of keeping your phone and/or radio alive and at the ready.
6. 550 cord and a carabiner.
Anyone who’s served in the military knows how useful 550 cord and carabiners are. If you want to augment their usefulness, learn to braid and to tie knots.
5. Medical kit.
Let’s be honest, most of you are not Green Berets — and if you were Navy SEALs, you would have told us by now. Since the name of the game is surviving in a potentially hostile environment, we should be prepared for injuries sustained on our way out of the disaster area. If we want to be prepared to help ourselves and others, we need a med kit.
4. Face mask.
Dirt and debris fly everywhere during a disaster or in a disaster area. Heck, the air itself can be chalked full of dirt and harmful particles.
Be prepared for it.
3. Gloves and boots.
You shouldn’t need to be told this: Bring your boots. The best part about these items is they don’t add to the weight on your back.
If you need to be seen from a distance (namely, by rescue aircraft), nothing is more effective than what the U.S. military already uses, the VS-17 signal marker is the thing for the job. Best of all, that’s exactly what search and rescue teams are trained to look for.
The United States Marine Corps has, arguably, the best heavy-lift transport helicopter in the world in the Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion. However, the chopper, which entered service in 1981, is getting kind of old. So, the Marines and Sikorsky have teamed up to put the Super Stallion on a regimen of aeronautical steroids.
Here’s what they did:
The cabin of the new CH-53K King Stallion is almost 18 inches wider than that of the CH-53E. Marines are trained to make the most out of what they have, which means that extra 1.5 feet will go a long way. The most obvious effect of this latest round of upgrades to the CH-53 is the amount of cargo it can haul: 39,903 pounds, according to Lockheed handout. This adds almost 4,000lbs of lift capability to the aircraft.
Three external cargo hooks help the CH-53K haul almost 40,000 pounds of gear.
The CH-53K is also faster. It has a top speed of at least 170 knots, a significant upgrade to the 150 knots of the CH-53E. But how is this possible? The CH-53K is built primarily out of composites metals, which are much lighter than the materials used in previous iterations of the chopper. By weighing less, the CH-53K doesn’t have to work as hard to haul itself around, allowing it to distributed more lift. The CH-53K also replaces the three T64 engines of the CH-53E with T408 engines. The result is about 22,000 horsepower for the new King Stallion, as opposed to the 13,200 of the CH-53E.
In addition, the CH-53K also features numerous other improvements, including fly-by-wire flight controls, composite rotor blades with swept anhedral tips, a low-maintenance rotorhead, an improved external cargo handling system (with three hooks), and a “glass” cockpit (replacing dials and gauges with multi-function displays). The chopper can still carry as many as 55 troops.
A head-on view of the CH-53K in flight – it comes in about 18 inches wider than the CH-53E, but a little space can mean a lot.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Molly Hampton)
The CH-53K is also in contention to replace Luftwaffe CH-53s currently in service. Israeli Defense Forces are also looking into this heavy-lift helicopter. Believe it or not, this bigger Stallion will still fit inside a C-17 Globemaster III transport plane, but can also self-deploy to operating locations and operate off ships.
Currently, the plans are for this helicopter to reach initial operating capability in 2019. When it does, it’ll certainly give the Marines a huge boost.
Anti-submarine warfare is something that the Royal Navy takes very seriously. Historically, there’s good reason for it: German U-boats have twice tried to blockade Great Britain and each attempt brought about great peril.
Once upon a time, anti-submarine warfare involved ships deploying depth charges but, now, the most effective weapons come from the sky – dropped by helicopters. Choppers are versatile and can be deployed on a variety of sea-faring vessels, which, in essence, makes every destroyer, frigate, and cruiser currently serving into a capable anti-submarine system. Helicopters aboard these ships can fly a fair distance and carry a couple of anti-submarine torpedoes each.
To fill this role today, the Royal Navy relies on the AgustaWestland AW159, officially designated the Wildcat HMA.2. This chopper is a highly evolved version of the Westland Lynx that has served on the Royal Navy’s ships since 1971. But today’s Wildcat has come a long way.
The Wildcat HMA.2 entered service in 2014. It has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest helicopters in the world. It has a range of 483 miles and is armed with a pair of either 7.62mm or .50-caliber machine guns.
In terms of anti-submarine armament, the Wildcat uses a pair of Stingray torpedoes. These torpedoes have been around since 1983. They travel at 45 nautical miles per hour and have a roughly five-mile range. It’s warhead packs nearly 100 pounds of high explosive, which is enough to punch a hole in most submarines.
The Wildcat, though, is not limited to carrying torpedoes. It can also carry anti-ship missiles, like the Sea Skua, which saw action in the Falklands and during Desert Storm, making it a formidable tool in nearly any naval scenario.
Learn more about this rotary-wing Wildcat that’s hotter than Sandra Bullock’s character in Speed in the video below.
Army instructors at Fort Benning, Georgia recently opened a new drone training school to teach young soldiers to become as familiar with these tiny flying devices as they are handling M4 carbines.
The 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade opened its new small unmanned aerial system, or SUAS, course facility June 11, 2018, and recently began giving classes to basic trainees “so they can become familiar with drones before they show up to their units,” Sgt. 1st Class Hilario Dominguez, the lead instructor for the class, said in a recent Defense Department news release.
Students at the SUAS course showed basic trainees how the drones fly and how to describe them if they see one flying over their formation.
Capt. Sean Minton, commander of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment, said his recruits learn how to fill out a seven-line report when they spot a drone and send the information to higher headquarters by radio.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
Trainees also learn how to hide from an enemy drone and disperse to avoid heavy casualties from drone-directed field artillery.
“Our enemies have drones now,” Minton said. “And we don’t always own the air.”
Instructors teach Raven and Puma fixed-wing remote-controlled drones and a variety of helicopters, including the tiny InstantEye copter, which flies as quietly as a humming bird, according to the release.
The students who attend the SUAS course are typically infantry soldiers and cavalry scouts who go back to their units to be brigade or battalion-level master trainers, Dominguez said.
Having trained and certified experts from the course builds trust among company and troop-level commanders so they worry less about losing drones because they distrust their drone pilots’ skills, Dominguez said.
Staff Sgt. Arturo Saucedo teaches precision flying at the course. He tells his students to think of the small helicopters as a way to chase down armed enemy soldiers.
“Instead of chasing him through a booby hole, you just track him,” he said. “Now you have a grid of his location, and you can do what you need to do.”
The new drone schoolhouse was created inside a former convenience store.
“This building represents an incredible new opportunity to the small unmanned aerial system course,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Barta, 3-16 commander, during the SUAS building opening event.
“For several years now it was operating in small, cramped classrooms insufficient to meet program instruction requirements. Thanks to the work many on the squadron staff, the 316th Brigade S4 shop, and the garrison Directorate of Public Works and Network Enterprise Center, we were able to turn the vacant structure into a vibrant classroom, training leaders to make the Army better.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.