Advancements in U.S. Army technology can give Soldiers an edge in an ever-changing operational environment, supporting the warfighter.
You may not have a pair of the L3Harris ENVG-B night vision goggles in your team room lockers yet, but they could be coming soon. The L3Harris ENVG-B are currently being fielded at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the 82nd Airborne Division. Should the DoD decide that these make the cut, they could be issued Army-wide.
For the past 18 months, L3 Harris and PEO Soldier have conducted 11 events to perfect the goggles.
L3Harris is planning to deliver about 10,000 systems to the Army by the end of the year.
According to its website, the L3Harris ENVG-B arms soldiers with superior abilities to target, engage, and neutralize threats, enhancing mission success and operator safety. “The ENVG-B is a helmet-mounted, dual-waveband goggle with industry-leading [sic], fused white phosphor, and thermal technologies.”
ENVG-B is primary use is as a binocular. Yet, it also offers a monocular option to provide dominant or non-dominant eye relief. A simple rotation of lens into stow position changes monocular to binocular vision. The advanced design includes a low-profile stow position against the helmet. Twin-tube design provides in-field protection from failure or damage. Soldiers can also attach weapon sight images into their goggles.
This allows soldiers to see around corners without the risk of exposure, and to identify, assess and engage targets with greater accuracy and speed. It provides them with proven clarity even in degraded battlefield conditions.
Soldiers can keep their eyes on the target without having to look down to read maps or check radios for critical information.
So what this means is that leaders can do map overlays, have their soldiers upload them into their End-User Device (EUD), aka their Samsung phone, and then see the product through their night vision, without ever looking down at their map.
Imagine being able to see a compass, azimuth, waypoint, etc., right there in a heads-up display through your night vision goggles both in daytime and nighttime conditions.
Nearly 20 Maryland Army National Guard soldiers recently tested the ENVG-B to measure the effects of image intensifier tube imbalance for both target identification and depth perception. The tests were conducted at the Army Research Lab – Human Resources and Engineering Directorate facility in Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The ENVG-B enables the Army’s combat forces to observe and maneuver in all weather, through obscurants, during limited visibility, and under all lighting conditions.
Paul Fedele, a physical scientist with the Army Research Laboratory, helped MDARNG Soldiers administer both tests in the dark. The tests established basic operational parameters for the ENVG-B system.
“We’re extremely appreciative of the Maryland National Guard,” said Josh Rubinstein, a senior research psychologist with the DoD’s Data and Analysis Center. “They are helping us test the equipment and providing us with the Soldiers to complete the study. The caliber of effort that I’ve seen with the Maryland National Guard has been exceptional.”
This article was originally published on January 29, 2021.
The Coast Guard may not have a lot of hulls, but what they have, they make very good use of. In fact, they were able to keep old ships in service for a long time, and they even bring in some unique systems. Here’s some of the cool stuff they’ve used over the years.
1. Casco-class high-endurance cutters
After World War II, the Navy had a lot of leftover vessels. The Coast Guard took in 18 Barnegat-class small seaplane tenders and used them as high-endurance cutters for over two decades.
While many were scrapped or sunk, the USCGC Unimak (WHEC 379), stayed in active service until 1988. One ship, the former USCGC Absecon (WHEC 374) may have remained through the 1990s after being captured by North Vietnam.
The Barnegats had a five-inch gun, two twin 40mm mounts, two twin 20mm mounts, and were even fitted with 324mm torpedo tubes.
The 1987-1988 version of Combat Fleets of the World noted that the North Vietnamese had fitted launchers for the SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missile on the former Absecon.
2. HU-16 Albatross
Helicopters took a while to develop. Before that, the best search-and-rescue assets were flying boats and amphibian aircraft.
The Grumman HU-16 was one asset that handled this mission after World War II. The Air Force put it to use during the Korean War, and it also saw action in the Vietnam War.
In Coast Guard service, the survivors of a 91-plane purchase of HU-16s stuck around until 1983 – and civilian versions still operate today.
It’s not surprising the plane lasted so long. According to specifications at GlobalSecurity.org, the Albatross had a range of over 1600 miles and a top speed of 240 miles per hour. Let’s see a helicopter do that!
3. HH-52 Seaguard
This amphibious helicopter was the epitome of the specialized aircraft the Coast Guard bought when it could.
Imagine being able to land on the water to retrieve a survivor, but not needing to make a long takeoff run.
According to a Coast Guard fact sheet on this helo, the capability was necessary because there was no rescue swimmer program at the time. That omission was rectified in the 1980s, and in 1989, the last HH-52 was retired. By that time the fleet of 99 helos had saved over 15,000 lives.
4. Boeing PB-1G Flying Fortress
After World War II, the Army Air Force had a lot of planes lying around – many of which had been built too late for them to see action.
The legendary bomber served as a search-and-rescue asset for 14 years, using a lifeboat slung underneath for that mission. The Coast Guard’s fact sheet notes that another legendary plane, the C-130, eventually replaced the Flying Fortress in their service.
5. MH-68A Stingray
The Coast Guard once had a specialized unit, HITRON 10 (Helicopter Interdiction Squadron 10), that specialized in stopping the flow of drugs into the U.S. To do that, the service got a special helicopter, the MH-68A Stingray — a version of the Agusta A109.
With a forward-looking infrared system, an M240 machine gun, a M82A1 Barrett sniper rifle, and other high-tech avionics, this helo was a lethal hunter. According to Helis.com, the eight-plane force was retired in 2008, and the Coast Guard modified 10 MH-65s to the MH-65C standard to replace them.
6. Sea Bird-class Surface Effect Ships
This three-ship class was fast (25-knot cruising speed), and they were perfectly suited for the drug interdiction mission in the Caribbean.
LAS VEGAS — A compact polymer drum magazine from Magpul that can hold 60 rounds is being tested for potential use by several U.S. military service branches, as well as elite units, the company’s director of government and international affairs said.
Tray Ardese would not specify which branches and commands are testing the PMAG D-60 drum, but said range testing by the services so far appears to be going well.
“We’re under kind of a handshake [non-disclosure agreement] right now to let them get their tests in so we don’t put a lot of pressure on them,” Ardese told Military.com at SHOT Shot on Tuesday. “But each branch of the service has at least a few of them. It is a solution right now that could save lives.”
Magpul appears at the show after a major coup: The Marine Corps’ decision in December to approve the company’s high-performing Generation M3 PMAG as the only magazine authorized for use in combat, replacing the legacy metal magazine.
Ardese said Magpul hopes the ruggedness, balance and reliability of the drum will also win over military users.
“I was one of the biggest drum haters in the world until I saw this one,” said Ardese, a retired Marine colonel. “Because … they’d work great when you treated them with care, but the second you got them dirty or beat them around, they would stop on you. This one hasn’t stopped on me yet and I’ve shot a lot of rounds through it, and I’ve seen thousands and thousands and thousands of rounds shot through it. It runs flawlessly.”
The drum, at 7.4 inches in length, is designed to be no longer than a traditional 30-round magazine, so shooters in the prone position don’t have to adjust their positioning to fire. And it’s compatible with all the weapons that can accept the PMAG, although Ardese said the drum is particularly well suited to the Marines’ M27 infantry automatic rifle.
The Corps is currently undergoing experimentation to determine whether more infantrymen should be issued the IAR in place of the M4 as their standard service rifle. The weapon has a slightly longer effective range than the M4 carbine and has features including a free-floating barrel that make it more accurate. And unlike the standard M4, it includes a fully automatic mode. Currently, each Marine infantry fire team is equipped with one IAR, carried by the team’s automatic rifleman.
“M27 is the perfect platform for this magazine. This magazine gives the IAR gunner, the automatic rifleman an advantage in volume of fire right off the bat if they were ambushed or they were hit,” Ardese said. “They immediately have two magazines’ worth of ammunition in a flawlessly feeding drum that is very well balanced. It is a must for the IAR gunner.”
The drum, he said, lends itself to any situation where a warfighter needs to have a lot of ammunition at the ready.
“It would be great for vehicle interdiction, any place you would need a large volume of firepower right now,” he said.
It’s not clear when the services currently testing the drum will make a decision on whether to field it, and for what weapons, Ardese said.
He has received only positive feedback from those in charge of range testing, he said.
The vessel is operational and in active status, with a minimum cruising range of 5,500 NM @ 12.5 knots, Electronic Chart Display System, and Global Maritime Distress & Safety System. If you just want to take your honey on a romantic cruise or maybe have a getaway plan in the event of the zombie apocalypse, you’re in for a real treat.
Supporting document from the bid site.
GSA Auctions is currently hosting the auction, set to end on July 31, 2019. The ship is currently berthed in Tacoma, Washington, where you can make an appointment to inspect the vessel in-person. According to The Drive, there is currently a id=”listicle-2639233931″ million bid for the Kuroda, though this “has not met an unspecified reserve price for the ship, which originally cost million to build.”
Designed to transport 900 short tons of vehicles and cargo over the shore in as little as four feet of water, the LSVs are “roll-on roll-off” vessels that can transport 15 main battle tanks or up to 82 double-stacked 20-foot long ISO containers.
A view of the inside of the LSV, as shared on the auction site.
Kuroda is the only one of the Army’s eight LSVs name for a Medal of Honor recipient.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, “Staff Sgt. Robert T. Kuroda distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action, on 20 October 1944, near Bruyeres, France. Leading his men in an advance to destroy snipers and machine gun nests, Staff Sergeant Kuroda encountered heavy fire from enemy soldiers occupying a heavily wooded slope. Unable to pinpoint the hostile machine gun, he boldly made his way through heavy fire to the crest of the ridge. Once he located the machine gun, Staff Sergeant Kuroda advanced to a point within ten yards of the nest and killed three enemy gunners with grenades. He then fired clip after clip of rifle ammunition, killing or wounding at least three of the enemy. As he expended the last of his ammunition, he observed that an American officer had been struck by a burst of fire from a hostile machine gun located on an adjacent hill. Rushing to the officer’s assistance, he found that the officer had been killed. Picking up the officer’s submachine gun, Staff Sergeant Kuroda advanced through continuous fire toward a second machine gun emplacement and destroyed the position. As he turned to fire upon additional enemy soldiers, he was killed by a sniper. Staff Sergeant Kuroda’s courageous actions and indomitable fighting spirit ensured the destruction of enemy resistance in the sector. Staff Sergeant Kuroda’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.”
In what sounds like a page straight from the script of a Tim Burton film, the Pentagon has issued a solicitation to industry seeking biodegradable ammo that could also plant seeds.
No, this is not a Duffleblog post.
The solicitation, posted on the Small Business Innovation Research web site, states that the plan is to eventually replace “low velocity 40mm grenades; 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars; shoulder launched munitions; 120mm tank rounds; and 155mm artillery rounds” with biodegradable versions with the intention of “eliminating environmental hazards.”
“Components of current training rounds require hundreds of years or more to biodegrade [and] civilians (e.g., farmers or construction crews) encountering these rounds and components do not know if they are training or tactical rounds,” the solicitation states. “Proving grounds and battle grounds have no clear way of finding and eliminating these training projectiles, cartridge cases and sabot petals, especially those that are buried several feet in the ground. Some of these rounds might have the potential corrode and pollute the soil and nearby water.”
The Pentagon is asking for biodegradable rounds that can also plant “bioengineered seeds that can be embedded into the biodegradable composites and that will not germinate until they have been in the ground for several months.”
The intent is to use the seeds to “grow environmentally friendly plants that remove soil contaminants and consume the biodegradable components developed under this project.” Furthermore, these plants supposedly will be stuff that animals can eat safely.
It is unclear how this RD effort improves combat readiness.
Past efforts to use “green” technology have proven very expensive. According to a July 2016 report from the Daily Caller, the Navy’s “Green Fleet” used biofuel that cost $13.46 per gallon on USS Mason – and the biofuel in question was only about 5.5 percent of the total fuel taken on board. Regular fuel cost $1.60 per gallon.
This is not to say some “green” programs have been duds. The Defense Media Network reported in 2013 that the Army’s M855A1 5.56mm NATO round for the M4 carbine, M16 rifle, and M249 squad automatic weapon had turned out to be comparable to a conventional 7.62mm NATO round, like those used in the M14 rifle or M240 machine gun.
Still, the best that can be said for the “green technology” push is that the results have been very spotty.
The US Army has purchased two Iron Dome defense systems, Defense News reports. The missile defense systems are short-range counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) weapons systems that have been repeatedly tested by Hamas rockets fired into Israeli territory. The system’s radar detects incoming projectiles and tracking them until they get in range for one of the Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles to strike.
Israel has said the system intercepted 85 percent of the rockets fired in a 2012 Gaza operation. One expert assessed that Iron Dome is effective, but not as high as Israel has claimed.
It’s unclear how or where the US is planning to deploy these systems, but Defense News reported that they’ll be used in the military’s interim cruise missile defense capability. A delivery date — and the cost of the system — are not yet known.
Read on to learn more about the Iron Dome system.
The Iron Dome is a counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) weapons system that can also defend against helicopters and other aircraft, as well as UAVs at very short range, according to its Israeli manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Ten of the systems are currently in use in Israel.
Iron Dome has different variants — the I-DOME is fully mobile and fits on a single truck, and the C-DOME is the naval version of the system. The US version, called SKYHUNTER, is manufactured by Rafael and Raytheon.
Iron Dome can operate in all weather conditions and at any time; one launcher holds 20 intercept missiles at a given time. The system uses a radar to detect an incoming projectile. The radar tracks the projectile while also alerting the other system components — the battle management and weapons control (BMC) component and the launcher — of the incoming threat. It also estimates where incoming projectiles will hit and only focuses on those threats that will fall in the area the system is meant to protect. Rafael boasts that this strategic targeting makes the system extremely cost-effective.
The system only targets rockets predicted to land in the protected zone, allowing ones that miss to pass by.
Trails are seen in the sky as an Iron Dome anti-missile projectile intercepts a rocket.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems builds the Israeli Iron Dome defense system; the two US systems will be built by Rafael and Raytheon. Many of the components of Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles are made by Raytheon in the US.
Israel uses the Iron Dome to intercept rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. It’s had the system in place since 2011.
The US is purchasing two Iron Domes, called Skyhunter in the US, for its interim cruise missile defense capability. It’s unclear when the systems will be delivered, and how and where they will be deployed, but Defense News reported that parts of the system may be integrated into the Indirect Fires Protection Capability program.
The Phalanx close-in weapon system (CIWS) is comparable to the Iron Dome, but instead of missiles, it rapid-fires bullets against incoming threats at sea and on land. The system is manufactured by Raytheon and employs a radar-guided gun that’s controlled by a computer and counters anti-ship missiles at sea. On land, the Phalanx is part of the Army’s C-RAM system. It’s used on all Navy surface combatant ship classes.
A Phalanx close-in weapons system (CIWS) fires from the fantail of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in the Atlantic Ocean, June 7, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anderson W. Branch)
Defense News reported on Aug. 12, 2019, that the US had purchased two Iron Dome systems, although it’s unclear how much the Department of Defense paid for them, or where or how they will be deployed.
While the system has been very useful for Israel against more rudimentary Hamas- and Hezbollah-launched projectiles, it would be less so against weapons like hypersonic missiles, which can maneuver midflight.
Space is getting more and more dangerous these days, with Russia and China standing up to weaponize space. Of course, astronauts and other space travelers have carried weapons into orbit before, though they may never have carried anything like this triple-barreled shotgun-machete.
American astronauts would have no use for such a thing. Soviet Cosmonauts, on the other hand, might need it very badly. Not to shoot American capitalists in low Earth orbit but rather for use against bears.
Before the days of the reusable Space Shuttle program, making re-entry required a capsule that would protect the crew of any spacecraft on re-entry. For this the Soviet Union developed the Soyuz, a spacecraft mounted on a Soyuz rocket. Its re-entry vehicle was (and still is) a capsule, similar to the ones the United States used during the Apollo Program. In Apollo, the capsules splashed down into the ocean and were retrieved by the U.S. Navy. The Russians’ capsule usually falls back down to Earth in Central Asia.
There’s a problem with that, however. Russia is a big country. The Soviet Union was an even bigger country. There’s a lot of space such a capsule could get lost in – and one eventually did.
It’s a terrible idea to fire a firearm inside an oxygen-rich kinetically weightless environment, and all astronauts and cosmonauts no doubt know this very well. But the triple-barreled TP-82 Survival Pistol was never designed to be shot aboard a ship or in the vacuum of space. It was included in the Soyuz survival kit for use on Earth. In 1965, one cosmonaut found out why.
Alexey Leonov – the first human to do a spacewalk – landed his capsule in forests of the snow-covered Ural mountains, some 600 miles off target. Luckily for him, he carried a 9mm pistol that would protect him from the beasts in the untamed wilderness. His fears of landing off-course caused him to lobby for a survival weapon that would be included in all Soyuz capsules. What he got was the TP-82, a weapon that could hunt, take down large predators and fire off flares. But wait, there’s more: The weapon’s buttstock was also a large machete that could be used as another survival tool.
But the survival weapons didn’t show up overnight. Leonov and his partner in the Soyuz capsule that day, Pavel Belyayev, spent two nights on the ground in the Urals, cold and fearful of large predators. They weren’t able to be rescued for two full days before a ground crew could ski out to them in the deep snow and heavy forest canopy. Leonov’s fear of being stranded among brown bears never left him, however. Nearly 20 years after the rescue, he became second in command of the cosmonaut training program in 1981.
He used this influence to develop the three-barreled pistol and make it standard in Soyuz space capsules.
The Army is now testing virtual-reality goggles that will allow soldiers to rehearse combat missions that they are about to undertake.
The Integrated Visual Augmentation System, known as IVAS, will be tested by 82nd Airborne Division troops next month at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The IVAS goggles will allow soldiers to see simulated images superimposed over the actual terrain.
The soldiers will wear the goggles and miniature computer equipment as they negotiate obstacle courses, run land navigation and conduct other missions, said officials from Program Executive Office Soldier.
Called Soldier Touchpoint 2, the test is designed to provide feedback to PEO soldier so the IVAS heads-up display can be further enhanced before 200,000 of the headsets begin to be fielded in 2021.
Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, director of the Army’s AI Task Force, discusses how artificial intelligence will modernize the force during a Warriors Corner presentation at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Mr. Gary Sheftick)
IVAS has been touted by senior leaders as a “game-changer” for soldier lethality and a quick win for the modernization priority.
The IVAS headsets are a good example of how artificial intelligence is being used to enhance soldier lethality, said Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, director of the Army’s AI Task Force.
Each pair of IVAS goggles has “significant amounts of high-tech sensors onboard and processors,” Easley said at a Warriors Corner presentation Monday afternoon during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Each IVAS headset has integrated AI chips built into the system, he said.
“Those chips are doing visual recognition,” he said. “They’re tracking a soldier’s eye movements, they’re tracking a soldier’s hand as it interfaces with the system, and they’re tracking a soldier’s voice.”
Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, director of the Army’s AI Task Force, discusses how artificial intelligence will modernize the force during a Warriors Corner presentation at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
The IVAS headset “uses a customized AI piece” to make it work, he said.
AI will be an enabler for all of the Army’s modernization programs over the next decade, Easley said.
“Each one of those systems need AI,” he said, from Future Vertical Lift to Long-Range Precision Fires to the Next Generation Combat Vehicle.
“AI, as you know, is becoming a pervasive part of our society,” he said.
“Every system that you can think of — from self-driverless cars to ride-sharing applications, to restaurant recommendation systems to healthcare systems — they span every area of our society.
“They need to span every battlefield system that we have,” as well, he said, from maneuver to fire control.
The US Marine Corps says it needs ground-launched missiles that can seek out and eliminate enemy ships sailing in contested waterways.
“Part of the homework that the Navy and Marine Corps have done over the past six months is how we think we’re going to need to operate in the future as an integrated naval force,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
“That means the Marine Corps assumes a role which we have not had in the past 20 years, which is how do we contribute to sea control and sea denial,” he added.
The Marines have practiced striking stationary ships from land and sea with missiles launched from High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, but now the service wants to take it a step further and hit ships on the move.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command and deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration, said the Corps wants a system with an active seeker that can chase down a moving ship, something it doesn’t currently have.
“We have to have a system that can go after that,” Smith told lawmakers. “That is what matters in a contested environment in the South China Sea or in the [Indo-Pacific Command] area.”
Changing the calculus of an adversary
The Marines are currently looking at the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), which has a range of roughly 750 nautical miles, as a Ground-Based Anti-Ship Missile (GBASM) solution.
Smith said the service will test fire the system in June.
The NSM is “capable of sea-skimming, high-g maneuverability, and the ability to engage targets from the side, rather than top-down,” according to written testimony submitted to the HASC.
The NSM would be fired from a mobile launch platform based on an unmanned Joint Light Tactical Vehicle called the Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires, or ROGUE-Fires, vehicle. The missile and the vehicle together are the Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), the testimony says.
The GBASM and ROGUE-Fires vehicle are “rapid prototyping and development initiatives” for the Corps, according to documents submitted as part of the service’s 2021 budget proposal.
Both have proven successful in war games and simulations, Berger said Thursday.
“Game-changer is probably an over-the-top characterization, but it definitely changes the calculus of an adversary,” Berger said.
The fiscal year 2021 budget proposal included a request for 48 Tomahawk missiles, likely the maritime variant, which appears to be first for the Corps.
“What we need is long-range precision fires for a small unit, a series of units that can, from ship or from shore, hold an adversary’s naval force at risk. That missile is going to help us do that,” Berger told the SASC.
Berger said the Tomahawk “could be the answer or could be the first step toward a longer-term answer five, six, seven years from now.”
With the collapse last year of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — which banned ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 km and 5,000 km (310 miles and 3,100 miles) — after the US withdrew in response to alleged Russian violations, the Marine Corps has more freedom when it comes to ground-launched missiles.
Asked if the request for Tomahawks was a result of the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, Berger said he “would assume so” but “hadn’t linked the two together.”
“We just knew we need a long-range precision fires beyond the range that we were restricted to before,” he added.
US Air Force weapons developers are working with industry to pursue early prototypes of a new air-launched, nuclear-armed cruise missile able to pinpoint targets with possible attacks from much farther ranges than bombers can typically attack.
Service engineers and weapons architects are now working with industry partners on early concepts, configurations, and prototypes for the weapon, which is slated to be operational by the late 2020s.
Many senior Pentagon and Air Force officials believe the emerging nuclear-armed Long Range Stand-Off weapon will enable strike forces to attack deep within enemy territory and help overcome high-tech challenges posed by emerging adversary air defenses.
The Air Force awarded two 0 million LRSO deals in 2017 to both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin as a key step toward selecting one vendor for the next phase of the weapon’s development. Due to fast growing emerging threats, the Air Force now envisions an operational LRSO by the end of the 2020s, as opposed to prior thoughts they it may not be ready until the 2030s.
While many details of the weapons progress are not available naturally for security reasons, Air Force officials tell Warrior Maven that plans to move into the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase are on track for 2022.
A cruise missile armed with nuclear weapons could, among many things, potentially hold targets at risk which might be inaccessible to even stealth bombers in some instances.
As a result, senior Air Force leaders continue to argue that engineering a new, modern Long-Range Standoff weapons with nuclear capability may be one of a very few assets, weapons or platforms able to penetrate emerging high-tech air defenses. Such an ability is, as a result, deemed crucial to nuclear deterrence and the commensurate need to prevent major-power warfare.
United States Tomahawk cruise missile.
“The United States has never had long-range nuclear cruise missiles on stealthy bombers,” Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists, told Warrior Maven.
Therefore, in the event of major nuclear attack on the US, a stand-off air-launched nuclear cruise missile may be among the few weapons able to retaliate and, as a result, function as an essential deterrent against a first-strike nuclear attack.
“There may be defenses that are just too hard. They can be so redundant that penetrating bombers becomes a challenge. But with standoff (enabled by long-range LRSO), I can make holes and gaps to allow a penetrating bomber to get in,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, former Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, (and Current Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force) told the Mitchell Institute in 2014.
At the same time, some experts are raising concerns as to whether a nuclear-armed cruise missile could blur crucial distinctions between conventional and nuclear attacks; therefore, potentially increasing risk and lowering the threshold to nuclear warfare.
“We have never been in a nuclear war where escalation is about to happen and early-warning systems are poised to look for signs of surprise nuclear strikes. In such a scenario, a decision by a military power to launch a conventional attack — but the adversary expects and mistakenly interprets it as a nuclear attack — could contribute to an overreaction that escalates the crisis,” Kristensen said.
Potential for misinterpretation and unintended escalation is, Kristensen said, potentially compounded by the existence of several long-range conventional cruise missiles, such as the Tomahawk and JASSM-ER. Also, in future years, more conventional cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons are likely to emerge as well, creating the prospect for further confusion among potential adversaries, he explained.
“Stealthy bombers equipped with numerous stealthy LRSOs would — in the eye of an adversary — be the perfect surprise attack weapon,” Kristensen said.
However, senior Air Force and Pentagon weapons developers, many of whom are strong advocates for the LRSO, believe the weapon will have the opposite impact of increasing prospects for peace — by adding new layers of deterrence.
B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber.
“LRSO will limit escalations through all stages of potential conflict,” Robert Scher, former Sec. of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities, told Congress in 2015, according to a report from the Federation of American Scientists.
In fact, this kind of thinking is analogous to what is written in the current administration’s Nuclear Posture Review which, among other things, calls for several new low-yield nuclear weapons options to increase deterrence amid fast-emerging threats. While discussing these new weapons options, which include a lower-yield submarine-launched nuclear weapon, Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress the additional attack possibilities might help bring Russia back to the negotiating table regarding its violations of the INF Treaty.
The LRSO will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile or ALCM, currently able to fire from a B-52. The AGM-86B has far exceeded its intended life-span, having emerged in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, Air Force statements said.
Unlike the ALCM which fires from the B-52, the LRSO will be configured to fire from B-2 and B-21 bombers as well, service officials said; both the ALCM and LRSO are designed to fire both conventional and nuclear weapons.
While Air Force officials say that the current ALCM remains safe, secure, and effective, it is facing sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats, service officials also acknowledge.
The rapid evolution of better networked, longer-range, digital air-defenses using much faster computer processing power will continue to make even stealth attack platforms more vulnerable; current and emerging air defenses, such as Russian-built S-300s and S-400s are able to be cued by lower-frequency “surveillance radar” — which can simply detect that an enemy aircraft is in the vicinity — and higher-frequency “engagement radar” capability. This technology enables air defenses to detect targets at much farther ranges on a much larger number of frequencies including UHF, L-band and X-band.
Russian officials and press reports have repeatedly claimed its air-defenses can detect and target many stealth aircraft, however some US observers believe Russia often exaggerates its military capabilities. Nonetheless, many US developers of weapons and stealth platforms take Russian-built air defenses very seriously. Many maintain the existence of these systems has greatly impact US weapons development strategy.
Accordingly, some analysts have made the point that there may be some potential targets which, due to the aforementioned superbly high-tech air defenses, platforms such as a B-2 stealth bomber, might be challenged to attack without detection.
However, Air Force leaders say the emerging new B-21 Raider stealth bomber advances stealth technology to yet another level, such that it will be able to hold any target at risk, anywhere in the world, at any time.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
When a senior al-Qaeda terrorist (or one from the Islamic State or Boko Haram) gets blown to smithereens, it makes the world a better place. An MQ-1 Predator drone made that happen late last month when its AGM-114 Hellfire missiles killed a senior al-Qaeda leader by the name of Farouq al-Qahtani.
According to a report by BBC News, al-Qahtani was hiding out in Kunar Provine, Afghanistan when the Predator carried out the strike on Oct. 23. Al-Qahtani’s death was confirmed by the Pentagon on Nov. 5. The Daily Caller reported that documents captured during the 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden mentioned al-Qahtani as a well-known figure, who was known by the alias Furuq al-Qatari.
“We have a good battalion over there led by brother Faruq al-Qatari,” one operative of the terrorist group wrote. The United States admitted Oct. 28 he was the target of a drone strike.
Predator and Reaper drones (also known as “Predator Bs”) have killed a number of high-ranking terrorists. Here’s some of the “greatest hits” that the MQ-1/AGM-114 Hellfire combination has pulled off:
Anwar al-Awlaki: A high-ranking member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Anwar al-Awlaki was involved in the attempt to use an underwear bomb to bring down an airliner on Christmas Day 2009 and had been in contact with the perpetrator of the November 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood. He also preached at the mosque that was attended by at least two of the 9/11 hijackers. Awlaki died on Sept. 30, 2011.
Ali Qaed Senyan al-Harthi: Ali Qaed Senyan al-Harthi was one of the suspected masterminds of the attack on USS Cole in October 2000. The strike carried out in November 2002 that killed him and five other al-Qaeda operatives was the first time an unmanned aerial vehicle was used against a senior terrorist.
Hakimullah Mehsud: The leader of the Pakistani Taliban was killed on Nov. 1, 2013. During his tenure, the Pakistani Taliban carried out the murder-suicide bombing at Camp Chapman in 2010 and the shooting of Malala Yousefzai on Oct. 9, 2012.
Baitullah Mehsud: The founder of the Pakistani Taliban and the immediate predecessor of Hakimullah Mehsud was killed on Aug. 5, 2009. Under his leadership the Pakistani Taliban had carried out the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
Not a bad start. Hopefully, there will be many more.
The EC-130H Compass Call is an airborne tactical weapon system with a primary mission to disrupt enemy command and control infrastructures limiting adversary coordination and force management.
The aircraft is a heavily modified variant C-130 Hercules, one of the most important and longest flying airframes in Air Force history.
From the outside the aircraft may look like a normal Hercules, but internally the advanced electronic warfare and electronic attack computer systems enables the Air Force to locate, listen and jam enemy communications.
The effect of the non-kinetic denial is not permanent, but it provides the desired result of blocking the enemy across the electromagnetic spectrum.
The effectiveness of the Compass Call is in creating a fog of war for enemy fighters making them easier targets for U.S. ground forces.
(Photo by Evelyn Chavez)
The Air Force is the only operator of the EC-130H and the Compass Call has been providing air space superiority over its 35-year operational life. The aircraft has demonstrated a powerful effect on enemy command and control networks in multiple military operations including Kosovo, Haiti, Panama, Libya, Iraq, Serbia, and Afghanistan.
Development and design
The EC-130H had its first flight in 1981, was delivered to the Air Force in 1982 and reached initial operating capability in 1983.
The aircraft’s EC identifier stands for special electronic installation transport.
A weapon of the Cold War it was original designed to provide suppression of enemy air defenses and spent its early years monitoring integrated air defense systems under the Warsaw Pact.
The aircraft is powered by four turboprop engines and has a flight speed of 300 mph and a flight range of nearly 2,300 miles.
The airborne tactical weapon system has been modified through the years with each update providing stronger avionics systems, radars and a more powerful digital signal analysis computers and subsystems.
The EC-130H aircraft carries a combat crew of 13 people. Four members are responsible for aircraft flight and navigation, while nine members operate and employ the EA mission equipment permanently integrated in the cargo/mission compartment.
The EC-130H fleet is composed of a mix of Baseline 1 and 2 aircraft.
(Photo by Raheem Moore)
The Block 35 Baseline 1 EC-130H provides the Air Force with additional capabilities to jam communication, Early Warning/Acquisition radar and navigation systems through higher effective radiated power, extended frequency range and insertion of digital signal processing versus earlier EC-130Hs. Baseline 1 aircraft have the flexibility to keep pace with adversary use of emerging technology.
Baseline 2 has a number of upgrades to ease operator workload and improve effectiveness. Improved external communications allow Compass Call crews to maintain situational awareness and connectivity in dynamic operational and tactical environments.
Delivery of Baseline-2 provides the DoD with the equivalent of a “fifth generation electronic attack capability,” providing improved aircraft performance and survivability.
A majority of the improvements found in the EC-130H Compass Call Baseline-2 are classified modifications to the mission system that enhance precision and increase attack capabilities.
In 2017 the Air Force announced plans for a Compass Call replacement platform based off the Gulfstream 550 Airborne Early Warning aircraft. The new platform has been designated EC-X.
Operation and deployment
All 14 Compass Call aircraft are assigned to Air Combat Command. The 55th Electronic Combat Group consisting of two operational squadrons, the 41st and the 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron operates the EC-130H. The 55th ECG is a tenant unit of the 355 Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, which reports to the 55th Wing at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.
(Photo by Chris Massey)
The 55th ECG recently eclipsed 10,900 combat sorties and 66,500 flight hours as they provided U.S. and Coalition forces and Joint Commanders a flexible advantage across the spectrum of conflict.
Did you know
Since it’s introduction in 1954 there have been 54 modified variants of the C-130
The EC-130H was introduced in 1983 and began providing airborne attack capabilities in 1989 supporting U.S. Army Rangers during Operation Just Cause in Panama.
The EC-130H is one of four main U.S. electronic warfare aircraft, along with the EA-18G Growler, EA-6B Prowler and the F-16CJ Fighting Falcon, which form the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) triad.
EC-130H Compass Call fact sheet:
Primary function: electronic warfare, suppression of enemy air defenses and offensive counter information
Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines
4,910 prop shaft horsepower
132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)
97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)
38 feet, 3 inches (11.4 meters)
300 mph (Mach .4)
25,000 feet (7,576 meters)
Maximum takeoff weight:
155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
non-kinetic energy waveforms
13 (two pilots, navigator, flight engineer, two electronic warfare officers, mission crew supervisor, four cryptologic linguists, acquisition operator and an airborne maintenance technician)
Initial operation capability:
Active force, 14
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has unveiled a new unmanned combat air vehicle that has reportedly been based on the Lockheed Martin RQ-170. The report comes nearly five years after one of the secret drones went down in Iranian territory.
According to reports from Arutz Sheva, the UCAV is called “Saegheh” and has been modified from the RQ-170 to carry up to four smart bombs underneath its fuselage. Reports of an Iranian version of the American UAV have been controversial ever since Iran unveiled footage of a purported copy in 2014.
This is reportedly a photo of the Saegheh drone copied from a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel. (Photo from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps via AP)
Despite the skepticism, Iran has developed a formidable military industry to cope with sanctions and a cutoff of American support since the mullahs took over in 1979. Among the systems the regime has built on its own include the Bavar 373 surface-to-air missile system, based on the SA-10 Grumble, the Jamaran-class frigates, and Peykan-class missile boats. The regime has also copied numerous high-tech systems, including the C-802 anti-ship missile and SM-1 surface-to-air missile, and has managed to improve its force of M47 and Chieftain main battle tanks.
The RQ-170 is operated by the United States Air Force’s 30th Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing based out of Creech Air Force Base and the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.
Very few performance details have been released, and the only hard data is an apparent operational ceiling of 50,000 feet. A released Iranian video of the UAV captured in 2011 indicated the plane had a wingspan of 85 feet. The RQ-170 first emerged in 2007, and was known as the “Beast of Kandahar” when it was spotted in photos of Kandahar Air Base.
According to a 2012 estimate, around 20 RQ-170s are in service with the United States military and it is rumored the RQ-170 was used to keep an eye on SEALs during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.