Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer - We Are The Mighty
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Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer

For more than 30 years the B-1B Lancer has proven itself as an essential part of America’s long-range strategic bomber force. Capable of carrying the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force, the B-1 can rapidly deliver massive quantities of precision and non-precision weapons against any adversary, anywhere in the world, at any time.


Development

The Air Force’s newly acquired B-52 Stratofortress hadn’t even taken off for it’s first flight before studies for its replacement began. Research started in the realm of a supersonic bomber resulting in the development of the B-58 Hustler and XB-70 Valkyrie in the late 50s. Although cancelled, a joint NASA-U.S. Air Force flight research program continued to use the XB-70 prototypes, which were capable of reaching Mach 3.0, for research purposes into the late 60s.

During that decade Air Force began to move away from developing high and fast bombers in favor of low-flying aircraft capable of penetrating enemy defenses.

In 1970 Rockwell International was awarded the contract to develop the B-1A, a new bomber capable of high efficiency cruising flight whether at subsonic speeds or at Mach 2.2. To meet all set mission requirements, such as takeoff and landing on runways shorter than those at established large bases, the B-1A was equipped with variable-sweep wings.

The first prototype flight occurred on December 23, 1974, and by the late 70’s four prototypes had been built, however, the program was canceled in 1977 before going into production.

Flight-testing of the prototypes continued through 1981 when, during the Reagan administration, the B-1 program was revived. For the B1-B, the Mach 2.2 number was dropped and the maximum speed limit set to about Mach 1.2 at high altitude due, in part, to changes from a variable air inlet to a fixed inlet. Other major changes included, an additional structure to increase payload to 74,000 pounds, an improved radar and reduction of the radar cross section.

The first production B-1 flew in October 1984, and the first B-1B was delivered to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in June 1985. Initial operational capability was achieved on Oct. 1, 1986. The final B-1B was delivered May 2, 1988.

The B-1B holds almost 50 world records for speed, payload, range, and time of climb in its class.

Operational history

The B-1B was first used in combat in support of operations against Iraq during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998. In 1999, six B-1s were used in Yugoslavia during Operation Allied Force, delivering more than 20 percent of the total ordnance while flying less than 2 percent of the combat sorties.

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer
A B-1B Lancer takes off from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to conduct combat operations April 8, 2015. Al Udeid is a strategic coalition air base in Qatar that supports over 90 combat and support aircraft and houses more than 5,000 military personnel.
(Photo by James Richardson)

During the first six months of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, eight B-1s dropped nearly 40 percent of the total tonnage delivered by coalition air forces. This included nearly 3,900 JDAMs, or 67 percent of the total. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the aircraft flew less than 1 percent of the combat missions while delivering 43 percent of the JDAMs used. The B-1 continues to be deployed today, flying missions daily in support of continuing operations.

Active squadrons

The 9th and 28th Bomb Squadrons, 7th Bomb Wing, and the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Dyess AFB, Texas

34th and 37th Bomb Squadrons, 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota

Did you know?

  • The B-1B is nicknamed “The Bone” due to the phonetic spelling of its model designation B-ONE.
  • The B-1B has flown 12,000-plus sorties since 2001 in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • With it’s rapid deployment capability and long-range the B-1B can strike targets anywhere in the world from it’s home station.

Aircraft stats

Primary function: Long-range, multi-role, heavy bomber
Contractor: Boeing
Power plant: Four General Electric F101-GE-102 turbofan engines with afterburner
Thrust: 30,000-plus pounds each engine
Wingspan: 137 feet (41.8 meters) extended forward, 79 feet (24.1 meters) swept aft
Length: 146 feet, (44.5 meters)
Height: 34 feet (10.4 meters)
Payload: 75,000 pounds Internal (34,019 kilograms)
Speed: 900-plus mph (Mach 1 plus)
Ceiling: More than 30,000 feet (9,144 meters)
Armament: Approximately 75,000 pounds of mixed ordnance: bombs, mines and missiles
Crew: Four (aircraft commander, copilot, and two combat systems officers)
Unit Cost: $317 million
Initial operating capability: October 1986
Inventory: Active Duty, 62 (2 test); Air Force Reserve, 0; Air National Guard, 0

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer
(Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

Indonesia wants to put a tank gun on a boat

The challenges of the battlefield can forge the most ingenious solutions from available resources. One notable example is the German-repurposing of the deadly 88mm Flak anti-aircraft gun as an anti-tank gun with devastating effectiveness during WWII. In a 21st century twist, Indonesia plans to arm a boat with a tank gun.

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer
Concept art of the Tank Boat operating on the Indonesian coast (CMI Defence, PT Pindad & PT Lundin Invest)

Indonesia faces a unique threat envelope due to its location and geography. The island nation sits in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Pacific and Indian oceans amidst heavily-transited commercial shipping lanes. As a result, Indonesia has 17,508 islands and 61,567 miles of coastline to patrol and defend from potential pirates and terrorists looking to make use of the waterways. To address this threat, Indonesia looks to employ the Antasena Tank Boat.

Aptly named, the Tank Boat is designed to bring heavy firepower to brown water coastal and riverine operations. It utilizes a catamaran design that gives it large internal volume, stability at sea, and a draft of just three feet. Capable of carrying 20 to 60 troops pending final specifications, the Tank Boat can sail right up to the beach to deliver them for amphibious landings. This capability is essential in the defense of Indonesia’s many islands.

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer
An artist’s rendition of Tank Boats supporting an amphibious landing of 10,000 troops (CMI Defence, PT Pindad & PT Lundin Invest)

Of course, the Tank Boat’s most eye-catching feature is its gun. The Cockerill 105mm High Pressure (NATO Standard) gun planned for the Tank Boat is currently used on the jointly developed Turko-Indonesian Kaplan/Hiramau tank. Capable of firing high explosive, canister, smoke, and anti-tank rounds, the gun is a deadly weapon for the coastal fighting that the Tank Boat is designed for. With an elevation of 42 degrees, it can be used in both direct and non-line-of-sight fire support. The gun is also capable of shooting the Falarick gun-launched missile which can engage targets out to three miles. A version with a 30mm autocannon is also planned and is currently in the evaluation phase. Both versions feature a remote-controlled .50 caliber or 7.62mm machine gun on the turret as well. 20,000 will be delivered.

All of this firepower is packed onto a boat measuring just 59 feet long and 21 feet wide. Additionally, the Tank Boat’s two 1,200 horsepower MAN engines and two waterjets give it a top speed of 40 knots. For comparison, the Coast Guard’s Island-class patrol boats like the USCGC Adak are 110 feet long with a top speed of 29.5 knots.

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer
The Tank Boat is designed to excel at brown water coastal and riverine operations (CMI Defence, PT Pindad & PT Lundin Invest)

As a specialized maritime asset, the Tank Boat looks to check all the boxes for the Indonesian military’s specific needs. So far, the Indonesian Ministry of Defense has purchased one Tank Boat from contractor PT Lundin with plans to buy more following favorable testing. The MoD claims that the Tank Boat could be operational as early as 2022.

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer

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4 times enlisted troops stole planes from the flightline

It must be so tempting, staring down an awesome piece of military hardware… just sitting there, waiting for someone to take it for a spin. The maintainers know everything about their plane, tank, or other vehicles, right down to the last detail.


Imagine anyone’s surprise when one of these vehicles just up and leaves when its not supposed to. Sounds unlikely, but it’s happened a lot more than one might think.

1. Sergeant Paul Meyer gets sick of his wife, steals a C-130

On May 23, 1969, Meyer, a U.S. Air Force crew chief stationed at RAF Mildenhall, England, took off in a C-130E, and very quickly crashed into the English Channel. His body was not found, but he was assumed to have died on impact.

 

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer

The USAF investigation showed Sgt. Meyer was “under a considerable amount of stress” in the days leading up to the theft. He was married just eight weeks before his deployment to England and his wife constantly badgered him to come home – because she was being sued by her ex-husband.

On top of his marriage difficulties, he failed to pass for promotion despite allegedly being better qualified than his peers who did get promoted. Meyer was grounded and restricted to barracks for being arrested in an alcohol-related incident.

The same night he was arrested, he called the fuels unit on the base to fuel up his C-130. He then took an officer’s flight clothes and GOV, then drove to the flightline.

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer
A C-130E at REF Mildenhall in 1984.

 

He did not crash on takeoff. He climbed, turned north, and made his way over the Channel. He called his wife over the radio until he lost control and crashed.

2. An Army PFC takes a Huey to the White House

Army Pfc. Robert K. Preston washed out of Army flight school in 1973. The 20-year-old was apparently determined to get under the rotors of an Army aircraft – by any means necessary. On Feb. 17, 1974, Preston stole a Bell UH-1 Huey Helicopter from Fort Meade, Maryland, and flew it down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, stopping at a trailer park along the way.

 

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer
Screenshot of NBC’s coverage of the incident.

Preston, who held a civilian pilot’s license for fixed wing aircraft, completed 24 weeks of Army aviation training before washing out for “deficiency in the instrument phase.” Yet, Maryland State Police pilots who chased Preston called him “one hell of a pilot.”

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer
Chart of Preston’s flight from Tipton Field to Washington (FAA)

The helicopter buzzed the Washington Monument and the White House itself before touching down amid a hail of Secret Service buckshot. Preston was injured in the gunfire, sentenced to one year in prison, and fined $2,400.

3. A USAF Mechanic steals an F-86 Sabre, regrets nothing

When the F-86 Sabre appeared in the Air Force fleet in the 1950s, pilots needed a year of training to fly it. Airman 1st Class George Johnson, however, took the initiative. On Sept. 20, 1956, he hopped in the cockpit of a Sabre and went for a ride.

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer
Airman George Johnson in a T-33 in late 1955. (George R. Johnson)

 

Johnson was a mechanic with dreams of flying. Unfortunately, a burned retina from staring at an eclipse meant a plane like the F-86 was forever out of reach. As part of a routine functional check one day, he asked the tower to clear the runway for a high-speed taxi test, which was actually a thing.

Except when it reached the right speed, Johnson took off with the plane – literally. But he had no way down. No chute. No experience. The officers of the day had to talk Johnson down. Johnson was court-martialed and fined almost $200, sentenced to six months confinement and loss of rank to Airman Basic.

He later served the rest of his enlistment.

4. A Marine becomes a mechanic – then steals an A-4M Skyhawk

Lance Cpl. Howard Foote couldn’t become a Marine Corps pilot because he got the bends during a glider test. He had to settle for becoming a mechanic.

But the dream of flying a USMC fighter never left him. One day in 198 he gassed up a Skyhawk and took it for a joyride.

 

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LA Times clipping

Foote landed his plane much easier than anyone else – he was an accomplished pilot already. But he still served time in the brig for his chicanery.

BONUS: U.S. Army soldier steals a tank, goes on a rampage

In 1990, a California veteran named Shawn Nelson lost a medical malpractice suit to a local hospital, who counter-sued for thousands. His wife filed for divorce in 1991. Both parents died of cancer in 1992. His brother became hooked on meth.

By 1995, his business went defunct and he lost everything and was facing homelessness. In April of that year, his live-in girlfriend died of a drug overdose.

On May 17, 1995, Nelson calmly drove to a California National Guard armory in San Diego and forced his way into a 57-ton M60A3 Patton tank. Though unarmed, Nelson still drove the tank off the base.

For 23 minutes, he led police on a slow-speed chase through local residential neighborhoods as he rampaged over utility poles, hydrants, and at least 25 cars.
Eventually, the tank got caught on the median of State Route 163, where police ordered Nelson to leave the vehicle. When he instead tried to free the tank, the police shot him. Nelson died from his wounds, the only fatality.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un rides a majestic horse and sends Christmas threats, I guess

North Korea has again lobbed a vague year-end threat at the Trump administration, saying the US can expect a “Christmas gift” if talks between US and North Korean officials don’t lead to substantive concessions for North Korea.

As the year-end deadline that the hermit kingdom has given the US runs out, North Korea may renege on the only concession it has given President Donald Trump — the promise to abandon nuclear and long-range weapons testing.

In November, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s state-run news outlet, released a statement saying that time was quickly running out for the US to resume talks that had stalled after Trump’s much-touted visit to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in June. While US diplomats have said that tentative negotiations in Stockholm last month went well, North Korea’s latest missive indicates otherwise.


For comparison, the MFA statement of July 7, 2017, shortly after the first Hwasong-14 ICBM test, included: “the test-fire of the inter-continental ballistic rocket conducted by the DPRK this time is a ‘gift package’ addressed to none other than the U.S.”https://kcnawatch.org/newstream/1499418128-531979580/statement-of-dprk-foreign-ministry-spokesman/ …

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North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister of US Affairs Ri Thae Song told KCNA that, “The DPRK has done its utmost with maximum perseverance not to backtrack from the important steps it has taken on its own initiative,” referring to its promise not to test ICBMs or nuclear weapons, but that the US hasn’t held up its end of the bargain — which, to North Korea, means sanctions relief.

As researcher Joshua Pollack of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (CNS) wrote on Twitter, North Korea has historically tested missiles between February and September. But the language of a “Christmas gift” echoes a July 2017 statement from North Korea’s ministry of foreign affairs that referred to the launch of three ICBMs, all of which landed west of Japan.

“A ‘Christmas gift’ in the form of a test into the Pacific seems not out of the question,” Pollack wrote Tuesday.

“It’s not implausible that they could give the world a Christmas or New Year gift of an ICBM test,” Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT and a member of a member of MIT’s Security Studies Program, told Insider.

“It’s possible this is all aimed at generating pressure and leverage against Trump now, but by the same token, given the consistency and insistence on the deadline, and North Korea’s history of doing what it says it is going to do… let’s see what gift we get,” Narang said.

“North Korea is very careful with its words,” Shea Cotton, also a researcher at CNS, told Insider, indicating that it’s no coincidence North Korea is again using the language of a threatening “gift.”

Dashing through the snow… North Korean state media KCNA publish fresh pictures of leader Kim Jong Un riding a white horse while visiting battle sites around Mount Paektu http://u.afp.com/JCTx pic.twitter.com/yW0RhrtPE7

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On Dec. 4, new photos surfaced of Kim Jong Un visiting battle sites at Mt. Paektu, a legendary site for North Korea where Kim’s grandfather, the founder of the country, fought Japanese forces as a guerilla. Along with the photos of Kim with family members and military leaders, North Korea also announced a meeting of the Plenary Session of the Central Committee in December, before Kim’s annual New Year’s speech, the equivalent of the State of the Union. It’s expected that this plenary meeting could herald a major announcement about the country’s policy toward the US.

Should North Korea continue this pattern, the US will have lost the only concession Trump managed to wrangle from the DPRK. But experts say that unless the US is willing to take denuclearization off the table, North Korea will likely be testing ICBMs or intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) in the near future — but this time, there may be a few new details, like an overflight of Japan instead of “lofting” its launches, solid-fueled missile launches, or a satellite launch, Cotton told Insider.

The Dec. 3 statement accused Trump of trying to stall ahead of the 2020 elections.

“The dialogue touted by the US is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the US,” Song said in the statement.

For the second time in two months, Kim Jong Un rides a white horse https://reut.rs/2sK7NKs pic.twitter.com/c2O6pI7tXC

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“It’s possible they also see Trump as someone they’re more likely to get a good deal with (compared to a more competent administration) and think he might not be around for much longer, given the looming impeachment and 2020 election,” Cotton told Insider.

Thus far, Trump has done little more than resurrect his “Rocket Man” nickname for Kim Jong Un and threaten a military response to North Korean provocations at a NATO summit Tuesday.

When asked the likelihood that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is bluffing, Cotton said, “Probably zero.”

“North Korea has a pretty sophisticated missile program,” he said. “They can probably test whenever they want more or less. If North Korea ends up not doing something like resuming testing it would only be because they found a reason not to, like the resumption of serious talks with the US.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This classic-rock legend is also a top missile-defense expert

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter has earned eight platinum records in a music career that started in the 1960s, and he has received numerous security clearances and contracting jobs since the 1980s as a self-taught expert on missile-defense and counterterrorism.

Baxter was one of many luminaries at the White House on Oct. 11, 2018, to watch President Donald Trump sign the Music Modernization Act, which reforms copyright laws.

Unlike every other musician in the room, including Kid Rock, Baxter has built a successful second career as a defense consultant.


Baxter dropped out of college in Boston in 1969 to join a short-lived psychedelic-rock band. After that, he moved to California and become one of the original six members of Steely Dan, which he left in 1974 to join the Doobie Brothers, which he left in 1979.

Baxter has said he “fell into his second profession almost by accident.”

While living in California in the 1970s, Baxter helped a neighbor dig out their house after a mudslide.

“Afterward, he invited me into his study and I saw all these pictures of airplanes and missiles on the wall — it turned out he was one of the guys who had invented the Sidewinder missile,” Baxter said in a 2013 interview. “As a gift for helping him clean out his house he gave me a subscription to Aviation Week and to Jane’s Defense. It was amazing.”

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter.

(InnoTown Conference / Youtube)

Baxter found the technical aspects of music and of defense, particularly missile defense, coincided.

“Technology is really neutral. It’s just a question of application,” he told MTV in 2001. “For instance, if TRW came up with a new data compression algorithms for their spy satellites, I could use that same information and apply it for a musical instrument or a hard disc recording unit. So it was just a natural progression.”

He immersed himself in technical journals and defense publications during the 1980s.

“The good news is that I live in America and am something of a, I guess the term is an “autodidact,” he said in 2013, when asked about his formal education. “There’s so much information available. The opportunity for self-education in this country is enormous.”

The big shift came in 1994.

Inspired by a friend’s work on an op-ed about NATO, Baxter sat down and punched out a five-page paper on the Aegis ship-based antiaircraft missile system, arguing it could be converted to a missile-defense system.

“One day, I don’t know what happened. I sat down at my Tandy 200 and wrote this paper about how to convert the Aegis weapon system,” he said in a 2016 speech. “I have no idea. I just did it.”

Baxter, who had recently retired as a reserve police officer in Los Angeles, was already in touch with California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as an adviser. Baxter gave his paper to Rohrabacher.

“Skunk really blew my mind with that report,” Rohrabacher told The Wall Street Journal in 2005. “He was talking over my head half the time, and the fact that he was a rock star who had basically learned it all on his own was mind-boggling.”

Rohrabacher gave the paper to Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee, who asked, “Is this guy from Raytheon or Boeing?” according to Baxter.

Rohrabacher replied, “No, he’s a guitar player for the Doobie Brothers.”

Like Rohrabacher, Weldon was struck by Baxter’s prowess. In 1995, he nominated Baxter to chair the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense, a congressional panel.

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper, equipped with the Aegis integrated weapons system, launches a missile during an exercise in the Pacific Ocean, July 30, 2009.

(Department of Defense Photo)

“The next thing I knew, I was up to my teeth in national security, mostly in missile defense, but because the pointy end of the missile sometimes is not just nuclear, but chemical, biological or volumetric, I got involved in the terrorism side of things,” Baxter told MTV in 2001.

The appointment to the panel “sort of opened up a door for me to end up working in the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), which then morphed into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which then morphed into the Missile Defense Agency (MDA),” Baxter said in 2013.

He’s also worked with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and contractors like Northrup Grumman.

“We did some pretty cool stuff,” Baxter said in 2016 of his work on SDI, which President Ronald Reagan first proposed in 1983. “Reagan’s plan was a bit much. It was a plan to drive the Russians nuts, and it worked. They believed what we were doing was real and spent lots of money trying to counter it.”

He was also a hit at the Pentagon.

“Some of these people who are generals now were listening to my music when they were lieutenant colonels or lieutenant commanders, so there was a bond there,” Baxter said in 2001. “But what they realized is that they’re looking for people who think out of the box, who approach a problem with a very different point of view because we’re talking about asymmetrical warfare here.”

Military leaders brought him in to consult, regularly asking him to play the role of the enemy during war games.

“I’m told I make a very good bad guy,” Baxter said in 2005. People who worked with him also told The Journal he could be a self-promoter.

Baxter has kept up his musical work. He became a sought-after session guitarist, working with acts like Dolly Parton, Rod Stewart, and Eric Clapton.

In 2004 he flew 230,000 miles to reach all his gigs. That year he also made more money from his defense work than from music.

For his part, Baxter has pointed to his creativity as his biggest asset.

“We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles,” he said in 2005.

“My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

An American fighting for ISIS will now stand trial in the US

A Russian-born American has been captured in Syria by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. These anti-ISIS fighters have captured thousands of defeated Islamic State militants in the country since the fall of its de facto capital of Raqqa in 2017. To them, this is just one more ISIS prisoner.

They have returned the captured American to U.S. troops in the country and now he will stand trial in the United States.


This is not the first instance of Americans who left to join the terrorist state being captured and repatriated to the United States. Two American women and four children have also been captured and returned to the U.S. since the American intervention in the fight against the Islamic State began.

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer

Thousands of ISIS-affiliated persons have been captured in the former “caliphate.”

The SDF in Syria is a force of American-trained and supported fighters, primarily of Kurdish origin. They have captured thousands of ISIS fighters since the fall of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” and returned many to their countries of origin to face punishment. Most of those returnees come from Europe, who struggles with repatriating the fighters and even with prosecuting them. While the United States stands ready to prosecute the fighter, European countries differ on how to handle returnees.

When the U.S. first started planning for the return of captured fighters, the Trump Administration originally planned to incarcerate them at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Instead, Trump is sending returning ISIS-affiliated repatriates to the civilian court system. In June 2019, American-born wives and children of ISIS fighters were captured by the SDF and returned to the U.S.

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer

The status of ISIS-born children is an emerging controversy.

Those affiliated with the Islamic State but aren’t accepted by their former country of citizenship are more likely to be held in vastly overcrowded prison camps in Syria or held in government jails. European countries are refusing the fighters because their justice systems would require gathering sufficient evidence of wartime crimes (being a member of ISIS isn’t enough to secure a conviction), and if tried, there’s a chance the ISIS fighters could walk free. The United States isn’t facing a huge influx of returning fighters but has a different standard of proof.

In the meantime, much effort is expended by all armed forces in the region in returning families of Islamic State fighters to their countries of origin, many coming from nearby Iraq or far-flung places as far as China and Uzbekistan. As the SDF finishes eliminating pockets of ISIS resistance, they are sure to find more and more survivors to send home, wherever home once was.

Articles

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

The M1 Abrams was the best tank in the world for a long time – and its Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom combat record backed it up. But lately, Army officers are warning that other tanks are catching up, including Russia’s T-14 and T-90, the British Challenger 2, and the Israeli Merkava IV.


Yeah, the Israelis have designed their own tank. According to waronline.org, the Merkava came about after the Israelis were unable to buy the British Chieftain main battle tank due to concerns from diplomats. Lessons learned from the 1973 Yom Kippur War were also applied to the tank’s development. What emerged was something that protected its crew, had good firepower, and a lot of ammo storage. In fact, the crew protection aspect was heightened by a decision to put the engine at the front of the tank.

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer
A tank crew in an M1A2 Abrams belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division completes tank gunnery qualification at Presidential Range in Swietoszow, Poland, January 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke, 4th ID MCE Public Affairs/Released)

The latest version of the Merkava is the Merkava 4, with a 120m main gun and capacity for up to 48 rounds, according to Army-Technology.com. It also has a 60mm mortar – a unique weapon among tanks – as well as three 7.62mm machine guns. The tank, though, is slow, with a top speed of 29 miles per hour according to militaryfactory.com.

We’re familiar with the M1 Abrams. It has a 120mm main gun with 40 rounds, a .50-caliber machine gun, and two 7.62mm machine guns. It is very tough (recall that in Desert Storm, this tank deflected T-72 main guns rounds fired from 400 meters away), but it is also fast – with a top speed of 42 miles per hour.

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer

Crew training in both of these tanks is really a wash. The American Abrams crews are probably among the best in the world. So are the Israelis (in fact, during the Yom Kippur War, vastly outnumbered Israeli tanks held the line against a much larger Syrian force in the Battle of the Valley of Tears).

So, which tank wins? Much will depend on which tank’s “game” is being played. If the Merkava is defending, it has the edge. This will be particularly true if the terrain forces a unit with Abrams tanks to come right at the Merkavas.

But if the fight is a mobile fight, then the Abrams’ speed will give it the edge.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why an award for military dogs is long overdue

Military working animals are just as much troops in the formation as their bipedal handlers. They go through rigorous training, like the Joes. They get weeded out through selection, like the Joes. And they even hold rank, like the Joes. Military working animals, especially the military dogs, are trained in a wide array of specializations, from drug sniffing and explosives detection to locating survivors in wreckage and providing emotional support to our wounded service members at countless hospitals.

These dogs give just as much as everyone else in the formation — yet, unlike the Joes, they didn’t have official recognition by the United States Armed Forces for their their gallant deeds. That could change with the recently proposed “Guardians of America’s Freedom Medal.”


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Fun fact: The first organization to care for military working animals was called “Our Dumb Friends League” — which is still a less agitating way to refer to an animal than when people call their Pomeranian their “fur baby.”

(Imperial War Museum)​

Currently, the Dickin Medal is given to military working dogs of all allied nations — but this is not an American award nor is it even officially from the military. It’s from the UK’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. Despite that, the current Dickin Medal means a great deal to the handler because it doesn’t just mean a printed certificate and a tiny medallion for a creature that’d much rather play with a tennis ball — the medal also comes with benefits and care for the dog.

Physical proof that a military working dog is, in fact, a very good boy gives handlers the evidence they need to back up their requests for help. Handlers currently have little support from Uncle Sam when it comes to ordering new supplies, like harnesses, training aids, etc. With recognition, which, to this point, has meant the Dickin Medal exclusively, the animal is pampered with all of the dignity and respect it earned.

The Dickin Medal also allows the animal to be buried, with full military honors, at the Ilford Animal Cemetery in London. Non-decorated working animals don’t have that right, but the Department of Defense has been taking steps in the right direction. Now, military working animals are allowed to be buried next to their handler at certain national cemeteries. Additionally, the DoD decided (finally) that it was a terrible idea to just leave working dogs on the battlefield or euthanize them when their service isn’t required anymore.

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Military working dogs have proven time and time again that they’re patriots.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson)

The Guardians of America’s Freedom Medal would give nearly all of those same benefits — along with official recognition by the United States Government — to the animals that have bravely served their country.

This medal, which costs nothing more than a few bucks and a commander’s recommendation, will help showcase the heroism of our military working animals and give them more than just a pat on the head and an extra treat.

As of December 31st, 2013, 92 military working animals have lost their lives in support of the Global War on Terrorism. 29 of those dogs suffered gunshot wounds, and another 31 were killed by explosions. The other 32 have fallen due to illness. Another 1,350 dogs have suffered non-combat-related injuries or illnesses.

The award will probably mean little to an animal that doesn’t comprehend why everyone’s applauding, but it’s a step in the right direction — and it will give the handlers that extra push they need to get the care our military working animals deserve.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit

Anything close to the maximum structural speed for a jet is usually just for the glossy brochure—99.9% of the time we don’t come close to reaching it. There was one time, though, that I pushed the F-16 as fast as it could go.

I was stationed in Korea and there was a jet coming out of maintenance; the engine had been swapped out and they needed a pilot to make sure it was airworthy. It was a clean jet—none of the typical missiles, bombs, targeting pod, external fuel tanks were loaded. It was a stripped down hot-rod capable of it’s theoretical maximum speed.

When we fly, we usually go out as a formation to work on tactics; every drop of fuel is used to get ready for combat. This mission, however, called for me to launch as a single-ship and test the engine at multiple altitudes and power settings. The final check called for a max speed run.


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Justin “Hasard” Lee in the cockpit of an F-16 (Sandboxx)

I took off, entered the airspace, and quickly started the profile. Topped off, I could only carry 7,000 pounds of internal fuel; never enough with the monster engine behind me burning up to 50,000 pounds of fuel per hour. I knocked out the various tasks in about 15 minutes and then was ready for the max speed run.

I was at 25,000 feet when I pushed the throttle forward, rotated it past the detent and engaged full afterburner—I would have 5 minutes of useable fuel at this setting. I could feel each of the 5-stages lighting off, pushing me forward. I accelerated to Mach 1—the speed of sound that Chuck Yeager famously broke in his Bell X-1—and started a climb. A few seconds later 35,000 feet went by as I maintained my speed. Soon I was at 45,000 feet and started to shallow my climb to arrive at the 50,000 foot service ceiling. This was as high as I could go, not because the jet couldn’t go higher, but because if the cockpit depressurized, I would black out within seconds.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt. Don Taggart)

Looking out at 50,000 feet, the sky was now a few shades darker. I could start to see the curvature of the earth. To my right was the entire Korean peninsula—green with a thin layer of haze over it. To my left, a few clouds over the Yellow Sea separating me from mainland China.

As I maintained my altitude, the jet started to accelerate. At 1.4 Mach, with only about 2 minutes of fuel left, I bunted over and started a dive to help with the acceleration. In my heads-up-display 1.5 Mach ticked by, backed up by an old mach indicator slowly spinning in my instrument console.

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Justin “Hasard” Lee (Sandboxx)

At 1.6 Mach, the jet started to shake. I was expecting it—the F-16 has a flight region around that airspeed that causes the wings to flutter. Still, this jet had a lot of hours on the airframe, and if anything were to fail, the breakup would be catastrophic. Similarly, ejecting at that speed would be well outside the design envelop—the air resistance at Mach 1.6 is about 300 times what a car experiences at highway speeds. A few pilots have tried, only to break nearly every bone in their body.

So now, the option was slow down until the vibration stopped, or push though until it smoothed out on the other side. I was running low on fuel, so I elected to increase my dive so I could accelerate faster. Slowly 1.7 Mach ticked by, next 1.8, and then at 1.9, everything smoothed out. I was now traveling 1,500 mph over the Yellow Sea. The cockpit started feeling warm so I took my hand off the throttle and put it about a foot away from the canopy and could feel the heat radiating through my glove, similar to sticking your hand in an oven.

At this point I was entering the thicker air at 35,000 feet which was preventing the Mach from going any higher. I was also nearly out of fuel, so I pulled the throttle out of afterburner and into military-powerthe highest non-afterburner power setting. Despite a significant amount of thrust still coming from the engine, the drag at 1.9 Mach caused the jet to rapidly decelerate, pushing me forward until my shoulder-harness straps locked. It took over 50 miles for the jet to slow down below the mach.

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Justin “Hasard” Lee (Sandboxx)

Taking a jet to 1.9 mach isn’t any sort of record; in fact, some aircraft have gone twice as fast. It is an interesting feeling, though, to be at the limit of what an iconic aircraft like the F-16 can give you. Thousands of incredible engineers, who I never had the chance to meet, designed the plane and you are now realizing the potential of what they built. The heat and vibration, coupled with being outside the ejection envelope, let you know the margin of safety is less than it normally is.

I’ve since moved on to the F-35 which correctly prioritizes stealth, sensor fusion, and networking over top speed, so that’s likely as fast as I’ll ever go. It was a visceral experience that was a throwback to the 50’s and 60’s—where the primary metrics a plane was judged by how high and fast it could go.

Make sure to check out Justin Lee’s podcast, The Professionals Playbook!

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

INFORCE releases ergonomic mounted light

INFORCE has made a name for itself with weapon-mounted lights with creative designs and excellent ergonomics.

Their initial line of rifle lights were compact, polymer-bodied lights with a clever and functional design. They had a large, contoured activation button placed at an angle at the end of the light, and the integrated mount was simple and secure to use without tools.

INFORCE first showed a prototype of a new rifle light earlier this year at SHOT Show, and they brought the latest to the NRA Annual Meeting. While their original rifle light was polymer and mounted in-line with a hand guard rail, their new rifle light is metal and offset-mounted.


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Offset-mounting rifle lights

Offset-mounting rifle lights have become quite popular, allowing tube-style flashlights to snug up close to the handguard without blocking sighting systems and consuming as much real estate on the top rail. INFORCE’s new rifle light incorporates all of this into an integrated design — the mount juts out from the side of the light to attach to a rail on your handguard, holding the light off to the 1:30 or 10:30 position if you use the top rail. You can swap the mount around to choose which side you prefer.

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In addition, the top of the mount also incorporates the activation button for the light, providing natural and ergonomic access to the controls, especially for shooters who use a thumb-over grip on their rifle. Tap the switch to turn the light on or off, or hold it to activate momentary on mode. Double tapping the switch engages strobe mode. INFORCE says the light will output approximately 1,300 lumens.

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The light’s made of aluminum and will initially come in black, with tan to follow later. It’s powered by either a 18650 rechargeable cell (provided with a charger) or two CR123 batteries.

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The prototype features a mode dial on the end which adjusts power output, but the production unit will dispense with this in favor of a proprietary jack to accept a tape switch. INFORCE plans to offer a single and dual pressure switch, with the latter likely to be compatible with Insight remote switches.

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INFORCE hasn’t given the new light a name yet but expects the MSRP to be somewhere around 9. Tape switches should retail around to 0. The new goodies should hit the market in Q3 or Q4 of this year.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

Articles

The state of Coast Guard icebreakers

Bad news, folks. If the U.S. had to muscle its way into regions choked with ice to deal with a recalcitrant foe, it’d have hard time.


The fact of the matter is that the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaker capability has dwindled big time, and the Navy has no icebreakers in its fleet.

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The Coast Guard icebreakers USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB 10) and USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 11) during a resupply mission to McMurdo Research Station. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At this time, the Coast Guard has one heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star (WAGB 10) and one medium icebreaker, the Healy (WAGB 20) in service. According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea (WAGB 11), has been inoperable since 2010 after five of its diesel engines failed.

As a result, the United States has a very big problem. The Polar Star is down at the South Pole, resupplying the McMurdo Research Station. That means that the Healy is the only icebreaker available for operations in the Arctic.

The Polar Sea? Right now, it is being cannibalized to keep the Polar Star operable, according to a report from USNI News.

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The icebreaker USCGC Healy (WAGB 20) in the Arctic Ocean. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” the Polar Sea was commissioned in 1976, while the Polar Star was commissioned in 1977. USNI noted that plans do not include beginning construction of new icebreakers until 2020, with them entering service in 2024 at the earliest.

If you’ve followed ship programs like the Littoral Combat Ship, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, or the Gerald R. Ford, that date could be a best-case scenario. The Polar Sea’s operational life is expected to last until 2022, two years prior to the earliest date the new icebreakers would enter service.

Russia, on the other hand, has 41 icebreakers. In addition to maintaining a large fleet of icebreakers, Russia has been trying to winterize modern interceptors like the MiG-31 Foxhound and strike aircraft like the Su-34 Fullback, and its new icebreaker construction push includes nuclear-powered icebreakers.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia will challenge any UN ban of killer robots

Russian diplomats delivered a message for those who want to ban killer robots: Russia will build them no matter what. That is the sum total of what happened during a week of discussion on the issue of weapons and vehicles operated by artificial intelligence in Geneva.


According to a report by DefenseOne.com, a statement by the Russian government on Nov. 10 laid out a very hard-line position against the ban on what the United Nations is calling “lethal autonomous weapon systems,” or LAWS.

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This screen capture fro a video released by the Russian Republic of Dagestan shows a robot equipped with weapons. (Youtube screenshot)

“According to the Russian Federation, the lack of working samples of such weapons systems remains the main problem in the discussion on LAWS,” the statement said. “Certainly, there are precedents of reaching international agreements that establish a preventive ban on prospective types of weapons. However, this can hardly be considered as an argument for taking preventive prohibitive or restrictive measures against LAWS being a by far more complex and wide class of weapons of which the current understanding of humankind is rather approximate.”

The Russians also claimed that there was a risk of harming civilian artificial intelligence capabilities, saying, “It is hardly acceptable for the work on LAWS to restrict the freedom to enjoy the benefits of autonomous technologies being the future of humankind.”

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An Endeavor Robotics 710 Kobra checks out a vehicle. (Youtube screenshot)

The Russian hard line comes as questions percolate about Russian compliance with other arms control treaties. Russia has already been accused of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, prompting the United States to begin development of a new ground-launched cruise missile. A report from RealClearDefense.com noted that Russia’s force of Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers may have been modified in a manner that fits the definition of strategic bombers under the New START Treaty.

In the past, some arms control treaties have not prevented bad guys from using banned weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention did not prevent the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from using mustard agent against American troops in 2016.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This C-130 has the power to get into the enemy’s mind

The C-130 is a very valuable transport – and a legend. It’s hauled cargo and troops since December, 1956. That gives it almost 61 years of service — a most impressive run.


And the plane is still rolling off the Lockheed Martin assembly line today.

That description of this amazing plane’s longevity still sells the Hercules short. It’s not only been in the air a long time, it’s been modified for a crazy amount of different missions, including as a gunship.

But one of the less-well known versions is the EC-130J Commando Solo II. This Hercules doesn’t haul stuff or blow stuff up. Instead, like the 1930s-era comic book detective The Shadow, it has the power to cloud the mind of the enemy.

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Flying over the Pennsylvania countryside in a training mission, the EC-130E/J Commando Solo is a specially-modified four-engine Hercules transport that conducts information operations, psychological operations and broadcasts information in various frequencies. The 193rd Special Operations Wing, Harrisburg International Airport, Pa., has total responsibility for the Commando Solo missions. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Commando Solo is a very rare version of the Hercules. According to an Air Force fact sheet, only three airframes are in service, all with the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. It is equipped as a flying radio and TV station, capable of broadcasting AM radio, FM radio, and color television.

The plane has seen action a number of times, including during the liberation of Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury), Operation Just Cause, Desert Storm, the 1994 intervention in Haiti, the Balkans, and in the War on Terror. The planes usually operate at night, so as to not be detected. Even then, they carry what the Air Force calls “self-protection equipment.”

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The EC-130J has been in service since 2004. It has a crew of nine (pilot, copilot, combat systems officer, mission crew supervisor, three electronic communications systems operators and two loadmasters), a range of 2,300 nautical miles (without aerial refueling), and usually cruises at a speed of 335 miles per hour.

You can see a video of a training mission on the Commando Solo below.

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