Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat, twin turbofan-powered aircraft designed specifically for close air support and ground attack missions against armored vehicles.


The aircraft’s sub-sonic speed and large straight-wing design allows for extreme maneuverability at low altitudes and extended time on target or to loiter above the battlefield.

The airframe was designed from the very start as a short takeoff and landing aerial platform for the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon, which can fire 3,900 depleted uranium shells per minute. When combined with the ability to carry the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile and laser-guided bombs, the A-10 can destroy enemy armor at close range or from a standoff position.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Redundant control surfaces and hydraulic systems combined with titanium armor protecting the pilot, control systems, and ammunition make the A-10 highly survivable in combat.

When performing forward air control missions, the A-10 changes its designation to OA-10, although it remains just as combat capable as the A-10.

Its lethal effect on the battlefield combined with the toughness to return its pilot to base even after suffering extensive damage has led pilots and crew to nickname the aircraft the “Warthog.”

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
The A-10 Thunderbolt II piloted by Captain Kim Campbell suffered extensive damage during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Campbell flew it safely back to base on manual reversion mode after taking damage to the hydraulic system. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

Development and Design

The A-10 was born of the Attack-Experimental (A-X) program office, which launched in 1966 to develop a ground-attack aircraft to replace the Douglas A-1 Skyraider.

In 1970, the threat posed by the Soviet Union’s overwhelming number of tanks along the borders of Western Europe led the Air Force to request contractor proposals for an airframe specifically designed to conduct the CAS mission and destroy enemy armor.

The call for designs stipulated a low-cost aerial weapons platform – less than $3 million per unit – capable of loitering above the battlefield and engaging enemy targets at low altitude and speed with a high-speed rotary cannon, while providing extreme crew and aircraft survivability.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
A-1E Skyraider aircraft of the 34th Tactical Group, based at Bien Hoa, South Vietnam, fly in formation over South Vietnam June 25, 1965. In the 1960s, the USAF requested proposals from aviation contractors for a subsonic jet-powered aircraft designed exclusively for the a ground attack and close air support role which would replace the A-1 which served with the USAF during wars in Korea and Vietnam. The result was the Fairchild Republic A-10. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Later, the requirements would be further specified to include a maximum speed of 450 mph and a normal operating speed of 300 mph in combat to enable easier engagement of slow moving ground targets.

Furthermore, the new aircraft was required to take off in less than 4,000 feet, enabling operations from small airfields close to the front lines, carry an external load of 16,000 pounds and have a mission radius of 285 miles, all for a final cost of $1.4 million per aircraft.

Of the six proposals submitted to the Air Force, Northrop and Fairchild Republic were selected to build prototypes.

In 1973, Fairchild Republic’s YF-10 was the winner of a fly-off against Northrup’s YF-9 and full production began in 1976, with the first A-10 being delivered to Air Force Tactical Air Command that March.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
A Northrop A-9A before touchdown on its first flight. The aircraft was one of two prototypes built to the requirements of the U.S. Air Force’s Attack-Experimental Program. Ultimately, the Fairchild Republic design for a dedicated ground attack aircraft, the YF-10, would be chosen by the Air Force over the Northrop design, leading to the production of the A-10. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Features and Deployment

Fairchild Republic’s WWII fighter, the P-47 Thunderbolt, had begun its service in Europe as fighter and bomber escort, but soon earned a reputation as a relentless and tough ground-attack aircraft that dispatched Nazi armor and artillery in close proximity to friendly troops, while creating havoc in enemy assembly areas and along rail and road supply routes. It was a natural choice for the company to name its new CAS-dedicated aircraft after its WWII-era forefather: “Thunderbolt II.”

The entire design of the aircraft revolved around the high-speed 30mm Avenger cannon. The weapon gives the A-10 its up-close tank-busting capabilities announced by the long “buuuuurp” sound that has saved and encouraged many an infantryman in dire straits on the battlefield.

Although developed initially to provide an aerial counterpunch to the mass of Soviet tanks poised along the borders of Western Europe, the A-10 did not see combat until the Gulf War in 1991.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
The business end of the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon extends from the nose of an A-10. The cannon, which can fire 3,900 depleted uranium shells per minute, was the anti-armor weapon around which the A-10 platform was designed. (U.S. Air Force photo)

There the “Warthog” earned its nickname, getting pilots back to base despite heavy damage from ground fire, while destroying 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and trucks and over 1,200 artillery pieces. Just four A-10s were lost to Iraqi surface-to-air missiles in over 8,000 sorties.

The A-10 next saw combat and search and rescue missions in the Balkans in 1994-95 and again in 1999, before being deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 and participating in the entirety of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It still currently conducts operations against ISIS targets.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
An A-10 launches an AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile during a training mission. The missile enables the A-10 to destroy armored vehicles and other targets from a standoff position. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

Did You Know?

  • Many of the A-10’s parts, such as engines, main landing gear and vertical stabilizers are interchangeable on both sides of the aircraft, greatly increasing ease of maintenance and decreasing operational and maintenance costs.
  • The A-10’s ailerons constitute nearly 50 percent of the total wing surface, giving it an astonishing rate of roll and maneuverability at low altitudes and speeds.
  • If the redundant hydraulic systems and backup mechanical system are all disabled, the pilot can still lock landing gear into place using a combination of gravity and aerodynamic drag. The main gear does not fully retract leaving the wheels exposed decreasing damage in an emergency belly landing.
  • The A-10 gained its first air-to-air victory during the Gulf War in 1991 when Capt. Robert Swain shot down an Iraqi helicopter with 30mm cannon fire.
  • In 2010, the A-10 was the first Air Force aircraft to fly powered by biofuels.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly in a wingtip formation after refueling from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Feb. 15, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

FACT SHEET: A-10 Thunderbolt II

Primary function: close air support, airborne forward air control, combat search and rescue

Contractor: Fairchild Republic Co.

Power plant: two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans

Thrust: 9,065 pounds each engine

Wingspan: 57 feet, 6 inches (17.42 meters)

Length: 53 feet, 4 inches (16.16 meters)

Height: 14 feet, 8 inches (4.42 meters)

Weight: 29,000 pounds (13,154 kilograms)

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 51,000 pounds (22,950 kilograms)

Fuel Capacity: 11,000 pounds (7,257 kilograms)

Payload: 16,000 pounds (7,257 kilograms)

Speed: 450 nautical miles per hour (Mach 0.75)

Range: 2580 miles (2240 nautical miles)

Ceiling: 45,000 feet (13,636 meters)

Armament: one 30 mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun; up to 16,000 pounds (7,200 kilograms) of mixed ordnance on eight under-wing and three under-fuselage pylon stations, including 500 pound (225 kilograms) Mk-82 and 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) Mk-84 series low/high drag bombs, incendiary cluster bombs, combined effects munitions, mine dispensing munitions, AGM-65 Maverick missiles and laser-guided/electro-optically guided bombs; infrared countermeasure flares; electronic countermeasure chaff; jammer pods; 2.75-inch (6.99 centimeters) rockets; illumination flares and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.

Crew: one

Unit cost: $18.8 million

Originally published in Airman Magazine November 2017.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the person of leisure (POL):

~ Footwear fabricated for you by warzone friendlies ~

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Matthew “Griff” Griffin’s company, Combat Flip Flops, found its mission somewhat off the beaten path of American vetrepreneurship — somewhat outside the parameters that veteran-owned businesses usually set for themselves.

Returning from his tours in Iraq, the former Army Ranger found himself wondering what role, if any, the private business sector might play in stabilizing some of the international communities that the U.S. military has been laboring through the first decades of this century to liberate.

Read: Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Many vets return from war looking to brush the dirt off their shoulders and get on with the business of living as free and fortunate Americans. The businesses that veterans found are most often designed to put other vets to work, while giving back to veteran causes here on the home front.

And make no mistake, that is good and proper — and WATM goes out of its way to shine the light of public awareness wherever we find such stories unfolding.

But Combat Flip Flops’ approach is just different enough to make us pause and reflect. Is there another way, now that we’re home, to support the mission we fought overseas to advance? Matthew Griffin thinks so.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwT83EgpxL0
Combat Flip Flops sells goods – from the eponymous sandals and sneakers to bags, scarves, and accessories – that are manufactured by workers in war-torn countries, the proceeds of which go to fund business development and education for the people of those communities.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Griffin’s goal is to attack the vicious cycle of poverty begetting local violence begetting regional instability begetting the kind of endemic violence that requires U.S. military intervention.

Combat Flip Flops currently manufactures its shoes in factories in narco-insurgent Columbia. Their employees in Afghanistan, many of them women, make their scarves and sarongs. They sell jewelry made from detonated landmines and funnel a portion of the profits back to mine-clearing efforts in Laos. And they’re always looking for new synergies.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Combat Flip Flops is investing in the economic health and social well-being of communities living in the wake of warfare. They recognize that, by the very nature of the mission, veterans and active duty personnel are the de facto sales reps of 21st century American democracy to some of the most at-risk communities in the modern world. And when combat in these areas concludes, the message shouldn’t just be “You’re Welcome.”

With the right kind of private sector support, it can be shorter and much more profound. The message can simply be “Welcome.”

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Articles

This prototype speedloader was inspired by ‘Tomb Raider’

The 2001 film “Tomb Raider” had a ton of acting talent, including two Oscar winners (Jon Voight and Angelina Jolie), as well as a future 007 (Daniel Craig). But it also has inspired a prototype that could find its way to U.S. special operators.


At the 2017 Armament System Forum in Fredericksburg, Virginia, hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association, We Are The Mighty met Paul J. Shaskan, the Founding Partner and Chief Innovation Officer of Torrent Loading Systems, LLC. Shaskan has devised a piece of gear inspired by the 2001 hit film – which is being rebooted.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
The Rapid Loading System on body armor. (Screenshot from video provided by Torrent Loading Systems)

Shaskan has developed a rapid loader that holds three magazines for just about any semi-automatic pistol – including the Beretta 92FS that is the basis for the M9 currently in service and the SiG-Sauer P320 that is the basis for the new XM17 Modular Handgun System. Rather than having to fumble with the magazines and retrieve them from a pouch, the magazines are held at an angle, and the pistol is lowered on to them. Once the magazine is seated, the pistol is pulled away with the magazine in it.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
The RLC, showing a magazine in position to reload a Glock 17 pistol. (Screenshot from video provided by Torrent Loading Systems)

“We understand that the sidearm is a secondary system for most military operations, but when it is a necessity, we also believe the operator should have the advantage even with his secondary weapon,”Shaskan told WATM in an e-mail. “The device is mountable on a MOLLE or on the belt and is completely detachable and replaceable in the field.”

In Tomb Raider, Lara Croft’s rig wasn’t spring-loaded, but it did have the magazines positioned for an easy reload. Then again, Lara Croft wasn’t using MOLLE gear.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
The rig Angelina Jolie wore in the 2001 film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. (Youtube screenshot)

The device, which has been in development for four years, is currently undergoing a final round of testing that is expected to be completed by the end of June. In essence, special operations forces may have gear that was inspired by an Angelina Jolie film.

Below, here’s the opening scene of Tomb Raider – to see what inspired this new gear.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch: Marines rain fire on ISIS in dazzling drone footage

“One of the coolest, most creative videos I’ve ever seen produced by a military journalist.”

That comment from a Vimeo user is a pretty spot-on assessment of Steel Rain — a brief but beautiful video of a Marine artillery unit mercilessly raining fire on ISIS in Syria.

In the spring of 2017, then-Sgt. Matthew Callahan deployed to an undisclosed location in Syria with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit to tell the story of artillery Marines deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The Marines conducted 24-hour all-weather fire support for the Syrian Democratic Forces as they fought the Battle of Raqqa.


drone footage captures U.S. artillery Marines conducting strikes against ISIS”

vimeo.com

After the SDF recaptured the city in the fall of 2017, Army Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell told Business Insider that US-led coalition forces were firing on ISIS in Raqqa “every minute of every hour” in order to keep pressure on the terrorist group, and the Marine fire supporting them was so intense that the barrels on two of the howitzers burned out.

Armed with a camera and drone, Callahan was there to capture all the steel-raining glory of the M777-A2 Howitzers and their crews. Now a civilian video producer for the Navy’s All Hands Magazine, Callahan was the first service member ever named Department of Defense’s military videographer of the year and military photographer of the year simultaneously.

In this roughly two-minute piece of cinematic wizardry, the award-winning filmmaker and photographer captures some of the sexiest footage you’ll ever see of the King of Battle raining righteous hellfire on America’s enemies. Watch Steel Rain above; then check out the four-minute extended cut that’s just as beautiful and more detailed here. You’ll be glad you did.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

What happens in a fight between French and Russian carriers

While the Nimitz- and Ford-class nuclear-powered supercarriers operated by the United States Navy tend to grab everyone’s attention, there are other carriers out there. France, India, China, and Russia, for example, all operate aircraft carriers — though only France’s uses the same catapult-launch system as the Americans’. France’s carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is also the only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in service outside the United States Navy.


 

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65 ), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the smaller French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaul (R 91), in the Mediterranean Sea. (US Navy photo)

As tensions flare, it’s fun to hypothesize how some of these vessels would perform against one another. So, how would the Charles de Gaulle fare against Russia’s Kuznetsov?

Admiral Kuznetsov, an aircraft carrier
The 55,000-ton Admiral Kuznetsov. But size doesn’t matter in a carrier battle, the air wing does. (Russian Ministry of Defense photo)

The Charles de Gaulle, which entered service in 2001, weighs in at 37,600 tons. This carrier has a top speed of just over 25 knots and can carry 32 Dassault Rafale M multi-role fighters, along with three E-2C Hawkeyes and four helicopters.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
A French F-2 Rafale fighter lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during combined French and American carrier qualifications. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew DeWitt)

Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov is larger, weighing 55,000 tons. It doesn’t have nuclear power and, while it can reach a speed of 29 knots, her boiler-based propulsion system isn’t the most reliable. The carrier has a host of other problems, too. The carrier reportedly can carry 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums, four Su-25 Frogfoot trainers, 15 Ka-27 Helix anti-submarine helicopters, and two Ka-31RLD Helix airborne early warning helicopters. She also packs 12 SS-N-19 Shipwreck long-range anti-ship missiles.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
A Sukhoi Su-33, arguably Russia’s best carrier fighter, isn’t quite good enough to beat a Rafale. (Kremlin photo)

 

While both carriers have surface-to-air missiles, this fight would ultimately be determined by who has the better air wing — that’d be the de Gaulle. Not only is the Rafale slightly more advanced than the Su-33 Flanker and MiG-29K, the de Gaulle operates 32 of them. The Kuznetsov’s Flankers will fall to a barrage of Mica air-to-air missiles. Then, the Rafales will switch to carrying AM.39 Exocet anti-ship missiles.

It would take waves of attacks, but the Kuznetsov carrier would, eventually, be put on the bottom.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch: Army Marksman Splits Playing Card With a Pistol

By and large, anyone who has worn the uniform for longer than a day should be a good enough shot to hit a target at the range. But when it comes to being a U.S. Army Marksman, your game has to be on point.

Enter Staff Sgt. Carl Clegg, a U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Service Pistol Team Soldier who competes for the Army in bullseye competitions.

Dwight D. Eisenhower established the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit in 1956. Its mission was to win international competitions which were dominated at the time by the Soviet Union. The unit would go on to underpin U.S. Olympics shooting teams, including the 1964 team which yielded seven medals at that year’s Summer Olympics. Six of the seven medals were won by Army Marksmanship Unit members.

The USAMU enjoys a reputation as one of the country’s premier school for competitive shooting. It also aids in the training of U.S. military snipers and assists in the development of weapons.

Shooters like Clegg need to train with challenges that push the boundaries of marksmanship. They are also routinely coming up with trick shots to hone and showcase their skills. For the challenge in this video, SSG Clegg has decided to try and slice a playing card lengthwise in half. You read that right. He’s attempting to hit a single playing card lengthwise with a round from a service pistol. Most playing cards measure about 0.17 to 0.24mm thick. That is thinner than a grain of salt…

The trick? SSG Clegg shoots with one hand. And before you cry bull, remember, this is no long rifle with a high-powered scope.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why Elon Musk is wrong about fighter jets (but right about drones)

Last week, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk ruffled some feathers during a discussion with Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium. The controversial tech mogul, who is no stranger to drawing headlines and occasionally criticism, voiced concerns over America’s apparent love affair with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, first calling for competition for the advanced fighter, and then going further to say that the era of manned fighter jets was over.


“Locally autonomous drone warfare is where it’s at, where the future will be,” Musk said. “It’s not that I want the future to be this, that’s just what the future will be. … The fighter jet era has passed. Yeah, the fighter jet era has passed. It’s drones.”
Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Elon Musk, chief engineer of SpaceX, speaks with U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the Space and Missile Systems Center commander and program executive officer for space.

(Senior Airman Christian Conrad/U.S. Air Force)

Musk went on to say that even the F-35 wouldn’t stand a chance against a sufficiently advanced drone that coupled computer augmented flying with human control.

When the story broke, we here at Sandboxx pointed out that Musk is right that a technologically advanced drone could potentialy do a lot of things a manned aircraft couldn’t — including manage hypersonic maneuvers that would leave most human pilots unconscious as a result of the G-forces. Scramjet technology has proven effective at propelling unmanned aircraft to hypersonic speeds in the past, and it seems entirely feasible that this tech will find its way into UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) in the future.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

An X-51A WaveRider hypersonic flight test vehicle is uploaded to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Chad Bellay)

But, we noted, the problem with Musk’s bright idea is that information traveling at the speed of light is actually too slow for the sort of control drone operators would need for such a platform. Even with a somewhat local operator, as Musk pointed toward, the time it would take to relay sensor data from the drone to the operator, followed my the operator processing the information and making a decision, followed by those commands being transmitted back to the drone is simply too slow a process for the split-second decisions that can be essential in a dog fight.

In other words, Musk’s plan is hypothetically right, but likely won’t work in practice for some time to come.

“For a long time, we’re still going to need the manned aircraft on the fighter and bomber side,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes, an F-15 Eagle pilot, said Wednesday during the annual McAleese Defense Programs Conference. “We will increasingly be experimenting with other options, [and] we’re going to work together.”
Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, watches a mission video during a visit to the 363rd Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Areca T. Bell)

The future of air combat likely will include some combination of manned and unmanned aircraft, which is exactly the future the Air Force’s Skyborg program is aiming for. Using “loyal wingman” armed drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, the Air Force hopes to couple fighters like the F-35 with support drones that can extend sensor range, engage targets, and even sacrifice themselves to protect the manned aircraft. In theory, one F-35 could control a number of drones that bear the majority of the risk, flying ahead of the manned jet.

“We can take risk with some systems to keep others safer,” the Air Force’s service acquisition executive, Dr. Will Roper said. “We can separate the sensor and the shooter. Right now they’re collocated on a single platform with a person in it. In the future, we can separate them out, put sensors ahead of shooters, put our manned systems behind the unmanned. There’s a whole playbook.”
Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jesenia Landaverde)

The combination of the sort of technology in play in Skyborg and rapidly developing hypersonic propulsion could put the power of hypersonic platforms in the hands of fighter pilots, just likely not in the jets they’re flying.

Of course, doing so would greatly increase the mental load on pilots in the fight, particularly if their means of controlling their wingmen drones is too complex. One of the selling points of the F-35 that doesn’t get much play in the press is its ability to fuse data from disparate sensors into an overlapping augmented reality display. Prior to this advancement, pilots had to read and manage multiple displays and gauges, combining the data in their minds to make decisions. In the F-35, friendly and enemy assets are clearly identified with colored indicators, as are air speed, altitude, and other essential information. At night, pilots can even use external cameras with their augmented reality helmets to look through the aircraft at the ground below.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

This is what an F-15 pilot has to keep track of while flying combat missions.

(USAF Photo)

A complex drone-control interface could be a step backward in a pilot’s ability to manage the flow of data, but a DARPA experiment first revealed in 2018 might just be able to solve that problem.

At the time, Justin Sanchez, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, explained that two years prior, DARPA had successfully utilized what he called a “Brain Computer Interface” to put one volunteer in control of not one, but three simulated aircraft at the same time. The “N3 System,” as they call it, could give pilots the ability to manage their drone wingmen using only their mind.

“As of today, signals from the brain can be used to command and control … not just one aircraft but three simultaneous types of aircraft,” he said at the “Trajectory of Neurotechnology” session at DARPA’s 60thanniversary event
Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

(DARPA)

In later experiments, volunteers even experienced feedback from the aircraft, transmitted into their brains to feel like a tingling sensation in the hands when the aircraft was pushing back against steering in a certain direction. The only problem is, currently, this system only works for volunteers who have had surgically implanted electrodes in their brain. The volunteers were all people with varying levels of paralysis, as this same technology could feasibly be used to control exoskeletons that could help a patient regain the ability to walk.

“The envisioned N3 system would be a tool that the user could wield for the duration of a task or mission, then put aside,” said Al Emondi, head of N3, according to a company spokesperson. “I don’t like comparisons to a joystick or keyboard because they don’t reflect the full potential of N3 technology, but they’re useful for conveying the basic notion of an interface with computers.”

So, while it’s true that a drone isn’t subject to same physical limitations a manned aircraft is, the tradeoff is that a drone would need to have an extremely advanced, fully autonomous flight system in order to execute maneuvers at the fuzzy edge of its capabilities, because communications lag would make such performance impossible in a human-controlled drone at a distance. If the drone weren’t under the control of a nearby pilot, the only choice would be to give the drone itself decision making capabilities, either through an on-board processor, or through an encrypted cloud computing process.

To date, that level of tech simply doesn’t exist, and even if it did, it would pose significant moral and ethical questions about what level of war fighting we’re comfortable relinquishing to a computer. Friendly fire incidents or unintentional civilian casualties are complicated enough without having to defend the actions of a Terminator drone, even if they were justified.

In the future, it seems entirely likely that drones will indeed be more capable than manned fighters, but they still won’t be able to fly without their cockpit-carrying-counterparts. A single F-35 pilot, for instance, may head into battle with a bevy of hyper-capable drone wingmen, but the decision to deploy ordnance, to actually take lives, will remain with the pilot, rather than the drone, just as those decisions are currently made by human drone operators.

Elon Musk is right that drones can do incredible things, but he’s wrong about the need for human hands on the stick. The future doesn’t look like Skynet, but it may look like the terrible 2005 movie, “Stealth.”

Elon Musk may be good at building rockets, electric cars, and even tunnel boring machines, but when it comes to predicting the future of warfare, he’s just as fallible as the rest of us.

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

popular

Watch the F-22 take on 5 F-15s — and dominate

The F-22 Raptor is an expensive plane. While some critics pegged its cost at over $300 million a plane, the actual fly-away cost could go down to $116 million per Raptor, according to a 2006 Air Force release.


An F-22 deploys flares. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-22 was slated to replace the F-15A/B/C/D Eagles as the premier air-superiority fighter. But the Raptor’s production was halted at 187 airframes. Let’s go through a tale of the tape on these planes, before we see what happens when five Eagles jump a Raptor.

According to Joe Baugher, the F-15 has a top speed of Mach 2.5, a cruising speed of 570 knots, can carry eight air-to-air missiles (usually four AIM-120/AIM-7 and four AIM-9), and has a 20mm M61 cannon with 940 rounds. It has a range of 3,450 miles.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Baugher notes that the F-22 has a top speed of Mach 2.2 slightly slower than the F-15. But the F-22 cruises at Mach 1.6. It carries four AIM-120 and four AIM-9 missiles. It also has a 20mm M61 cannon. It has a combat radius of up to 800 nautical miles.

Here’s the video showing how the five Eagles fared against the Raptor. Warning: This was not a fair fight.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How one Russian truck can shoot down an entire squadron in a full-scale war

While the United States has let its short-range air defense systems decline since the end of the Cold War, Russia’s been very active in bolstering theirs. Of course, this can be explained in part by the different situations the two countries face.


Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
An A-10C Thunderbolt II assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron performs a low-angle strafe using its 30mm GAU-8 rotary cannon. Planes like the A-10 have usually operated unimpeded over battlefields, to the benefit of American troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

Generally, the United States controls the skies over the battlefield, often to the detriment of gear that the Russians have sold to countries like Iraq, Libya, and Yugoslavia. This makes other countries that either bought or licensed Russian designs nervous. So, Russia’s been working hard to come up with more effective defenses, especially for battlefield forces, like tank and infantry divisions.

The latest in this series is a system called Pantsir. It is an advanced, self-propelled combined gun/missile system that is used on 8×8 trucks. On these trucks are 12 SA-22 “Greyhound” surface-to-air missiles and a pair of 30mm cannon. This is a higher capacity than the previous state-of-the-art Russian tactical defense system, the 2S6 Tunguska, which had eight SA-19 “Grison” missiles and two 30mm cannon on a tracked vehicle. To put it bluntly, one of these truck-mounted systems has enough missiles to kill an entire Navy or Marine squadron of F/A-18 Hornets.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
The heart of Pantsir: 12 SA-22 Greyhound missiles and two 30mm cannon. (Photo form Wikimedia Commons)

The SA-22 Greyhound missiles have a maximum range of just over 11 miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org, but Deagel.com reports that an advanced version of this missile could have a range of nearly 25 miles – well in excess of many precision-guided bombs in the American inventory.

The scary thing is that Russia is already exporting this advanced air-defense system. So far, buyers have included the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and, ominously, Syria. In short, American combat planes could very well be facing a Russian truck that could blow them out of the sky

MIGHTY HISTORY

The origin of the A-10 Warthog’s shark mouth goes beyond the Flying Tigers

Today, the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the “Warthog” or “Hog,” is the premiere close air support aircraft of the United States Air Force. The Warthog is best known for the massive 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon fitted in its nose. Further highlighting this feature, the aircraft’s nose is often painted with a warthog head or shark mouth. Most fans of the Warthog believe the latter nose art to be derived from the famous shark mouthed P-40 fighter planes of the Flying Tigers, and this is partly true. However, the true origin of shark mouth nose art goes all the way back to the genesis of aerial combat.

WWII enthusiasts will be familiar with the American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, better known as the “Flying Tigers”. Their Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter planes were painted with a distinct shark mouth nose art—partly as a form of psychological warfare, partly as self-expression, and generally as a display of aggression. These motivations are echoed in the Warthog with its own shark mouth nose art, but the Flying Tigers didn’t come up with the idea on their own.


Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Flying Tiger P-40 Warhawks over China. (Photo by AVG pilot Robert T. Smith/Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

Doug Revell of WARBIRDS INTERNATIONAL did some research on this topic and found that the Flying Tigers were actually inspired by 112 Squadron of the British RAF. 112 Squadron was one of the first to receive the P-40 Tomahawk (the British Commonwealth and Soviet name for the P-40B and P-40C variants of the Warhawk). The large air intake on the P-40’s nose lent itself to the aggressive shark mouth feature. The Flying Tigers saw a photograph of 112 Squadron’s shark mouthed Tomahawks operating in North Africa, and adopted the design for themselves. However, while the RAF inspired the Flying Tigers with their shark mouth nose art, they too drew inspiration from another country’s pilots.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

A P-40 of 112 Squadron taxis in Tunisia. Note the RAF roundel on the wing. (RAF photo from the Imperial War Museum)

112 Squadron had encountered the Luftwaffe’s Zerstörergeschwader (heavy fighter wing) 76 earlier in the war. ZG 76 flew Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighter/fighter-bombers which they decorated with shark mouth nose art, though notably without the inclusion of eyes. Other variations of shark mouth nose art existed on German-made aircraft including shark mouth art on the lower engine cowling of Swiss Air Force Messerschmitt Bf 109s and a shark mouth with round eyes on the nose a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter. However, it was the shark mouths of ZG 76’s Bf 110s that inspired 112 Squadron to adopt the shark mouth with the addition of the teardrop-shaped eyes.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

A ZG 76 Bf 110 with shark mouth. Note the lack of eyes. (Photo from Bundesarchiv)

Revell was able to trace ZG 76’s shark mouthed Bf 110s back to a German Air Force reconnaissance plane in the First World War. “The first noted mouth was on a World War I German Roland C.II,” Revell said. “The design fell into disuse in the interwar period but reappeared on the ZG 76 Me 110s (the unofficial but more commonly used name for the Messerschmitt Bf 110) operating from Norway…” The Walfisch (German for whale), as the C.II was called, was often painted with an open shark mouth and beady eyes on its nose. ZG 76 omitted the beady eyes when they adopted the shark mouth for their Bf 110s during WWII.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

The shape of the C.II inspired both its nickname and nose art. (Photo from aircorpsart.com)

With the more commonly known history of the Flying Tigers, it’s difficult to imagine that the shark mouth art on the nose of the Warthog can be traced back to a WWII Luftwaffe heavy fighter and a WWI German recon plane. In a way, these historical connections are appropriate, since the Warthog is used to provide forward air controller-airborne support (like the C.II) as the OA-10 and close air support for ground troops (like the Bf 110). Despite the Air Force’s intention to replace the A-10 with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, support for the Warthog from troops on the ground and the pilots that fly it are helping to ensure that the shark mouth tradition lives on in the skies.


Articles

This is what happened when Japan gave the F-16 steroids

When Japan was looking to replace aging F-1 fighters (dedicated anti-ship aircraft), they were thinking about an indigenous design. The F-1, based on the T-2 trainer, had done well, but it was outdated.


According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Japanese eventually decided to go with a modified version of the F-16C/D, giving Lockheed Martin a piece of the action.

However, Japan didn’t go with a typical F-16. They decided to give it some upgrades, and as a result, their replacement for the F-1 would emerge larger than an F-16, particularly when it came to the wings – gaining two more hardpoints than the Viper.

This allowed it to carry up to four anti-ship missiles — enough to ruin a warship’s entire day.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
A Mitsubishi F-2A taxis during a 2009 exercise. Note the dumb bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

It was also equipped from the get-go to carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 Sparrow and Japan’s AAM-4. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the F-2 was delayed by issues with the wings, and eventually sticker shock hit the program when the initial versions had a price tag of $100 million each.

In the 1990s, that was enough to truncate production at 98 total airframes, instead of the planned 140.

AirForce-Technology.com reported that F-2s deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for joint exercises in 2007. In 2011, 18 of the planes suffered damage, but most were returned to service. In 2013, the F-2s saw “action” when Russian planes flew near Japanese airspace.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
A comparison of the F-2 (in light blue) and the F-16 (in orange). (Wikimedia Commons)

For its long development and its truncated production, the F-2 has proved to be very capable. It has a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour and it carries over 17,800 pounds of ordnance.

By comparison, an Air Force fact sheet notes that the F-16 has a top speed of 1,500 miles per hour, and MilitaryFactory.com credits it with the ability to carry up to 17,000 pounds of ordnance.

In essence, the F-2 paid a visit to BALCO, and got some good steroids, going a little faster and carrying a bit more than your normal F-16. Japan has also improved the plane’s radar.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After Action Report #1: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Stats? Projections? F$%k that noise. Numbers can’t guarantee wins, but being a badass sure helps. As the 2018 NFL Season enters its second week and fantasy football fans continue to debate the stats, the veterans at We Are The Mighty are taking a different approach to finding the best players across the league.

This past week, our team of self-declared fair-weather fans scouted the NFL to find the players worthy of serving on one the military’s most elite units: the Army Special Forces — Operational Detachment Alpha, known exclusively as the “A-Team.”


A Special Forces team is full of quiet professionals, each of whom has a set of unique, special skills, ranging from demolitions to weapons to communications. Earning your place on a Special Forces team takes training, time, and a little luck, but it ultimately comes down to one simple question: Can you perform under pressure?

This results-based mentality is exactly the same approach used by NFL players across the league and, in the season’s opening week, five players have distinguished themselves worthy of making the inaugural “A Team Report.” Some earned this distinguished honor by breaking records while others made the list via sheer, viking-level badassery. Either way, all the players on this week’s A-Team Report stepped up when it mattered.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Safety Shawn Williams ejected for unnecessary roughness.

Shawn Williams — Cincinnati Bengals

There’s always one member of the team that’s willing to run into the fatal funnel without fear of the consequences. Normally, this is a job reserved for the A-Team member with too many deployments under their belt or just loves war way too much.

This craving for violence is exactly the motivation that safety Shawn Williams of the Cincinnati Bengals channeled against Andrew Luck and his Indianapolis Colts. Williams tried to take Andrew Luck’s head off in a tackle that would make even the most battle-hardened Green Berets squirm. Williams succeeded in stopping Luck, but not before he was ejected for unnecessary roughness. Williams is the first player to be ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit this year and may be subject to a fine.

We can’t wait to see what other destruction Williams will bring once he’s allowed back on the field next week.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s beard is a weapon.

Ryan Fitzpatrick — Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As the 2018 season opened, Ryan Fitzpatrick, a backup quarterback who has been in the league for over decade (13 seasons, to be exact), was fully expected to spend this season on the sidelines. When the Buccaneers first-string quarterback was suspended, Fitzpatrick stepped up.

When Fitzpatrick comes to play, he brings with him a beard that would make even the most seasoned Delta Force operator jealous. The power of the beard is undeniable. It was solely responsible for Fitzpatrick throwing three touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ 48-40 win over the New Orleans Saints. Next week, Fitzpatrick, his beard, and the Buccs will take on the Super-Bowl Champs, the Philadelphia Eagles.

Let’s hope Fitzpatrick doesn’t do anything stupid, like shave.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Adam Vinatieri uses his old-man strength to nail a 57-yard pre-season kick.

Adam Vinatieri — Indianapolis Colts

There is something to be said about old-man strength and, at 45 years and 23 seasons deep, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri performed like a true warrant officer in his season opener against the Bengals.

Within the Special Forces community, warrant officers are the brunt of numerous old-age jokes, but their experience is often invaluable. Simply, warrants know how to get sh*t done — and so does Vinatieri. Despite the Colt’s 23-34 loss, Vinatieri hit 3 of 4 field goal attempts.

Like all warrants, Vinatieri proved that, sometimes, you just have to shut up and kick sh*t.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Tyreek Hill’s 91 yard punt return, complete with peace offering.

Tyreek Hill — Kansas City Chiefs

While age brings experience, youth delivers speed and violence of action, which are the hallmarks of any A-Team member. This week, Kansas City Chiefs Wide Receiver/Return Specialist Tyreek Hill certainly brought the speed during a 91-yard kickoff return against the Chargers.

Hill lived up to his nickname, “Cheetah,” during the run, but just had to make sure the Chargers defense knew they’d been beat by throwing up a peace sign as he coasted into the endzone. Hill brings a speed and ego to the Chiefs that literally can’t be stopped.

What can we say? When you’re good, you’re good.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Rookie Roquan Smith sacks QB DeShone Kizer during his first play in the NFL

Roquan Smith — Chicago Bears

Rookie Linebacker Roquan Smith came to play in the Bears season opener against the Green Bay Packers, achieving something that should make any fan proud: In literally the first play of his NFL career, Smith sacked Green Bay Quarterback DeShone Kizer, proving that super bowl rings and cheese hats can’t stop a motivated linebacker.

We’re keeping our eye on Smith this season to see if his actions are a one-time fluke or if he can continue to bring the pain.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggested that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, the costly stealth jet considered to be pinnacle of US military aviation, “would have no chance” if pitted against a drone that is remotely piloted by a human.


At the US Air Force’s Air Warfare Symposium in Florida, Musk said there should be a competitor to the F-35 program, according to a tweet by Lee Hudson, the Pentagon editor at Aviation Week.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Musk responded in his own tweet, saying that the “competitor should be a drone fighter plane that’s remote controlled by a human, but with its maneuvers augmented by autonomy.”

“The F-35 would have no chance against it,” he added.

The F-35, variants of which are used by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, has had its critics since its inception. Lawmakers have scrutinized it over multiple delays in production and its price tag, which at 6.5 billion, makes it the costliest weapons program in US history.

The Defense Department in October announced a billion contract that includes delivery of 478 F-35s, according to CNBC.

Problems with the F-35 surfaced soon after it joined the fleet. Over 800 flaws riddled the software, according to a recent report by the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, which also said the 25 mm cannon on the Air Force’s F-35A, the most common variant, displayed an “unacceptable” level of accuracy.

The F-35 was also unable to meet a branchwide goal set by the previous defense secretary, James Mattis, in 2019. Mattis wanted 80% of F-35s and other stealth aircraft to be “mission-capable” 80% of the time.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

media.defense.gov

The Air Force conference at which Musk made his comments included senior US military officials and pilots.

Speaking with Space and Missile Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Musk said autonomous drone warfare “is where it’s at” and “where the future will be,” according to Defense News.

“It’s not that I want the future to be this. That’s just what the future will be,” Musk added. “The fighter jet era has passed. Yeah, the fighter jet era has passed. It’s drones.”

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

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