How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success

In recent months, a slew of bad press for Lockheed Martin’s long-troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has once again made calling the 5th generation jet a failure culturally en vogue. From overt statements about the aircraft’s financial woes to newly announced tech issues causing “strategic pauses” in development and even an apparent lack of confidence in the aircraft coming out of the Air Force’s top brass, the Joint Strike Fighter program hasn’t faced such an uphill battle since the Pentagon first decided it wanted a single aircraft that could hover like a Harrier, fly supersonic like an Eagle, sneak past defenses like a Nighthawk, and land on carriers like a Super Hornet.

With all of this bad press, the inclination for some is to simply dismiss the F-35 program as an egregious acquisition debacle and nothing else. After all, the aircraft still can’t go into full-rate production because of a laundry list of issues, hundreds of delivered airframes may never actually be combat-ready, and the Air Force isn’t even sure they can afford to operate an F-35-focused fleet… With all of that piled up in the “con” column, it’s easy to see why some people never make it past those cons to begin with.

Assessing the F-35’s worth: Concept vs. Reality

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
The Boeing X-32, left, and the Lockheed X-35 competed for the DoD contract to produce the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) in 1997. (photo / Boeing)

The truth is, the F-35 isn’t a concept–it’s an aircraft–and that’s an important distinction. Concepts can usually be neatly filed under right or wronggood or bad. Real things, by and large, aren’t so easily organized, and often (when it comes to new technologies) are as much a product of their challenges as their original design. Every groundbreaking military aircraft program has faced setbacks, and while no aircraft program has ever cost as much as the F-35 promises to in its lifetime, that cost doesn’t negate the real capability the fighter brings to the table. Let me be clear–this isn’t an argument in favor of the F-35 program, or even necessarily for the jet to keep its lauded position atop the Air Force’s priority list. It’s just an objective observation about what this fighter can do.

Again, as a concept, we can neatly file the intent behind the F-35 in the “good idea” category and the execution behind paying for it in the “bad idea” one–but in terms of this specific aircraft made of nuts and bolts, those distinctions aren’t quite as important as they are to the broader discussion. We can either take the significant leap in capability the F-35 offers and find a way to shoehorn it into a pragmatic model for spending as we move forward… or not. Lessons learned from the F-35’s acquisition debacle should certainly inform how America sources its next fighters (or anything for that matter), but in terms of the F-35 itself, only time travel could solve most of these past headaches… and time travel is one of the things Lockheed Martin has yet to deliver.

So let’s divorce ourselves from the emotion tied to dollar exchanges ranked in the trillions, forget about the frustration we’ve felt as the F-35 program has languished behind delays, and look at this fighter for what it was meant to be, what it is, and what it can be in the years ahead. Past failures in one column don’t necessarily mean future failures in another, after all.

The F-35 might be a horror story in accounting, but it’s also a massive success from the vantage point of its trigger pullers.

Asking for the impossible

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
The X-35 Joint Strike Fighter demonstrator (U.S. Air Force photo)

The first studies that would lead to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program as we know it began in 1993, with America shopping for a short take-off, vertical-landing fighter that could operate in the modern era.

Soon, the Pentagon took notice of other fighter programs in development and posited a theory: If America could find one airplane that could replace a whole host of aging platforms, it would shrink acquisition cost, streamline maintenance and operation training, remove many of the logistical headaches tied to operating a large number of aircraft in far-flung theaters, and make everyone’s day that much easier and less expensive. In hindsight, of course, those goals weren’t just naive, they may have been the program’s first major problem.

Lockheed Martin, the same firm responsible for the world’s first operational stealth aircraft, the F-117 Nighthawk, and the world’s first operational stealth fighter, the F-22 Raptor, would ultimately beat out Boeing for the Joint Strike Fighter contract, thanks to their track record in the field of stealth and impressive technology demonstrators.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
Lockheed’s F-117 Nighthawk (top) and F-22 Raptor (bottom). (U.S. Air Force photo)

Today, meeting the broad requirements of three American military branches and at least two foreign partners is one of the F-35’s biggest selling points… but in the late 1990s, it was akin to Kennedy’s announcement that America would put a man on the moon within the following decade. It was a good idea on paper… but nobody really knew how to make it actually happen.

“If you were to go back to the year 2000 and somebody said, ‘I can build an airplane that is stealthy and has vertical takeoff and landing capabilities and can go supersonic,’ most people in the industry would have said that’s impossible,” Tom Burbage, Lockheed’s general manager for the program from 2000 to 2013 told The New York Times.

“The technology to bring all of that together into a single platform was beyond the reach of industry at that time.”

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
(Lockheed Martin)

But money has a way of making the impossible start to look improbable… and then eventually, mundane. The Saturn V that kept Kennedy’s promise about the moon was the most complex and powerful machine ever devised by man, and by Apollo 13–just NASA’s third mission to the moon–the American people already thought the rocket’s trip through space was too boring to watch (at least until everything went wrong). Likewise, building a supersonic, stealth fighter that can hover over amphibious assault ships sounded downright crazy, that is, right up until it was boring.

Making the impossible mundane costs lots of money

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success

In order to meet the disparate needs of a single aircraft that could replace at least five planes across multiple military forces, Lockheed Martin chose to devise three iterations of their new fighter.

The F-35A would be the closest to what might be considered a traditional multi-role fighter–intended to take off and land on well-manicured airstrips found on military installations the world over. The second, dubbed the F-35B, would incorporate a directional jet nozzle and hidden fan to provide the aircraft with enough lift to hover and land vertically for use aboard Marine Corps amphibious assault ships or on austere, hastily cleared airstrips. Finally, a carrier-capable variant dubbed the F-35C would boast the greater wingspan necessarily for lower speed carrier landings, along with a reinforced fuselage that could withstand the incredible forces tied to serving aboard an aircraft carrier.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Rufus)

The plan was to leave as much about all three iterations as identical as possible, so parts, production, training, and maintenance could be similar enough regardless of the operating theater. That plan would prove infeasible almost immediately.

“It turns out when you combine the requirements of the three services, what you end up with is the F-35, which is an aircraft that is in many ways suboptimal for what each of the services really want,” Todd Harrison, an aerospace expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said.

Lockheed Martin’s team of designers began with the simplest version: the landing-strip-friendly F-35A. Once they were happy with the design, they moved on to the F-35B, which needed to house its internal fan right in the middle of the aircraft’s fuselage. As soon as they began work on the F-35B, it became clear that simply copying and pasting the F-35A design wouldn’t cut it. In fact, they were so far off the mark that it would take an additional 18 months and $6.2 billion just to figure out how to make the F-35B work–something you’d think might have come up prior to securing the contract.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
(Lockheed Martin)

This was the first, but certainly not the last, time a problem like this would derail progress on the F-35. To some extent, these failures can largely be attributed to poor planning, but it’s also important to remember that the F-35 program was aiming to do things no other fighter program had ever done before. Discovery and efficiency don’t always walk hand in hand–and to be clear, Lockheed Martin had no real incentive to make the Joint Strike Fighter work on a budget.

Concurrent Development: The dirtiest two words in aviation

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
(Lockheed Martin)

The United States knew that what they were asking Lockheed Martin to deliver wouldn’t be easy. Stealth aircraft programs from the F-117 to today’s B-21 Raider have all faced a struggled balance between price tag and capability, but with so many eggs in the F-35 basket, the stakes quickly ballooned. With highly advanced 4th generation fighters like Russia’s Su-35 and China’s J-10 already flying, and their own stealth fighter programs in development by the 2000s, America was in trouble. The dogfighting dynamo F-22 was canceled in 2011 after just 186 jets were built, making the F-35 the nation’s only fighter program on the books. This new jet would have to be better than everything in the sky today and for decades to come… and it had to start doing it immediately.

To make this possible, the Pentagon believed the best approach would be “concurrent development,” or just “concurrency.” The premise behind concurrency is simple: You begin production of the new aircraft once the design is settled, and then you go back and make changes as testing highlights any issues that may need to be addressed. On paper, this looked like a way to begin fielding these new, highly capable fighters, training pilots and maintainers, developing tactics, and settling the fighter of the future into service as it matured. In reality, however, it meant building F-35s before they’d been fully tested and then spending billions to go back and fix the old jets after testing was complete.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
The first F-35B built at the Cameri, Italy, Final Assembly & Check-Out (FACO) facility rolls out May 5. (Aeronautica Militare Photo)

Issue after issue bubbled to the surface. By 2017, they’d become so serious that the Air Force began to consider just abandoning the first 108 F-35A’s they’d received (and the $21.4 billion they’d spent on them) simply because fixing them would be too expensive. By the end of 2020, Lockheed Martin once again postponed full-rate production, with a long list of issues yet to be resolved.

And amid all of this spending rose yet another financial hurdle: the immense cost of operating the F-35. While a top-of-the-line but decidedly non-stealth F-15EX may cost as much as $28,000 an hour to fly, the F-35 costs at least $44,000 per hour… and each F-35 airframe is only rated to fly for less than a third of the total hours an F-15EX can. In other words, the F-35 has been egregiously expensive to develop and promises to stay egregiously expensive to operate. As a result, the Air Force is now considering adding another, cheaper fighter to the mix despite planning to order more than 2,000 total F-35s over its lifetime. The fact of the matter is, the jet is just too expensive to use for some jobs.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
(Lockheed Martin)

“I want to moderate how much we’re using those aircraft,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said of the F-35.

“You don’t drive your Ferrari to work every day, you only drive it on Sundays. This is our ‘high end’ [fighter], we want to make sure we don’t use it all for the low-end fight… We don’t want to burn up capability now and wish we had it later.”

So… the F-35 is a failure?

Not so fast. It’s easy to spiral down the acquisition rabbit hole until you start shaking your fist at the sky, and if you only read up until this point in this article or similar ones, it makes sense that you’d feel secure in lumping the F-35 in with flying aircraft carriers and pigeon-guided missiles as yet another mistake on Uncle Sam’s bar tab… but these vantage points are missing one incredibly important bit of context: The opinion of the warfighters who fly them.

In terms of responsible spending, you’ll probably only hear the F-35 program defended by Air Force officials and Lockheed Martin employees, but in terms of sheer capability, you can find lots of folks singing the F-35’s praises.

“My wingman was a brand new F-35A pilot, seven or eight flights out of training,” Col. Joshua Wood, 388th Operations Group commander, said about flying with F-35s in the Air Force’s large scale Red Flag exercise. “He gets on the radio and tells an experienced, 3,000-hour pilot in a very capable fourth-generation aircraft: ‘Hey bud, you need to turn around. You’re about to die. There’s a threat off your nose.’”

According to Wood, that same “brand new” pilot would rack up three kills against those enemy pilots in just the next hour.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
(Lockheed Martin)

These stories tend not to get as much reach as the bad news for a few important reasons. The first is that bad news sells, and folks are more likely to click on an article highlighting an expensive American failure than they are a tactical success story. The second is a bit more nuanced: While we tend to think of fighter operations in terms of scenes we’ve seen in the movie, “Top Gun,” the F-35 doesn’t simply operate in those terms.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is slower than the F-15, can’t fly as high as the long-retired F-14, carries less ordnance than an F/A-18, and wouldn’t be a match for the F-16 in an acrobatic competition. In terms of just about all of the things that we think fighters have to do, the F-35 is worse than the old jets we watched our parents fly in the 1970s… But there’s a good reason behind that–and it isn’t just about stealth.

Data fusion, not stealth, is the F-35’s most potent weapon

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
(Lockheed Martin)

Yes, the F-35 can fly faster than the speed of sound, deliver its payload to unsuspecting targets in highly defended airspace, and then land vertically on the deck of a helicopter carrier… but all of that is just part of what makes it special. The most important part, many would argue, isn’t its ability to avoid detection or even deliver ordnance: It’s the F-35’s ability to soak up information and process it into something our oversized monkey brains can actually use in a fight.

Despite their bravado, fighter pilots are made out of the same guts and water as the rest of us–and that really makes their jobs a lot harder than most people realize. Not only does it take an incredible amount of physical resilience just to manage the rigors of flying in a combat environment, but it also takes a huge amount of mental bandwidth and focus.

Pilots managing even the best 4th generation fighters have to split their attention between as many as 20 dials and readouts in their cockpits, all while keeping their eyes on the horizon and skies around them, looking out for enemy aircraft or surface to air missiles, among other things.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
Some folks crash their car because they’re changing the radio station. Imagine keeping tabs on all of this and the bad guys shooting at you. (Cockpit of an F-111 Aardvark, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)

Because each of those dials, sensors, and screens are fed by independent data streams, it’s up to the pilot to scan all of them, and the skies, and then combine all of that info in his or her head… even when two sensors offer contradictory information. And that’s assuming all those gauges can help in a dogfight.

“In my cockpit, what I had displayed for me was what I had on my own radar and what I could hear in my headset, and that was it,” Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in 2019. Goldfein flew the F-16 and F-117 as a pilot. “My job was to figure out mentally, in this 3-D, god’s-eye view, what was going on over hundreds of miles of battlespace.”

The F-35, with its incredibly expensive custom helmets and powerful onboard computers, takes all of that information and then adds more, gleaning data from other aircraft, ground assets, satellites, and even Navy vessels. The computers file and sort all of this information and then translate the deluge into a single, convenient trickle right in front of the pilot’s eyes. Instead of trying to manage a dozen gauges and your view of the enemy, F-35 pilots see all the pertinent info they need right in their line of sight, offering info on enemy targets, friendly assets, and mission objectives at a glance–but that’s not all this flying supercomputer can do.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success

“The mission commander now is taxiing out, hasn’t even taken off yet, and is already getting input from what’s happening in space and cyber,” Goldfien said. “As soon as you pilot that airplane up, it’s already starting to fuse and collect.”

The F-35’s data fusion does give its pilots better situational awareness than any tactical aircraft to come before it, but that value multiplies as the data is shared across other aircraft and assets. A single F-35 in a formation has proven to make its 4th generation wingmen more deadly thanks to relaying such a thorough understanding of the battlespace. As a result, many pilots have taken to calling the F-35 a “quarterback in the sky.” Sure, it’s on the field too, but its game-changing capabilities make it a leadership platform. F-35 pilots have even successfully engaged targets using weapons from ground vehicles by relaying target information in real-time.

The F-35’s data fusion capabilities may get less attention than its stealth, but the truth is, stealth is a 50-year-old concept (with plenty of ongoing application), and data fusion is the future.

What is the F-35’s future… and what should it be?

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
(Lockheed Martin)

It seems entirely possible that the U.S. Air Force does pursue a “5th gen minus” fighter that’s cheaper and less stealthy than the F-35, but more capable in contested airspace than an F-16, but that doesn’t mean the F-35 will just be sent out to pasture.

While once seen as the future workhorse of American and allied air power, the F-35 program has been a victim of its own lofty aspirations, reaching into Lockheed Martin’s grab bag of capabilities and coming out with a few more than America’s already bulging defense budget could handle. We may not actually see 2,000 F-35s flying under America’s banner in the long run, but then, maybe we don’t have to for it to be a success yet.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
U.S. Air Force Capt. Kristin “Beo” Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team commander and pilot, takes off from Selfridge Air National Guard base for the 2020 London SkyDrive Air Show in Canada Sep. 12, 2020, Harrison Township, Mich. T(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Kip Sumner)

Lockheed Martin drew some criticisms in 2019 when they told Japan that they could build a new stealth fighter that bridges the capabilities of the F-35 and F-22 while all coming in at a lower cost, seemingly acknowledging the fiscal irresponsibility of the F-35 program to date. There’s another way to look at that statement though: The first time you do something will always cost more than the second. As time goes on, that advanced technology becomes more commonplace and less expensive, and then a new expensive technology comes along to take its place. We should expect the next stealth fighter to either cost a whole bunch less or do a whole bunch more. That’s just the nature of warfare and technology.

That next fighter, as well as others like the NGAD, will benefit from expensive mistakes made in the F-35’s development, as well as the incredible lessons learned about avionics, secure networking, and operating in contested airspace. Do those valuable leaps offset the financial boondoggle that has been F-35 acquisition over the past 14 years? No. The F-35 may be jam-packed with game-changing technology, but capability is not, in itself, a measure of cost-effectiveness.

If your opinion of the F-35 is derived on paper, as a measure of carried ones and zeros split with commas, its probably safe to say you think it’s a failure… but the F-35 wasn’t built to operate on paper. This fighter was meant to give America’s warfighters an edge over the competition, and if you ask the guys and gals flying it, that’s exactly what it’s done.

So, is the F-35 an acquisition failure or is it a tactical success? The complicated truth is… it’s both.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

The Army might look to Hollywood to predict future tech

A senior Army modernization official said that the service needs to look to the visionaries of Hollywood for ideas on how future tech could change the Army in 20 years.

“I often tell people ‘hey, if you want look to the future … don’t look toward the people that wear this,'” said Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, principal military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, pointing to his camouflage uniform.


“Where are you going to look? Hollywood. Think about it. How many things do we have in our hands today, or just right around the corner, that you saw on the movies when you were growing up?”

But it’s up to Ostrowski, and other senior Army leaders, to carry out the service’s ambitious new modernization strategy.

The Army announced its new modernization effort in October 2017 that’s designed to replace its Cold-War era, Big Five combat platforms — the M1Abrams tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Black Hawk helicopter, Apache attack helicopter and Patriot air defense system.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success

UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter

(U.S. navy photo by Clayton Weis)

Speaking at a breakfast, hosted by the Association of the United States Army, Ostrowski explained how the new Army Futures Command — to be based in Austin, Texas — will create a future force capable of operating in the unknowns of 2036.

“What is the battlefield going to look like in 2036?” Ostrowski said. “What are … the tactics, techniques and procedures that we are going to need to have to fight and win in that war, in that battle?

“Where is it going to be conducted?” He continued. “Megacities? What will be our unit of action? Right now we are organized around brigade combat teams. Is that what we are going to need to be organized in the future?”

The futures and concepts group within Army Futures Command will be working on these issues as well as figuring out how future technologies such as quantum computing, high-energy lasers, directed-energy weapon, hypersonics and artificial intelligence will play a role in the future force, Ostrowski said.

“What is going to be capable of being produced and available in 2036? The visionaries of the futures and concepts group have to get after that particular piece,” Ostrowski said.

The Army is actively recruiting talent to work on the technological challenges of the future — Hollywood may be the place to start, Ostrowski said.

“We have to get after those visionaries to help us get after that fight and what it is going to look like in 2036,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch this tow bar fail on a Marine helicopter

We don’t know when and where it was filmed, but the following video surely shows a pretty weird accident occurred to a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter. Indeed, the short clip shows the heavy Marine chopper (whose empty weight is more than 10 tons – 23,628 lb) with folded tail boom being towed aboard a ship using a “system” made of a tug towing another tug coupled to a tow bar attached to the Super Stallion’s nose landing gear.

At a certain point, the tow bar disconnects from the helicopter that starts to slide backwards towards the pier. The end of the story is that no one seems to be hurt by the giant chopper that comes to a stop when the folded tail hits the ramp that was being used to board it.


Here’s the video, shared by the always interesting Air Force amn/nco/snco FB page:


OOPS

www.facebook.com

Many have criticized the way used to board the helicopter, saying that the one shown in the footage is not a standard procedure. Others have highlighted the fact that no one was in the cockpit riding the brakes during the operation. We don’t know what the procedure called for in this case, whatever, based on the footage, it is safe to say that the ending could have been worse: despite a significant risk for all those involved or observing the boarding, perhaps the Super Stallion got (minor?) damages and an unscheduled inspection…

Thanks to its impressive lift capacity the Super Stallion is able to carry a 26,000-pound Light Armored Vehicle, 16 tons of cargo 50 miles and back, or enough Marines to lead and assault or humanitarian operation. For this reason it is used for a wide variety of tasks.

The latest version of the iconic CH-53, designed CH-53K King Stallion, will replace the current E variant in the coming years and will feature a lift capacity three times that of the Super Stallion retaining the same size of its predecessor.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

Here’s how microwaves and micro-robots could stop North Korea

With the apparently successful test of an ICBM by North Korea, questions arise about what can be done about the regime of Kim Jong Un. This is understandable. After all, he did threaten Sony over the 2014 movie “The Interview.”


Also, the whole humanitarian crisis thing.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
Photo from North Korean State Media.

According to an op-ed in the Washington Times, there are some high-tech options that could shut down the North Korean threat. Investigative reporter Ronald Kessler stated that the Pentagon was looking at a cruise missile that could fry electronics. He reported that the Pentagon is also exploring micro-robots capable of delivering a lethal toxin to the North Korean dictator.

The cruise missile is known as the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project, and it comes from Boeing’s Phantom Works — a lesser-known advanced aerospace projects division than the Lockheed Skunk Works. The missile uses microwaves to knock out radios and other electronic equipment. Boeing released a video about a 2012 test that you can see here.

According to army-technology.com, CHAMP is capable of knocking out electronics in specific buildings. This means that the effects on civilians would be minimized. FlightGlobal.com reported that the Air Force has chosen the AGM-158B JASSM-ER to deliver the CHAMP warhead. The system is capable of firing 100 shots.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
The AGM-158 JASSM in action (YouTube: Lockheed Martin)

Kessler also mentioned the use of insect-sized robots as potential weapons. While assassinations are currently prohibited by an executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford, such a policy could be reversed by President Trump “with a stroke of the pen.” The advantage of using the micro-drones to bump off Kim Jong Un would be the fact that no American lives would be put at risk for the operation.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
U.S. Pacific Command has deployed the first elements of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, to South Korea, implementing the U.S.-South Korean alliance’s July 2016 decision to bring the defensive capability to the Korean Peninsula. (DoD photo)

FoxNews.com reported that since the North Korean test, the United States tested the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense system in Alaska. The system continued a perfect record on tests when a battery stationed in Alaska took out a missile launched from Hawaii. Two launchers from a battery of six have been deployed in South Korea.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army has a need for speed according to chief buyer

The U.S. Army‘s acquisitions chief said recently that the military needs to make a major technological breakthrough in speed if combat forces are to maintain their edge on future battlefields.

“What is it that we could do that would be the same as ‘own the night?’ ” said Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisitions, logistics and technology, referring to the service’s breakthrough in night-vision technology. “And I’ll tell you, the thing that keeps coming is speed.”


Speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Science Technology Symposium and Showcase, he recalled an experience he had in the early 1980s as a tank commander during a force-on-force training exercise at Fort Carson, Colorado.

“I was coming up over this ridgeline, and the other guy is coming up over the other ridgeline. I saw him, he saw me,” Jette said.

Each tank started rotating its turret toward the other.

“It was like quick draw: Who is going to get in line with the other guy first?” Jette said, describing how it all came down to “the rate at which the turret turned.”

The Russians are experimenting with robotic turrets that use algorithms to speed up decision-making in combat, he said. Images appear on a flat screen inside the tank, and “the computer goes, ‘I think that is a tank.’

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success

An M1A2 SEP Abrams from 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, Idaho Army National Guard (middle) and a M1134 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicle from 1st Squadron, 14th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., return from waging mock battle against one another during an eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise, at Orchard Combat Training Center, south of Boise, Idaho, Aug. 14, 2014.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Chris McCullough)

“They have [pictures] of our tanks and vehicles in their computer, and the computer looks at them and puts little boxes around them and, depending on how far away they are and depending on what orientation they are in, the computer has an algorithm that says, ‘Shoot that one first, that one second and that one third,’ ” Jette said.

This reduces the number of steps the gunner must go through before engaging targets.

“I need your ideas on how to put ourselves way past what these guys are onto,” Jette said, addressing an audience of industry representatives. “How can we be faster? How can we be better?”

He added, “One of the reasons we are not doing that yet is we are not going to mistake an ice cream truck for a tank. Our probability of target detection and identification has to be extremely high. Our thresholds would have to be higher; we would have to be better, we would have to be faster. Speed is going to be critically important.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to make good coffee in bad places, according to Evan Hafer

Making coffee isn’t strictly relegated to your kitchen or the local coffee shop. People around the world find ways to enjoy a hot brew in high-altitude mountains to the middle of the ocean, and everywhere in-between. A good cup of coffee can make inhospitable conditions more tolerable, but the quality in your cup often suffers without the trappings of your home coffee kit.

Evan Hafer, the CEO of Black Rifle Coffee Company, found a way to make great coffee in one of the most extreme environments on earth: war.


Hafer served as both a U.S. Army Special Forces non-commissioned officer (NCO) and a contractor for the CIA, with assignments that took him to combat zones around the world. Even during the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003, he found a way to grind and brew his daily dose of caffeine — without sacrificing quality.

Coffee or Die Magazine caught up with Hafer recently to find out about his battle-tested methods for making good coffee in bad places.

It’s Who We Are: Evan Hafer

www.youtube.com

Take good coffee beans with you.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Hafer took premium coffee with him, and his fellow Special Forces teammates often woke up to the sound of a coffee grinder on the back of their gun truck. “I think we were probably the only ODA to take whole bean, good coffee with us. In the mornings, we would always start the day by grinding fresh coffee,” Hafer said. He recommends finding single-origin, high-altitude beans — he prefers Panamanian or Colombian.

Roast your own beans.

By 2006, Hafer was deploying with the CIA but was surprised to find that the coffee options left a bit to be desired: “You’d think the agency, especially with their kind of gucci reputation, would have amazing coffee. But they didn’t.” So he started roasting in his garage and bringing a duffel bag’s worth of beans overseas with him for his 60-day deployments.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success

Hafer while deployed.

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

A french press is good, but pour over is better.

“I did the french press for a long time, until I had broken so many,” Hafer said. “I eventually found a double-walled, stainless steel one and went through quite a few of those because people would literally steal them, they were in such high demand.” These days, Hafer doesn’t leave home without a custom travel pour-over system that he invented that is much more compact than a french press and has simple, durable components.

How to Make Coffee with BRCC Collapsible Pour Over Coffee Device

www.youtube.com

Know the boiling point for the altitude you’ll be at.

You typically want your water to be about 200 degrees Fahrenheit before pouring it over the ground coffee, but deciphering water temperature might seem tricky if you don’t have a thermometer. “I know roughly what temperature water is going to boil at based on the elevation; it’s either going to boil faster or slower,” Hafer said. “You don’t have to put a thermometer in it because you’ll know exactly what the temperature is based on the boiling point.” When planning your next trip, go to omnicalculator.com to quickly find the boiling point for your intended elevation.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success

Hafer while deployed.

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

Get the right coffee-to-water ratio.

According to Hafer, you want approximately a 1:16 ratio of coffee to water. This roughly breaks down to 1 tablespoon of ground coffee for every one cup of coffee (8 ounces). “I know that by eye because I’ve been doing it for so many years. It’s what you do every day [at home] that will allow you to master making coffee in the field,” Hafer said. “All that skill translates to when you’re in shitty places.”

Don’t be intimidated by the process.

As much as the science and logistics of making a great cup of coffee might deter the average person from going through the effort in austere environments, Hafer emphasized that it’s all very doable — and will only take 10 minutes of your time. “At the end of the day, if you have a hand grinder or maybe you’ve pre-ground some coffee, you got an indestructible pour-over and a means to boil water, you’re gonna make a great cup of coffee.”

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Here are 7 battlefield-tested tips from a US Army sniper on how not to lose your mind in isolation

On the battlefield, snipers often find themselves isolated from the rest of the force for days at a time, if not longer.

With people around the world stuck at home in response to the serious coronavirus outbreak, Insider asked a US Army sniper how he handles isolation and boredom when he finds himself stuck somewhere he doesn’t want to be.


Obviously, being a sniper is harder than hanging out at home, but some of the tricks he uses in the field may be helpful if you are are starting to lose your mind.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e2aeb7e24306a748b6daef5%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=591&h=915c5fee77e93a36b62c80b9000eded0d32f51ce385996cc16a0258b6961ee14&size=980x&c=2669813413 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e2aeb7e24306a748b6daef5%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D591%26h%3D915c5fee77e93a36b62c80b9000eded0d32f51ce385996cc16a0258b6961ee14%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2669813413%22%7D” expand=1]

Sniper in position in the woods

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. John Bright

Remember your mission

As a sniper, “you’re the eyes and ears for the battalion commander,” 1st Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper from Texas, told Insider, adding, “There’s always something to look at and watch.”

He said that while he might not be “looking through a scope the whole time, looking for a specific person,” he is still intently watching roads, vehicles, buildings and people.

“There are a lot of things that you’re trying to think about” to “describe to someone as intricately as you possibly can” the things they need to know, he said. “Have I seen that person before? Can I blow a hole in that wall? How much explosives would that take?”

There is always work that needs to be done.

Break down the problem

One trick he uses when he is in a challenging situation, be it lying in a hole he dug or sitting in a building somewhere surveilling an adversary, is to just focus on getting from one meal to the next, looking at things in hours, rather than days or weeks.

“Getting from one meal to the next is a way to break down the problem and just manage it and be in the moment and not worry about the entirety of it,” said Sipes, a seasoned sniper with roughly 15 years of experience who spoke to Insider while he was at home with his family.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FFileHandler.ashx%3Fid%3D11918&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.doncio.navy.mil&s=177&h=a568012a1f14eefa2c2f5d5ee9dbe3c8d8b47f2fba80eae388b9f866253c0974&size=980x&c=746523628 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FFileHandler.ashx%253Fid%253D11918%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.doncio.navy.mil%26s%3D177%26h%3Da568012a1f14eefa2c2f5d5ee9dbe3c8d8b47f2fba80eae388b9f866253c0974%26size%3D980x%26c%3D746523628%22%7D” expand=1]

Work to improve your position

“You’re always trying to better your position,” Sipes told Insider. That can mean a number of different things, such as improving your cover, looking for ways to make yourself a little more comfortable, or even working on your weapon.

Take note of things you wouldn’t normally notice

“What is going on in your own little environment that you’ve never noticed before?” Sipes asked.

Thinking back to times stuck in a room or a hole, he said, “There is activity going on, whether it’s the bugs that are crawling across the floor or the mouse that’s coming out of the wall.”

“You get involved in their routine,” he added.

Look for new ways to connect with people

In the field, snipers are usually accompanied by a spotter, so they are not completely alone. But they may not be able to talk and engage one another as they normally would, so they have to get a little creative.

“Maybe you can’t communicate through actual spoken word, but you can definitely communicate through either drawings or writing,” Sipes said.

“We spend a lot of time doing sector sketches, panoramic drawings of the environment. We always put different objects or like draw little faces or something in there. And, you always try and find where they were in someone’s drawing.”

He added that they would also write notes about what was going on, pass information on things to look out for, and even write jokes to one another.

Think about things you will do when its over

“One big thing I used to do was list what kind of food I was going to eat when I get back, like listing it out in detail of like every ingredient that I wanted in it and what I thought it was going to taste like,” Sipes said. He added that sometimes he listed people he missed that he wanted to talk to when he got back.

Remember it is not all about you

Sipes said that no matter what, “you are still a member of a team” and you have to get into a “we versus me” mindset. There are certain things that have to be done that, even if they are difficult, for something bigger than an individual.

He said that you have to get it in your head that if you don’t do what you are supposed to do, you are going to get someone else killed. “Nine times out of 10, the person doing the wrong thing isn’t the one that suffers for it. It is generally someone else.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Russian pilot just flew their stealth fighter like a convertible

Recently surfaced images and a brief video show Russia’s premier stealth fighter, the Su-57 Felon, flying without the canopy enclosure for the aircraft’s cockpit. While there isn’t a great deal of information available to go along with the footage, it seems very likely that the canopy was not lost due to an accident, but was rather removed intentionally for a specific type of flight testing known as a “cockpit habitability trials.”


giant.gfycat.com

We first spotted this footage on Reddit, uploaded by user u/st_Paulus, but the event also caught the attention of Scramble Magazine, who posted a screen capture to their Facebook account, credited to a Twitter user they called Hao Goa.

It’s obviously pretty unusual to see a pilot at the stick of an airborne, supersonic fighter without the protection of the cockpit canopy, but these somewhat rare tests are vital in the development of an aircraft. Pilots use these flights to test different aspects of the platform’s emergency escape procedures in a realistic and dynamic environment. A photo of BAE test Pilot Keith Hartley conducting a similar flight aboard a Tornado XZ630 in the late ’80s has made its way around the aviation circles of the internet for years, though it’s tough to come by images or video of these tests on other platforms.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success

(BAE Systems)

“In 1988, our test pilot Keith Hartley flew at 500 knots in a Tornado aircraft with the canopy off, testing the emergency escape procedures of the jet; just one example of the lengths we go to test the safety of the planes we build for the RAF.”
-BAE Systems on Twitter

Obviously, flying without your cockpit canopy comes with some significant risk. Not only does the canopy protect the pilot from the incredible winds associated with flying a high speed aircraft, it also exposes the pilot to intense cold, and as anyone who’s ever ridden in a convertible will tell you, all that wind noise can be pretty distracting. Other common threats to aircraft (like bird strikes or inclement weather) can also be exacerbated by the loss of a protective layer between the pilot and the outside world. Fighter jet cockpits are pressurized, though not in the same way as most commercial airlines. Instead, the cockpits of most fighters maintain ambient air pressure until they climb above a certain altitude. Without the canopy, flying above that altitude would be extremely dangerous, despite the pilot’s mask-fed oxygen supply.

Risk be damned, these tests can help to ensure the procedures you train pilots to execute during emergency situations really work. In other words, the risk is a calculated one meant to save lives.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success

(WikiMedia Commons)

Russia’s Su-57 Felon is the nation’s first stealth fighter, and has suffered a number of setbacks along the long road to production. Originally intended as a joint effort shared between Russia and India, India backed out of the agreement in 2018. While public statements remained civil, it has widely been rumored that India’s lost interest could be attributed to issues with the new aircraft’s stealth capabilities; potentially brought about by Russia’s inability to manufacture body panels with the incredibly tight production tolerances required to limit the radar return of an aircraft.

Continuing on their own, Russia built about a dozen Su-57s which have served as a token force of fifth-generation aircraft for the Russian military, while offering little in the way of actual combat capability. Late last year, Russia announced that they would finally begin serial production of the Su-57… only to have the first aircraft to roll off the production line promptly, and embarrassingly, crash during testing.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success

Su-57 being built (United Aircraft Corporation)

However, recent images of production Su-57s suggest that the aircraft may indeed be better than its prototypical predecessors, with seemingly tighter panel tolerances that just might make Russia’s stealth fighter a bit stealthy after all.

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


popular

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.

 

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
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.

 

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
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 TACTICAL

Six firms are scrambling to make the Army’s new SAW

Textron is gambling that its 14 years of work on case-telescoped weapons research will satisfy the U.S. Army‘s ambitious requirements for an M249 squad automatic weapon replacement.

The service recently awarded Textron and five other gunmakers a contract to build prototype weapons for its Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle program.

The contract awards are the result of a Prototype Opportunity Notice the Army released in March 2018 in an effort to develop a futuristic replacement for the three-decade-old M249. The Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle, or NGSAR, is one of the Army’s primary efforts under its soldier lethality modernization priority.


“The NGSAR will address operational needs identified in various capability-based assessments and numerous after action reports,” according to the PON solicitation document.

“It will combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a rifle, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality,” the document continues. “The weapon will be lightweight and fire lightweight ammunition, improving soldier mobility, survivability, and firing accuracy.”

Wayne Prender, vice president of Applied Technologies Advanced Programs at Textron Systems, talked to Military.com about his firm’s approach to the prototype effort.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success

Sgt. Carl Hawthorne of the 273rd Military Police Company (Rear Detachment), District of Columbia National Guard, fires tracer rounds from an M249 machine gun during crew-served weapon night fire training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., May 5, 2012.

(Photo by 1st Lt. Miranda Summers Lowe)

“We are leveraging and building upon our lineage of lightweight squad weapon technologies that we have been working on over the last 14 years,” he said.

Textron was notified in late June 2018 of the contract award to deliver one prototype weapon, one fire control system, and 2,000 rounds of ammunition within 12 months, Prender said.

Military.com has asked the Army to identify the other five companies that were awarded contracts, but the service did not have an answer by press time.

The Army intends to evaluate the prototypes in an attempt to refine the requirements for the NGSAR.

“It was disclosed at industry day: The result of this prototype opportunity will be yet another full and open competition,” Prender said.

The Army wants the prototype weapons — including sling, bipod and suppressor — to weigh no more than 12 pounds and have a maximum length of 35 inches, according to the PON document.

The weapon must have a sustained rate of fire of 60 rounds per minute for 15 minutes without requiring a barrel change, the document states.

Under the weapon controllability requirement, a soldier “firing standing with optic at a 50-meter E-Type silhouette given 3 to 5 round burst must be able to engage in 2-4 seconds placing two rounds 70 percent of the time on target,” it adds.

The Army also wants ammunition to weigh 20 percent less than the current brass-cased ammo, the document states.

This is where Textron has invested a large amount of research into its case-telescoped ammunition technology. The futuristic cartridges — featuring a plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell — offer significant weight reductions compared to conventional ammo.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success

Linked 5.56mm ammunition stands upright on a table behind the firing line as soldiers of the 23rd Engineer Company, 6th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Engineer Brigade, U.S. Army Alaska, train with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

Textron has developed light and medium machine guns that fire 5.56mm and 7.62mm case-telescoped ammunition under the Lightweight Small Arms Technology program, an effort the Army has invested millions of research dollars into over the last decade.

In 2017, the company unveiled its new Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, chambered for 6.5mm.

Despite Textron’s experience in this arena, Prender admits it will not be easy to deliver what the Army wants.

“They have some pretty aggressive goals with respect to lethality and weight and size and some other performance characteristics,” he said. “All of those things individually may be relatively easy but, when you start stacking them all together, that is really where it becomes complex and you need a new design.”

Prender would not give specifics about the prototype Textron is submitting, but said “we are taking lessons from all of our case-telescoped projects to include the 5.56mm, 7.62mm and the intermediate caliber — all that information is informing this new design.”

“There is not an easy button here. Certainly, we think our case-telescoped solution is an ideal one to meet these requirements … but there is development that is necessary over and above what we have done to date,” he added.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The first Japanese aircraft carrier in 75 years begins conversion

At the Japan Maritime United Isogo shipyard in Yokohama, JS Izumo DDH-183 has entered into the process of being converted to a genuine aircraft carrier. Currently designated as a helicopter destroyer, Izumo does not have the capability to operate fixed-wing aircraft from her deck. In the first of two main stages of her conversion, coinciding with her regular 5-year refit and overhaul programs, Izumo will receive upgrades to accommodate Japan’s new F-35B Lightning II fighter jets.


Following the surrender of the Japanese Empire in WWII, the Imperial Japanese Navy had only three aircraft carriers left in its fleet: Hōshō survived the war as a training carrier, Junyō had been damaged during the Battle of the Philippine Sea and was awaiting repairs, and Katsuragi could not be equipped with enough fuel, aircraft, or pilots by the time she was completed in late 1944. Hōshō and Katsuragi would ferry Japanese servicemen back to Japan until 1947 when all three surviving carriers, along with three unfinished carriers, were scrapped.

Article 9 of Japan’s post-war 1947 Constitution renounced war as “a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.” As a result, a Japanese Navy could not be formed as a military branch for power projection. Rather, Japan created the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force as a branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in 1954. Though the JMSDF is tasked with the naval defense of the Japanese islands, Japan’s partnership with Western countries during the Cold War led its focus on anti-submarine warfare to combat the Soviet Navy.

In 2007, Japan launched two Hyūga-class helicopter destroyers. With their flat-top decks, the Hyūgas were often called Japan’s first aircraft carriers since WWII. However, they were only capable of operating rotary-wing aircraft from their decks and had no launch or recovery capabilities for even VTOL fixed-wing aircraft. Doctrinally, the Hyūgas were used as flagships for anti-submarine operations.

Launched in 2013, Izumo is the lead ship in her class and the replacement for the Hyūgas. Displacing 27,000 long tons fully loaded, Izumo and her sister ship, Kaga DDH-184, are the largest surface combatants in the JMSDF. Like the Hyūgas before, Izumo is a helicopter destroyer that carries rotary-wing aircraft and is tasked with anti-submarine operations. However, in December 2018, the Japanese government announced that Izumo would be converted to operate fixed-wing aircraft in accordance with new defense guidelines.

Japan’s updated defense policy called for a more cohesive, flexible, and multidimensional force in response to growing Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and the completion of the Shandong, China’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier.

Estimated at million, the modifications to Izumo include a cleared and reinforced flight deck to support additional weight, added aircraft guidance lights, and heat-resistant deck sections to allow for vertical landings by F-35Bs. At this time, no specifications have been released regarding a ski-jump, angled flight deck, or catapults.

The first stage of modifications will be evaluated in a series of tests and sea trials following completion. Final modifications in stage two of the ship’s conversion are expected to take place in FY 2025 during the next overhaul and further evaluation. Izumo‘s sister ship, Kaga, will also be converted to an aircraft carrier, though no timeline has been released for her modifications.

The conversion to accept fixed-wing aircraft will provide Izumo and Kaga increased interoperability with allies. As aircraft carriers, they would be able to support not only Japanese F-35Bs, but also American F-35Bs and V-22 Ospreys. During a meeting on March 26, 2019 with General Robert Neller, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, the Japanese government asked for guidance and advice on how to best operate F-35Bs from the decks of the future carriers; General Neller said that he would, “help as much as possible.”

On the creation of the new carriers and their joint capabilities, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya is quoted as saying, “The Izumo-class aircraft carrier role is to strengthen the air defense in the Pacific Ocean and to ensure the safety of the Self-Defense Force pilots. There may be no runway available for the US aircraft in an emergency.”

The conversion of the helicopter destroyers into aircraft carriers has received some opposition both domestically in Japan and abroad. Some people fear that the new capabilities will be a catalyst for future Japanese military expansion and aggression. Already, the JMSDF is the fourth largest world naval power by tonnage, behind only China, Russia, and the United States. However, the Japanese government remains adamant that the modernization efforts are only meant to bolster the country’s self-defense capability against growing threats from China.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Kim Jong Un should fear the Lancer

Recently, a B-1B Lancer took part in Vigilant Ace 18, a massive U.S.-South Korea joint air exercise. According to FoxNews.com, the Lancer simulated strikes in the eastern part of the country, which drew the expected condemnation from North Korea.


This is not the first time this year that B-1s have participated in drills on the peninsula. Similar exercises took place in May and July. North Korea blustered then, too. So, why are the B-1Bs such a big deal to the belligerent state?

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
A B-1B Lancer releases its payload. There’s a lot of bombs there. (USAF photo by Steve Zapka.)

Maybe the North Koreans know that, despite what they tell people about Kim Jong Un, there’s no way he can keep the Lancer from inflicting a lot of hurt. You see, next to the A-10, the B-1B Lancer could possible be the most effective weapon against North Korea’s army. GlobalSecurity.org estimates North Korea has over 3,500 main battle tanks and 560 light tanks.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
A North-Korean-built M-1978 KOKSAN displayed at the Al Anbar University campus in Ramadi, Iraq is to be removed by U.S. Forces. (USMC photo)

But the B-1B Lancer has a way of dealing with a lot of tanks: It’s called the CBU-97. This is the weapon that enables the Lancer to protect the Baltics from Russian aggression. A B-1B can carry up to 30 of these internally, plus at least 14 more on rarely-used, external pylons.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
CBU-105 at the Textron Defense Systems’s trade booth, Singapore Airshow 2008 in Changi Exhibition Centre. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s a little math: Each CBU-97 has 10 BLU-108 submunitions, each with four “skeets” that fire an explosive projectile capable of going through the top of an enemy tank. A single B-1B carrying 30 of these can, therefore, deliver 1,200 “skeets” in one sortie. Each B-1B Lancer has the potential firepower to handle about 30 percent of North Korea’s tank force.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success
A CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition cluster bomb equipped with the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser Kit. This is called the CBU-103. (US Air Force photo)

And you can safely bet it wouldn’t be just a single B-1B. Other B-1B Lancers might carry CBU-89 cluster bombs, which dispense GATOR mines in a mix of anti-tank and anti-personnel varieties. Others still might the CBU-87 cluster bomb, containing 202 BLU-97 bomblets. The fact is, North Korea’s army is primarily made up of massed ground forces — the kind of target that cluster bombs are really good at dealing with.

It makes sense that North Korea fears the Lancer. Especially since Secretary of Defense James Mattis just decided that the United States wasn’t going to give up cluster bombs after all.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

The U.S. Army is close to approving a new lightweight body armor plate with a “shooter’s cut” to provide close-combat forces with greater mobility in combat.

Program Executive Office Soldier officials announced October 2018 that the Army was trying to design new plates that are significantly lighter than the current plates soldiers wear to protect from enemy rifle rounds.

Spring 2019, Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, plans to brief the Army’s senior leadership for a decision on whether to move forward on a new version of the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI, that features a more streamlined design.


“We are looking at a plate with the design that we refer to as a shooter’s cut,” he told reporters recently. “We believe that an increase in mobility provides survivability just as much as coverage of the plate or what the plate will stop itself.”

Potts said the new design offers slightly less coverage in the upper chest closest to the shoulder pocket.

How the F-35 flies the line between failure and success

The Modular Scalable Vest being demonstrated at Fort Carson.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds)

“Our soldiers absolutely love it, and the risk to going to a higher level of injury is .004 meters squared. I mean, it is minuscule, yet it takes almost a full pound off of the armor,” he said.

Potts said he plans to brief Army Vice Chief of Staff James C. McConville in the next couple of months on the new plate design, which also features a different formula limiting back-face deformation — or how much of the back face of the armor plate is allowed to move in against the body after a bullet strike.

“Obviously, when a lethal mechanism strikes a plate, the plate gives a little bit, and we want it to give a little bit — it’s by design — to dissipate energy,” Potts said. “The question is, how much can it give before it can potentially harm the soldier?”

The Army has tested changing the allowance for back-face deformation to a 58mm standard instead of the 44mm standard it has used for years.

“We have found what we believe is the right number. We are going to be briefing the vice chief of staff of the Army, and he will make the ultimate decision on this,” Potts said.

“But right now, with the work that we have done, we think we can achieve, at a minimum, a 20 percent weight reduction. … We have been working with vendors to prove out already that we know we can do this,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information