F-35 Joint Program Office won't stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence

In 2020, unpredictable times bore a new normal without advanced warning. Countries and businesses were forced to ‘pause’ with frontline healthcare providers and essential workers supporting citizens’ everyday lives. For the F-35 Lightning II, the most lethal aircraft in the Department of Defense (DOD) air combat arsenal, production and worldwide operations continued during the global pandemic. The F-35 Enterprise rose to the challenge, ensuring Warfighters remained combat-ready, deployable, and lethal when called into action.

The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), its industry partners, and international allies have addressed many COVID-19-related obstacles, with a sharp focus on the safe and effective delivery of the complex weapons system to its customers. The F-35 Enterprise saw key programmatic and operational milestones in the months following the pandemic’s onset, despite increasing barriers.

The year 2020 saw 123 F-35s delivered to customers around the world to meet their missions and maintain their military edge. The 123rd aircraft built at the Final Assembly and Checkout (FACO) facility in Cameri, Italy, was delivered to the Italian Air Force. Also during this year, the 500th aircraft was delivered to the Burlington Air National Guard, and the 600th to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. Additionally, records were set when the F-35 Production Delivery Operations Team managed the delivery of 13 aircraft over 45,000 miles in less than five days; with all of the aircraft landing “Code 1” at the customers’ destination.

The overall 2020 Mission Capable (MC) Rate for the F-35 increased to 68.4 percent (through November), an improvement of 5.3 percent from 2019, while flying 85,967 hours (10,352 more hours than 2019). In January, the F-35 European Regional Warehouse declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC), providing a critical Global Support Solution capability.

First Aircraft Arrivals were achieved at eight bases/units, most notably Korea and Japan, and USS Makin Island was certified for deployment. In April, the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska received its first two F-35As and became the Pacific Air Forces’ first base to house the F-35. The base is scheduled to receive 54 F-35As, making Alaska the most concentrated state for combat-coded, fifth-generation fighter aircraft. In December, the 355th Fighter Squadron ‘Fighting Falcons’ was reactivated to become the second F-35A squadron within the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson. The Vermont Air National Guard welcomed their final F-35A to complete the 134th Fighter Squadron’s initial stand-up, and completed their 500th flight.

Operationally, there were eight global operational deployments, comprising of 70 total aircraft. The United States Air Force deployed F-35 teams for 18 consecutive months from April 2019 until October 2020 in the Central Command Area of Responsibility with hundreds of weapons employments in support of the U.S. and our allies. Several hundred personnel from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines aboard USS America (LHA 6) are currently deployed to the Pacific with a team of F-35Bs to heed the call if needed. The F-35Bs with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted operations aboard USS America with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Akebono (DD 108). America and Akebono conducted a series of bilateral exercises – improving readiness while underway in early April. Additionally, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) departed San Diego in September to execute flight operations with U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 147 ‘Argonauts’ (VFA-147), the Navy’s first F-35C operational squadron. It completed several certifications, including flight deck and carrier air traffic control center certifications, to keep on schedule for the historic 2021 F-35C mission.

Despite COVID-19 challenges, the F-35 Integrated Test Force flew 547 sorties and logged 1,162 flight hours. The test teams implemented innovative solutions across the enterprise to operate at near-full capacity during the pandemic. Split teams, remote testing, cross-training personnel, and military air transport were several methods the test team utilized to ensure mission-essential work was completed.

The JPO team also completed Dual-Capable Aircraft (DCA) environmental, loads, and separations testing, in a restricted environment to ensure the JPO and U.S. Air Force’s top priority remained on track to certification.

Success would not be as great if it were not for the F-35 Program’s International Cooperative Partners and Foreign Military Sales Customers. In April, May, and June 2020, at the height of the pandemic, these key entities achieved several feats. The U.S. Air Force and Israeli Air Force completed the ‘Enduring Lightning’ exercise in southern Israel with numerous protocols to maintain health standards. The Royal Norwegian Air Force also completed their first NATO patrol and deployed to Iceland in 2020. In July, Italian F-35s took over the NATO mission in the North. During one historic mission, they were scrambled in response to Russian military aircraft operating in the North Atlantic again. The alert scramble marked the first time an F-35A of any partner nation was scrambled under NATO command for a real-world mission from Iceland.

The strong ties between the United States and the United Kingdom were demonstrated in September and October as HMS Queen Elizabeth embarked on a historic deployment with its F-35Bs. The U.S. Marines’ F-35Bs accompanied the 617 Squadron in exercises over the North Sea. The carrier sea training aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth enhanced F-35B integration within the Royal Navy’s carrier strike group. These same aircraft will sail this year in 2021 with the ship on her maiden Global Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment. To end the successful year for the United Kingdom, they declared Initial Operational Capability (Maritime), (IOC-M); while Australia also declared IOC for their F-35A fleet to close out the year.

F-35 system developments brought further accomplishments in 2020. The Australia, Canada, and United Kingdom Reprogramming Laboratory (ACURL), team at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., achieved IOC in February, a significant milestone for the F-35 Enterprise. The ACURL team specialists compile and test Mission Data File Sets that allow the F-35 to assess threats and command the battlespace. This past summer, the F-35 program also demonstrated a new level of interoperability, aimed at improving future combat data sharing among the U.S. Services, Cooperative Partner nations, and FMS customers. This was achieved when operational test pilots from Edwards and Luke Air Force Bases validated the new concept’s feasibility and effectiveness by executing a series of flights using two U.S. and two Netherlands F-35As operating with the same mission data file. Coalition Mission Data provides a common operating picture across a large multi-national force, affording commanders the ability to operate a mixture of F-35s regardless of variant or nationality.

In this daily-changing environment, the global F-35 fleet continued to enhance and mature sustainment and readiness performance. On Sept. 29, 2020, personnel at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz., completed the loading of a single squadron of F-35Bs on newly modernized Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN) hardware. ODIN, a U.S.-led government program, is fielded with the current Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) release 3.5.2.2 software and supported two weeks of live flight test operations with superb supportability evaluation results. Later that same day, the Marines flew the first flight supported by the new hardware. These successful operations at MCAS Yuma validate the next-generation servers as a viable successor to the ALIS system and provide a significant performance upgrade to F-35 units.

The F-35 Enterprise closed out 2020 exactly how it began: Delivering game-changing air power to our Warfighters through the persistence of the talented workforce that continues to keep the aircraft soaring – and will continue to do so for decades to come.

The F-35 JPO is comprised of more than 2,000 uniformed, civilian, and contractor personnel, distributed across more than 40 locations around the world. The program provides Fifth Generation weapons system technology in support of air combat missions for the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, seven F-35 cooperative partner nations, and a growing number of foreign military sales (FMS) customers. The F-35 JPO has delivered the F-35 aircraft in partnership with industry partners Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, and a diverse team of subordinate suppliers. As of 31 December 2020, more than 600 F-35s have been delivered, over 355,000 safe flying hours have been accumulated, and over 1,255 pilots and 10,030 maintainers have been trained.

For more of the latest military news stories, visit DVIDS here.

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This was probably the most one-sided air battle in the Pacific during WW2

Raymond A. Spruance gets plaudits for what he did at the Battle of Midway. And deservedly so, since he won the battle while outnumbered and against a very capable foe.


But he arguably pulled off a much more incredible feat of arms two years after Midway, when the U.S. Fifth Fleet appeared off the Mariana Islands.

When the Japanese learned the Americans were off the Aleutians, they sent their fleet — a much larger force than Spruance faced at Midway, including nine carriers with 430 aircraft, escorted by a powerful force of surface combatants. Japan also had planes based on the Marianas.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence
Raymond A. Spruance, the victor of Midway, and commander of the American fleet during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. (U.S. Navy photo)

To protect the transports, Spruance had to operate west of the Marianas. His 15 carriers were equipped with the F6F Hellcat, a plane designed with lessons from combat against the Mitsubishi A6M Zero in mind (of course, finding a nearly-intact Zero on Akutan Island didn’t hurt).

According to CombinedFleet.com, Japanese admiral Jisaburo Ozawa planned to use the Japanese bases on the Mariana Islands to hit the Americans from long range — essentially shuttling his planes back and forth between the islands and the carriers. He was dealing with pilots who were very inexperienced after nearly three years of war had devastated Japan’s pilots.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence
Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters. (Wikipedia)

Spruance, though, had enough time to hit the land-based airfields first. Then he set his cruisers and battleships in a gun line ahead of his carriers. In essence, his plan was to use the advanced radar on his ships to first vector in the Hellcats. Then, the battleships and cruisers would further thin out the enemy planes.

Spruance’s plan would work almost to perfection. According to Samuel Eliot Morison in “New Guinea and the Marianas,” between 10:00 a.m. and 2:50 p.m., four major strikes totaling 326 planes came at Spruance’s fleet. Of those planes, 219 failed to return to their carriers. The Americans called it “The Marianas Turkey Shoot.”

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence
Sailors aboard USS Birmingham (CL 62) watch the Marianas Turkey Shoot. (US Navy photo)

The worst was yet to come. On June 19, American submarines sank the Japanese carriers Taiho and Shokaku. The next day, Spruance began his pursuit. Late in the evening of June 20 the Americans sent out a strike of their own with 226 aircraft. The attack would sink the Japanese carrier Hiyo and two oilers.

A Japanese log said it all: “Surviving carrier air power: 35 aircraft operational.”

Spruance had just won a devastating victory – perhaps the most one-sided in the Pacific Theater.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines are now flying these new F-35 variants

This Is The First F-35C Carrier Variant Joint Strike Fighter For The U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-314.

Marines are also getting the F-35C CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Lightning II. Here’s their first Carrier Variant Jet in VMFA-314 markings.

Along with flying the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II aircraft, that operates from amphibious assault ships, the U.S. Marine Corps is transitioning to the F-35C, the CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (also known as CV – Carrier Variant), that can operate from U.S. Navy’s flattops (the Nimitz-class ones, until issues with the Ford-class carriers are fixed).

Indeed, the Corps plans to operate 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs to replace three types of aircraft: the F/A-18A++/C/D “Legacy” Hornet, the AV-8B Harrier II and the EA-6B Prowler.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, is the first Marines squadron that will replace the “Legacy” Hornet with the brand new F-35C.


F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence

The first F-35C delivered to a USMC squadron, VMFA-314, at NAS Lemoore.

Photo by United States Marine Corps

At the time of writing, VMFA-314 has already started training alongside the U.S. Navy’s VFA-125, the F-35’s only Fleet Replacement Squadron, based at NAS Lemoore, California. The plan is to complete the preparation by next Spring.

By the time the Marine Aircraft Group 11 commander officer will certify the squadron as “safe for flight” and ready to operate independently of the FRS, VMFA-314 will have returned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the F-35C was declared on Feb. 28, 2019, after the first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, conducted aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and received its Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification.

“In order to declare IOC, the first operational squadron must be properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations. This includes having 10 Block 3F, F-35C aircraft, requisite spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS). Additionally, the ship that supports the first squadron must possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications and certifications. Lastly, the Joint Program Office (JPO), industry, and Naval Aviation must demonstrate that all procedures, processes and policies are in place to sustain operations,” the Navy added in an official statement.

Also read: F-35, once beaten by F-16s, shows stunts older jets can’t touch

VFA-147 will conduct the first deployment with the F-35C integrated into the Carrier Air Wing 2, aboard the Nimitz-class USS Carl Vinson in 2021, and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 will conduct the second F-35C carrier deployment.

Interestingly, at least one F-35C already sports full VMFA-314 markings. The first photos of CF-35/169601, modex VW-434, including those that you can find in this article, were posted three weeks ago by Col. Simon Doran, MAG 11’s commanding officer. More shots have started circulating on the Internet after the aircraft, with just a handful flying hours, made a public appearance at Tinker AFB Air Show, on Jun. 1, 2019.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army snipers put new, more accurate rifle to the test

US Army sharpshooters recently field tested a new, more accurate sniper rifle out west, where these top marksman fired thousands of rounds and even when waged simulated warfare in force-on-force training.

Eight Army Ivy Division snipers assigned to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team tested out the new M110A1 Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS), an upgraded version of the current M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS), at Fort Carson in Colorado, the Army revealed in a statement.


Comparatively, the new CSASS offers advantageous features like increased accuracy and reduced weight, among other improvements.

“The CSASS is smaller, lighter, and more ergonomic, as the majority of the changes were requested by the soldiers themselves,” Victor Yarosh, an individual involved in the weapon’s development, explained in summer 2018. “The rifle is easier to shoot and has less recoil, all while shooting the same round as the M110,” which fires a 7.62 mm round.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence

A test sniper engages targets identified by his spotter while wearing a Ghillie suit during the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.

(Maj. Michael P. Brabner, Test Officer, Maneuver Test Directorate, U.S. Operational Test Command)

“The CSASS has increased accuracy, which equates to higher hit percentages at longer ranges.”

The recent testing involved having the “snipers employ the system in the manner and the environment they would in combat,” according to Maj. Mindy Brown, a US Army Operational Test Command CSASS test officer.

These types of drills are an “extremely fantastic way for us as snipers to hone our field craft,” Sgt. 1st Class Cecil Sherwood, one of the snipers involved in the testing said.

The CSASS has not been fielded yet, but in 2018,Congress approved the Army’s planned .2 million purchase of several thousand CSASS rifles.

The Army began fielding the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDM-R), distributing the weapon — a derivative of the CSASS — to a few select units for limited user testing last fall. The rifle “provides infantry, scout, and engineer squads the capability to engage with accurate rifle fire at longer ranges,” the Army said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

There’s a race going on for fastest military helicopter

Right now, the fastest military helicopter in the world is the U.S. Army’s Chinook, but the Army is looking at a new family of vertical lift helicopters, and both top contenders are much faster than the Chinook. But the U.S. isn’t the only major power looking for new helicopters, and Russia claims that its offering will be the fastest in the world.


F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence

Sikorsky’s X2 demonstrator flew for years, allowing company engineers to gain important experience now used on the SB-1 Defiant, a prototype for the Army, pictured above.

(Robert Sullivan)

Whoever wins will be well positioned to sell their hardware to allied militaries, including those countries that fall into both countries’ spheres of influence, like India or the Philippines.

America’s top contenders are the SB-1 Defiant from Sikorsky and the V-280 Valor. The SB-1 Defiant is part of a fairly new breed; the compound helicopter, which features a pusher propeller at the back of the bird instead of a normal tail rotor. The V-280 Valor, while impressive and capable of extreme speed (about 70 percent faster than a Chinook), is actually a tiltrotor, so we’re going to largely ignore it for the rest of this discussion.

So, on the U.S. side, that leaves the SB-1 Defiant and its projected speed of 287 mph, about 50 percent faster than the Chinook. To achieve this high rate, the Defiant will send up to 90 percent of its engine power to that pusher propeller at the back of the aircraft. Most helicopters generate forward movement by tilting their main rotor blades, requiring a lot of fuel and power for relatively little forward flight power. The Defiant would give buyers a huge advantage in speed and range.

But Russia, through the state-owned Rostec company, wants in on the action, too, but their program is nowhere near as far along as Sikorsky. They announced in February, 2018, that they would be creating an experimental helicopter that is supposed to debut in and conduct its first flight in 2019.

They have not released a name or design, but there are some recent hints as to how they might create a helicopter that could fly over 200 mph, enough to beat the Chinook.

First, in March, 2018, Rostec’s United Engine-building Corporation announced that it had started work on a next-generation engine for helicopters that it hoped to make 15 percent lighter than comparable engines. If Boeing were able to trim the weight of the Chinook’s engines by 15 percent, that would save the aircraft 250 pounds — that’s something, but far from enough to surpass the Defiant or Valor in a race.

But Rostec found another way to potentially increase the available power and longevity of engines. UEC says their new granular nickel alloy, VV725, represents a shift in materials science. Currently, most aircraft use 0.04 percent carbon or less because lots of carbon in the alloy makes it strong, but brittle.

VV725 contains 0.12 percent carbon; three times as much as standard offerings. Rostec and UEC think they’ve avoided the brittle problem by adding other materials, like hafnium and tantalum. If UEC’s numbers are right, the long-term strength of the aircraft will be raised 8 percent.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence

A Ka-52, a derivative of the Ka-50 attack helicopter, flies at Torzhok Air Base in Russia. The helicopter has stacked rotor blades like the Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant, but no pusher propeller like the one that makes the Sikorsky Raider so fast.

(Airliners.net, Alex Beltyukov, CC BY-SA 3.0)

And, with the ability to increase engine strength while also reducing weight, they might have a chance at reaching 250 mph or faster. The Ka-50 has a maximum speed in level flight of 196 mph, and it has a similar main rotor blade to the SB-1 Defiant but no pusher propeller. Add the propeller with the upgraded engine, and that thing might outrun the Chinook.

But the SB-1 Defiant is scheduled to fly within weeks or months and could be adopted in the 2030s. Typically, it takes around 15 years from first flight to an aircraft entering service, military helicopters included. Russia’s Ka-50 first flew in 1982 but didn’t reach combat units until 1995. But the design of the Ka-50 began in early 1977. So, 18 years from original design work to the finished product.

That means that Russia’s offering will likely reach the market well after the SB-1 Defiant, so it needs to be able to outrun the Defiant — not the Chinook — to take the crown as the world’s fastest military helicopter. The Defiant is expected to hit 287 mph, largely thanks to Sikorsky’s more than 10 years of experience with the X2 Demonstrator, a push propeller aircraft that first flew in 2008.

Can Rostec, whose fastest helicopter is currently the Mi-35M with a top speed of about 208 mph, close the gap?

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence

A Russian Mil Mi-35M, the country’s fastest military helicopter.

(Anna Zvereva, CC BY-SA 2.0)

An important note is that the Mi-35M was originally created by the company Mil, the firm which made nearly all Soviet-era Russian helicopters. Not all of that company’s expertise survived its acquisition by Rostec.

So, it’s not impossible. Russia has built great helicopters in the past. But Russia is suffering from serious funding problems. And their most recent weapons acquisition programs were unimpressive. The much-hyped Su-57 created buyer’s remorse in India, and that country bailed on buying the jet, mostly because it was underpowered.

And Russia’s premier new tank, the T-14 Armata, might or might not be as capable as advertised, but Russia won’t buy it right now because they can’t afford it.

So, a new, revolutionary helicopter will be a big stretch, but not impossible. And with the high speed of the Ka-50, it’s easy to imagine Russia ripping off the SB-1 Defiant’s push propeller, provided they can keep their airframe stable with all that extra propulsion from the rear. The final outcome in the race will likely be apparent by the end of 2019 or 2020, but neither helicopter will be fielded by a military until 2030, if ever. So, you know, stay tuned.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the missile the IDF uses to spike enemy tanks

Over the years, Israel has nurtured a high-tech defense industry that has developed its own missile-defense systems and tanks. They’ve even “hacked” F-16s to make them deadlier. Israel’s military tech is so good, that even their historical enemy, Saudi Arabia, is a willing buyer.


Much of this development was out of necessity. Israel has had to defend its territories from political enemies and neighbors for centuries. And, in the wake of the Six-Day War, France went back on the sale of an airframe that would become the Mirage V. A constant need for arms and the unreliability of vendors led Israel to develop and maintain the capacity to build their own weapons.

One such weapon system is the Spike family of anti-tank missiles. There are six varieties of this armament: the Spike-MR for grunts and special forces; the Spike-LR for use from armored vehicles; the Spike-ER, which is used from helicopters like the AH-1 Cobra; the Spike-SR, which was modified for shorter ranges; the Mini-Spike, which is a portable, anti-personnel version of the missile, and, finally, the Spike-NLOS, which offers a range of roughly 15 miles.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence
While the Spike-LR is meant for use from armored vehicles, it can also be carried by infantry. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Natan Flayer)

The missile packs a tandem warhead. This means it has a smaller warhead used to trigger the explosive reactive armor (ERA) on a tank, which then allows the larger warhead to get inside the tank and destroy.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence
South Korea is a major user of the Spike anti-tank missile. (Photo by Republic of Korea Armed Forces)

The Spike has been a very successful product for Israel, with a number of countries buying, including Poland, Chile, Belgium, South Korea, Finland, and the United Kingdom. Now, this isn’t the first time Israeli systems have been exported. India has become a major customer of Israel’s Barak point-defense surface-to-air missile, using it on a number of naval platforms.

To learn more about this tank-spiking family of missiles, check out the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7oAX6xl59Y
MIGHTY TACTICAL

A Chinese destroyer fired a weapons-grade laser at a US surveillance aircraft, US Navy says

A Chinese destroyer used a weapons-grade laser to target a US Navy P-8A surveillance aircraft flying above the Pacific last week, US Pacific Fleet said Thursday.

In a statement, the US accused the People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer of “unsafe and unprofessional” actions over the incident, said to have occurred about 380 miles from Guam, where the US has a significant military presence.


The laser appeared to be part of the destroyer’s close-in weapon system, a Pacific Fleet spokeswoman told Insider.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence

“The laser, which was not visible to the naked eye, was captured by a sensor onboard the P-8A,” Pacific Fleet said. “Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems.”

The Chinese destroyer, hull No. 161, appears to have been the Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer Hohot.

US Pacific Fleet accused the Chinese warship of violating international rules and regulations, including agreements on conduct at sea, by targeting the aircraft, which was operating in airspace above international waters, with a laser.

The latest incident is not the first time the US military has accused the Chinese military of using lasers against US assets and personnel.

In 2018, the Department of Defense accused the Chinese military, specifically personnel stationed at the country’s first overseas military base, in Djibouti, of using lasers to target US aircraft operating nearby, CNN reported at the time.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FImg%2F21263%2FHiRes%2Fcombined-joint-task-force-horn-of-africa-image&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.hoa.africom.mil&s=588&h=97ca3b850a7a73fa97e0cc9aeb9715e98d6219054317a4d865d431cd27e0303b&size=980x&c=978100650 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FImg%252F21263%252FHiRes%252Fcombined-joint-task-force-horn-of-africa-image%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.hoa.africom.mil%26s%3D588%26h%3D97ca3b850a7a73fa97e0cc9aeb9715e98d6219054317a4d865d431cd27e0303b%26size%3D980x%26c%3D978100650%22%7D” expand=1]

www.hoa.africom.mil

A notice to airmen issued at the time urged pilots “to exercise caution when flying in certain areas in Djibouti,” saying the call for caution was “due to lasers being directed at US aircraft.”

“During one incident, there were two minor eye injuries of aircrew flying in a C-130 that resulted from exposure to military-grade laser beams, which were reported to have originated from the nearby Chinese base,” the notice said.

The Pentagon said the activity posed “a true threat to our airmen.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Milennium missile killer has a range of two miles

Warfare, in the abstract, is a race between technologies that inflict damage and those that protect against it. It’s a lot like a pendulum, where each new technological advancement either swings momentum in your favor or nullifies the enemy’s advantage, bringing things back to the baseline.


This technological tug-of-war has proven true in the air, on land, and at sea. For example, in naval warfare, we’ve watched as it’s become possible to hit ships from further away and with more firepower. Once, battleships were clad in thick armor to deflect bombs, torpedoes, and shells, but once technology outpaced old-school ordnance, suddenly, that thick armor wasn’t as useful — the pendulum swayed in favor of the attacker. Now, defensive technologies focus more on keeping the ship from being hit in the first place — leveling the playing field in the face of new weaponry.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence
The Ivar Huidfelt-class frigate HDMS Peter Willemoes is one of the vessels equipped with this missile-killing weapon. (Wikimedia Commons photo by MKFI)

So, how are modern ships stopping advanced firepower? One way is via last-ditch defense systems, like the Phalanx and Goalkeeper. The Phalanx, one of the first of these systems, uses the M61 Vulcan cannon, as seen on fighters like the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon, to automatically detect, target, and destroy incoming missiles at the very last moment. The Goalkeeper uses the 30mm GAU-8 (as made famous by the A-10 Thunderbolt) to do the same.

Now, a system based on a 35mm gun has entered the competition. The Oerlikon Millennium can fire up to 1,000 rounds per minute and, for missile-defense, uses a potent round called AHEAD (Advanced Hit Efficiency And Destruction). The system has an effective range of just over two miles, which is huge when compared to the one-mile effective range of the Phalanx.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence
The Dutch flexible support ship HDMS Absalon (L 16), right, the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) transit the Gulf of Aden. Absalon arguably has a far more capable close-in weapon system than the Aegis warships. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky)

The mount only carries 252 rounds — giving the gun about 15 seconds of firing time — but the 35mm rounds are about 60 percent wider than those used by the Phalanx. This means each round delivers a lot more oomph when it hits. Oerlikon has claimed that the standard load of 252 rounds is enough for as many as 20 engagements against aircraft!

Learn more about how this amazing defensive system levels the playing field against sophisticated missiles!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVsGl9XqGdE
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This veteran is restoring the same helicopter he flew in Vietnam

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how the US’s new battle-proven Iron Dome destroys rockets

The US Army has purchased two Iron Dome defense systems, Defense News reports. The missile defense systems are short-range counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) weapons systems that have been repeatedly tested by Hamas rockets fired into Israeli territory. The system’s radar detects incoming projectiles and tracking them until they get in range for one of the Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles to strike.

Israel has said the system intercepted 85 percent of the rockets fired in a 2012 Gaza operation. One expert assessed that Iron Dome is effective, but not as high as Israel has claimed.

It’s unclear how or where the US is planning to deploy these systems, but Defense News reported that they’ll be used in the military’s interim cruise missile defense capability. A delivery date — and the cost of the system — are not yet known.

Read on to learn more about the Iron Dome system.


  • The Iron Dome is a counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) weapons system that can also defend against helicopters and other aircraft, as well as UAVs at very short range, according to its Israeli manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Ten of the systems are currently in use in Israel.
  • Iron Dome has different variants — the I-DOME is fully mobile and fits on a single truck, and the C-DOME is the naval version of the system. The US version, called SKYHUNTER, is manufactured by Rafael and Raytheon.
F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence

A rocket is launched from the Iron Dome.

(Israel Defense Forces)

Sources: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Raytheon

  • Iron Dome can operate in all weather conditions and at any time; one launcher holds 20 intercept missiles at a given time. The system uses a radar to detect an incoming projectile. The radar tracks the projectile while also alerting the other system components — the battle management and weapons control (BMC) component and the launcher — of the incoming threat. It also estimates where incoming projectiles will hit and only focuses on those threats that will fall in the area the system is meant to protect. Rafael boasts that this strategic targeting makes the system extremely cost-effective.
  • The system only targets rockets predicted to land in the protected zone, allowing ones that miss to pass by.
F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence

Trails are seen in the sky as an Iron Dome anti-missile projectile intercepts a rocket.

Source: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

  • Rafael Advanced Defense Systems builds the Israeli Iron Dome defense system; the two US systems will be built by Rafael and Raytheon. Many of the components of Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles are made by Raytheon in the US.

Source: Raytheon

  • Israel uses the Iron Dome to intercept rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. It’s had the system in place since 2011.
  • The US is purchasing two Iron Domes, called Skyhunter in the US, for its interim cruise missile defense capability. It’s unclear when the systems will be delivered, and how and where they will be deployed, but Defense News reported that parts of the system may be integrated into the Indirect Fires Protection Capability program.

Source: Defense News

  • The Phalanx close-in weapon system (CIWS) is comparable to the Iron Dome, but instead of missiles, it rapid-fires bullets against incoming threats at sea and on land. The system is manufactured by Raytheon and employs a radar-guided gun that’s controlled by a computer and counters anti-ship missiles at sea. On land, the Phalanx is part of the Army’s C-RAM system. It’s used on all Navy surface combatant ship classes.
F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence

A Phalanx close-in weapons system (CIWS) fires from the fantail of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in the Atlantic Ocean, June 7, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anderson W. Branch)

Source: Raytheon

  • The Iron Dome is used in conjunction with David’s Sling, which provides medium-range air defense and is produced by Rafael and Raytheon.

Source: Raytheon

  • Defense News reported on Aug. 12, 2019, that the US had purchased two Iron Dome systems, although it’s unclear how much the Department of Defense paid for them, or where or how they will be deployed.
  • While the system has been very useful for Israel against more rudimentary Hamas- and Hezbollah-launched projectiles, it would be less so against weapons like hypersonic missiles, which can maneuver midflight.

Source: Defense News

  • The Tamir missiles, which Iron Dome uses in its launchers, are mostly manufactured from parts made in the US and can attack targets anywhere from 4 to 70 km away.

Source: Raytheon

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

popular

How the F6F Hellcat became America’s answer to the Japanese Zero

In some ways, we know the story of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. It was a dominant fighter plane in the early portion of World War II in the Pacific Theater, only to become an easy target. But how did this happen?


 

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence



In some ways, the story we know about the Grumman F6F Hellcat isn’t the whole truth. Yes, the discovery of the Akutan Zero helped the United States beat this plane. But MilitaryFactory.com notes that the Hellcat’s first flight was on June 26, 1942 – three weeks after the raid on Dutch Harbor that lead to the fateful crash-landing of the Mitsubishi A6M flown by Tadayoshi Koga.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence
U.S. Navy personnel inspect the Akutan Zero. (U.S. Navy photo)

Less than six months before Pearl Harbor, the Navy signed a contract with Grumman for a replacement for the F4F Wildcat. Feedback from pilots like Butch O’Hare and other encounters lead to the addition of the Wright R-2800 engine. It also was designed with improved landing gear and visibility. Then, America built a lot of these planes – 12,272 of them. Compare that production run to the 187 F-22 Raptors that the Air Force bought!

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence
The XF6F-1 Hellcat – which used a R-2600 engine. Feedback from pilots like Butch O’Hare in early 1942 lead to the more powerful R-2800 being used. (U.S. Navy photo)

What the Akutan Zero did, though, was to provide information that let American pilots make the most of the Hellcat’s advantages. History.com described one ace, Marine Captain Kenneth Walsh described how he knew to roll to the right at high speed to lose a Zero on his tail. Walsh would end World War II with 17 kills. The Zero also had trouble in dives, thanks to a bad carburetor (the famous Spitfire also had carburetor problems).

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence
Navy pilots celebrate scoring 17 kills after one of the first combat missions of the Hellcat over Tarawa. (U.S. Navy photo)

 

The Hellcat truly brought hell to the Axis in World War II. It notched 5,165 kills over World War II, and was the primary plane that was in the Marianas Turkey Shoot. The Hellcat even saw action in Korea as a guided bomb, and served until the 1960s in some air forces. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-35s wrecked their competition in mock battles

The US Air Force put the F-35 up against “the most advanced weapons systems out there” during the recent Red Flag air combat exercise, and the fight-generation stealth fighters apparently dominated — so much so that even the rookie pilots were crushing it.

Pilots from the 388th Fighter Wing’s 4th Fighter Squadron took to the skies in upgraded F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, integrating into a “Blue Force” consisting of fifth and fourth-generation fighters for a “counter air” mission against a “Red Force” made up of “equally capable” fighters.


During the intense fight, aggressor aircraft blinded many of the “blue” fourth-generation aircraft using electronic attack capabilities, such as those advanced adversaries might employ in battle.

“Even in this extremely challenging environment, the F-35 didn’t have many difficulties doing its job,” Col. Joshua Wood, 388th Operations Group commander, explained in a US Air Force statement summarizing the exercise results.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence

An F-35A Lightning II takes off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Feb. 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Novice F-35 pilots were able to step in and save more experienced friendly fourth-generation fighter pilots while racking up kills against simulated near-peer threats.

“My wingman was a brand new F-35A pilot, seven or eight flights out of training,” Wood said, recounting his experiences. “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.'”

That young pilot took out the enemy aircraft and then went on to pick up three more “kills” during the mission, which lasted for an hour. “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Wood added.

The latest iteration of Red Flag — a multinational exercise aimed at training pilots to defeat enemy aircraft, integrated air-defense systems, and electronic and information warfare tactics — was said to be “exponentially more challenging” than past drills, as they were specifically intended to simulate real combat against a more serious threat like Russia or China. The pilots waged simulated war in contested environments characterized by electronic attack, communications jamming, and GPS denial.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence

Capt. Brad Matherne conducts preflight checks inside an F-35A Lightning II before a training mission at Nellis Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

“Those situations highlight the fifth-generation capabilities of the F-35. We’re still able to operate and be successful,” Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, the 4th Fighter Squadron commander, said in a US Air Force statement.

The F-35A participated in Red Flag, the service’s top air combat exercise, for the first time two years ago. At that time, the powerful stealth aircraft was only at its initial operating capability, yet it still destroyed the opposition with a 20:1 kill ratio.

This year, pilots were flying F-35s with upgrades offering improved combat capabilities and maneuverability, making the aircraft more lethal in air combat. The Block 3F software upgrades brought the aircraft up to full warfighting capability.

The F-35A is “exceeding our expectations when it comes to not only being able to survive, but to prosecute targets,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said Feb. 26, 2019, according to Air Force Times.

The F-35A, an embattled aircraft still overcoming development challenges, is expected to eventually replace the aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is South Korea’s supersonic training aircraft

South Korea is in the news for hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics in the mountain town of Pyeongchang. However, these Olympics are not the only area where South Korea is showcasing its remarkable progress as a country. The nation’s military aviation is making radical progress, demonstrated by their latest, potentially game-changing trainer.


That trainer is the Korea Aerospace Industries T-50, and it’s arguably a frontrunner for the United States Air Force’s T-X competition. In showing how South Korea has been able to develop a world-class air force, this plane is arguably the centerpiece.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence
The KAI T-50 as part of the Black Eagles demonstration team. This plane has taken a lot of flight hours from F-16s. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Adrian)

As reported by MilitaryFactory.com, this plane was developed when South Korea was seeking to replace earlier trainers. However, in the process, South Korea developed a plane that was so good at training fighter pilots that it became a light multi-role fighter itself — a poor man’s Gripen.

How good is it for training pilots? According to the Lockheed website, a Republic of Korea Air Force trainee now needs only nine sorties in the KF-16 (the South Korean-produced F-16 Fighting Falcon) to fully qualify. This greatly reduces the number of flight hours put on F-16s – meaning those hours can be used for other missions, like combat training or keeping current pilots up to speed.

F-35 Joint Program Office won’t stop now as 2020 milestones prove persistence
Two of the FA 50 Golden Eagle jets that are part of PAF’s modernization effort during the Aquino administration escort the Philippine president’s aircraft. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Gil Nartea/Malacanang Photo Bureau)

In fact, the T-50 is, in some ways, a hybrid between the T-38 Talon, the F-16, and the Northrop F-20 Tigershark. It has a single F404 engine, like the Tigershark. Its cockpit and canopy are much like the F-16’s and it is a two-seat trainer that goes supersonic, like the T-38. The FA-50 version is a true multi-role fighter that carries advanced radar and other electronic systems. The plane currently serves with Iraq, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand.

The T-50/FA-50 has a top speed of 990 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,150 miles, and can carry a wide variety of missiles, bombs, and rockets. It also has a three-barrel 20mm Gatling gun.

To see more about this plane, watch the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgG0XeKAGgM
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
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