What's actually different about the Block III Super Hornet? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?

The U.S. Navy began taking delivery on the first Block III F/A-18 Super Hornets for testing last year, and while the jet may look strikingly similar to its predecessor on the outside, a peek inside the cockpit shows just how much this fighter has changed.

The new Block III Super Hornet promises to be as significant a jump in capability as the earlier transition from the Block I Hornet to Block II Super Hornet in the early 2000s. As a result, the new F/A-18 Super Hornet (called the Super “Duper” Hornet by some) will join the Air Force’s new F-15EX Eagle II in serving as among the world’s most advanced non-stealth fighters in operation today. In all, the U.S. Navy intends to purchase some 78 all-new Block III Super Hornets, while also upgrading its existing fleet of 550 or so jets to match.

Related: THE NAVY’S PLAN TO REPLACE THE SUPER HORNET BY THE 2030S

From Hornet to Super Hornet

Originally designed and built by McDonnell Douglas, the first F/A-18 Hornet took to the skies in 1978 and made its way into service as the U.S. Navy’s go-to carrier fighter in 1984. The Hornet design was intended to serve as a replacement for a variety of carrier aircraft, including the A-4 Skyhawk and F-4 Phantom IIs, while complimenting the dogfighting dynamo of the era, the famed F-14 Tomcat. The Hornet’s broad capability set and impressive performance made it a standout platform for both the Navy and Marine Corps, thanks in no small part to its multi-role focus. Indeed, it’s F/A prefix is indicative of this multi-role skillset, with F standing for Fighter and A standing for Attack.

By 1992, the U.S. Navy was ready to double down on the Hornet, but in order to keep up with the changing times, the aircraft needed a significant facelift. In truth, this new Super Hornet was a largely new aircraft that simply carried over the F/A-18 designation, in part, to convince Congress that the program was a cost-effective derivative effort, rather than a pricey clean-sheet design.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?

The change from Hornet to Super Hornet, which are also known as the Block I and Block II orders of this aircraft, was dramatic. The Block II Super Hornet, sometimes called the Rhino by pilots, is larger than its predecessor and has some standout design cues that you may not notice at first pass, but become hard to ignore once you’re familiar with these two fighters.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
F/A-18 Hornet (top) and F/A-18 Super Hornet (bottom) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chase Hawley/Released)

Those changes granted the Super Hornet 33% more internal fuel storage and 15,000 more pounds in maximum weight, allowing for a 41% increase in operational range. The changes inside the cockpit were dramatic too. The old physical keyboard was swapped out in favor of a touchscreen display, as well as the addition of an Engine Fuel Display (EFD) and Reference Standby Display (RSD). Those displays and others throughout the cockpit also went to full color, instead of the previous monochrome.

Other avionics tucked inside the fuselage were upgraded, including onboard radar (the Super Hornet was equipped with a APG-79 radar system that could keep track of more enemy aircraft and spot them from much further distances). In order to support this improved air-to-air capability, additional weapons stations for weapons like the AIM-120 were added, alongside improved radar warning receivers, a ALQ-214 jammer, and more chaff and flares than the Hornet could manage.

The legacy Hornet was still a capable fighter, however, and Marine Hornets remained aboard America’s flattops all the way until February of this year.

The Block III Hornet is flying straight into the 21st century

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
(Boeing)

Last June, the U.S. Navy accepted delivery of its first two Block III Super Hornets for testing; a single-seat E-model and a two-seat F model. Both iterations of the new fighter have undergone significant upgrades and design changes over the Block II version of the jet, broken up into five major design features.

Cockpit

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
Block II Super Hornet cockpit (Left), Block III Super Hornet cockpit (Right)

The Super Hornet cockpit has undergone a serious overhaul for Block III, incorporating a single touchscreen design in place of a litany of gauges and readouts.

“The advanced cockpit system (ACS) takes the legacy displays of the Block II and puts them all into one big touchscreen piece of glass that’s almost like an iPad interface for the pilot,” Jennifer Tebo, Boeing director of development for F/A-18 and EA-18G programs, explained.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
(Boeing)

The intent behind the streamlining of these screens isn’t to reduce the data available to pilots, but rather, to help manage it more effectively. Fighter pilots have to glean information from multiple screens and the world around them and then fuse it all together in their heads to develop a well-rounded concept of the battlespace they’re in. While flying supercomputers like the F-35 makes this process even easier for pilots, the Block III Super Hornet promises to bridge the gap between fourth-generation jets like the Super Hornet and computing powerhouses like the F-35.

“It’s customizable and expandable and you can set it to how you want your displays to show up every time you jump in the cockpit. I’m left-handed so I like my keypad on the left side with fuel and engine information on the right,” an unnamed Navy test pilot told Forbes last year.

Conformal Fuel Tanks

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
(Boeing)

One of the most pressing issues facing the U.S. Navy in the 21st century is the lack of fuel range in its carrier-based fighters. Neither the existing Block II Super Hornet nor the advanced F-35C Joint Strike Fighter have the range they’d need to engage Chinese targets without placing their carriers in direct range of China’s hypersonic anti-ship missiles. As such, a slew of efforts are underway to pull more range out of these aircraft, including the development of the MQ-25 Stingray refueling drone for use on America’s flattops.

Related: MQ-25 STINGRAY: A NEW DRONE THAT COULD BE A GAME CHANGER

But in order to address this problem on the aircraft itself, the Block III Super Hornet includes the addition of conformal fuel tanks that add 3,500 pounds of fuel. These additional tanks are called “conformal” because they hug the fuselage of the fighter, limiting added drag. While this won’t be enough to offset the capability gap created by China’s anti-ship missiles, it is an important step in the right direction.

Earlier this year, Aviation Week reported that “technical, structural, and sustainment” issues had risen the anticipated cost of incorporating these conformal fuel tanks, placing their future in jeopardy. However, with the Navy concerned about the range of its existing fighters, it stands to reason that the service will find a way to work out these issues.

Related: CARRIER WOES: THE NAVY’S FIGHTERS CAN’T REACH CHINA

Networking Capabilities

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
(Boeing)

The Block III Super Hornet is leaning into the future of data with its Distributed Targeting Processor-Networked (DTP-N) mission computer and its Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) data link. The DTP-N is 17 times more powerful than the existing mission computer aboard the Super Hornet, but more importantly, utilizes an open architecture that will allow for software to be changed or updated without having to actually replace any of the aircraft’s hardware.

All of that computer power will support the rest of the force in the area, not unlike the “quarterback in the sky” F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, thanks to that TTNT data link.

According to Tebo, the TTNT “will allow all of the information to come into the jet from the battlespace that we need to be processed for decision making as well as pushing it back out to the rest of the air wing so that we can share common pictures of data and get better situational awareness,”

Advanced as these systems are, they are not on par with the F-35’s onboard systems, nor are they compatible, so the Block III Super Hornet will be forced to communicate with F-35s via the longstanding Link-16 tactical data link system.

Tougher to spot on radar

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
(Boeing)

The F/A-18 was never designed to be a stealth fighter, and despite an improved radar cross-section, the Block III Super Hornet isn’t either. However, making it tougher to manage a weapons-grade lock on the new fighter has been a focus among Boeing designers, and although much of what has been done in this effort has been kept secret, reports indicate a serious improvement in minimizing detectability.

The Block III Super Hornet’s reduced radar cross-section won’t make it a “stealth” fighter, but like other less-than-perfect stealth jets, the intent may not be to completely evade detection, so much as delay engagement. Enemy fighters and surface-to-air missile platforms may be able to spot the Block III Super Hornet, but the goal is to impede securing a weapon’s grade lock to buy the aircraft time to escape or evade.

Related: WHY THE NAVY NEVER PUT THE F-22 ON AIRCRAFT CARRIERS

4,000 more hours in the sky

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?

The Block II Super Hornets in operation for the U.S. Navy today are each rated for 6,000 flight hours, so it goes without saying that the past two straight decades of combat operations in the Middle East and elsewhere have wrought havoc on maintenance schedules and aircraft availability. In another one of those significant changes that are tough to spot with the naked eye, the Block III Super Hornet is rated for an additional 4,000 hours, bringing the total up to 10,000.

This is still a far cry from the F-15EX’s reported lifespan of 20,000 hours, but offers a significant jump over both existing F/A-18s and the F-35C, which is also rated for 6,000 hours.

This longer lifespan will make the new Block III Super Hornet a most cost-effective means of delivering air power than ever before, while also offering the Navy itself greater latitude in logistical planning.

Bonus Improvement: Infrared Search Track System

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
(Boeing)

Technically not considered a “Block III” improvement, the addition of a centerline tank-mounted infrared search track system (IRST) in the Block III Super Hornet has been called “integral” for the capability of the fighter by Boeing officials.

This passive detection capability is aimed squarely at fifth-generation competitors like Russia’s Sukhoi Su-57 or China’s Chengdu J-20. The IRST can be used to scan the horizon for radar-beating fighters, picking up on the infrared heat released by their jet engines without broadcasting a signal through space to tell others you’re on the hunt. This will give the non-stealth Block III Super Hornet a real fighting chance against stealthy jets, potentially spotting them against the sky backdrop from a hundred miles away.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Fresco was an aeronautical work of art

In the world of art, frescos are paintings done on walls or ceilings as the plaster sets. In the world of aeronautics, a “Fresco” is a Soviet-made, high-subsonic fighter that could beautifully carve and sculpt the skies.

However, most of these planes ended up looking a lot more like a Jackson Pollock than an ancient Roman masterpiece.


We’re talking about the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17, which had the NATO code name “Fresco.” The MiG-17 first took flight in January 1950 and entered service in 1953, a tad too late to take part in the Korean War. Once development was finished and the MiG-17 was ready for its introduction, the Soviet Union quickly put a halt to all MiG-15 production — likely because the MiG-15 got its ass kicked at MiG Alley.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?

A lot of MiG-17s have appeared in gun-camera footage from American and Israeli fighters.

(USAF)

The MiG-17 had a top speed of 711 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,230 miles. The MiG-17 found some success in the Vietnam War despite being considered obsolete by time it saw combat and using guns as primary armaments (either two 23mm and one 37mm gun or three 23mm guns) in the era of rockets — likely because, after Korea, the United States became overly reliant on missiles.

However, according to a compilation by the Air Force Association, during the Vietnam War, the Air Force shot down 61 MiG-17s while the Navy and Marine Corps shot down 39 more. The North Vietnamese, using Soviet aircraft, shot down a grand total of 83 planes in air-to-air combat.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?

The last moments of a MiG-17 Fresco as a F-105 tears it apart with 20mm cannon fire.

(USAF)

In the skies over the Middle East, the story was very different. The Israeli Air Force destroyed a lot of MiG-17s during the Six-Day War. In a 1970 incident, two MiG-17s accidentally landed at an Israeli airstrip. These planes eventually found their way to the Nevada desert, where the Air Force put them through their paces. As a result, several MiG-17s ended up getting involve, in a way, in modern art: They were splattered apart to degree of which Pollock would be proud by American and Israeli planes.

The MiG-17 hung on after Vietnam and the Yom Kippur War. Currently, the North Korean Air Force operates about 100 of the Chinese copy of this plane, the Shenyang J-5/F-5.

Learn more about this plane in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dB6h5kGRMjA

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why we’re loving this new ballistic nylon sling

This year Troy didn’t focus on a firearm at the Big 3 East Media Shoot, instead they featured some pretty rad accessories. Of course, they had plenty of firearms on hand for us to enjoy, but the enhancements were the highlight of Troy’s lineup this year.

The one accessory that caught our attention was surprisingly a new sling dubbed the Troy T-Sling. The T-Sling is made from what was described as ballistic nylon in both a padded and non-padded version in black, OD Green, MultiCam, and Coyote. While a padded sling is nice, the convenience of the non-padded version with the included elastic sling keeper makes a ton of sense if you aren’t going to be carrying the rifle all day and will be storing it in tight spaces like a cruiser, truck, or gun safe.


What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?

The new non-padded Troy T-Sling on a Troy SOCC pistol with a Law Tactical folder.


Troy also had their 45-degree offset Battle Sights on display mounted to just about every gun in the Troy booth. While Troy does offer the 45-degree sights in several variations, they thankfully had most of the rifles outfitted with the HK style variant. If that isn’t your thing Troy also offers them with an M4 style front and a diamond rear aperture or a variant with the Delta 1 system.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?

While the author doesn’t spend a ton of time shooting offset sights of any type, the 45-degree Battle Sights combined with the SOCC Carbine came together as an easy-to-shoot package. We were triple tapping a C zone-sized steel plate at 50 to 60 yards pretty damned fast several times with only one pulled shot out of the 20 round string.

We were able to track the sights during recoil with the HK style sights consistently and with ease.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?

(Lobster Media)


Troy also showcased their Precision Rifle Mount mated to a Primary Arms LPVO. We are told that the mounts are machined from a single block of 7075 aluminum and then the rings and dovetail are cut using wire EDM. The mount is available in 30mm, 34mm, and 35mm ring sizes with either a zero MOA or 20 MOA of elevation built into the mount.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?

The Troy Precision Rifle Mount starts at an MSRP of 5, add another if you want the coyote color instead of the black shown here.

Find more about the entire Troy lineup on their website, some of the showcased products have not been listed quite yet.

Feature image: Recoilweb.com

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The president is getting a new Marine One after almost 60 years

Marine One is an icon of the presidency and for the most part, one helicopter has carried that load for almost 60 years: The VH-3, which first carried President Eisenhower in 1961. The current D model of the VH-3 entered service in 1978 and was later backed up with the introduction of the VH-60N in 1987. But, the fact remains that both of these helicopters are getting older by the day.


The first effort to replace them was the VXX program. This program got started in the wake of the 9/11 attacks when some possible shortcomings in the current Marine One airframes were identified. The program was marred by frequent delays, cost overruns, constantly changing requirements, and unresponsiveness on the side of the U.S. government. In 2009, the program was called off.

The need for a new Marine One remained.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?

The VH-3D Sea King has been used as Marine One since 1978.

(White House photo by Paul Morse)

So, the Corps started work on a new Marine One program in 2010, culminating with a requests for proposals in 2012. Sikorsky, now a division of Lockheed, won the second round of the competition in 2013. This time around, the Marines are going about getting their new Marine One very differently. The Marine One replacement’s acquisition strategy is centered on two main principles: First, well-defined and achievable requirements, and second, a low-risk, technical approach.

The latter is epitomized by the use of the S-92 helicopter (in essence, a souped-up UH-60) that has seen service with a number of civilian, government, and military operators ranging from China Southern Airlines to the Canadian Navy (as the CH-148 Cyclone). Plans call for 23 VH-92s, as it is designated, to replace both the VH-3 and VH-60 by 2023. These choppers can be hauled anywhere in the world on a C-17 Globemaster III or C-5 Galaxy cargo plane.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?

The other Marine One, the VH-60N, has been used since 1987.

(White House photo by Eric Draper)

Now, you may wonder why so the US government wants so many of these helicopters? Well, the current composition of HMX-1’s Marine Ones is a total of 11 VH-3Ds and 8 VH-60Ns. That’s because, these days, Marine One never flies alone. Often, as many as five “Marine Ones” will be in the air, creating, in essence, a five-card monte game for a terrorist. While Marine One hasn’t been attacked in real life, it was shot down by a narco-terrorist in the 1990 novel Under Siege written by Navy veteran Stephen Coonts. Of course, the new Marine One is equipped with multiple countermeasure systems to protect against such an attack should the worst happen.

The VH-92 will be expected to handle the important duty of Presidential transport for a long time. It certainly will have big shoes to fill coming after the distinguished service provided by the VH-3 and VH-60.

Articles

Falcon versus Hornet: which fighter reigns supreme?

They have served alongside each other for decades, but they’ve been rivals for just as long. The F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F/A-18 Hornet went toe-to-toe ever since the Lightweight Fighter Competition. But which is really the better plane?


Both planes were replacing the Pentagon’s first joint strike fighter, the F-4 Phantom. The F-16 won the original competition, but the Navy based their VFAX on the YF-17, essentially circumventing Congress in the process.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske

The F-16 is a single-engine fighter (using either a Pratt and Whitney F100 or a GE F110) that can carry a wide variety of air-to-ground ordnance, and up to six air-to-air missiles, either the AIM-120 AMRAAM or AIM-9 Sidewinder. It also has a M61A1 20mm Gatling gun with 500 rounds – or about five seconds of firing time. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Falcon has a range of over 2,100 nautical miles and a top speed of Mach 2.

The Hornet uses two F404 engines, and like the F-16, can carry a wide variety of air-to-ground ordnance. However, it can carry up to six air-to-air missiles as well (either the AIM-120, the AIM-9, or the older AIM-7), and it has a M61 with 570 rounds (about six seconds of firing time). GlobalSecurity.org credits the Hornet with a range of over 1,800 nautical miles and a top speed of Mach 1.8.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?

Both planes have long and distinguished combat careers. The F-16 got its first combat action in 1981, with the famous raid on the Osirak reactor. The F/A-18 made its debut in 1986 with the Freedom of Navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra that year. Since then, they have fought side by side. Both have been exported, with the F-16 having an edge on that front, while the F/A-18 operates from carriers as well as land bases.

So, which is better? If you needed one plane for all the military services, which would be the right choice? While the F-16 might win in a dogfight, the F/A-18 offers more versatility, and its ability to operate from carriers is a huge plus. While Congress was irritated with the Navy, and later ordered it to purchase some F-16s, which aviation historian Joe Baugher notes were used as aggressors, the fact remains that the DOD may have been better off buying the F/A-18 for all services.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This concept laser could give the H-60 a powerful drone zapper

Lasers have been a mainstay weapon of science fiction for years. In the real world, lasers haven’t quite reached the operational weapon stage, but have been used for range-finding and guiding weapons like the AGM-123 Skipper, AGM-114 Hellfire, and the Paveway laser-guided bombs. These weapons would home in on a target that was painted with the laser, and were able to hit within ten feet of their aimpoint routinely.


Well, laser weapons that do the damage themselves, as opposed to being mere guidance systems, are getting closer to reality. Earlier this year, the Army tested a laser weapon on the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. The Navy had a laser on the afloat staging base USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15, ex-LPD 15), which was in the Persian Gulf. Lockheed’s ATHENA laser was tested last month on five MQM-170C drones. Now, Lockheed has a tactical concept to put a laser weapon system of the H-60 airframe.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored Laser Weapon System. (Navy photo by John F. Williams.)

The concept system in question is the High Energy Fiber Laser. This is a self-contained pallet system that can make existing H-60s that could equip them with up to a 30-kilowatt laser. That’s the same level of firepower (or is laser-power the better word?) as the ATHENA. That sounds very impressive, and a big step forward. How is this done?

According to information Lockheed provided after a request made at the Association of the United States Army expo in Washington, D.C., the High Energy Fiber Laser is actually a self-contained pallet that can be installed or removed from a H-60 airframe. With the HEFL system on board, the H-60 could defensively counter small threats, including rockets, artillery, mortars, or small UAV.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
Lockheed Martin’s 30-kilowatt fiber laser weapon system successfully disabled the engine of a small truck during a recent field test. Imagine what it can do to those annoying Iranian speedboats that harass U.S. Navy ships. (Image Lockheed Martin)

The introduction of laser weapons on an operation scale is still years away, so for now, zapping annoying Iranian drones and speedboats that harass U.S. Navy forces is still in the realm of science fiction. But that science fiction is coming closer to being science fact.

Articles

See DARPA quadcopter drones fly an obstacle course without GPS

Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones or UAVs, have become a very essential part of warfare for the United States. Some have even taken out some terrorist bigwigs, including Anwar al-Awlaki, who was connected to the 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood.


That said, drones rely on one of two things: They need to be flown by a pilot who knows where the drone is in relation to its destination (or target), or they need to know how they will get to Point A from Point B. Usually, this is done via the Global Positioning System, or GPS. But what if GPS is not an option?

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
Members of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program used the 102nd Intelligence Wing’s hangar to test small UAVs in an indoor, controlled environment. (U.S. Air Force photo)

That situation may not be far-fetched. GPS jammers are available – even though they are illegal – and last year, the military tested a GPS jammer at China Lake. Without reliable GPS, not only could the drones be in trouble, but some of their weapons, like the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, a 500-pound bomb guided by GPS, could be useless. There are also places where GPS doesn’t work, like inside buildings or underground.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, though, has been on the case. In Florida, DARPA ran a number of tests involving small quadcopter drones that don’t rely on GPS. Instead, these drones, part of the Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program, carried out a number of tests over four days.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
Members of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program used the 102nd Intelligence Wing’s hangar to test small UAVs in an indoor, controlled environment. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The UAVs, going at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, ran through a number of obstacle courses set in various environments, including a warehouse and a forest. These DARPA tests were part of Phase I.

Check out the video below to see some highlights from the tests!

Articles

The Navy is now creating its own version of ‘Waterworld’

The Navy has had a change of heart about the new expeditionary floating base sailing to the Fifth Fleet. The vessel USNS Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller (T ESB 3) will become USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), becoming a commissioned warship.


No matter the designation, in essence, the Kevin Costner box-office bomb “Waterworld” — where people were living on supertankers because ocean levels rose and covered almost all the land — partially become reality.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
Artist’s impression of USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3). (USMC image)

The Puller is a 78,000-ton vessel capable of operating up to four Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters. It has a crew of 145 and will be commanded by a Navy captain. It can also accommodate up to 298 additional personnel. Unlike the Exxon Valdez from “Waterworld,” the Puller is propelled by diesel-electric engines that give her a top speed of 15 knots.

It’s part of an ongoing program within the Navy and Marine Corps to create offshore bases for troops to execute raids and amphibious operations where countries are reluctant to base U.S. troops. Think of them as floating versions of the Chinese artificial islands cropping up in the South China Sea.

According to a report by USNI News, the decision to make the Puller a commissioned warship is due to requirements of the law of armed conflict. The current afloat base in the region, the Austin-class amphibious ship USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15, ex-LPD 15), is a commissioned warship that has supported mine countermeasures and special operations forces.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
USS Ponce. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ian M. Kummer)

“Without going into specific details on missions USS Ponce carried out, warship status for ESB will greatly enhance the combatant commander’s flexibility in using the ship to respond to emergent situations,” Navy Lt. Seth Clarke told USNI News. “Without this status, there would be significant limitations on ESB’s ability to support airborne mine countermeasure and special operations missions.”

The Lewis B. Puller will operate alongside the Ponce for a while, until Ponce returns to Norfolk for a 2018 decommissioning. While some assets will be transferred during that time, one item that won’t be is the prototype Laser Weapon System on board the Ponce.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Aegis Combat System is successfully plucking enemy missiles out of the sky

The US Navy and Missile Defense Agency, supported by Lockheed Martin, successfully conducted a series of Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) tests in the Atlantic Ocean during Formidable Shield 2017 from Sept. 24 to Oct. 17, 2017. Naval forces from eight NATO nations participated in the exercise.


Formidable Shield is designed to demonstrate and improve allied interoperability in an integrated air and missile defense environment, using NATO command-and-control reporting structures and datalink architecture.

Also read: Latest missile test shows US can knock Kim’s missiles from the sky

In one event, a US Navy ship operating with the BMD 4.0.3 Aegis Combat System conducted a simulated SM-3 Blk IB TU engagement of a live short-range ballistic missile target using remote track data provided by a Spanish F-100 class ship. In the same event, another US Navy ship, operating with the Baseline 9.C1 integrated air and missile defense capabilty, launched SM-2 missiles against cruise missile targets while simultaneously tracking the short-range ballistic missile.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) successfully launches an SM-2 Standard Missile from the forward Vertical Launching System as part of their Combat System Ship Qualification Trials. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Maria I. Alvarez.

In another event, a US Navy ship with BMD 4.0.3 Aegis Combat System successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile target with an SM-3 Blk IB TU.

“The tests show how flexible and versatile the Aegis Combat System is with other international navies around the world,” said Jim Sheridan, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Naval Combat Missile Defense Systems. “Working with our allied nations and the US Navy depicts the interoperability of the Aegis Combat System with other disparate systems in an integrated air and missile defense environment.”

As a proven world leader in systems integration and development of air and missile defense systems and technologies, Lockheed Martin delivers high-quality missile defense solutions that protect citizens, critical assets and deployed forces from current and future threats. The company’s experience spans missile design and production, hit-to-kill capabilities, infrared seekers, command and control/battle management, and communications, precision pointing and tracking optics, radar and signal processing, as well as threat-representative targets for missile defense tests.

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M202 FLASH: The Army’s man-portable, four-barrel rocket launcher

The Army’s recent order of a four-bore rifle prototype made some waves. It’s a pretty exciting piece of technology, but if it gets picked up, it won’t be the first four-barrel weapon that American troops have fielded. And while this new prototype rifle fires 6mm rounds at an impressive rate, the older system packed a bigger wallop.

This older four-barrel system wasn’t a rifle, however, it was a rocket launcher called the M202 FLASH. “FLASH,” in this case, stood for FLame Assault SHoulder weapon. It packed four 66-millimeter M74 rockets that were held together by a clip.


As the full name of the rocket launcher suggests, the rockets were equipped with incendiary warheads. It replaced the traditional flamethrowers that had seen a lot of action in World War II, much to the relief of the grunts who once carried them.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
Traditional flamethrowers, like this M2 being used in the Pacific Theater, were effective, but had a lot of drawbacks. (US Army)

Traditional flamethrowers were backpack-mounted. The canisters on their backs were filled with what was, essentially, jellied gasoline. To make matters worse for the GI carrying a large, flammable target on their back, they had to get within 47 yards of the enemy to use a traditional flamethrower.

While flamethrowers were devastating to enemy positions and extremely effective at clearing terrain, the guy who carried it on his back was in danger of becoming a very crispy critter should his flamethrower get hit. And there’s no hiding who’s carrying a flamethrower. This made the specially-trained operators a target.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
The M202 entered service in 1978 and has seen action in the Global War on Terror. (US Army)

The M202A1 eliminated a lot of those drawbacks. Any number of grunts could be trained to use the system. The weapon is still distinctive but, according to U.S. Army Training Circular 23-2, it has a maximum range of just over 800 yards. While you’re not always going to be firing from maximum range, it’s a lot better than being within a stone’s throw.

Each of the M74 rockets fired by the M202 packed about 1.3 pounds of what the Army called a “thickened pyrophoric agent,” called triethylaluminum. This burned at temperatures of up to 2200 degrees Fahrenheit, similar to white phosphorus (“Willie Pete”).

The M202 has been obscured — largely because it had its share of hiccups. Still, it’s seen some action in the War on Terror — and in a few of our favorite movies and games. The M202 made an appearance in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando, Capcom’s Resident Evil, and Overkill Software’s Payday 2.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
Take that, T-Virus. (Capcom)

-Feature image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

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This amazing use of nuclear technology will blow your mind

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Image: Lockheed Martin


Imagine a plane that could stay aloft with unlimited range and endurance without refueling. That’s exactly what Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division claims it could develop within ten years.

The makers of some of the most famous military aircraft—the SR-71 Blackbird, U-2 spy plane, and F-117 Nighthawk—are developing a reactor to harness nuclear fusion, the process that powers the sun.

Related: These re the 9 fastest piloted planes in the world

Nuclear technology for power is not a new concept; we’ve been doing it for decades through fission. Fission occurs when an atom is split into smaller fragments, creating small explosions resulting in the release of heat energy. Fusion, on the other hand, is the process by which gas is heated up and separated into its ions and electrons. When the ions get hot enough, they can overcome their mutual repulsion and collide, fusing together, hence its name — fusion. When this happens, the energy released is three to four times more than that of a fission reaction, according to Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin aims to mimic the fusion process within a small magnetic container designed to release its hundreds of millions of degrees of heat in a controlled fashion. These devices will be small enough to be used on planes and other vehicles.

Its compact size is the reason for which the engineers and scientists at Lockheed Martin believe they can achieve this technology so quickly. A small device size allows them to test and fail quickly under budget.

In this video Tom McGuire, a research engineer and scientist at Lockheed Martin explains how they plan to bottle the power of the sun within a decade:

LockheedMartinVideos, YouTube

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The Pentagon wants to buy your homemade bomb

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants the bomb you’ve been tinkering with at home. DARPA’s latest initiative is identifying emerging threats by mining everyday technologies. According to the agency’s press release, this effort, called Improv, “asks the innovation community to identify commercial products and processes that could yield unanticipated threats.” So DARPA wants that homemade bomb you’ve been building in your garage.


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This means they want to see what you can make out of everyday household items so they can prepare a countermeasure. This kind of thinking is meant to tap into the natural resourcefulness and creativity of humans.

“DARPA’s mission is to create strategic surprise, and the agency primarily does so by pursuing radically innovative and even seemingly impossible technologies,” said program manager John Main, who will oversee the new effort. “Improv is being launched in recognition that strategic surprise can also come from more familiar technologies, adapted and applied in novel ways.”

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The agency is looking to see how everyday household materials can be used to threaten U.S. national security. It may sound odd to think of American wreaking havoc with common materials, but it isn’t unheard of. In 1996, Timothy McVeigh purchased only enough ammonium nitrate to fertilize 4.25 acres of farmland at a rate of 160 pounds of nitrogen per acre, a formula commonly used to grow corn. This did not raise any eyebrows in Kansas. McVeigh later used the fertilizer to blow up Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing at least 168 people.

“U.S. national security was ensured in large part by a simple advantage: a near-monopoly on access to the most advanced technologies,” DARPA said in a press release. “Increasingly, off-the-shelf equipment… features highly sophisticated components, which resourceful adversaries can modify or combine to create novel and unanticipated security threats.”

To enter, interested parties must submit a plan for their prototype for the chance at a potential $40,000 in funding. Then, a smaller number of candidates will be chosen to build their device with $70,000 in potential funding. Finally, top candidates will enter the final phase, which includes a thorough analysis of the invention and a military demonstration.

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The Department of Defense would like remind potential contributors that they should only build weapons within the bounds of their local, state, and federal laws.

Learn more about the DARPA project here.

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It’s official — the Army is looking for a new, bigger combat rifle

The stars are aligning and it’s looking more and more like the Army is working to outfit many of its soldiers with a battle rifle in a heavier caliber than the current M4.


Late last month, the service released a request to industry asking which companies could supply the service with a commercially-available rifle chambered in the 7.62x51mm NATO round, a move that many saw coming after rumblings emerged that the Army was concerned about enemy rifles targeting U.S. troops at greater ranges than they could shoot back.

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Spc. Artemio Veneracion (back), an infantryman with Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, informs his team leader, Sgt. Ryan Steiner, that he has acquired his target with his M110 Semi-automatic Sniper System (SASS) during a Squad Training Exercise (STX) at Tapa Training Area in Estonia, May 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)

It now seems that fear has shifted in favor of fielding a rifle that can fire a newly developed round that is capable of penetrating advanced Russian body armor — armor defense planners feel is more available to enemies like ISIS and terrorist organizations.

In late May, the Army released a so-called “Request for Information” to see if industry could provide the service with up to 10,000 of what it’s calling the “Interim Combat Service Rifle.”

Chambered in 7.62×51, the rifle must have a barrel length of 16 or 20 inches, have an accessory rail and have a minimum magazine capacity of 20 rounds, among other specifications.

The rifle must be a Commercial Off The Shelf system readily available for purchase today,” the Army says, signaling that it’s not interested in a multi-year development effort. “Modified or customized systems are not being considered.”

But what’s particularly interesting is that the ICSR must have full auto capability, harkening back to the days of the 30-06 Browning Automatic Rifle or the full-auto M14. Analysts recognize that few manufacturers have full-auto-capable 7.62 rifles in their portfolio, with HK (which makes the HK-417) and perhaps FN (with its Mk-17 SCAR) being some of the only options out there.

What’s actually different about the Block III Super Hornet?
A Special Forces soldier takes a rest during a patrol in Afghanistan. The Army is considering outfitting its front-line troops with a 7.62 battle rifle like this Mk17 SCAR-H. (Photo from US Army Special Operations Command)

While the Army is already buying the Compact Semi-Auto Sniper System from HK, that’s not manufactured with a full-auto option.

Under Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the Army is focusing on near-peer threats like China and Russia and starting to develop equipment and strategies to meet a technologically-advanced enemy with better weapons and survival systems. Milley also has openly complained about the service’s hidebound acquisition system that took years and millions of dollars to adopt a new pistol that’s already on the commercial market — and he’s now got a Pentagon leadership that backs him up, analysts say.

“The U.S. military currently finds itself at the nexus of a US small arms renaissance,” Soldier Systems Daily wrote. “Requirements exist. Solutions, although not perfect, exist. And most of all, political will exists to resource the acquisitions.”

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