With the debate on close-air support raging between those who think the F-35 Lightning can perform the role versus those who think the A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka the Warthog) can’t be beaten, one other plane that excels in this role has been all but forgotten.
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry , North Carolina – Maj. James S. Tanis lands an AV-8B Harrier during field carrier landing practice sustainment training at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C., Dec. 5, 2014. (Photo By: Cpl. J. R. Heins)
The McDonnell-Douglas/British Aerospace AV-8B+ Harrier has played a role for decades supporting troops on the ground in combat.
The Harrier had caught the fancy of Hollywood for a while – notably being used to evacuate a defector in the beginning of “The Living Daylights” – and especially after it proved to be a war-winning weapon in the Falklands in 1982. The U.S. Marines had a similar plane in the AV-8A Harrier.
Then, around 1985, the AV-8B and GR.5 entered service, offering a greater payload for ground attack. The 1990s saw the AV-8B+ enter service with the APG-65 radar used on the F/A-18 Hornet.
So, how does this plane stack up against the competition is a close-air support mission?
In a max-payload configuration, the AV-8B+ can carry 14 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. The AV-8B+ can carry a wide variety of other weapons as well, including the Mk 84 2,000 pound bomb, CBU-87 and CBU-100 cluster bombs, the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), and laser-guided bombs.
The Harrier also features an internal gun – the 25mm GAU-12 — with 300 rounds of ammo. While not as powerful as the A-10’s GAU-12, this gun still packs a punch.
So, how does this stack up to the F-35B which the Marines are using to replace the Harrier?
The F-35B can carry JDAMs, but cannot carry any 2,000-pound bombs. As this Military.com video shows, 2,000 pound bombs are sometimes needed to support grunts.
U.S. Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, conduct the first ever hot load on the F-35B Lightning II in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 1-17 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Sept. 22, 2016. (Staff Sgt. Artur Shvartsberg)
Even though the F-35 has a larger maximum payload (15,000 pounds to the AV-8B’s 9,200 pounds), not being able to drop the bigger bombs can be a problem. The F-35 also doesn’t carry the Maverick missile, which can be a problem when there are ground-based air defenses.
The lack of an internal gun is another killer. Sometimes, you don’t need a big bang, especially when you have to be aware of collateral damage. When you drop a 500-pound bomb, that’s still a lot of high explosives going off.
Even the AGM-114 Hellfire used on drones has caused some civilian casualties when taking out high-ranking terrorists.
The Marines need new aircraft, particularly since they had to be bailed out by the boneyard earlier this year. The high-tech F-35B may be a good replacement for the F/A-18C Hornets the Marines desperately need to replace, but the AV-8B+ may need to stick around a while to help with the close-air support mission.
Because like the Hog, it can do stuff that the F-35 just can’t do.
The drones of tomorrow will be stealthier, faster, more computerized, equipped for electronic warfare, more lethal, more autonomous and, in some cases, able to deploy as swarming groups of mini-drones, according to the Air Force’s Chief Scientist.
“The ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) side will get a lot smarter. With the next generation, you will see UAVs that are faster, more maneuverable and maybe stealthy. You will see them accompanying fighters with extra weapons, EW (electronic warfare), countermeasures and even lasers on board,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Some of these anticipated developments were forecasted in a 2014 Air Force report called RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) Vector designed to anticipate and prepare for future drone developments over the coming 25 years. However, the rapid pace of technological change has sped up and, to some extent, changed the timeline and mission scope for drones outlined in the report.
Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy
The processing speeds of computers and algorithms aimed at increasing autonomous activities have continued to evolve at an alarming rate, creating a fast-moving circumstance wherein drones will increasingly take on more and more functions by themselves, Zacharias explained.
Computer algorithms will enable drones to conduct a much wider range of functions without needing human intervention, such as sensing, targeting, weapons adjustments and sensor payload movements, ranges and capabilities, he added.
Developments with “artificial intelligence,” (AI) will better enable unmanned platforms to organize, interpret and integrate functions independently such as ISR filtering, sensor manipulation, maneuvering, navigation and targeting adjustments. In essence, emerging computer technology will better enable drones to make more decisions and perform more functions by themselves.
The beginning of this phenomenon is evidenced in the computers and sensor technologies of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; the aircraft uses a technique known as “sensor fusion” wherein information from multiple sensors is organized, interpreted and presented to pilots on a single screen.
Digital mapping, ISR information from the F-35’s Distributed Aperture System and targeting data from its Electro-Optical Targeting System are not dispersed across multiple screens which pilots try to view simultaneously. Fast evolving sensor technology, which allows for an ability to more closely view targets and tactically relevant information from increasingly farther distances, will continue to enable and improve this trending phenomenon.
One of the largest consequences of AI will likely lead to a scenario wherein multiple humans will no longer need to control a single drone – rather multiple drones will be controlled by a single human performing command and control functions.
“People will function as air-traffic controllers rather than pilots, using smart, independent platforms. A person does command and control and drones execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans as higher level systems managers,” Zacharias explained.
As a result, drones will increasingly be capable of working more closely with nearby manned aircraft, almost functioning like a co-pilot in the cockpit and massively expanding the mission scope of a fighter jet or other aircraft able to control targeting, sensors and weapons functions from the air nearby.
“Decision aides will be in the cockpit (of a nearby fighter jet or aircraft) and platform oriented autonomous systems will function like a wing man, for instance, that might be carrying extra weapons, helping to defend or performing ISR tasks,” Zacharias said. “We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution.”
Drones could lead the way into higher-risk areas in order to reduce risks for manned aircraft, test and challenged next-generation enemy air defenses and greatly increase the ISR and weapons ability of any given mission.
In addition, drones will become more capable of air-to-air maneuvers and attacks and no longer be primarily engineered for air-to-ground attacks. In fact, early conceptual renderings of 6th generation fighter jets and the Air Force’s in-development Long Range Strike-Bomber are being engineered for unmanned flight as well as piloted flight.
Nevertheless, although drones and unmanned fighters will rapidly become faster and more manueverable, algorithms may not sooon progress to the point where unmanned systems can respond or react to unanticipated developments in a dynamic, fast-changing environment the way a human brain could. At the same time, advances in long-range sensor technology will continue to enable aircraft to see enemies at much longer distances, massively decreasing the need for drones or unmanned systems to be able to dogfight in mid-air.
During the last decade and a half of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where U.S. forces experienced uncontested air superiority, drones were used almost exclusively for air-to-ground attacks against insurgent fighters on the run, compounds, weapons caches, bunkers and other strategically vital targets. As the Air Force looks to the future, it aims to be capable of using drones as a key part of successfully engaging near-peer competitors and potential adversaries with technological ability able to rival the U.S. edge.
Russia and China, for example, both operate 5th generation stealth fighters (the latest and greatest technology) – and Russia is known to operate some of the most sophisticated enemy air defenses in the world. Russian-built air defenses are now better networked to one another, have faster processing speeds and are able to detect fighter aircraft on a wider range of frequencies, making it much more difficult for even stealthy fighters and bombers to operate.
These potential scenarios, now being studied by Pentagon analysts, involve developing an ability to operate in what is called a “contested environment,” where enemies operate advanced air defenses, 5th generation fighter jets and long-range precision-guided weapons.
“You need to increasingly be able to react more to your environment in the air, addressing unanticipated failures and threats coming after you,” Zacharias added.
Zacharias explained that many of these developments will come to fruition more fully through ongoing training, simulations and live virtual constructions designed to assess various expected scenarios.
Faster computer processing power will also better enable an ability to organize and streamline the massive amount of collected ISR data. If a drone loiters over strategically important areas for hours upon hours, computer algorithms will increasingly allow the platform to identify important tactical information by itself.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is smarter on-board processors. An RPA (drone) can orbit around a given target and have it look, for instance, for a relevant white pick-up truck, instead of having human operators do that,” he said. “This requires image processing, pattern recognition. Then you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30 seconds ago you might want to take a look at the video feed which I am sending right now.'”
The ability for a single human to control multiple drones could bring a number of implications, such as an ability to effectively use a swarm of small drones. Air Force scientists have explained that emerging algorithms are increasingly able to allow large numbers of small, mini-drones to operate in unison without hitting one another. For instance, they could collectively work to jam or overwhelm an enemy radar system, act themselves as weapons or munitions, or cover an expansive area with ISR video feeds.
More Lethal Drones
A wider arsenal of weapons will also be integrated onto drone platforms, including high-tech guided weapons able to discern and destroy enemy targets by themselves to a much greater degree. This will likely include laser weapons as well, Zacharias added.
These weapons will naturally include laser-guided AGM-114 Hellfire missiles which are the primary weapon used by today’s platforms such as the Predator, Reaper and Army Gray Eagle. At the same time, drones or unmanned platforms are expected to fire a wider range of guided air-dropped munitions and air-to-air weapons such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM.
Also, the Air Force is now developing an air-dropped guided weapon called the Small Diameter Bomb II. This weapon uses an emerging technology called a tri-mode seeker, which draws upon infrared, laser and millimeter wave radar technology to detect, track and destroy targets in any kind of weather environment.
At the same time, Pentagon doctrine stipulates that a human needs to be in-the-loop when it comes to the possible use of lethal force, except potentially in some rare circumstance where immediate defensive weapons are needing in milliseconds due to an incoming attack, Zacharias explained. As a result, nearly all weapons will help distinguish, track and destroy targets under the guidance and supervision of human command and control.
Given the pace of technological change, future Air Force drones will also need to be modular, meaning they will be engineered such that they can readily exchange sensor payloads when mission requirements change or new technology emerges, Air Force officials said.
Future drones will also be much faster than the 200 to 300 miles per hour most current drones are able to travel at. Hypersonic speeds greater than Mach 5.5 may be in the very distant future; the Air Force Research Laboratory and Boeing have worked together on an emerging hypersonic test platform called the X-51A Waverider. The test vehicle has had both failed and successful test trying to launch from an aircraft and travel at hypersonic speeds. While this super-high speed technology may hold promise for possible drone applications in the distant future, it is currently regarded as a long way off and in need of much further development.
Nevertheless, there have been some successfull flights of hypersonic technology, including on in May of 2013 wherein the X-51A Waverider flew over the Pacific Ocean reaching speeds of Mach 5.1.
This May 1 test flight wound up being the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever, wrapping up a $300 million technology demonstration program beginning in 2004, according to an Air Force statement.
“The X-51A took off from the Air Force Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., under the wing of B-52H Stratofortress. It was released at approximately 50,000 feet and accelerated to Mach 4.8 in about 26 seconds powered by a solid rocket booster. After separating from the booster, the cruiser’s supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, engine then lit and accelerated the aircraft to Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet,” a previous Air Force Statement explaining the test stated.
Naturally, massively increased speed could give drones an ability to urgently reach and potentially deliver weapons and sensors to crucial time-sensitive combat situations exponentially faster.
Future drones will also be quite stealthy, as a technique for having more success against high-tech air defenses. There are already a number of stealthy drones in various stages of development.
One such example is Lockheed Martin’s RQ-170 Sentinel stealth UAV which, according to a 2011 report in The Atlantic, helped track Bin Laden’s compound prior to his death.
Boeing has unveiled its Phantom Ray, a fighter-sized unmanned combat air vehicle which first flew in 2011. The aircraft has a 50-foot wingspan, can climb to 40,000 feet and reach speeds of Mach .85.
Also, the Navy is still contemplating and analyzing future plans for a first-of-its kind stealthy, carrier launched drone, called the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne and Strike system (UCLASS). UCLASS is slated to arrive in the mid-2020s to give a Carrier Air Wing an ability to launch stealthy drone attacks over enemy territory without needing to launch from a nearby land-base and, in some cases, secure permission from a nearby country to take-off-and-land from the ground.
Middle Eastern oil, the happy kind. (Go90
Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
Host August Dannehl toured a Palestinian-owned olive farm in the West Bank that was being guided by consultants from the
Near East Foundation and USAID’s Olive Oil Without Borders project. Similar aid was being offered to neighboring Israeli olive farmers and, far from begrudging the competition, the Arab farmers seemed relieved just to be able to get on with their livelihoods and happy to wish their Jewish counterparts the same.
In Part 2, Dannehl dives deeper into Israeli military, farm, and food culture, meeting with an Arab gourmet chef who helms a cutting edge restaurant in Tel Aviv, talking to young Israeli Defence Force soldiers about how they view their nation’s foes and learning from diners of both nationalities the frank similarities between Israeli and Palestinian cuisine.
“We’re kind of the same people, you know? We love hummus, they love hummus…” (Go90
Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
Finally, he returns to West Bank olive country, to the farm of Israeli olive oil maker Ayala Meir in order to attend a traditional kibbutz dinner, joined this time by Meir’s family and a number of their Palestinian friends from across the border wall.
Olive oil is culture. It brings people together. This is now the season that Jewish and Arabs and Muslims and Christians meet together. We all love this product. And it’s a way to know our neighbors. Actually an ancient olive tree is many individuals living in the same house. Every branch has a different root system. —Ayala Noy Meir
A toast to friends and neighbors. (Go90
Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
The recent success of efforts like Olive Oil Without Borders, not to mention the more live-and-let-live worldview that can be found among younger citizens of both nations, gives the world a glimmer of hope that this, one of the thorniest conflicts in human history, may one day be no more than a story neighbors reminisce about around a communal dinner table.
Magic hour in occupied territory. (Go90
Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
Pentagon plans envisioning smart, autonomous weapons able to instantly react and respond to combat situations may run up against a proposed United Nations ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems.
The UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals, though the US, Russia and others appear to be in no hurry to slow the advance of killer robots.
Just last week Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told a national defense forum in Washington, D.C., that a strong deterrence strategy in the future will depend partly on having weapons systems that “learn” in real-time and operate autonomously.
Automated battle networks boosted by advances in computing power and network attacks already has combat operations moving at cyber speed, Work said.
“This trend is only going to continue as advanced militaries experiment with these technologies, as well as others like hypersonics,” he said. “In the not-too-distant future, we’ll see directed energy weapons on the battlefield which operate at the speed of light.”
But the UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals.
Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told the British newspaper The Guardian in October that research and development is well underway.
“A lot of money is going into development and people will want a return on their investment,” Heyns told the paper. “If there is not a preemptive ban on the high-level autonomous weapons then once the genie is out of the bottle it will be extremely difficult to get it back in.”
When UN delegates met in Geneva in April to discuss a proposed LAWS convention, the head of the American delegation said the US believes that “a robust policy process and methodology can help mitigate risk when developing new weapon systems.”
The Pentagon has established a directive for how the US would consider plans for developing such systems, Michael Meier told the group.
“We would like to make clear that the Directive does not establish a US position on the potential future development of [LAWS] — it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such future systems.”
During a meeting on LAWS in October, the US called it premature to consider a ban on LAWS and reiterated that it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such weapons, according to Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a group made up of nine human rights and peace organizations.
Russia sounded much like the US, according to the group, which quoted that delegation as saying banning such systems is premature since, “for the time being we deal with virtual technology that does not have any operating models
Work, in his presentation in Washington last week, quoted Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia’s General Staff, as saying Russia is preparing to fight on a roboticized battlefield.
“And [Gerasimov] said — and I quote — ‘In the near future, it is possible that a fully roboticized unit will be created, capable of independently conducting military operations’,” Work said.
Less than a week after receiving his new Integrated Head Protective System, or IHPS, the neck mandible saved the soldier’s life in Afghanistan.
The armor crewman was in the turret manning his weapon when a raucous broke out on the street below. Amidst the shouting, a brick came hurdling toward his turret. It struck the soldier’s neck, but luckily he had his maxillofacial protection connected to his helmet.
The first issue of this mandible with the IHPS helmet went to an armored unit in Afghanistan a couple months ago, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, product manager for soldier protective equipment at Program Executive Office Soldier.
The neck protection was designed specifically for turret gunners to protect them from objects thrown at them, she said. She added most soldiers don’t need and are not issued the mandible that connects to the IHPS Generation I helmet.
A new Gen II helmet is also now being testing by soldiers, said Col. Stephen Thomas, program manager for soldier protection and individual equipment at PEO Soldier.
A new generation of Soldier Protection System equipment is displayed during a media roundtable by Program Executive Office Soldier during the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
About 150 of the Gen II IHPS helmets were recently issued to soldiers of the 2-1 Infantry for testing at Fort Riley, Kansas. The new helmet is lighter while providing a greater level of protection, Whitehead said. The universal helmet mount eliminates the need for drilling holes for straps and thus better preserves the integrity of the carbon fiber.
The new helmet is part of an upgraded Soldier Protection System that provides more agility and maneuver capability, is lighter weight, while still providing a higher level of ballistic protection, Thomas said.
The lighter equipment will “reduce the burden on soldiers” and be a “game-changer” downrange, Thomas said at a PEO Soldier media roundtable Tuesday during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
It will allow soldiers flexibility to scale up or scale down their personal armor protection depending on the threat and the mission, he said.
The new soldier Protection System, or SPS, is “an integrated suite of equipment,” Thomas said, that includes different-sized torso plates for a modular scalable vest that comes in eight sizes and a new ballistic combat shirt that has 12 sizes.
The idea is for the equipment to better fit all sizes of soldiers, he said.
The ballistic combat shirt for women has a V-notch in the back to accommodate a hair bun, Whitehead said, which will make it more comfortable for many female soldiers.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (center) holds the Ballistic Combat Shirt.
The modular scalable vest can be broken down to a sleeveless version with a shortened plate to give an increased range of motion to vehicle drivers and others, she said.
The new SPS also moves away from protective underwear that “soldiers didn’t like at all” because of the heat and chafe, Whitehead said. Instead the new unisex design of outer armor protects the femoral arteries with less discomfort, she said.
PEO Soldier has also come out with a new integrated hot-weather clothing uniform, or IHWCU, made of advanced fibers, Thomas said. It’s quick-drying with a mix of 57% nylon and 43% cotton.
In hot temperatures, the uniform is “no melt, no drip,” he said.
Two sets of the IHWCU are now being issued to infantry and armor soldiers during initial-entry training, he said, along with two sets of the regular combat uniform.
The new hot-weather uniform is also now available at clothing sales stores in Hawaii, along with those on Forts Benning, Hood and Bliss, he said. All clothing sales stores should have the new uniform available by February, he added.
You’d think Air Force brass, who struggle with suicides and overweight airmen, would welcome any incentive its troops could have to raise morale and get in a few extra pushups for their fellow veterans.
The service warned airmen against joining hundreds of other service members and veterans in 22Kill’s 22 Pushup Challenge while in uniform or on duty. That didn’t sit well with Matthew Nelson, the Executive Director of 22Kill’s Boston office.
“I think it’s disgraceful,” said Nelson. “Heaven forbid you get some extra PT in raising awareness for an issue that affects the warrior class of society. The Air Force has a history of this weak-minded mentality.”
22Kill is intended to raise awareness for veteran mental health issues — including the infamous 22-per-day-suicide rate — as well as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury issues.
The challenge is to do 22 pushups in honor of a person or for a cause and to upload a video of you doing it to social media. Airmen from Edwards Air Force Base, California, to Patrick Air Force Base in Florida are uploading photos and videos doing their part for the cause.
The Air Force, however, doesn’t want troops to make it seem like the service is endorsing one private charity over another, officials say.
“Airmen may participate in non-profit organizations, including fundraising for non-profits, so long as they do so in their personal capacity, not in uniform,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Bryan Lewis told WATM.
“That is a passive cop out and they know it,” says Nelson.
The Air Force, with its high ops tempo and historically low manpower, struggles with an airman suicide rate that it can’t control.
“We just don’t have a good track record with it,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said at last year’s Air Force Association Air and Space Conference. “What we have is a track record of pushing people beyond what’s reasonable and sustainable. We’re going to lose our best people if we don’t get this right.”
Air Force spokesman Lewis reinforced the service’s dedication to suicide prevention, mentioning Air Force participation in the DoD’s own #BeThere campaign.
“It is commendable that Airmen desire to participate in, and support, organizations to raise awareness or funding for suicide prevention in their personal capacity,” said Lewis. “We just want to make sure airmen are aware of what they can and can’t do in uniform according to established regulations.”
Meanwhile, a recent Military Times story called the Air Force out as a “close second” to being the most overweight service in the U.S. military, with the Army taking the top slot, according to data the paper obtained during an investigation.
While the Army doesn’t allow soldiers to participate in the Pushup Challenge, it told Air Force Times it never felt the need to issue a statement on the issue. The Navy and Marines have not issued a statement either.
“All DoD employees must abide by the Joint Ethics Regulation, which is clear concerning such activities,” Navy spokesman Ensign Marc Rockwellpate told Air Force Times. The Navy hasn’t specifically advised sailors as the Air Force has, but Rockwellpate mentioned that sailors are required to abide by Joint Ethics Regulation 3-209, which says:
“Endorsement of a non-federal entity, event, product, service, or enterprise may be neither stated nor implied by DoD or DoD employees in their official capacities. [T]itles, positions, or organization names may not be used to suggest official endorsement or preferential treatment of any non-federal entity except those specifically listed.”
Endorsement or fundraising is not the intent of the 22Kill effort, Nelson said. The original intent was a combined effort to pushup 22 million times “to raise awareness to veteran suicide prevention through education and empowerment,” according to 22Kill’s pushup page.
“While [airmen] are allowed to participate in activities to honor fallen airmen or bring awareness to issues like suicide, if these activities are associated with any type of nonprofit, non-federal entity, or fundraising or membership campaign, it cannot be done in an official capacity,” the Air Force said without mentioning the 22Kill program by name.
“The military is synonymous with pushups and the challenge is to spread the word about our organization,” 22Kill’s Nelson says. “22Kill helps our warrior class through camaraderie, support, empowerment, and brings light to the small amount of people that defend this nation.”
The counter currently reads 227,880,412 pushups.
“Maybe whoever made that decision should spend some more time in Arlington,” Nelson says, “thinking about what’s important, what is petty, and what causes harm or discriminates against another.”
Graduate students from University of New Orleans public history department tour the Louisiana National Guard Museum April 11. A stack of playing cards displaying Iraq War's "most wanted" rests on a shelf in the museum's archive department. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Karen Sampson/Released).
Three trucks pulled out of the Central Bank of Iraq at 4 a.m. local time on March 18, 2003. Their cargo was nearly $1 billion dollars, a full quarter of the country’s currency reserves. The loot was taken by a team led by Qusay Hussein, the son of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
It’s safe to say that Qusay didn’t quite get away with the heist. The heir-apparent to the Ba’athist regime would meet his end a few months later in an ill-advised shootout with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division and a team of Special Forces operators. Still, a huge chunk of the money was never recovered.
If March 18, 2003, sounds like a familiar date to many post-9/11 veterans, that’s because it is. The air war that signaled the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was set to begin the next day. Anticipating the American move, The dictator (correctly) predicted that once the air war began, it might be difficult for him to move about the country and get things done, so he sent his son to get a useful supply of liquid assets.
Qusay Hussein arrived at the Central Bank of Iraq in Baghdad with a handwritten note from his father, ordering that $1 billion in U.S. greenbacks be withdrawn and released from the country’s coffers. Three trucks and a number of Iraqi regime officials, including Qusay, supervised the transfer of funds.
Despite the large sum of money, the forced withdrawal may not have actually been illegal, according to some legal experts. Saddam Hussein was an absolute dictator with personal, direct control over every aspect of the country’s governance, including the central bank and other economic institutions. The $1 billion might even have been Saddam Hussein’s own personal funds, collected over the course of more than two decades of ruling Iraq.
At first, American intelligence officials believed that Hussein may have been trying to transport the spoils of his time in power over the border to escape the American invasion. A team of U.S. Army Special Forces near Iraq’s border with Syria reported seeing trucks matching the description crossing over the border to escape.
Others believed that Hussein would use the money to foment resistance inside of Iraq as the American troops advanced throughout the country. Many Iraqis agreed with that assessment. The money may have also been used to fund the flight of those closest to the Iraqi dictator, including his family and personal friends.
In the days and weeks that followed, Coalition forces managed to find an estimated $650 million of the money taken from the central bank. They found the caches of funds through searches and various patrols around the country that led them to the money, stashed away in one of the palaces used by Uday, Saddam Hussein’s other son.
When Qusay was finally tracked down to a house in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, he tried to resist numerous raids on the house from American forces. He and his brother Uday were turned in by one of the other guests of the house who wanted the $30 million reward. American troops began firing TOW anti-tank missiles, 12 in all, into the house, killing everyone inside.
When they were finally able to search the premises, there was no sign of the remaining $350 million from the Iraqi Central Bank. No one has seen or heard of the money since.
Feature image: A stack of playing cards displaying Iraq War’s “most wanted” rests on a shelf in the Louisiana National Guard Museum’s archive department. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Karen Sampson/Released)
The USS Ford, the lead ship of the new Ford-class aircraft carrier series, is expected to join the US Navy by February 2016, according to CNN. Once deployed, the ship will be the largest carrier ever to ply the seas and will feature a number of changes and advancements over the United States’ current Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
Here’s a look at this multi billion-dollar beast:
The USS Gerald Ford is expected to cost upwards of $13 billion by the time it is deployed.
The USS Gerald R. Ford.
The Ford, and the accompanying Ford-class carrier fleet, are intended to relieve stress and over-deployment within the US Navy. Currently, the Navy operates 10 carriers but wants an additional vessel to take pressure off of the rest of the fleet.
Photo: US Navy Chris Oxley
The ship will feature a host of changes over the current Nimitz-class carrier. Ford-class carriers will be capable of generating three times more electrical power than the older carrier classes, for example.
Photo: US Navy 3D model
A 3D model of the USS John F. Kennedy, the second ship the Ford-class carrier series.
This increased electrical power supply allows the Ford to use the newly designed Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which will allow the vessel to launch 25% more aircraft a day than the previous steam-powered launch systems.
A successful test of the EMALS launch system.
The amount of electricity onboard also makes the Ford-class carriers ideal candidates to field laser and directed-energy weapons in the future, like rail guns and missile interceptors.
A demonstration of a rail gun.
Once launched, the Ford will be the largest warship in the world. It will be 1,092 feet long and displace upwards of 100,000 tons.
Photo: US Navy John Whalen
Shipbuilding floods Dry Dock 12 to float the first in class aircraft carrier, Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford
This size will allow the carrier to house about 4,400 staff and personnel while also carrying more than 75 aircraft.
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aidan P. Campbell
The aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) gets underway beginning the ship’s launch and transit to Newport News Shipyard pier 3 for the final stages of construction and testing.
The Ford is expected to carry F-35s and, once available, carrier-based drone aircraft.
A U.S. Navy Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II conducts it’s first arrested landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in the Pacific Ocean November 3, 2014. The F-35C was conducting initial at-sea developmental testing.
But for all the advances within the Ford-class carrier group, some have questioned the wisdom of continuing an astronomically expensive carrier-heavy naval strategy in a time when inter-state warfare is rare and nations like China continue to develop potentially carrier-killing long-range anti-ship cruise missiles.
There are few things in life more overwhelming than moving — especially if you want to do it yourself. A “DITY” move, as it’s called, certainly has its perks, but it isn’t without its challenges. Veteran-owned company PCSgrades exists to take the stress out of PCS. They offer housing reviews and area insights for and by the military community, connect users with military-friendly real estate agents and offer cash-back rewards on buying and selling your home. Now, they’re going above and beyond and want to foot the bill for two lucky military families they’re giving away a DITY move.
The 2021 PCS season is shaping up unlike any other – delays in orders due to COVID combined with a limited labor force in the moving industry have led to the perfect storm for our military families PCSing this summer. That’s why PCSgrades has teamed up with Shyft to provide two grand prize winners each with a free full-service DITY move including packing, transporting, and unloading for a stateside-to-stateside PCS.
Shyft is the #1 moving marketplace for both corporate relocation and consumer moves. They believe that 21st-century consumers deserve services that put experience ahead of everything else, and that lead with love and empathy – to ensure that you always feel safe, secure, and immersed in your new community as soon as you shyft there.
An Air Force veteran, PCSgrades’ CEO and Founder Todd Ernst understands the challenges of relocating with the military. “I served for 22 years and we PCSd nine times,” Ernst explained. “Moving is hard enough on our military families. Finding a new home, new school, new church — there is enough stress for our service members, military spouses and their children to go around. I started PCSgrades to alleviate some of that burden. Now, with this contest, we’re able to remove or help with the financial burden PCSing brings for several families. The military community always takes care of its own — and this is a really fun way to do it.”
How to enter
Submit a base housing, off-base neighborhood, apartment, or other review on PCSgrades.com.
The US Navy is planning to finally test the electromagnetic railgun it has spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars developing aboard a warship, according to new documents detailing the service’s testing and training plans.
Unlike conventional guns, a railgun uses electromagnetic energy rather than explosive charges to fire rounds farther and at six or seven times the speed of sound.
“The kinetic energy weapon (commonly referred to as the rail gun) will be tested aboard surface vessels, firing explosive and non-explosive projectiles at air- or sea-based targets,” the Navy’s 1,800-page Northwest Training and Testing Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Assessment revealed.
The Seattle Times, followed by Task Purpose, was the first to report the Navy’s latest testing plans and the possibility of a milestone achievement for the railgun program.
Electromagnetic Railgun located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
The Navy, which has spent more than a decade and at least 0 million trying to build a working railgun, was initially expected to conduct a sea test of this new weapon aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Trenton at Eglin Air Force Base’s maritime test range in the summer of 2016.
That test never took place. Instead, the Navy chose to continue testing the weapon on land. If the Navy’s new testing and training plans are approved, sea trials for the railgun could take place as early as next year. It’s unclear what type of test platform might be involved.
Should the Navy test its railgun at sea, it will be a major achievement for a program that has struggled for quite some time now. When asked about the program earlier this year, the best answer Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson could offer was: “It’s going somewhere, hopefully.”
The US is not the only country chasing this technology. Another clear competitor is China, which has already managed to arm a warship — the Type 072III Yuting-class tank-landing ship “Haiyang Shan” — with a railgun. The weapon is believed to have been put through some preliminary sea trials.
Photograph taken from a high-speed video camera during a record-setting firing of an electromagnetic railgun at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va., on Jan. 31, 2008.
It is unclear how far along the Chinese railgun program is, but the competition is on. Chinese media proudly boasted in January that “China’s naval electromagnetic weapon and equipment have surpassed other countries and become a world leader.”
The railgun is a curious weapon, one that some naval affairs experts feel offers prestige to the innovator but little military advantage to the warfighter, no matter who gets their first.
“It’s not useful military technology,” Bryan Clark, an expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and former US Navy officer, previously told Business Insider, arguing that it is a poor replacement for a missile. “You are better off spending that money on missiles and vertical launch system cells than you are on a railgun.”
So far, the most impressive thing to come out of the US Navy’s railgun research is the hypervelocity projectile, which the Navy has tested using the Mk 45 five-inch deck guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers.
The Army is also looking at the HVP for its 155 mm howitzers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The largest naval exercise in the world is underway in the Pacific, and to show the world that it means business, China officially commissioned its fourth vessel of a new model of guided-missile destroyers on Tuesday.
Equipped with advanced weapons that can engage other ships and submarines, the independently developed Yinchuan will be China’s most advanced guided-missile destroyer in service. The ship will be able to engage in all manner of operations, including aerial defense, anti-sea operations, and antisubmarine missions.
But other unnamed experts, according to China.org.cn, have speculated that the Yinchuan would outperform the Japanese Atago-class, the South Korean Sejong the Great-class, and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
The Yinchuan is the fourth ship in its class to be unveiled by China to date.
Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy got a shocking view of the future of warfare in 1944 when, as they were moving supplies from ships to the shore, a jet-powered, Nazi bomber ripped past at approximately 460 mph.
The Arado Ar 234 was the first operational jet bomber and flew at up to 540 miles per hour, so quick that no Allied fighter could match it without going into a dive.
For the air crews assigned to protect the American forces landing supplies in Normandy in August 1944, attacking the Arado was essentially impossible. Loaded with reconnaissance gear, it flew over the beaches at 460 mph while taking a photo every 11 seconds.
At that speed, it could fly over all five original D-Day beaches in less than eight minutes. By the time that fighter aircraft made it into the air to hunt the Arado down, it would already be long gone.
That didn’t quite make the Arado invincible, though. Like the slightly slower British de Havilland Mosquito, a prop-driven British bomber and reconnaissance aircraft that go its speed from its light weight, the Ar 234 was left vulnerable when it was forced to maneuver or slow down for bombing runs.
One of the only Ar 234s ever shot down was caught because it was forced into a sharp turn while coming out of a bombing run.
A group of German jets were bombing Allied bridges on the Rhine when a group of American P-47s came at them. The German jets took a tight turn to avoid the P-47s, losing so much speed that they were left vulnerable. American Capt. Don Bryan was in a P-51 nearby and was able to position himself so that the turning German planes had to fly just underneath him.
Bryan made his attack in a dive which allowed his Mustang to keep up with the German jet while his .50-cal machine guns chewed through the Arado’s right engine. The German pilot was left without momentum, without adequate engine power, and with too little altitude. He went down with his jet.
Adolf Hitler considered the Ar 234 one of his wonder weapons that would save Germany, but it suffered from a number of shortcomings. First, the fragile engines needed an overhaul after every ten hours of flight and were replaced after 25. The jet also needed long runways and large amounts of fuel, two things that were hard for a Luftwaffe on the retreat to provide with regularity.
In the end, the jets were sent on just a few operational missions. The Normandy reconnaissance was the first, and they also did duty over the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge and in the final defense of Germany, flying first against the bridges over the Rhine and later against Soviet troop concentrations.