The three-gun turrets on an Iowa-class battleship are perhaps some of the best-known (and most-loved) naval guns. When they are fired, there is a sense of immense power — and they have a reputation for being able to take out just about anything.
It’s a well-deserved reputation. During Operation Desert Storm, a bunch of Iraqi troops saw the RQ-2 Pioneer unmanned aerial vehicle circling overhead. Knowing that a lot of powerful shells were going to come soon, the Iraqis decided not to wait to get hit and surrendered to the drone.
So, how do these three-gun turrets work?
Now, this is a key distinction to keep in mind. A triple turret raises and lowers all three guns at the same time. A three-gun turret can raise and lower each of the guns separately. Don’t call ’em a triple turret — that could end up getting you in almost as much trouble as getting on the clip/magazine thing wrong.
The Iowa-class battleships have served off and on since World War II. Two of them, USS Missouri (BB 63) and USS Wisconsin (BB 64) saw action during Operation Desert Storm. All four were reactivated in the 1980s and equipped with BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems.
The Iowa-class fast battleships (they had a top speed of 35 knots) displaced 45,000 tons, and their main armament was nine 16-inch guns in three three-gun turrets. When built, they had twenty five-inch guns in ten two-gun turrets. Six were ordered, but only four were commissioned. Two ships, USS Illinois (BB 65) and USS Kentucky (BB 66) were scrapped after World War II.
Take a look at this 1955 training film about the big guns on the Iowa-class battleships. Then think about how they no longer sail the seas, and mourn.
Air Force experts and researchers now argue that, when it comes to the prospect of major power warfare, the service will need higher-tech, more flexible and more powerful bombs to destroy well fortified Russian and Chinese facilities.
“There is now a shift in emphasis away from minimizing to maximizing effects in a high-end fight. Requirements from our missions directorate say we continue to have to deal with the whole spectrum of threats as we shift to more of a near-peer threat focus. We are looking at larger munitions with bigger effects,” Dr. John S. Wilcox, Director of Munitions for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), said recently at the Air Force Association Annual Conference.
While the Air Force is now moving quickly to engineer new bombs across a wide range of “adjustable” blast effects to include smaller, more targeted explosions, exploring 2,000-pound bomb options engineered for larger attack impacts are a key part of the equation.
The principle concept informing the argument, according to Air Force weapons experts, is that variable yield munitions, and certain high-yield bombs in particular, are greatly needed to address a fast-changing global threat calculus.
While Wilcox did not specify a particular country presenting advanced threats, as is often the case with Air Force weapons developers, several senior former service officers cited particular Russian and Chinese concerns in a recent study from The Mitchell Institute.
“The Russians and Chinese, in particular, have observed American warfighting strategies over the last several decades and have sought to make their valued military facilities especially difficult to destroy. US commanders involved in future scenarios with these two potential adversaries may find themselves requiring exceedingly powerful munitions to eliminate these types of targets,” the study, called “The Munitions Effects Revolution,” writes.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
Developers make the point that fast-changeable effects need to present Air Force attackers with a “sniper-like” precision air attack as well as massive attacks with expanded “energetics” and more destructive power. To reinforce this point, Wilcox explained that counterterrorism, counterinsurgency or pinpointed attack requirements — and “high-yield” warzone weapons — will all be essential moving forward.
“We will continue to deal with violent extremist organizations,” Wilcox said.
Dialable Effects Munitions
The technical foundation for this need for more “variable yield” effects is lodged within the widely-discussed fact that bomb-body advances have not kept pace with targeting technology or large platform modernization.
“The bomb body, a steel shell filled with explosive material, is relatively unchanged across the past 100 years. But some elements of modern munitions have significantly evolved — particularly guidance elements. Munition effects — the destructive envelope of heat, blast, and fragmentation — remain essentially unchanged” the report, co-authored by By Maj Gen Lawrence A. Stutzriem, (Ret.) and Col Matthew M. Hurley, (Ret.) writes.
Specifically, the report explains that attack platforms such as a Reaper drone or fighter jet are all too often greatly limited by “fixed explosion” settings and weapons effects planned too far in advance to allow for rapid, in-flight adjustments.
An excerpt from the report:
Investment in munition bomb bodies, key components that govern the nature of an actual explosion, has yielded limited incremental improvements in concept, design, and manufacturing. However, the essential kinetic force—the “boom”—is relatively unchanged. Given a rise in real-world demand for more varied explosive effects, it is time for the Air Force to consider new technologies that can afford enhanced options
Time-sensitive targeting driven by a need for fast-moving ISR is also emphasized in the Mitchell Institute study, according to Wilcox.
Wilcox explained that emerging weapons need to quicken the kill chain by enabling attack pilots to make decisions faster and during attack missions to a greater extent.
“The bomb body, minus the guidance unit is relatively unchanged. A 500-pound bomb body flown in 1918 is now being dropped by the F-35 — with a fixed explosive envelope,” Stutzriem writes. “Once weapons are uploaded and aircraft are airborne, fuse flexibility is usually limited and sometimes fixed.”
For instance, the report cites a statistic potentially surprising to some, namely that Air Force F-15s during periods of time in Operation Inherent Resolve, were unable to attack as much as 70-percent of their desired targets due to a lack of bomb-effect flexibility.
Air Force weapons developers are accelerating technology designed to build substantial attack flexibility within an individual warhead by adjusting timing, blast effect, and detonation.
This, naturally, brings a wide range of options to include enabling air assets to conduct missions with a large variation of attack possibilities, while traveling with fewer bombs.
“We want to have options and flexibility so we can take out this one person with a hit to kill munition crank it up and take out a truck or a wide area,” Col. Gary Haase, Air Force Research Laboratory weapons developer, told Warrior Maven and a reporter from Breaking Defense in an interview at AFA.
A dozen 2,000-pound joint direct attack munitions.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)
Hasse explained “multi-mode energetics” as a need to engineer a single warhead to leverage advanced “smart fuse” technology to adjust the blast effect.
He described this in several respects, with one of them being having an ability to use a targeted kinetic energy “hit-to-kill” weapon to attack one person at a table without hurting others in the room.
Additionally, both Stutzriem and Hasse said building weapons with specific shapes, vectors and sizes can help vary the scope of an explosive envelope. This can mean setting the fuse to detonate the weapon beneath the ground in the event that an earth penetrating weapon is needed — or building new fuses into the warhead itself designed to tailor the blast effect. These kinds of quick changes may be needed “in-flight” to address pop-up targets, Hasse explained.
“We are looking at novel or unique designs from an additive manufacturing perspective, as to how we might build the energetics with the warhead from a combination of inert and explosive material depending upon how we detonate it,” Hasse told Warrior Maven.
The emerging technology, now being fast-tracked by the AFRL, is referred to as both Dialable Effects Munitions and Selectable Effects Munitions.
A high-impulse design allows a single round to have the same effect against a structure as four to five Mk-82s, the Mitchell Institute report says.
“We are talking about the explosive envelope itself, which is a combination of heat, blast and fragmentation,” Stutzhiem said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Comedian Conan O’Brien tore apart the Air Force policy of allotting deployed troops a maximum of three alcoholic drinks per day at al-Udeid Air Base.
“One alcoholic beverage consists of no greater than five ounces of wine,” Conan O’Brien read from the al-Udeid Air Base rule book. “Five ounces of wine? I have that at breakfast with my cereal!”
He visited the Qatar-based forces with First Lady Michelle Obama, musicians Grace Potter and Jimmy Vivino, and comedian John Mulaney. They performed for the 11,000 troops stationed on the air base. Someone from the audience taped a portion and sent it to retired Air Force Lt. Col. Tony Carr, who posted it to his John Q. Public blog.
Portions of his performance will be aired on his TBS show later this year.
First Lady Michelle Obama met with three dozen deployed troops for an ice cream social, where she thanked each of them personally for their service. Joining Forces is an initiative of the First Lady and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden to work in the American public and private sectors to rally around service members, veterans, and their families to support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities throughout their lives.
In what could be a hint at what might be the focus of Michelle and Barack Obama’s post-political careers, the First Lady promised service members she would help look out for them, not only for the rest of her time as First Lady, but “for the rest of my life.”
“You all still have struggles,” she told the crowd of deployed troops. “But we’re going to keep on working to ensure that you and your families have the jobs you deserve, that the benefits that you’ve earned are waiting for you ready, and that — the support this nation owes you.”
She continued: “And that’s not just my vow to you as First Lady, but it’s my vow to you for the rest of my life. (Applause.) So it’s important for me that you know that your Commander-in-Chief and your First Lady, we’re proud of you. And we’re going to devote our lives — it will look different in different stages — but we are going to have your backs. We’re going to figure out how to use whatever platforms we have to support you.”
In the meantime, O’Brien also took over the First Lady’s Instagram account, posting photos of himself and Michelle Obama interacting with and performing for deployed troops, and even busting out fifty of his best “Team Coco” push-ups for the FLOTUS.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into WWII. 2,403 Americans were killed, including 68 civilians. On that day, USS Oklahoma (BB-37) was moored in berth Fox 5 on Battleship Row. The Nevada-class battleship was a primary target for Japanese planes from the aircraft carriers Kaga and Akagi.
Oklahoma was struck by two torpedoes in quick succession at the start of the attack. However, her anti-torpedo bulge took the brunt of the hits. Neither torpedo penetrated Oklahoma‘s hull. As the crew poured anti-aircraft fire into the sky, a third torpedo struck. This time, the torpedo penetrated the hull, destroying fuel bunkers and rupturing boiler rooms. As Oklahoma began to capsize to port, two more torpedoes struck. Sailors attempting to abandon the sinking ship were strafed by Japanese aircraft. By the attack’s end, 429 sailors assigned to the Oklahoma were killed or missing. However, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the remains of three missing sailors have been identified.
From December 1941 to June 1944, deceased crewmen from the Oklahoma and other sunken vessels were recovered and interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries. In September 1947, the American Graves Registration Service disinterred the remains of these fallen servicemen and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. Although the AGRS was able to confirm the identities of 35 missing Oklahoma crewmen, 46 remained unidentified and officially missing.
In 2015, DPAA exhumed the unidentified remains for further dental, anthropological and DNA analysis. On April 23, 2020, Seaman 2nd Class Floyd D. Helton was accounted for. The 18-year-old Kentucky native is now officially listed as killed in action. On March 3, 2021, two of Helton’s fallen shipmates were also accounted for. Seaman 1st Class David F. Tidball, 20, and Fireman 1st Class Walter S. Belt, Jr., 25, are now officially listed as killed in action as well. DPAA announced the confirmations in separate press releases in June 2021. The names of the three sailors are inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Rosettes will be placed by their names to indicate that they have been accounted for.
In addition to having the best uniforms (yes, I said it), the Marine Corps absolutely kills it when coming up with recruiting slogans.
There is simply no denying the power behind the Corps recruiting messages, from the simple “let’s go!” to “first to fight.” We looked back on some of the most iconic slogans that have driven men and women to enlist for the last 240 years. Here they are:
1. “The Marines are looking for a few good men.”
Who doesn’t want to be among a select few “good men?” This phrase, or some variation of it, has appeared on quite a few recruiting posters throughout Marine history. But this one wasn’t created in an advertising boardroom. The roots of “a few good men” go back to 1799 with Marine Capt. William Jones plea in the Providence Gazette, according to About.com:
“The Continental ship Providence, now lying at Boston, is bound on a short cruise, immediately; a few good men are wanted to make up her complement.”
You’ll find this phrase on recruiting posters throughout Corps history, or as the title of the classic film starring Jack Nicholson. But perhaps its biggest impact came from this 1985 TV commercial:
2. “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.”
Eventually, the Marine Corps decided to shorten up its famous phrase and add “the proud” to the mix. It seems to have been quite effective, since “the few, the proud” is still used heavily in modern recruiting efforts. This recruiting slogan was so popular that the internet actually voted to place it on the “walk of fame” for advertising slogans on Madison Ave. in New York City in 2007.
“This slogan reflects the unique character of the Marine Corps and underscores the high caliber of those who join and serve their country as Marines,” Maj. Gen. Richard T. Tryon, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, said at the time.
Long before the Corps found its footing with one of the best-known military slogans around, it went with simplicity. And there’s probably nowhere better to go for gung-ho phrases than what your enemy calls you. According to Marine Corps lore (with a heavy focus on “lore”), the Germans nicknamed the Marines “teufelhunden,” or “devil dogs,” after encountering them during the Battle of Belleau Wood, France, during World War I.
“The term very likely was first used by Marines themselves and appeared in print before the Battle for Belleau Wood,” Marine Corps History Divison’s Bob Aquilina told Stars Stripes. “It gained notoriety in the decades following World War I and has since become a part of Marine Corps tradition.”
While the nickname wasn’t actually legit, there’s no arguing that it made a solid recruiting poster and had significant staying power, since Marines still refer to themselves today as “devil dogs.”
4. “First to fight.”
Both a recruiting slogan and an enduring mantra of Marines, “first to fight” comes from the Marine Corps hymn of the late 1800s. In 1929, the Corps officially adopted the hymn and immortalized the words of “first to fight for right and freedom” in the memories of future generations of Marines.
Potential recruits began seeing “first to fight in France” during World War I, and they still do. Marine Corps Recruiting Command still uses the phrase in promotional materials today: “Marines are first to fight because of their culture and because they maintain a forward-deployed presence near various global hotspots.”
5. “Tell that to the Marines!”
The Marine Corps has a flair for taking an insult and turning it into something of a badge of honor. Sailors used to call them “gyrenes” as an insult, and then they adopted it. Then they started calling them “jarheads,” and that insult was flipped into a term of endearment.
So goes the phrase “tell that to the Marines.” It was originally an insulting way for sailors to chide British Royal Marines for believing any crazy story that they heard, according to The Marine Corps Historical Center. But with James Montgomery Flagg’s 1917 recruiting poster of an enraged man throwing a newspaper to the ground, the insult was recast as a challenge: if there is evil happening in the world, tell it to the Marines, because they will take care of it. Take that, squids.
6. “We don’t promise you a rose garden.”
One of the best recruiting slogans paired with a photo of a crazed drill instructor made “rose garden” one of the most legendary recruiting posters ever made for the Marine Corps. Sometime during the sixties/early 1970s, the Corps really distinguished itself from the other services with its messaging, and it has endured ever since.
Unlike other services that told potential recruits about awesome job opportunities, GI Bill money, or adventure, the Corps promised only pain, extreme challenges, and sacrifice. The messaging attracted a certain kind of recruit: One who was only interested in earning the title of Marine.
7. “If everybody could get in the Marines, it wouldn’t be the Marines.”
This classic line also played heavily alongside the “rose garden” campaign that ran from 1971 to 1984. Again, the Corps was sending the message that it was an exclusive club that only a select few could make it into. Of course, as a smaller service, the Corps has to be more exclusive, but this slogan also has the added bonus of throwing shade at the Army.
Not everyone can get into the Army, but this slogan hinted that it’s much easier to get into the Army than the Marines.
8. “The Marine Corps builds men.”
Last but certainly not least is the recruiting slogan that spanned three decades. A series of recruiting posters bearing the phrase “The Marine Corps builds men” with images of Marines and Marine life first popped up around the time of the Korean War in the 1950s. The campaign continued all the way into the early 1980s, according to The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.
The naked eye can only see so far and it can’t track the really fast stuff. Radar makes up for that natural shortcoming and has become a necessity in warfare. In fact, it’s arguably the main reason that the British won the Battle of Britain.
Ever since the Battle of Britain, folks who wanted — or needed — to put bombs on target in enemy territory needed to disable enemy radar first. Blowing up enemy radar is no easy task as most military forces keep them well guarded. Thankfully, you don’t need to blow up the enemy radar — you just need to make sure it can’t see. During World War II, specialized units, like No. 100 Group of the Royal Air Force, flew a variety of planes modified with jammers with the sole purpose of disrupting radar.
A U.S. Navy EA-6B Prowler from the Electronic Attack Squadron-133 out of Woodby Island, Washington, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, in support of exercise Northern Edge 2002. (USAF photo)
After World War II, the United States military decided they needed two planes for the job: the EF-111 Raven and the EA-6B Prowler. The Prowler entered service in 1971, replacing the EKA-3B Skywarrior, which was better known as the “Whale.”
Although both the Raven and the Prowler were modified attack planes, the Prowler hardly resembled its original after modifications. The A-6 had a crew of two while the EA-6B Prowler had a crew of four. The Prowler carries up to five pods for the ALQ-99 electronic countermeasures system. The ALQ-99 carries out what is known as “soft kills” of enemy radars and missiles. A “soft kill” doesn’t do physical damage, but instead confuses targeted systems by sending false signals, jamming enemy systems with static, or even turning displays blank.
The EA-6B could also do the “hard-kill” work, using AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles. This plane is still in service today with the United States Marine Corps and ended a 44-years term with the United States Navy in 2015.
The midway point on construction of the Navy’s next aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy, CVN 79, was reached at the end of August 2018, when the latest superlift was dropped into place, shipbuilder Huntington Ignalls said in a release.
The modular-construction approach the shipbuilder is using involves joining smaller sections into larger chunks, called superlifts, which are outfitted with wiring, piping, ventilation, and other components, before being hoisted into place on the Kennedy.
The latest superlift makes up the aft section of the ship between the hangar bay and the flight deck. It is one of the heaviest that will be used, composed of 19 smaller sections and weighed 997 standard tons — roughly as much as 25 semi trucks. It is 80 feet long, about 110 feet wide, and four decks in height.
Below, you can see Huntington’s Newport News Shipbuilding division haul the massive superlift into place with the shipyard’s 1,157-ton gantry crane.
Workers installed an array of equipment, including pumps, pipes, lighting, and ventilation, into the latest superlift before it was lifted onto the ship.
The modular approach has allowed the shipbuilder to reach this point in construction 14 months earlier than it was reached on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s first-in-class Ford-class carrier, the company said.
“Performing higher levels of pre-outfitting represents a significant improvement in aircraft carrier construction, allowing us to build larger structures than ever before and providing greater cost savings,” Lucas Hicks, the company’s vice president for the Kennedy program, said in the release.
A superlift is dropped into place on the aft section of the Navy’s next aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy, August 2018.
Huntington Ignalls started construction on the Kennedy in February 2011 with the “first cut of steel” ceremony. The ship’s keel was laid in August 2015, and the carrier hit the 50%-constructed mark in June 2017.
The shipbuilder said in early 2018 that the Kennedyreached 70% and 75% structural completion, which “has to do with superlifts and the number of structures erected to build the ship,” Duane Bourne, media-relations manager for Huntington Ignalls, said in an email.
With the nearly 1,000-ton superlift added at the end of August 2018, work on the Kennedy — structural or otherwise — is now halfway done.
The ship is now scheduled to move from dry dock to an outfitting berth by the last quarter of 2019, which would be three months ahead of schedule. Hicks said in April 2018 that the Kennedy was to be christened and launched in November 2019 and delivered to the Navy in June 2022.
USS Gerald R. Ford underway on its own power for the first time in Newport News, Virginia, April 8, 2017.
(US Department of Defense photo)
The Kennedy includes many of the new features installed on the Ford, like the Electromagnetic Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear, both of which assist with launching and recovering aircraft. (One notable feature not included on the Ford: urinals.)
The Ford was delivered to the Navy in June 2017 — two years later than planned — and commissioned that year. The ship came at a cost of about .9 billion, which was 23% more than estimated. The Ford has faced a number of issues and is still undergoing post-commissioning work before it can be ready for a combat deployment.
The Navy and Huntington Ignalls have said lessons from the construction of the Ford will be applied to future carriers — though the Government Accountability Office said in summer 2017 that the .4 billion budget for the Kennedy was unreliable and didn’t take into account what happened during the Ford’s construction. The Pentagon partially agreed with that assessment.
The Kennedy is the second of four Ford-class carriers the Navy plans to buy. Work has already started on the next Ford-class carrier, the Enterprise, with the “first cut of steel” ceremony taking place in August 2017.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Dream Team has nothing to do with basketball. On a 2009 episode of Charlie Rose, former Soviet Premiere Mikhail Gorbachev was a guest, commemorating the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall. During the interview, Gorbachev made a number of interesting statements. He wasn’t impressed with President Reagan’s challenge to tear down the wall.
But he did think Reagan was a great leader. Joining Gorbachev on the show was Reagan’s Secretary of State George Schultz, who brought up Reagan and Gorby’s famous Lake Geneva Summit. Schultz admitted he wasn’t present when the two leaders ducked out to a nearby cabin to talk. Gorbachev remembered their conversation very clearly.
“From the fireside house, President Reagan suddenly said to me, ‘What would you do if the United States were suddenly attacked by someone from outer space? Would you help us?’
“I said, ‘No doubt about it.'”
“He said, ‘We too.'”
President Reagan was an avid fan of science fiction films, like The Day the Earth Stood Still and even once got an advance screening of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Reagan repeated the story to a group of Maryland high school students after his return to the US. Deputy national security adviser Colin Powell used to go through the President’s speeches and remove mentions of what he called “the little green men.”
When you look at the results country by country, however, some interesting nuances emerge.
First, the US, most European countries, and Russia see ISIS as the foremost security concern. This was the case last year, as well.
But a growing number of people, particularly those in Africa and the Americas, are now saying that climate change is a bigger threat to them than terrorism, cyber attacks, the refugee crisis, or the economy.
In countries that are hurting economically, like Venezuela and Greece, survey respondents predictably said the condition of the global economy was their biggest concern.
People in South Korea and Vietnam both listed China’s power and influence as the main security issue facing their nations.
And while it didn’t rank as the top threat for any nation, more people now say they worry about the United States’ power and influence than in previous years before President Donald Trump took office.
Worldwide, only 22% of people said in a separate Pew survey that they have confidence in Trump, compared to 64% when former President Barack Obama was in office. Similarly, 49% now have a favorable view of the US, vs. 64% at the end of Obama’s presidency.
The US-led international coalition said the Syrian Democratic Forces militia launched a ground offensive to capture the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa, the US military said.
The SDF’s offensive began on June 6th after efforts to capture the city’s surrounding territory began in November.
The US-led anti-Islamic State international coalition called the Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve said the SDF has been “rapidly tightening the noose around the city since their daring air assault behind enemy lines in coalition aircraft in March to begin the seizure of Tabqah.”
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the coalition, said the fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult, but victory will deliver a decisive blow to the idea of the Islamic State as a physical, ruling entity.
The offensive in Raqqa comes as Iraqi security forces near victory in west Mosul, though progress has been slow in the densely populated areas of Iraq’s second-largest city. The SDF’s assault also follows the attacks in London and Manchester for which theIslamic State, also known as ISIL, Daesh, and ISIS, took credit.
“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” Townsend said in a statement. “We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England. ISIS threatens all of our nations, not just Iraq andSyria, but in our own homelands as well. This cannot stand.”
The SDF has called on Raqqa residents to evacuate so they do not become trapped, are not killed by Islamic State snipers and are not used as human shields
The US-led coalition supports the SDF by providing equipment, training, intelligence and logistics support, airstrikes and battlefield advice.
The Air Force has entered the next phase in its development of a new, combat-ready Light Attack aircraft designed to maneuver close to terrain, support ground combat operations, and operate closely with US allies in an irregular warfare scenario.
The service is now entering a proposal phase for its new aircraft, designed to lead to a production contract by 2019.
The Light Attack planes are optimized for counterinsurgency and other types of warfare wherein the US Air Force largely has aerial dominance. Given this mission scope, the planes are not intended to mirror the speed, weaponry or stealth attributes of a 5th generation fighter, but rather offer the service an effective attack option against ground enemies such as insurgents who do not present an air threat.
“We must develop the capacity to combat violent extremism at lower cost,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in an Air Force report. “Today’s Air Force is smaller than the nation needs and the Light Attack Aircraft offers an option to increase the Air Force capacity beyond what we now have in our inventory or budget.”
The combat concept here, should the Air Force engage in a substantial conflict with a major, technically-advanced adversary, would be to utilize stealth attack and advanced 5th-Gen fighters to establish air superiority — before sending light aircraft into a hostile area to support ground maneuvers and potentially fire precision weapons at ground targets from close range.
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II with the U.S. Air Force Weapons School drops an AGM-65 Maverick during a close air support training mission over the Nevada Test and Training Range on Sept. 23, 2011, as part of a six-month, graduate-level instructor course held at Nellis Air Force Base.
Following an initial Air Force Light Attack aircraft experiment in 2017, which included assessments of a handful of off-the-shelf options, the Air Force streamlined its approach and entered a 2nd phase of the program. The second phase included “live-fly” assessments of the aircraft in a wide range of combat scenarios. The service chose to continue testing two of the previous competitors from its first phase — Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.
A formal Air Force solicitation specifies that both Textron and Sierra Nevada will now help draft proposal documents for the aircraft.
“The Light Attack Aircraft will provide an affordable, non-developmental aircraft intended to operate globally in the types of Irregular Warfare environments that have characterized combat operations over the past 25 years,” the Air Force solicitation says.
The emerging aircraft is envisioned as a low-cost, commercially-built, combat-capable plane able to perform a wide range of missions in a less challenging or more permissive environment.
The idea is to save mission time for more expensive and capable fighter jets, such as an F-15 or F-22, when an alternative can perform needed air-ground attack missions – such as recent attacks on ISIS.
Air Force officials provided these Light Attack assessment parameters to Warrior Maven, during the analysis phase following last summer’s experiment:
Basic Surface Attack – Assess impact accuracy using hit/miss criteria of practice/laser-guided bomb, and unguided/guided rockets
Close Air Support (CAS) – Assess ability to find, fix, track target and engage simulated operational targets while communicating with the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC)
Daytime Ground Assault Force (GAF) – assess aircraft endurance, range, ability to communicate with ground forces through unsecure and secure radio and receive tactical updates
Rescue Escort (RESCORT) – Assess pilot workload to operate with a helicopter, receive area updates and targeting data, employ ballistic, unguided/guided rockets and laser-guided munitions
Night CAS – Assess pilot workload to find, fix, track, target and engage operational targets
A U.S. Super Tucano flying over Moody Air Force Base as part of training program for the Afghan pilots.
A-29 Super Tucano
US-trained pilots with the Afghan Air Force have been attacking the Taliban with A-29 Super Tucano aircraft.
A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.
Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.
The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.
AT-6 Light Attack
The Textron Aviation AT-6 is the other multi-role light attack aircraft being analyzed by the Air Force. It uses a Lockheed A-10C mission computer and a CMC Esterline glass cockpit with flight management systems combined with an L3 Wescam MX-Ha15Di multi-sensor suite which provides color and IR sensors, laser designation technology and a laser rangefinder. The aircraft is built with an F-16 hands on throttle and also uses a SparrowHawk HUD with integrated navigation and weapons delivery, according to Textron Aviation information on the plane.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.