The B-2 Spirit is one of the most clandestine and rare planes in the world. Only 21 were ever built, and they reportedly have a stealth profile similar to that of a large bird despite their 170-foot wingspan. And they’re invisible to many infrared seekers, despite four large engines.
Here’s how engineers made a massive plane with large engines nearly invisible to systems designed to detect threats exactly like the B-2.
The B-2’s stealth profile is the result of extensive computer testing that wasn’t possible before its design. While the F-117 and B-1 were stealth aircraft, they were designed by nerds with slide rules and minimal computer modeling because the technology and the computers necessary simply didn’t exist.
But when it was time to design the B-2, the all-powerful nerds had super computers and leveraged them to create a model that had no flat surfaces with which to reflect radar directly back to the sensor. While a machine with no flat surfaces is harder to manufacture, the increase in stealth was deemed worthy of extra costs.
If the B-2 were flying directly towards the radar, most of the waves would actually be reflected 90 degrees away from the receiver, giving the radar operators next to nothing to work with.
But of course, the flying wing would lose most of its stealth if the engines were mounted outside of its high-tech form. So the engines were mounted inside with special openings for intake and exhaust that, again, would not reflect radar waves back to the dish.
It has a few (mostly classified) systems to help with this. The exact shape of the exhaust helps a lot, but it also cools its exhaust and mixes it with the outside air to create a final exhaust that is at nearly the same temperature as the air flowing into the intake.
This greatly frustrates pursuing missiles and fighters, but obviously still leaves it vulnerable if someone spots the plane and talks fighters into the vicinity to hunt it.
Anyone who has worked with most other jets knows that you can typically hear them before you see them, often by a matter of hundreds of feet. It’s the sound that lets you know to look for the plane, but the B-2’s tiny acoustic signature means that most observers on the ground won’t know there’s anything in the sky to look for.
Combined, this makes the B-2 a plane with little radar observability, that’s too quiet for most people on the ground to notice it flying nearby, and it gives off little heat, frustrating missiles and fighters sent to down it.
All of this still requires good pilots and planning. Determined defenders could use low-frequency radar waves and skilled fighters to hunt down a B-2 following a too-populated or well-defended route. But the last element of B-2 stealth comes from good intelligence, allowing pilots and planners to send the bombers in through relatively undefended routes or through routes the B-2 can defeat.
Because that’s a big part of the B-2’s mission. It’s not supposed to act as the primary bomber in most circumstances. It’s a first-wave attacker, clearing the air defenses on the ground and opening “alleys” for less stealthy aircraft. Ideally, they get a picture of the air defenses they will attack from reconnaissance aircraft like the RC-135 and are then able to dismantle them piece by piece.
But the B-2 can and has been sent against other targets, including bunkers in Iraq housing command and control elements during the invasion of that country. This is particularly useful when planners need to eliminate a target too early in the timeline to dismantle the air network first.
After all, if an enemy commander shows himself at a rally in the capital during an air campaign, you aren’t going to wait for the B-2s to finish opening the air corridors, you’re just going to send in B-2s to the final target (or you send B-1s if the B-2s can’t get there in time). You can get the radars later.
And that’s what’s so great about the B-2. While the plane costs more dollars per hour of flight than many others and carries fewer bombs than planes like the B-52 and B-1, it can hit targets that few other platforms can, largely because of its amazing stealth.
As the US Army pursues accelerated modernization to meet the potential future demands of high-intensity warfighting against top adversaries like Russia and China, the service is searching for a new next-generation combat vehicle to replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle produced by BAE Systems.
The Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) program is the second highest priority for the recently-established Army Futures Command. This brand new four-star command is dedicated to the research and development of future weapons systems for this new era of great power competition.
“The Russians and the Chinese have used the last 15 years to modernize their forces,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the NGCV cross-functional team, told reporters Oct. 9, 2018, “We need to do the same.”
Replacing the Bradley Fighting Vehicle is the top priority for the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program
The primary focus right now is replacing the Bradley with an Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV), although the requirements are still in the works, with Army officials noting that “all options are on the table.” The Army’s NGCV cross-functional team is looking for something lethal, survivable, and most importantly upgradeable so that it can continue to meet the Army’s needs for year’s to come, NGCV team leaders explained Tuesday at the 2018 Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC.
The Army appears to be pursuing a vehicle that can be reconfigured for different missions, has an outstanding power-to-weight ratio for intensity-based and technological upgrades and modifications, and can wage war in both urban and rural environments to provide a deterrent force in Europe and beyond.
The program is expected to issue an official request for proposals in 2018, and companies will have around six months to prepare their offers. The NGCV program expects to field its new OMFV in 2026. This Futures Command team is also looking at a new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV), Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) option, Robotic Command Vehicle (RCV), and replacement for the M1 Abrams tank, but the expected delivery dates for these projects are farther out.
There are three full-scale OMFV concepts put foward by BAE Systems, Raytheon, and Rheinmetall, and General Dynamics on display at AUSA 2018, although there may be more potential designs later on when the official request for proposals is sent out. While the three concepts on the floor offer many similar features, each vehicle brings something unique to the table.
The CV90 Mark IV.
Characterizing it as a conversation starter, BAE Systems is offering the latest version of its proven combat vehicle — the CV90 Mark IV
There are 15 variants of the Combat Vehicle (CV) 90 in service in seven nations, so BAE Systems is coming to the table with the latest iteration of a proven vehicle. “We’re pretty proud of this vehicle,” a spokesman for the company told Business Insider at AUSA. “We brought this as our best way to start a conversation with the Army and help the Army help us figure out what it is that soldiers need.”
The strengths of this vehicle, according to its makers, include its growth potential and the mission-specific modularity and flexibility.
“On the left and right sides of it are boxes, they look like they are bolted on, those are weapons station modules,” the spokesman explained, “On [the left] side, you have a Spike missile module connected to the vehicle, and on the right side, you have a 7.62 coaxial machine gun with 2,000 ready rounds in the box.”
Those modular systems are all on attachment points, meaning that they could be swapped out for other modules, such as a Mark 19 grenade launcher, to suit the mission at hand. “It gives the Army, the unit commander, and the vehicle commander the maximum flexibility they need based on the mission,” he said, calling it “sexy.”
In addition to this flexibility, there is also growth potential in the vehicle weight. The vehicle has a maximum weight of 40 tons. The floor model weighed around 30 tons, allowing for the addition of extra armor and weapons systems should the intended mission require these modifications.
The CV90 Mark IV comes with a number of other potentially desirable features and capabilities as well
The vehicle’s 35 mm cannon can be easily modified should the Army show an interest in a 50 mm main gun, something Col. Jim Schirmer, the project lead for the NGVC, told reporters on Oct. 9, 2018, that the Army is seriously considering.
The BAE Systems vehicle also features a drive-by-wire system for manned and unmanned missions, advanced data transfer capabilities, enhanced survivability as it sits low to the ground (hard to see, hard to hit), advanced 360 surveillance, smart targeting systems, airburst munitions for counter-drone warfare, and active protection systems that can be modified as the Army presents a clearer picture of what it expects.
the Lynx KF41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
Raytheon and Rheinmetall joined forces to create the Lynx KF41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, presenting it at AUSA 2018 as a ready-right-now OMFV option.
Described as a “not business as usual” project, the Lynx KF 41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle is the byproduct of a partnership between Rheinmetall, which has an extensive knowledge of vehicles, and Raytheon, a company that excels at integrated electronic systems.
The Raytheon team emphasized modularity for mission-specific modifications in a brief discussion with BI on the floor at AUSA 2018. “The whole thing is very innovative. You can take this configuration, remove the top, make it into another configuration, and you can do that overnight,” Kim Ernzen, vice president of Land Warfare Systems at Raytheon, explained.
“With a 10-ton crane, you can lift the roof plate and the turret off the base chassis, and you can re-roll the vehicle,” Philip Tomio, the vice president of strategy and marketing for the Vehicle Systems Division at Rheinmetall, said. “You can turn it into a command post, an ambulance, a repair and recovery vehicle, a joint fires reconnaissance variant. You have a number of options.”
She revealed to BI that during recent trials, crews were able to change the configuration in roughly three hours.
Raytheon and Rheinmetall are promising a “modern fighting vehicle that will keep US soldiers far ahead of battlefield threats for decades to come.”
The survivability of the vehicle can be changed in accordance with the demands of the fighting environment. With roughly 20 tons of configurable payload, the chassis can support additions up to 55 tons for high-intensity combat against an adversary like the Russians. And the main gun can be modified from a 35 mm cannon to a 50 mm gun as needed.
The Lynx IFV supports up to nine dismounts with a three-man crew, as well as as next-generation thermal sights, Coyote unmanned aircraft, active protection systems to counter a variety of asymmetric threats, a fully-integrated situational awareness sensor suite, and an extended-range TOW missile system, among other features.
The spokespeople for this OMFV project repeatedly stressed that the Lynx would be manufactured in the US, supporting the US industrial base and creating jobs. But perhaps more importantly, the vehicle is a finished product, not a concept, that could be ready to go on a moment’s notice.
General Dynamics Griffin armored fighting vehicle.
General Dynamics brought its Griffin III demonstrator, a combat system featuring elements of the Ajax armored vehicle used in the UK
Produced by the company the makes the M1 Abrams tank, also slated for replacement, General Dynamics’ Griffin III features lethality, modularity, and growth options, among other capabilities.
In terms of lethality, the modular turret features a 50 mm main gun with the option to modify the weapon to a 30 mm cannon if necessary and the ability to fire at an 85 degree angle, a capability requested by the Army for urban combat. The 50 mm gun is significantly more powerful than the Bradley’s current 25 mm cannon.
Supporting a squad with five to eight people and a two-to-three-man crew, the newest evolution of the Griffin I and II is, according to General Dynamics, focused on “adaptability” through the company’s emphasis on a modifiable, open architecture. At the same time, the vehicle features a wide variety of integrated systems with a common operating system, specifically active protection systems, laser warning systems, 360-degree surround view, and a deepstrike package, Mike Peck, the director of enterprise business development at General Dynamics told BI at AUSA 2018.
“All of that is integrated in there. You don’t have to keep adding boxes to the vehicle,” he explained.
The Griffin is said to have a lot of “unique” features designed to trigger additional conversations with the Army going forward.
The Griffin III is meant to satisfy the Army’s vague requirements for the OMFV as they are right now, but it could be changed.
“We wanted to show them what they asked for and then ask, ‘Do you like it, or would you change something?'” Peck explained to BI. “If so, the next iteration — Griffin IV — will have those modifications on it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are quickly receiving the the military’s newest pistols in massive numbers.
Three years after the M17 was adopted as the military’s new sidearm, Sig Sauer has delivered well over 100,000 of the handguns, which are based on its P320 model.
The M17 and the compact M18 variant are the latest in a long line of sidearms that US troops have carried into battle over the past 244 years.
The American military’s early sidearms were often privately owned. Officers, able to afford more expensive weapons, usually had dueling pistols, while rank-and-file soldiers made due with whatever they could get from local gunsmiths. This led to an array of armaments with varying calibers and qualities.
The Continental Congress tried to get a standard sidearm to the Continental Army. The pistol it chose was a direct copy of the British Model 1760 flintlock pistol. The Congress bought 2,000 of the pistols, dubbed the Model 1775, which were made by the Rappahannock Forge in Virginia.
The .62-caliber smoothbore single-shot flintlock, which included an iron or ash ramrod under the barrel, is considered the first US Army-issued handgun.
The pistol was well received during the Revolution. After the war, a new version, known as the Model 1805, was made at Harper’s Ferry. This flintlock saw service in the War of 1812 and remained the US Army’s standard-issue pistol for over 50 years.
Two Model 1805s are featured on the US Army Military Police Corps insignia, and a similar pistol can be seen on the US Navy SEAL emblem.
In 1836, inventor Samuel Colt revolutionized warfare when his first revolver design was patented.
The new weapon allowed a soldier to fire six bullets in as many seconds without pausing to reload. It also used percussion caps, which allowed soldiers to shoot reliably in wet weather.
Colt revolvers were important weapons in the US arsenal for much of the 19th century, with at least four designs — the Colt 1847, the Colt M1848 Dragoon, the Colt Army Model 1860, and the Colt Single Action Army — seeing service.
The Colt 1847, known as the “Walker” for the Texas Ranger who helped design it, was based on previous Colt designs in service with the Republic of Texas and became the first mass-produced revolver in US service.
The Walker and the Dragoon, another .44-caliber revolver adopted by US Army cavalry and mounted-infantry units, saw service in the Mexican-American War and on both sides of the US Civil War.
The most popular Colt design of the 19th century was the Colt Army Model 1860, a .44-caliber revolver adopted just before the Civil War. It was used in large numbers by the Union and the Confederacy — 130,000 were built for the Union alone, and over 200,000 had been made by the time production ceased in 1873.
The invention of metallic cartridges again revolutionized firearms, eliminating the need for percussion caps, a separate powder container, and ramrods. Colt’s most well-known model featuring this innovation was the Colt Single Action Army.
The new revolver fired a .45-caliber center-fire cartridge and was a huge success, becoming a standard sidearm for the US for more than 20 years. It saw action in every US war and military campaign until 1905 and was used extensively on the US Western frontier by bandits and government personnel alike, earning it nicknames like “the Peacemaker.”
Some soldiers, such as Gen. George S. Patton, carried their personal Colt SAAs with them as late as World War II.
The last revolver in US service was the M1917, a six-shot pistol made by Colt and Smith & Wesson and introduced for interim use. After World War I, M1917s were used mostly by support units, though they again saw frontline service with the Vietnam War’s tunnel rats.
In 1911, the US military adopted what would become one of the most iconic firearms in history — the M1911.
Designed by firearms legend John Browning, the .45 ACP pistol was a semiautomatic, single-action, recoil-operated pistol capable of firing seven rounds from a magazine held in the grip of the gun.
The M1911 was one of the most popular weapons in American history. It was the standard-issue sidearm, with few changes, for all branches of the US military for more than 70 years and saw action in almost every American conflict during that period, including both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the US Invasion of Grenada in 1983.
The M1911 was officially replaced in 1985, but a number of special-operations units carried them into 21st century. It was so popular that the Marine Corps brought it back into limited service in 2012 in the form of the M45A1 CQBP.
In 1986, the military selected the Italian Beretta 92 as the new sidearm for all branches.
Lightweight and modern, the pistol used the smaller 9 x 19 mm round, enabling it to carry 15 rounds in the magazine, double that of the M1911, but at the cost of less penetration power.
In service as the M9, the pistol was used by US troops for 30 years and saw action in Yugoslavia, the Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, and other operations during the War on Terror.
The Pentagon bought more than 600,000 M9s, but they had reliability problems and had gained a bad reputation by the 2010s. In 2015, the US Army and Air Force began searching for a replacement.
In January 2017, Sig Sauer’s P320 was announced as the winner of the XM17 Modular Handgun System competition. The pistol has two variants: the full-length M17 and the compact M18.
The Army received its first M17s in June 2017. The Air Force began its procurement in June 2019, and the Marine Corps started officially fielding the M18 in September.
The pistols can be configured for different missions and have a rail on which accessories like lasers and optical sights can be mounted. Their standard capacity of 17 9-mm rounds can be increased to 21 with an extended magazine.
The Pentagon plans to buy 420,000 M17s and M18s for $580 million over a 10-year period.
Green Berets rely on their problem-solving abilities to survive in combat. Much of SF selection seeks to assess this talent. The Special Forces qualification course itself develops and improves creativity. Many times, military problems must be solved with the application of force. Green Berets are not afraid to get their hands dirty, but they understand the power of working with and through others.
There is a story that has been told in the SOF community for years. I don’t believe it is factual, but there is a lot of truth in it. The story goes like this:
The new Secretary of Defense had been confirmed and was touring the Pentagon, taking briefings on the capabilities of his forces. He had a well-deserved reputation as a no-nonsense guy. After a briefing on Special Operations Forces, he was escorted to lunch by a Green Beret officer.
The Secretary’s confused look did not bode well as they walked through the E ring. “I understand how SOF is different from conventional forces, but the Rangers and Green Berets seem just alike to me. You have a Special Forces Tab and a Ranger Tab. What’s the difference?”
“The units are very different, sir. While both units are composed of very capable soldiers, selected for intelligence and fitness, Rangers attack the enemy directly, while Special Forces work by, with, and through indigenous forces to accomplish tasks far beyond their numbers.” The Green Beret secretly hoped he would not be pulled into the eternal Ranger versus SF discussion for the 10,000th time. He prided himself in his teaching abilities, but this guy was being obtuse.
“They dress just alike, they are both ARSOF units, and they both have direct-action capabilities. How are they so different?” It seemed the Secretary was going to force this. The next four years of Special Forces missions hinged on the new Secretary’s understanding. As they walked through an area of temporary construction, the Green Beret had a flash of inspiration.
“Sir, humor me here; let’s do a little demonstration. Rangers are highly aggressive. They pride themselves on their toughness and discipline. They follow orders without question. Do you see that huge soldier with a tan beret? He is a Ranger.”
As the Ranger approached, the Green Beret called out, “Hey, Ranger! Come here.”
The Ranger moved toward them, sprang to attention, and saluted. “Rangers lead the way, sir. How may I be of assistance?”
“Can you help us here for a moment? This is the new Secretary of Defense. He wants to know more about the Rangers. Will you help me educate him?”
Pointing to a new section of hallway, the Green Beret officer said, “Ranger, I need you to break through that wall.”
“Hooah, sir. Would you like a breach or complete destruction?”
“A man-sized breach would be fine.”
With that, the Ranger removed his beret and assumed a three-point stance six feet from the wall. With a grunt, he launched himself into the wall, punching his head and shoulders right through the drywall. Hitting a 2×4 on the way through, he was a little stunned, but he continued to work, smashing a hole wide enough for a fully kitted Ranger to pass through. Staggering to his feet with a trickle of blood running down his face, he appeared a little disoriented.
“Thank you, Ranger. Great job. You are a credit to the Regiment. You need to go to the aid station and get someone to look at that cut.”
The Secretary was incredulous. He had never seen such a display of pure discipline and strength. “That was astounding. What could Special Forces possibly do to match that?”
The Green Beret was also impressed, but not surprised. “The Rangers are highly disciplined sir, but Special Forces selection and training also produce strong, disciplined soldiers. We deploy older, more mature soldiers in very small numbers. They understand that they are a valuable strategic resource, and are selected for their advanced problem-solving abilities.”
The secretary seemed displeased. “Frankly, that sounds like bullshit. It seems that these Rangers are the finest soldiers in the Army. What could Special Forces do that the Rangers cannot?”
As he spoke, a Green Beret Staff Sergeant walked by. Not as young or lean as the Ranger, he had a commanding presence and a serious look filled with confidence. The Green Beret officer called him over.
“Hey Mike, can you help us here for a moment? This is the new Secretary of Defense. He wants to know more about the Special Forces; will you help me educate him?”
The staff sergeant shook the secretary’s hand and introduced himself. “How can I help you, sir?”
Pointing to an undamaged section of the hallway, the Green Beret officer said, “Mike, I need you to break through that wall.”
“No problem. Would you like a breach or complete destruction?”
“A man-sized breach would be fine.”
The staff sergeant removed his beret and stood for a moment in silent thought six feet from the wall. He scanned the area and smiled broadly as he found the perfect tool for the job. “Hey Ranger,” he said, “Come here.”
Know your abilities, learn your environment, and use your resources deliberately. Green Berets know that finding just the right tool can be the most important part of the job. The Ranger in the story can take down a wall. The Green Beret can take out walls until he runs out of Rangers, and then one more.
As a force multiplier in the real world, the Green Berets can enlist large units with local knowledge to fight beside them. A single 12-man A-Team can train and employ a 500-man infantry battalion. That is a significant return on investment for the taxpayer.
Value yourself, and use your rapport skills to build partnerships. Many hands make light work; don’t do everything yourself. Green Berets know that there is no limit to what one can do if other people are doing the work.
At a military parade on Saturday to mark the 75th anniversary of the ruling Korean Workers Party, North Korea unveiled a new and massive intercontinental ballistic missile, which arms experts say may be capable of delivering multiple nuclear warheads to targets as far away as the US homeland.
Experts say the new North Korean ICBM is probably called the Hwasong-16. Measuring some 82 to 85 feet in length, about 9 feet in diameter, and likely weighing between 220,000 and 330,000 pounds at launch, it’s the world’s largest mobile missile, according to an Oct. 10 assessment from 38 North, a North Korea-focused intelligence and analysis website.
The 38 North authors estimate the new ICBM, which is an upgrade of the existing Hwasong-15 missile, could “in principle” deliver a payload of 4,400 to 7,700 pounds “to any point in the continental United States.”
North Korea also reportedly unveiled a new solid-fuel, submarine-launched missile at Saturday’s parade. Yet, the massive, liquid-fueled, road-mobile ICBM is what caught the eye of US officials and nuclear arms experts, sparking concerns that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might try to exploit this new weapon to extort diplomatic concessions from the US.
“It’s not clear why the North Koreans invested in huge missiles. All I can think of is that they are replicating those parts of the old Soviet ICBM force that worried us the most in the 1970s and 1980s, and hope to get some kind of favorable reaction from us, something that will make us trade something [North Korea] wants, such as international recognition and lifting of sanctions, in exchange for getting rid of the missiles,” Peter D. Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist, arms control expert, and former chief scientist of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
North Korea’s new intercontinental ballistic missile. Photo by Lokman Karadag via Twitter.
North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal comprises some 30 to 40 weapons and enough fissile material on hand for six or seven more, according to the Arms Control Association. A US government study in 2017 estimated that North Korea’s production of weapons-grade material may be enough to build some 12 nuclear weapons a year.
“An unexpected ‘super heavy’ ICBM would be a classically Khrushchevian statement of North Korea’s technical prowess, the robustness of its ability to threaten the US, and the permanence of its nuclear weapons status,” wrote the 38 North authors, referring to the former Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, whose decision to place nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba in 1962 sparked the Cuban missile crisis.
“Thanks to our reliable and effective self-defense nuclear deterrence, the word ‘war’ would no longer exist on this land, and the security and future of our state will be guaranteed forever,” North Korea’s Kim reportedly said during a July 28 speech.
Although North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon since September 2017, a report by a panel of UN experts, released last month, determined that Pyongyang has likely developed the ability to manufacture miniaturized nuclear warheads. North Korea is also reportedly working to develop multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, also known as MIRVs, for its biggest ICBMs.
If those assessments are accurate, Pyongyang may already be capable of arming a single missile with multiple warheads, each of which can target a different location after release from the mother missile. Such a missile system would be much more difficult for America’s missile defense shield to destroy. However, its presence on North Korean territory also offers America’s strategic military forces a “lucrative” option for a nuclear counterstrike, Zimmerman said, adding that North Korea was “putting all their nuclear eggs under one shroud.”
“I don’t see an increase in the overall nuclear threat to the United States, because I think that deterrence is pretty robust. That said, very large ICBMs with multiple warheads increase the consequences should anything go wrong. That cannot be a good thing,” said Zimmerman, who is now emeritus professor of Science and Security at King’s College London.
The 38 North authors doubted whether Pyongyang has developed a “militarily useful” MIRV system, noting that North Korea’s military has not yet flight-tested an operational MIRV from the second stage of an ICBM. The massive new ICBM revealed over the weekend has also not been flight tested, raising questions about its operational utility.
Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles, designed to carry nuclear weapons, on display in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die Magazine.
“We don’t know what we don’t know,” Thomas Moore, a former senior professional staff member for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
“[North Korea] may need larger missiles for heavy payloads. They may also simply be faking it,” Moore said, adding that trying to derive useful intelligence from parade images is “useful speculation, but still just speculation.”
Pyongyang’s new missiles mark the latest in a series of incremental upticks in the overall global nuclear threat against the US.
US and Russian leaders appear to be at an impasse in negotiations to save the New START agreement — the last remaining nuclear arms limitation treaty between the two Cold War-era foes — before it expires in February. The US side says China is in the midst of a “crash nuclear program” and any future deal with Russia must impose limits on China’s nuclear arsenal, too.
“The antiquated Cold War construct of a bilateral, two-country-only solution does not work in a world where a third party — in this case China — is rapidly building up,” Ambassador Marshall Billingslea, the US special presidential envoy for arms control, told reporters in June.
“So we think and what we seek to do is avoid a three-way arms race, and we believe the very best way to do that is to arrive and achieve a three-way nuclear deal,” Billingslea said.
China is expected to “at least double” the size of its nuclear arsenal in the next decade, US officials have said. China is also reportedly developing a so-called nuclear triad — comprising the ability to deliver nuclear weapons by ground-based ICBMs, by sea-launched missiles from submarines, and by aircraft.
In April, the US State Department published a report raising concerns that China had conducted low-yield nuclear tests in 2019 at a site called Lop Nur. And last year China test-fired more than 200 ballistic missiles, “far more than the rest of the world combined,” Billingslea said in August.
An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) off the coast of California. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ronald Gutridge/Released.
According to the Arms Control Association, the US possesses some 6,185 nuclear weapons, while Russia has 6,490 such weapons in its arsenal. The US-based Federation of American Scientists estimated China has about 320 warheads — roughly on par with France’s number of 300.
“While Beijing has long focused on maintaining a minimum deterrent, it is likely that its nuclear stockpile will increase in the next few decades,” the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation said in an April 2020 report.
The report’s authors added: “Additionally, if the United States continues to expand and strengthen its missile defense program, China may modify its nuclear posture to include a significantly larger nuclear force with the potential to strike the United States.”
Signed by former Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, the New START treaty limits Russia and the US each to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and heavy bombers. The original START I was signed in 1991, six months before the Soviet Union dissolved.
In addition to China’s inclusion, the US also wants New START to enact limits on Russia’s newest weapons, including hypersonic missiles and nuclear-powered cruise missiles, which were not included in the original deal. So far, Russia has balked at meeting America’s requirements, setting up a contentious final few months of negotiations in advance of New START’s expiration in February.
President Donald Trump is trying to secure a deal with Moscow to extend the strategic arms treaty before the upcoming presidential election, Axios reported Sunday. Putin, too, has said he’s open to renegotiating the pact. However, in June the Russian president raised some eyebrows in Washington when he signed an executive order authorizing the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear attacks that “threaten the existence” of Russia or its nuclear forces.
Meanwhile, in defiance of US and international sanctions, Iran has not abandoned its uranium enrichment program. In June the International Atomic Energy Agency estimated it would take Iran three to six months to manufacture enough weapons-grade material to produce a nuclear weapon.
“The Iranians continue to enrich uranium, and to a much higher degree than they have committed themselves to. And this amount is growing by the month,” International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi told the German newspaper Die Presse in an interview published Saturday.
Last month, the U.S. Air Force made headlines around the world by suggesting that a new “5th generation minus” fighter might be the answer to the branch’s operational cost woes. After years of touting the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as the future of military aviation, this announcement led to a flurry of headlines characterizing the F-35 as a failed program. Although that may be an unfair characterization of the aircraft itself (as we’ve discussed before), there’s no denying that the Joint Strike Fighter has proven to be both less capable and far more expensive than originally intended.
In truth, the Air Force didn’t write off the F-35 last month and more than it has in the past–like in 2018 when the branch threatened to reduce its order of F-35s in order to offset the aircraft’s high operating costs. Now, as then, the argument hasn’t been about whether or not the F-35 is a highly capable jet. In fact, among aviators who have spent time at the stick of the stealthy fighter, there’s little question as to how handy it is in a fight. The problem is, as is so often the case, really about money.
The F-35 is capable, but it’s also expensive.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s procurement price has lowered consistently over the past decade to the point where its per-unit price is now actually lower than that of the 4th generation powerhouse F-15EX being purchased as replacements for the force’s aging F-15s. That price is awfully misleading, however, for a number of important reasons.
A new F-35A will set the Air Force back a cool $77.9 million. For that price, the Air Force gets the stealthiest fighter on the planet with the best data fusion capabilities a fighter has ever seen… but only for 8,000 flight hours or so. Each of those hours, it’s important to note, cost the Air Force around $44,000.
The F-15EX, on the other hand, rings in at slightly more: about $80 million per jet–and while it may not be stealthy, the new F-15s are expected to have a whopping 20,000-hour operational lifespan, with each of those hours costing the branch about $29,000. Of course, it’s important to remember that the F-15EX isn’t a suitable replacement for the F-35… they really do fill very different roles.
The F-35 is a multi-role aircraft that isn’t the fastest or most nimble, nor does it carry a ton of firepower… but it is incredibly difficult to target, and perhaps most important of all, its onboard computers can manage disparate data from near and far sensors in a way no aircraft before it ever could. Having an F-35 in the neighborhood can actually make 4th generation jets nearby more lethal, thanks to fused data stream F-35 pilots have access to from inside their $400,000 helmets.
“There has never been an aircraft that provides as much situational awareness as the F-35,” explained Major Justin “Hasard” Lee, an F-35 pilot in the Air Force Reserves.
“In combat, situational awareness is worth its weight in gold.”
This is really what Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown, Jr was getting at in his recent comments that took the world by storm.
“You don’t drive your Ferrari to work every day, you only drive it on Sundays,” Brown said.
“This is our ‘high end’ [fighter], we want to make sure we don’t use it all for the low-end fight.”
If money were no object, the Air Force would probably be happy to replace every F-16 in the force with a shiny new F-35, but ongoing issues with the aircraft have stalled full-rate production for years, and truthfully, the Air Force couldn’t afford to fly a fleet of F-35s that large. It’s probably also important to note that if money were really no object, the Air Force would probably kickstart production of the F-22 for air superiority roles again. Though, it’s important to note that restarting the F-22 would likely cost far more than developing a new and better fighter. Much of the supply chain and facilities used for the F-22 have since been cannibalized by the F-35 here in the money-is-an-object dimension we’re all trapped in.
6th Generation fighters won’t be any better
So, with the understanding that the F-35 isn’t a cost-effective solution to tactical operations in uncontested or lightly contested environments, some may be apt to suggest we go all-in on the development of a “6th generation” fighter like the one the Air Force claims to have already tested. That approach, however, isn’t going to solve the F-35’s budgetary woes. Chances are, a more advanced fighter would exacerbate them.
The reason the F-35 has proven so expensive is really a combination of its unprecedented nature and poor acquisition policies within the Defense Department. When the Joint Strike Fighter program began. Lockheed Martin’s X-35 and Boeing’s X-32 were asked to build something with a broader capability set and greater technological requirements than any fighter that had come before them. In a very real way, many within the aviation industry weren’t even sure an aircraft could do all the things the Pentagon wanted from this new fighter.
“If you were to go back to the year 2000 and somebody said, ‘I can build an airplane that is stealthy and has vertical takeoff and landing capabilities and can go supersonic,’ most people in the industry would have said that’s impossible,” Tom Burbage, Lockheed’s general manager for the program from 2000 to 2013 told The New York Times.
“The technology to bring all of that together into a single platform was beyond the reach of industry at that time.”
It was the F-35’s forward reaching goals, combined with a policy of concurrent production wherein Lockheed Martin would start delivering F-35s before they had been fully tested, that would eventually turn the program into a cautionary tale for defense budgeteers. And while some elements of the acquisition process have improved as a result… a “6th generation” fighter would struggle under some of the same challenges.
Fighter generational designations are not based on military standards or government policy–they’re really nothing more than industry terms used to lump fighters of similar capabilities together. Currently, there are no established requirements for what makes a “6th generation” fighter, but by its very definition, it would have to represent a significant jump in capability over fighters like the F-35 or F-22. New technology is always more expensive than the stuff you have on your shelf.
As such, a next-generation fighter would indeed offer useful new capabilities, but likely in a package that’s not much easier to pay for than our current stable of stealth jets. America needs to field such a fighter, but in the short term, putting all of our eggs in that basket likely would result in more fiscal woes, rather than fewer.
4th Generation fighters are part of the answer
Any time you mention funneling money into new 4th generation fighter programs like the F-15EX or the Block III F/A-18 Super Hornet, the response is the same: “Why buy old, non-stealthy fighters in this era of F-35s, F-22s, Su-57s, and J-20s?”
The answer is actually pretty simple. These stealth jets are unnecessarily expensive for combat sorties over places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, or most of Africa–all of which currently see U.S. troops embedded with local militaries for varying sorts of combat and anti-terror operations. Why pay $44,000 an hour for close air support when the better suited A-10 can do it for a measly $19,000 per hour?
And therein lies the importance of America’s legacy aircraft. In order to balance current combat operations with mitigating threats posed by near-peer nations like China, the U.S. needs jets that can handle today’s fight without draining the budget, so it can afford to build the right aircraft for the threats looming on the horizon.
Regardless of what sensational headlines may have told you in recent weeks, the F-35 isn’t seen as a failure among most of the Pentagon’s decision-makers. And thanks to the political insulation F-35 production has as a result of Lockheed spreading its facilities across most of America’s 50 states, few lawmakers are apt to vote against it either. The F-35 is here to stay. Now America needs to find ways to support it with other highly capable aircraft.
“The F-35 is the cornerstone of what we’re pursuing. Now we’re going to have the F-35, we’re getting it out, and we’re going to have it for the future,” Brown explained.
“The reason I’m looking at this fighter study is to have a better understanding of not only the F-35s we’re going to get but the other aspects of what complements the F-35.”
5th Generation “Minus” fighters may be just what the budget doctor ordered
This brings us to General Brown’s recent statements about developing a “clean sheet” fighter that couples some of the technological leaps found in 5th generation computing powerhouses like the F-35 with some of the cost savings found in 4th generation workhorses like the F-15EX. The result would be an aircraft that isn’t as advanced as the F-35, but more capable than non-stealthy 4th generation jets. This concept can already be found in the joint South Korean and Indonesian fighter program dubbed KAI KF-X.
The truth is, nothing in war stays the same, least of all technology. As new air defense systems are developed, older systems become more affordable. In time, America may well find itself operating in airspace that is more contested than we currently find in the Middle East, but not quite as heavily defended as Moscow or Beijing.
In much the same way the F-117 was tasked with flying ahead of the non-stealth aircraft participating in Desert Storm so they could bomb Baghdad as the fighting kicked off, F-35s and B-21 Raiders will likely fill that role in the future. It would be the job of America’s stealthiest platforms to soften up target areas for the rest of the force, engaging anti-ship platforms with the long-range B-21 to move carriers in, and then anti-air platforms with carrier-launched F-35s–as one example.
Once those two objectives have been met, less stealthy aircraft can move in. Once air dominance has been established, so can the non-stealthy missile and bomb trucks like the F/A-18 Super Hornets.
By fielding an aircraft that adopts a stealth design but perhaps doesn’t rely as much on costly-to-maintain radar-absorbent coating, you get a plane that’s more survivable than an F-16 and cheaper than an F-35. If these aircraft are cheap enough, they can even replace 4th generation fighters in lightly contested airspace, making them more able to respond to a surprise development than older jets. Likewise, data fusion capabilities, while not as powerful as the F-35s, would give pilots more situational awareness, also increasing their survivability, as well as offensive capability.
“When I think about that capability, I’m also thinking about the threat that we see today but the threat we’re projecting for the future,” Brown said.
“I want to have an understanding, which is why the study to me is important so we don’t just build something without thinking about the threat but also thinking about the complete fighter force. Not just the F-35 or NGAD.”
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need fighters. In a slightly less perfect world, they’d all be as stealthy as the F-35 and as dominant as the F-22. We live in neither, so in order to win America’s next war while supporting the ones we’re in, some budgetary compromise is required. A 5th generation “minus” fighter may be just that compromise.
Feature image courtesy of Korea Aerospace Industries
The sailing frigate USS Constitution (ex-IX 21) was re-floated on July 23 in an event overshadowed by the commissioning of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).
The ship has been around for 220 years. But here are a few things you may not have known about this ship.
1. Paul Revere provided some crucial materials for the ship’s construction
According to the Copper Development Association, Paul Revere, best known for his midnight ride prior to the Battles of Lexington and Concord, provided a number of copper bolts and a copper bell for USS Constitution.
2. The Constitution had a hull number
In 1941, the Constitution was given the hull number IX 21, along with a number of other vessels. According to Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, the list included the prize USS Reina Mercedes (IX 25), the sloop USS Constellation (IX 20), the cruiser USS Olympia (IX 40), and the training carriers USS Wolverine (IX 64) and USS Sable (IX 81).
The hull number was rescinded in 1975 at the suggestion of the ship’s commanding officer, Tyrone G. Martin, who instituted a number of traditions that carry on to this day.
3. She is the only survivor of her class
Of the first six frigates, the Constitution is the only survivor. Sister ship USS Constellation was thought to have been converted to a sloop and preserved in Baltimore, but later research determined the Navy had scrapped the original vessel. The frigates USS Chesapeake and USS President were captured by the British. USS United States was captured by the Confederates, but eventually scuttled and scrapped.
ABOARD THE COAST GUARD CUTTER STRATTON, in the eastern Pacific Ocean — The drone is loaded onto a catapult on the flight deck. From a control room, a technician revs the motor until the go-ahead is given to press the red button. Then the ScanEagle lifts off with a whoosh and, true to its lofty name, soars majestically over the wide blue sea.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stratton is steaming more than 500 miles south of the Guatemala-El Salvador border, along the biggest narcotics smuggling corridor in the world.
Its mission: intercept vessels hauling cocaine bound for America’s cities.
It is a monumental task that has grown even larger in the past few years because of a boom in coca production in Colombia. But the Coast Guard is bringing more intelligence and technology to bear.
Deep within the 418-foot Stratton, which is based in Alameda, California, specialists crunch data from radar, infrared video, helicopter sorties and now the Boeing-made ScanEagle, which was deployed aboard the Coast Guard cutter for the first time during this three-month mission.
“In the earlier days, when you wouldn’t see or catch anything, we used to pat ourselves on our back and say we must’ve deterred them,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, with more than four decades at sea. “Now rarely 72 hours go by when you don’t have an event or we send a ship down there that doesn’t come back with multiple interdictions.”
The Associated Press spent two weeks in February and March aboard the Stratton, the most advanced ship in the Coast Guard fleet, as 100-plus crew members patrolled the eastern Pacific, through which about 70 percent of the cocaine consumed in the U.S. passes.
With three to five Coast Guard cutters covering 6 million square miles — from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to the eastern Pacific Ocean — it’s like having a few police cars watch over the entire lower 48 states.
Just after lunch on the second day of deployment, the Stratton’s PA system starts piping out acronyms. A TOI, or target of interest, has been detected by the ScanEagle with the support of aircraft radar, and a go-fast boat slides down a rear ramp into the blue waters to begin the chase.
In just a few minutes it catches up with a fishing boat, called a panga, with two outboard motors.
Sometimes smugglers frantically dump their cargo over the side or try to make a run for it, forcing their pursuers to fire warning shots or shoot out their engines. But this time, the boat’s crewmen, some of them barefoot, offer no resistance.
The four suspected smugglers sit handcuffed as a Coast Guardsman takes out some vials to conduct a chemical test. The results come back positive for cocaine, and the two Colombians and two Ecuadoreans are put aboard the cutter.
Hidden in the bales of cocaine is a GPS tracking device in a condom, a sure sign the drug bosses behind the shipment knew right away it didn’t reach its destination.
At sunset, the Stratton’s crew proudly poses for a picture with the haul while a black plume rises above the sea where the boat was set ablaze by the Coast Guard. A few hours later, the Stratton fires its cannon and sinks the vessel.
The next morning the ever-rising Narcometer in the on-board newsletter reflects the size of the bust: 700 kilograms (over 1,500 pounds) of pure cocaine with a wholesale value of $21 million. On the streets in the U.S., it could be worth more than five times that.
The Stratton’s biggest bust — a Coast Guard record — came in 2015, when it found more than 16,000 pounds of cocaine worth $225 million before the smuggling craft, a hard-to-detect semi-submersible vessel, sank with some of its cargo still aboard.
As good as the Coast Guard gets, its victories seem doomed to be short-lived. That’s because hundreds of miles to the south, in the jungles of Colombia, there’s a bumper harvest taking place. And Colombia is virtually the only source of cocaine smuggled by sea in small vessels.
That, along with better technology, may help explain why the Coast Guard has been coming back with ever-larger hauls. It set a record in 2016, seizing more than 240 tons of cocaine with a wholesale value of $5.9 billion and arresting 585 smugglers.
Last year, the amount of land devoted to coca cultivation in Colombia climbed 18 percent to an estimated 188,000 hectares (465,000 acres), according to a White House report. That is more coca production than at any time since the U.S. in 1999 began investing billions in an anti-narcotics strategy known as Plan Colombia.
“What we know here out at sea is that the business has been really good in the last couple of years,” said Capt. Nathan Moore, the Stratton’s skipper.
The surge is being driven in part by Colombia’s decision in 2015 to suspend aerial spraying of crop-destroying herbicides because of health concerns.
At the same time, there was a rush among peasant farmers to start growing coca so they could take advantage of generous payments to switch to legal crops being offered as part of a peace deal between the government and Colombia’s rebels.
Thus far, 55,000 families have signed pledges to rip up 48,000 hectares of coca in exchange for as much as $12,000 over two years. The government is also expanding manual eradication of coca, a slower and far more dangerous task, with the goal of destroying 50,000 hectares this year alone.
But many experts are skeptical that poor farmers will renounce coca growing, especially as criminal gangs fill the void left by the retreating rebels. Also, a successful drug run can net each smuggler a small fortune that makes it well worth the risk of a long prison sentence for many.
Such dynamics help explain why, despite the Coast Guard’s technological superiority, four drug-running boats are thought to get through for every one caught, Zukunft said.
Those taken into custody for smuggling are put in white hazmat suits, given health exams and then led into a converted helicopter hangar aboard the Stratton, where they are shackled to the floor and issued a wool blanket, toiletries and a cot or a foam mat. Eventually they are flown to the U.S. and prosecuted at American expense.
The alternative would be to seek prosecution in Central American countries such as Honduras, where the vast majority of crimes go unpunished.
More than a dozen nations in Central and South America have essentially outsourced their drug-interdiction efforts to the U.S.
“Imagine you’re out at Ocean City, Maryland, and then out of nowhere comes this foreign helicopter and it starts peppering a U.S. recreational boat with automatic machine gun fire and sniper fire. We would say it’s an act of war,” Zukunft said.
“But that’s the faith and confidence these countries have in the U.S. and our Coast Guard.”
As a parent of a child with allergies, I am forever grateful for this one. The auto-injector apparatus was first invented for the military in the early 70’s, as a means to deliver a temporary reprieve from side effects of nerve gas exposure, during a time when the threat of chemical warfare seemed imminent.
At the request of the Pentagon, Sheldon Kaplan, a scientist with Survival Technology Inc., is credited with developing the Nerve Agent Antidote Kit, which works similarly to the EpiPen we use now, and was specifically designed to be easy to use with little training. Shortly after its effectiveness and importance in the military was discovered, Kaplan then went on to make it something that would aid the civilian world as well, by turning it into the lifesaving tools used by many with anaphylactic allergies today.
Mainstream technology has grown by leaps and bounds in a very short period of time. I remember going on family vacations and having to pull off to the side of the road so my dad could put out the map to make sure we were going the right way (and then take another 20 minutes to fold it back up again).
These days, you can get directions to virtually anywhere in the world in less than 30 seconds, all from your phone. GPS devices went from being an expensive luxury to being a built in facet of people’s lives.
While the military use of satellites and tracking goes back to the time of Sputnik, the more recognizable version of GPS was launched by the military in 1978, and was known as the Navigation System with Timing and Ranging (NAVSTAR) satellite. Taking a note from Navy scientists, this system proved to be the start of the type of navigation system the DoD was looking for in an effort to improve military intelligence.
The savior of 2 a.m. leftovers, microwaves were actually the product of accidental science. This one wasn’t necessarily invented FOR the military, but it was discovered thanks to already existing military technology.
In 1945, scientist Percy Spencer had been experimenting with and testing U.S. Army radar transmitters, when he discovered that due to the heat they produced, a candy bar in his pocket had melted. From there, the first patent on the microwave was filed within the year, and no one ever had to worry about accidentally microwaving their Hershey bars ever again.
Duct tape was born out of wartime need and a mother’s ingenuity. In 1943, Vesta Stoudt was the mother of 2 sons in the U.S. Navy, and was also employed by the Green River Ordinance Plant, where she was responsible for inspecting and packing ammunition and other tactical gear.
It was here that she noticed discrepancies and potentially dangerous issues with the ways that ammunition boxes were being packed and sealed. Originally, they were sealed with paper tape and then dipped in wax in order to ensure they were waterproof. The problem came from the tabs meant to open the boxes, which were made from the same paper tape used to seal the boxes.
In instances of trying to open these boxes while under fire, it became apparent that this not only wasted time (as the paper tabs ripped prior to opening the box) but it put service members at risk and in a vulnerable position. Stoudt came up with the idea of using waterproof cloth tape, instead of paper, making duct tape a solution that was literally invented for military purposes.
After receiving little to no feedback from those she was employed by, she decided to write to the President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Not only did the letter include her thoughts on the current problem, she also provided her outline for a solution and detailed diagrams. The idea was passed on to Johnson Johnson, who manufactured the first version of the tape we all know, love and use today.
There are a few different stories as to how and why wristwatches came to be so popular, but they all have roots within the military.
By most accounts, wristwatches, or at least the idea of them, predate the mainstream and military usage of them, but on a very small scale. It’s said that Elizabeth I was the first of her kind to keep a small clock strapped to her wrist, while men prior to WWI still relied on pocket watches to tell time. Unsurprisingly, pocket watches did not make for the most effective tools to use in a combat setting, and since timing is such an important aspect of military strategizing, service members needed an easier way to keep track of it.
The prevalence of more user friendly time pieces skyrocketed and became commonplace. The first version, called trench watches, combined the best of both the pocket watch and wristwatch worlds, and advancement of the look, features and versatility of them still serve military members to this day.
As Captain America and Iron Man prepare for their civil war, they probably don’t realize they have competition coming from the U.S. military. The Department of Defense wants troops with super strength, telepathy, and immunity from pain. Here are 8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to create super soldiers:
1. Bulletproof clothes made of carbon chainmail
Researchers tested the potential ballistic protection of graphene by firing tiny bullets of gold at it. They found that the material was stronger, more flexible, and lighter than both the ballistic plates and the kevlar vests troops wear. And, a million layers of the stuff would be only 1 millimeter thick.
MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies is working on an effective manufacturing method for graphene-based chainmail, potentially giving troops better protection from a T-shirt than they currently get from bulky vests.
2. Synthetic blood
Synthetic blood would be much more efficient than natural cells. The most promising technology being investigated is a respirocyte, a theoretical red blood cell made from diamonds that could contain gasses at pressures of nearly 15,000 psi and exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen the same way real blood cells do.
Super soldiers with respirocytes mixed with their natural blood would essentially have trillions of miniature air tanks inside their body, meaning they would never run out of breath and could spend hours underwater without other equipment.
DARPA’s Persistence in Combat initiative aims to help soldiers bounce back almost immediately from wounds. Pain immunizations would work for 30 days and eliminate the inflammation that causes lasting agony after an injury. So, soldiers could feel the initial burst of anguish from a bullet strike, but the pain would fade in seconds. The soldiers could treat themselves and keep fighting until medically evacuated.
Part of DARPA’s “Brain Machine Interface” project is the development of better computer chips that can directly connect to a human brain via implants. In addition to allowing soldiers to control robotics with thought alone, this would allow squads to communicate via telepathy.
While the Harvard researchers working on it prefer the term “soft exoskeleton,” the DARPA-funded robotic suit is essentially a series of fabric muscles worn under the clothes that assist the wearer in each step or movement. This reduces fatigue and increases strength without requiring the huge amounts of power that bulkier, rigid exoskeletons need.
8. Gecko-like climbing gloves and shoes
Geckos use tiny hairs on their feet to grab onto surfaces on the molecular level. While the “Z-Man” project wouldn’t necessarily give humans the ability to crawl along a ceiling like a gecko, special climbing gloves and shoes would allow soldiers to easily climb sheer rock faces or up skyscrapers without any other equipment, drastically easing an assault on the high ground and effectively turning them into super soldiers.
The U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft is officially about to get some surround sound.
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, on Oct. 23, 2019, awarded Terma North America Inc. a $60 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract to retrofit 328 3D audio systems for the close-air support aircraft’s cockpit, according to a Defense Department announcement. The company is a subsidiary of Terma A/S, a Danish defense and aerospace company.
Pilots have multiple audio signals coming at them, making it difficult to discern certain radio calls and warnings. The 3D audio system will give pilots the ability to distinguish between signals and discern where they’re coming from.
Last year, the service said it had planned to award a sole-source contract to Terma to integrate the enhancement. The upgrade would “drastically improve the spatial, battlespace and situational awareness of the A-10C pilots,” according to a request for information (RFI) published at the time.
An A-10 Warthog prepares to take off from Al Asad Air Base to provide close air support to ground troops in Iraq.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)
The 3D audio technology has previously been used in the Danish F-16 Fighting Falcon Missile Warner System upgrade.
The A-10, which entered service in 1976 and has deployed to the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific, has also played an outsized role in Afghanistan and the air campaign that began in 2014 against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, helping provide close-air support for Iraqi and U.S. partner forces on the ground.
The latest news comes after the Air Force made another major investment into the aircraft, demonstrating its willingness to keep the A-10 around longer and boost its survivability in a high-threat environment.
In August 2019, officials announced that Boeing Co. was awarded a 9 million IDIQ contract to create up to 112 new A-10 wing assemblies and spare wing kits for aircraft that are slated to receive the upgrade. The program is known as the “A-10-Thunderbolt II Advanced-Wing Continuation Kit,” or “ATTACK.”
An A-10 Warthog takes off from Al Asad Air Base to provide close air support to ground troops in Iraq.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)
The Air Force estimates 109 A-10s still need to be re-winged following a previous id=”listicle-2641104178″.1 billion “Enhanced Wing Assembly” contract, which began in 2011 and completed this year.
The 3D audio work will be performed in the U.S. and Denmark, the Defense Department said.
The Air Force will use fiscal 2018 and 2019 funds in the amount of .3 million toward the effort; the work is scheduled to be completed by February 2024, the announcement states.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Last year marked the fifth consecutive year I’ve visited France, but this time, the mood was markedly different. Terrorist attacks had changed both the topics and the nature of civil discourse, and there was a dramatic increase in physical security around all public events. It was noticeable as soon as I stepped off the plane.
In years past, you’d see pairs of uniformed soldiers of various noncombat arms strolling around Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris looking bored, checking out the young women, and trying to feign interest in a largely symbolic duty. In contrast, last summer I saw squads of jocked-up infantry veterans deployed to even second-string airports, where they were actually patrolling and even — horror of horrors — had magazines in their weapons.
The rifle they carried was the FAMAS, the iconic “Bugle” and the last service weapon to be produced in a nation that at one time led the world in firearms innovation. In 2016, France was in the process of selecting a replacement, which would come from either Belgium — on whose soil hundreds of thousands of French servicemen died — or from Germany, whose conscripts faced them across artillery-scarred mud and from behind the sights of K98 Mausers. France wound up choosing the HK version of America’s service rifle. But hey, we’re all Europeans now.
It seemed appropriate, therefore, to visit the city in which France produced the millions of rifles, bayonets, machine guns, and pistols needed to equip their armed forces, who just 100 years ago were locked in a bloody, existential battle for their nation’s survival. The factory where thousands of workers toiled in a desperate race to put weapons in the hands of those who were battling the Teutonic hordes had been shuttered and bulldozed in the 2000s, but their remarkable product line had been placed behind glass for visitors to gawk at.
Saint-Étienne was, during the latter part of the Industrial Revolution, one of the most important manufacturing centers in Europe, producing textiles, machine tools, bicycles, and farm equipment, but its history as an arms maker dates to the Middle Ages. Swords and armor were manufactured for French kings and emperors to equip their armies, and as edged weapons transitioned to powder, the musket of 1777 became the most prolific firearm ever produced until the advent of WWI.
Over 7 million examples were made (though not all by Saint-Étienne), and troops so equipped faced off against those armed with the Brown Bess in Europe and Asia. French firearms featured prominently in the early days of American history too. Although the famed Charleville musket of the Revolutionary War was named after the eponymous state arsenal in the Ardennes, many were produced in Saint-Étienne and made their way across the Atlantic. Later, in the Civil War, France supplied cannons, Minie rifles, pistols, submarines, and ironclads to both sides.
Pair of presentation pistols from the workshop of maître Nicholas Boutet.
While the history of French firearms development in Saint-Étienne could easily fill its own building, the collection shares space with other notable local trades and is housed almost entirely on the upper floor of the Musee d’Science et Industrie. The building itself is reached by crossing a small town square that’s quintessentially French; while we were there, the weekly market was well underway and townsfolk were stocking up on locally grown produce, meat, and cheese.
Climbing a few limestone steps to the entrance, the ballistic pilgrim enters the usual foyer-slash-gift-shop, ponies up their entrance fee, and then climbs the stairs past displays of glass and lace.
Examples of medieval armor, swords, and halberds greet the museum’s visitors as they enter the third floor space of the Museum of Science and Industry. Inside, displays cover both combat and jousting, with examples of both highly decorated plate armor and mail in evidence, along with the lances and shields every well-equipped nobleman needed in order to win the heart of a fair maiden.
The period where armor was being supplanted due to the ability of commoners to punch big frickin’ holes in it with their comparatively cheap matchlocks overlaps the birth of several of the most notable area workshops. Locks from this time are displayed in wall-mounted cases and some are quite stunning in both design and execution. The earliest service firearms on display are a pair of wheel-lock cavalry pistols dating from 1550, while a suit of Maximilian armor dates all the way back to 1415.
Although Alexandre Dumas’ characters were fictitious, his father was an honest-to-God general in the French revolutionary wars, and there really were two companies of Musketeers who served as the king’s bodyguard. The only remaining example of a Musketeer pistol is on display in the MSI, along with corresponding Mousquetons, or cavalry carbines.
Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne.
At around the same time, an enterprising gunsmith by the name of Nicholas Boutet was hiring the best artisans he could find to produce what could be fairly considered some of the finest guns the world has ever seen. As arquebusier, or gunsmith to the court of Louis XVI, he was given free reign to create extraordinary works of art, such as the pair of cased pistols shown here.
As the industrial age progressed, cartridge arms replaced flintlocks in a process familiar to amateur historians on both sides of the pond. Production became both codified and centralized, with Saint-Étienne’s place as a strategic asset to the French Empire cemented in place with every one of the bricks laid to enclose the new factory. Revolvers from the 1870s are showcased and demonstrate just how advanced their designs were in comparison to contemporaries on the world stage.
While we were taming the west with Colt single-actions, the French were fielding their first sophisticated D/A revolver, which for a military pistol was exquisitely made (in the officer’s variant anyway — rank has its privileges). The 11mm 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne was made until 1886 and continued in service until well into the Second World War. Civilian versions were widely distributed, with Belgian copies hitting the market soon after the military adopted the pistol; we encountered examples of both at a local flea market, where, due to being over 100 years old with no currently manufactured ammunition, they’re freely traded.
The MSI has numerous, well-preserved samples of drop-dead gorgeous French sporting arms from the golden age of gun making, but it’s the oddballs and one-offs that are particularly eye-catching. Such as the carbide-powered rifles and the high-powered airguns, along with early semi-auto shotguns that show a level of development that surpass their American counterparts. This is, after all, the country that was the first to field a self-loading service rifle, over 20 years before the Garand stepped onto the stage.
As visitors make their way past case after case of well-preserved and displayed products of the gunmakers’ craft, they eventually fetch up at the usual Euro-bullshit display of modern art, the message being, of course, that guns are bad m’kay? It’s ironic then that the last exhibit before having to suffer the artists’ smug self-righteousness is of the final products of the Saint-Étienne factory, which is, of course, where our story started. We can only hope that the gamble of neglecting and then destroying the remnants of their domestic arms industry doesn’t come back to bite them. History’s a bitch, ain’t it?
The Black Death. The Monster. The Rifleman of the Sky.
The Apache is a lethal and feared military monstrosity that rakes its claws across the battlefield and leaves shattered bodies and buckets of gore in its wake. Here’s how it kills you — and anyone nearby. And anyone within a few miles.
An Apache sits on the airfield in Germany in 2018. The Apaches main armament in the U.S. consists of rockets, missiles, and a chain gun. The chain gun is visible under the cockpit. The missile racks are mounted on either side of the Apache body and the rocket pods are the pieces with the honeycomb pattern mounted on the outside of the wing stubs.
(U.S. Army Charles Rosemond)
First, lets take a look at the Apache armament. While it can be fitted with other missiles and guns, Apaches are usually deployed with three offensive weapons: Hellfire missiles, guided and unguided rockets, and a 30mm chain gun that’s often described as an automatic grenade launcher.
All three of them are highly capable, and all of them kill in their own special way.
First, the chain gun. It’s commonly loaded with M789 High-Explosive, dual-purpose ammunition. When this is fired at personnel on the ground, it does look a lot like they’re getting attacked by an automatic grenade launcher. The weapon is fired in bursts with over two rounds per second striking the ground, all of which explode soon after, shredding the bodies of those targeted.
A U.S. Army Apache helicopter fires its M203 chain gun during an exercise in Georgia in 2018.
(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ellen Babo)
The chain gun ammunition is dual-purpose and is designed to penetrate armor at ranges of up to 3 kilometers. Against older tanks, these rounds pierce the hull and blow up inside or nearly pierce it and then explode, turning the remaining armor into shrapnel that flies through the crew compartment. The helicopters carries up to 1,200 of these rounds.
Most modern tanks can survive this onslaught, but they’ll likely lose any externally mounted equipment, potentially including their main gun. For these rugged targets, the Apache will typically turn to its Hellfire missiles.
There isn’t a known tank that the Hellfire missile can’t kill, and the Apache can carry up to 16 of these bad boys if it foregoes rockets. The Apache originally carried laser-guided Hellfires, but now it often carries radar-guided Longbow variants of the missile which the pilot can fire and forget about. It’ll get to the target on its own.
A U.S. Army Apache helicopter flies over Georgian tanks during a live-fire exercise in Georgia in 2018.
(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ellen Babo)
While there are now air-to-air and surface-to-air versions of the Hellfire, the Apache is essentially always equipped with the air-to-ground version in the U.S. arsenal. It has a variety of available warheads, including thermobaric, tandem charges, shaped charges, and blast fragmentation.
That basically means that the Apache can use the missile against enclosed structures, any-and-all tanks, and soft vehicles and personnel, but it does have to decide what it will likely be attacking before departing the base.
An Army Apache helicopter fires rockets during a live-fire range in Korea in 2014.
(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Abril)
Finally, the Apache carries rockets. Historically, this was the Hydra rocket, a 70mm unguided weapon. But then BAE Systems rolled out the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, a kit that gives guidance to dumb rockets. So now, the pilots can send their rockets with warheads between 8 and 15 pounds.
These rockets’ payloads can be high explosive, but they can also be filled with darts called flechettes that zip through human flesh and bones, shredding arteries, nerves, and other flesh, and quickly ending life. Occasionally, the rockets are used with parachuting illumination payloads or CS gas.
So, when Apaches are flying at you, they can choose to kill you with a chain gun, a warhead, or rockets, all of which can explode on impact or carry a variety of other payloads. But what really makes the Apache so dangerous is how far away it can kill you from.
A U.S. Army Apache helicopter returns from a maintenance test flight in 2018. The disc on top is a radar that allows to Apache to detect and engage targets from up to 3 miles away.
(U.S. Army Charles Rosemond)
The Apache has a super sensitive camera mounted under its nose and a variety of other sensors. One of the most powerful sensors is the radar mounted over the rotor blades.
These sensors and the on-board computers allow the helicopter to track up to 256 targets from up to 3 miles away. That’s further away than the sound of their rotor blades carries, especially if there is vegetation or uneven ground to break up the waves. So, for many people being hunted by an Apache, the first sign of trouble is the sudden sound of high-explosive chain gun rounds landing all around them.
This sound is quickly followed by the noise of the gun firing, since the rounds leave the gun at over Mach 2 at normal temperatures. Around the same time that the sound wave comes, the rounds begin exploding. You likely won’t hear anything else after that.
Unless you’re in a tank! But, then you likely wouldn’t hear any explosive rounds. Instead, you’d just take a Hellfire missile to the turret and be dead from the tandem warhead before you realize anything is wrong. Tandem warheads fire twice. The first explosive opens a gap in your reactive armor. The second pierces the remaining armor and sends you to your maker.
But it might hit you with rockets, shredding you with darts or destroying you with explosives and fragmentation.
So, uh, maybe don’t get caught burying an IED when any of these things are around. It’ll be a bad day.