Riot police in the U.S. have long combated the challenge of containing large crowds by non-lethal means. Typically, these means are some assortment of rubber bullets, tear gas, riot shields, batons, and others. However, with the advent and rapid advancement of unmanned technology in the military—the new future of riot containment may be laser drones.
LAPD National Guard practices firing tear gas—is this soon to be a thing of the past?
That’s right—laser drones, and no, this isn’t some sci-fi renegade episode of Black Mirror or an excerpt from a long forgotten Arthur Clarke novel, this could genuinely be the next phase of riot control. The implication may seem like a scary one, but removing the human element in these situations may be a step in the right direction.
The tendency for riot situations to escalate leads the (sometimes undertrained and inexperienced) riot crews to make rash errors out of a flight or fight response. They may rely on more lethal attacks, as their non-lethal weapons could seem ineffective. However, if a robot is the one operating the non-lethal weapon, it has no regard for its own safety (and a lowered chance of human error), and it could safely utilize non-lethal means consistently, and more effectively, thus making riot situations safer for all involved.
A sneaky civilian drone
Enter: the ever-popular drone. But not just any drone, a drone equipped with an incapacitating laser and a stun gun. The drone is set to make a public debut on June 25 at the International Military-Techincal Forum (aka “Army Expo”) in Moscow, Russia. The Russian Scientific and Production Association of Special Materials Corporation will be unveiling the drone.
The unmanned drone features a laser that causes temporary blindness when directed toward a crowd. This turns the drone into a flying machine dropping less-severe flashbangs, dispersing crowds without doing any long-lasting physical harm. This is also mandatory for all laser weapons created after the 1995 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons. The protocol dictates that laser weapons can only do permanent harm to vehicles, weapons, or sensors but not damage to humans.
U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa
(1st Lt. Danielle Dixon/ USMC)
There are additional attributes that make this drone a potential game-changing riot stopper. According to Samuel Bendett, an advisor at the Center for Naval Analysis, “This drone can be a disruptor without the need to employ larger technology like crowd-control trucks and maybe even without the need to utilize soldiers or police to disperse people — that is why this UAV can also be equipped with a loudspeaker, a siren, and a thermal imager…”
This, of course, would make it the perfect vessel for domestic riots. In addition, this type of unmanned aircraft could also have use in a military sense, as it could damage enemy sensors and jam some weapons without putting boots on the ground.
As of now, the minimum safety distance for the temporary blinding laser is 13 feet. Whether or not a human could operate the drone around that distance and still be precise and efficient is yet to be seen. However, even with that limitation, the idea of a drone that could safely disperse a crowd is an interesting notion that continues to inch closer to reality.
Ever since President Trump first announced his intentions to establish a new branch of the American Armed Forces dedicated specifically to space and orbital defense, imaginations have run wild with what this new era of conflict miles above our heads might look like. Decades worth of movies and video games have shaped our idea of war among the stars, and it’s hard not to let our imaginations run a bit wild when the concept of zero-G warfighting is suddenly so real that our lawmakers are actually budgeting for it.
The thing is, our ideas of space warfare and the reality of conflict in space are pretty far off from one another… at least for now. America’s near-peer opponents in China and Russia have both already stood accused by the international community of launching weapons systems into orbit, but these aren’t Decepticons equipped with doomsday lasers and vessels full of jet-pack laden Space Marines. Warfare in space doesn’t take nearly that much effort or panache. In fact, in some cases, an act of war would require little more than a nudge. In practice, there’s very little difference between the sorts of tools being developed to capture and destroy space junk and weapons being designed to capture and destroy satellites.
The truth is, America’s massive orbital infrastructure was largely deployed in an era with no serious competitors on the horizon. That means many of the satellites we rely on for communications, navigation, and defense lack any real means of defending themselves from attack or even moving out of the way of many kinds of danger. Departing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson aptly described it by saying the United States had built “a glass house before the invention of stones.” Like a glass house, our satellite infrastructure is incredibly vulnerable, and now America’s opponents have already begun throwing stones.
The 1967 Outer Space Treaty outlines what its framers hoped would be the path to peaceful coexistence in orbit and beyond, but the language of the treaty allows for a great deal of latitude when it comes to orbital weapons. China, Russia, and the United States are all among the signatory members of the treaty, alongside a long list of others. Article IV of the treaty bans any signatory nation from deploying nuclear weapons (or other weapons of mass destruction) in orbit, and while other portions of the treaty also attempt to dissuade a real-life remake of Star Wars, the treaty itself bars little else when it comes to weapons.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped nations like Russia from referencing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty when accusing the United States of violating international norms during ongoing debates about the future of American space defense. This bit of tomfoolery notwithstanding, America, Russia, and China do want to appear as though they’re honoring the intent of this treaty, and as a result, orbital weapons often come in the guise of something else entirely. Russia’s Inspector satellites, for instance, are believed to have been designed specifically for use as a weaponized platform that can both eavesdrop on nearby satellite communications and directly interact with other orbital platforms.
Ground based lasers may soon be able to blind satellites temporarily, wreaking havoc with communications, navigation, and early warning systems.
All an Inspector satellite would need to do in order to poke a hole in America’s defensive infrastructure is grab an American satellite with a retractable arm and pull it down into a degrading orbit. Eventually, the Russian satellite would just let go and watch its target burn up as it enters the atmosphere. The entire process would be fairly slow and even mundane to look at, but without any form of defense in orbit, there would be nothing U.S. Space Command could do but watch until the satellite went dark.
Similar methods to the same end would include deploying nets to capture enemy satellites or even simply giving them a push. Depending on the age and capability of the satellite, that could really be all it took to take it out of commission. In extreme cases, like the satellites the U.S. relies on to identify nuclear ballistic missile launches, simply incapacitating a satellite for a few minutes (by pushing it off its axis, for instance) could neuter the nation’s ability to spot or intercept inbound nukes. China has already demonstrated the theoretical ability to do exactly that using ground-based lasers that are invisible to the naked eye.
There are a number of strategies already being developed to counter this form of orbital warfare, like developing a fast-launch infrastructure to replace damaged satellites rapidly and deploying more maneuverable and capable platforms that aren’t as susceptible to these simplistic forms of attack… but for the next few decades, that’s the reality of our space wars: simple satellite drones nudging, poking, and maybe shooting at one another while we watch from below with bated breath.
Recently surfaced images and a brief video show Russia’s premier stealth fighter, the Su-57 Felon, flying without the canopy enclosure for the aircraft’s cockpit. While there isn’t a great deal of information available to go along with the footage, it seems very likely that the canopy was not lost due to an accident, but was rather removed intentionally for a specific type of flight testing known as a “cockpit habitability trials.”
We first spotted this footage on Reddit, uploaded by user u/st_Paulus, but the event also caught the attention of Scramble Magazine, who posted a screen capture to their Facebook account, credited to a Twitter user they called Hao Goa.
It’s obviously pretty unusual to see a pilot at the stick of an airborne, supersonic fighter without the protection of the cockpit canopy, but these somewhat rare tests are vital in the development of an aircraft. Pilots use these flights to test different aspects of the platform’s emergency escape procedures in a realistic and dynamic environment. A photo of BAE test Pilot Keith Hartley conducting a similar flight aboard a Tornado XZ630 in the late ’80s has made its way around the aviation circles of the internet for years, though it’s tough to come by images or video of these tests on other platforms.
“In 1988, our test pilot Keith Hartley flew at 500 knots in a Tornado aircraft with the canopy off, testing the emergency escape procedures of the jet; just one example of the lengths we go to test the safety of the planes we build for the RAF.” -BAE Systems on Twitter
Obviously, flying without your cockpit canopy comes with some significant risk. Not only does the canopy protect the pilot from the incredible winds associated with flying a high speed aircraft, it also exposes the pilot to intense cold, and as anyone who’s ever ridden in a convertible will tell you, all that wind noise can be pretty distracting. Other common threats to aircraft (like bird strikes or inclement weather) can also be exacerbated by the loss of a protective layer between the pilot and the outside world. Fighter jet cockpits are pressurized, though not in the same way as most commercial airlines. Instead, the cockpits of most fighters maintain ambient air pressure until they climb above a certain altitude. Without the canopy, flying above that altitude would be extremely dangerous, despite the pilot’s mask-fed oxygen supply.
Risk be damned, these tests can help to ensure the procedures you train pilots to execute during emergency situations really work. In other words, the risk is a calculated one meant to save lives.
Russia’s Su-57 Felon is the nation’s first stealth fighter, and has suffered a number of setbacks along the long road to production. Originally intended as a joint effort shared between Russia and India, India backed out of the agreement in 2018. While public statements remained civil, it has widely been rumored that India’s lost interest could be attributed to issues with the new aircraft’s stealth capabilities; potentially brought about by Russia’s inability to manufacture body panels with the incredibly tight production tolerances required to limit the radar return of an aircraft.
Continuing on their own, Russia built about a dozen Su-57s which have served as a token force of fifth-generation aircraft for the Russian military, while offering little in the way of actual combat capability. Late last year, Russia announced that they would finally begin serial production of the Su-57… only to have the first aircraft to roll off the production line promptly, and embarrassingly, crash during testing.
Su-57 being built (United Aircraft Corporation)
However, recent images of production Su-57s suggest that the aircraft may indeed be better than its prototypical predecessors, with seemingly tighter panel tolerances that just might make Russia’s stealth fighter a bit stealthy after all.
Russian hackers have been a source of controversy in recent months. But Russian hacking has gone far beyond the realm of computers. In fact, the Russians recently got their hands on a French armored vehicle and hacked it. This time, however, the outcome wasn’t holding some network for ransom, but the creation of a very lethal, wheeled infantry fighting vehicle.
A VBCI takes part in the 2014 Bastille Day parade.
(Photo by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin)
How did this happen? Well, prior to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, France and Russia were collaborating on a number of defense projects. One such project was the development of a new infantry fighting vehicle — one based off a very recent acquisition by the French military.
The ATOM packs a modified S-60 anti-aircraft gun, giving it 57mm firepower.
(Photo by Ural Vagon Zavod)
The Véhicule Blindé de Combat d’Infanterie, also known as VBCI, was acquired by France to replace the AMX-10P, a tracked infantry fighting vehicle that had seen decades of service. The VBCI packs a 25mm autocannon and a 7.62mm machine gun. It has a three-man crew and can haul nine troops. A newer version, the VBCI 2, is entering service soon and has incorporated a number of changes based on lessons learned doing combat with radical Islamic terrorists in Mali.
So, what happened when the collaboration ended, leaving Russia wanting the VBCI schematics? You guessed it: they stole ’em.
Russia copied the VBCI chassis and, with it, created the ATOM. This is, essentially, a VBCI with a modified turret that packs a S-60 57mm anti-aircraft gun as the main armament. The ATOM has a crew of three and can hold eight grunts — about the size of a Russian infantry section.
Currently, the Russians are in the process of developing versions of the vehicle armed with anti-tank missiles and 120mm mortars. There are also ambulance, riot-control, and engineering versions of the ATOM in the works.
Learn more about this Russian-hacked French vehicle in the video below:
An F-35 fighter pilot says he would be confident flying the Joint Strike Fighter against any enemy in the world, including Russian and Chinese 5th Generation stealth fighters.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons, and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Warrior in a special pilot interview in 2015.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft. While he said he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35.
U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter. This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies — including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 sensor fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior — however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar, and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
An F-35 Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)
“The F-35 takes from multiple sensors around the airplane and combines them together in a way that is much more manageable and accessible — while not detracting from the other tasks that the pilot is trying to accomplish,” Hayden said.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability, and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs — give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
An F-22 Raptor.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
Hayden further elaborated upon these claims, arguing that the F-35 has another set of strategic advantages to include an ability to use internally built sensors. This prevents the need to use external pods on a fighter jet which can add drag, slowing down and restricting maneuverability for an aircraft.
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges — essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission data files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials told Military.com. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Greywolf” soldiers fielded the Army’s new electronic warfare tactical vehicle recently.
The new vehicle was developed to give Army electronic warfare teams the ability to sense and jam enemy communications and networks from an operationally relevant range at the brigade combat team level.
“This effort will allow the ability for EW soldiers to influence future vehicle improvements and grow their knowledge,” Army Lt. Col. Scott Schumacher, chief of the Rapid Equipping Force solutions team, said in a release. “This is an advanced EW technology that can provide the Army new offensive and defensive capabilities.”
The Greywolf team attended two weeks of training on the vehicle in Yuma, Arizona. The electronic warfare kit is installed on a four-wheel drive MaxxPro Dash, one of the multiple types of mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicles.
“It has never been used at the brigade level, so we have to really put it through its paces and see what its capabilities and limitations are,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Alexander Torres, the brigade’s electronic warfare technician. “We have to develop best-practices and [tactics, techniques and procedures] that will help future units as well as continue the development of a dedicated EW platform.”
Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team stand in front of an Electronic Warfare Tactical Vehicle at Yuma Proving Ground.
(US Army photo)
Since the inception of brigade-level electronic warfare, electronic jamming had not been available. The new system is highly programmable, which allows the EW team to develop a program targeting the enemy’s frequencies.
“This is a huge benefit, because now we have it on our time instead of relying on our sister services to provide us with jamming capabilities and hoping it is available when we need it,” Torres said.
The new vehicle was developed as part of the Army’s Rapid Equipment Fielding program, which identifies gaps that need to be filled and cannot wait on the traditional contracting route. This is just the first step in building a platform that will benefit the brigade, Torres said.
“We had nothing, and now we have something, and I hope we continue to keep building on it,” he added. “We need to make sure it is effective. If we go out there and just let it sit and collect dust and don’t use it — and [if we don’t] make sure that it also enables the commander to maneuver his forces and gain the advantage in the electronic spectrum — then really it is wasting a valuable resource.”
The Greywolf team will integrate the vehicle during its upcoming brigade evaluation.
We all love the A-10 Thunderbolt II, commonly known as the “Warthog.” For years now, this airframe has brought the BRRRRRRT and provided close air support to grunts on the ground. But the A-10 is actually older than many think.
For a combat plane, 46 is pretty old. Now, it’s not the grumpy, “get-off-my-lawn” level of old — the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress claims that honor. It entered service in 1952, making it old enough now to collect Medicare.
A number of A-10 Thunderbolts were painted green, but these days, they’re a plain gray.
At the time of the A-10’s introduction, NATO nations had half the tanks of signatories of the Warsaw Pact. The Warthog was intended to fight off those huge, armored hordes. The A-10’s GAU-8 30mm Gatling gun (that provides its signature BRRRRRT), was only part of the solution. The plane is also able to haul over eight tons of bombs, rockets, and missiles.
One missile is of particular note: The AGM-65 Maverick. The A-10 has been loaded up with several variants of this powerful weapon, mostly the AGM-65D and AGM-65G. These variants use imaging infra-red seekers and are able to hit targets in any condition, day or night, clear skies or bad weather.
The A-10 has been in service for over 40 years and, still, no plane has been able to truly replace it.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie Norman)
The Maverick has a maximum range of 17 miles and packs either a 125-pound, shaped-charge warhead or a 300-pound, blast-fragmentation warhead. With this missile, the A-10 can pick off enemy anti-aircraft guns, like the ZSU-23, before closing in to drop bombs and give enemy tanks the BRRRRT.
Despite its age, the A-10 is slated to remain in service for a while. The Air Force is currently running the OA-X program in hopes of finding a true replacement, but the real solution may be to simply build more of this classic plane.
See how the Air Force introduced the A-10 back in ’72 in the video below.
There are also examples of Chinese military systems looking suspiciously like US systems — the F-22 and the MQ-9 Reaper drone among them. Other elements of those Chinese systems — the software, technology, and manpower used to operate them — aren’t on par with the US military yet.
Esper told attendees that he had cautioned European allies against allowing Chinese companies to build 5G cyber networks in their countries, warning that to do so would risk sensitive national security information.
“Every Chinese company has the potential to be an accomplice in Beijing’s state-sponsored campaign to steal technology,” he said, highlighting China’s integration of civil and military technology, an area in which Beijing surpasses the US.
“China has systematically sought to acquire US technology both through traditional espionage means, as well as through legal investments in companies,” Daniel Kliman, director of the the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told Insider.
“The United States very much still retains a military technological edge, but it’s clear that edge is eroding,” Kliman said.
Read on to see how China’s carbon copies stack up to US weapons systems.
Chinese air force J-20 stealth fighters.
The PLA’s J-20 looks extremely similar to the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor.
Su Bin, a Chinese national and aerospace entrepreneur, pleaded guilty to cyber espionage in 2016. He and coconspirators spied on US plans for the C-17 Globemaster, the F-35, and the F-22.
But while the J-20 looks like the F-22, it’s not quite in the same league.
Michael Kofman, a senior research analyst at the CNA think tank, told Insider last year that he suspected “the J-20 probably has great avionics and software but, as always, has terrible engine design. In fact, Chinese low-observation aircraft designs like J-31 are flying on older Russian Klimov engines because the Chinese can’t make an engine.”
Kofman also expressed doubt about the J-20’s stealth capability.
“It’s got so many surfaces, and a lot of them look pretty reflective from the sides too. I’m pretty skeptical of the stealth on that aircraft,” he said.
A Chinese Shenyang J-31.
The Chinese Shenyang J-31 is strikingly similar to the US F-35.
The Shenyang J-31 is still under development but will likely replace the J-15 fighter, at least on aircraft carriers. The J-15 has been plagued with issues, including multiple fatal crashes and problems with its engine, the South China Morning Post reported last year.
The J-31 is the People’s Liberation Army’s second stealth aircraft and was first seen in 2014. There is widespread speculation that the J-31 is based on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 plans, although China has denied those claims.
The J-31 is lighter and has a shorter range than the F-35 but may beat it with maximum speed of Mach 1.8 to the F-35’s Mach 1.6, Popular Science reported in 2017.
The question of how well these aircraft actually match up to their US competitors remains, and, Kliman said, appearances are only part of the equation.
“Sometimes superficially the designs do look similar — it could be, in part, from some of the attempts China’s made to acquire good technology, but I would just caution that at the end of the day, it’s hard to know how similar it is or not,” he told Insider.
An MQ-Reaper over Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, June 25, 2015.
The Caihong-class unmanned aerial vehicle, including the CH-4 and CH-5, look unmistakably like US MQ-9 Reaper drones.
While there’s no concrete evidence that the Chinese design is the result of espionage or theft, the visual similarities are unmistakable — nose-mounted cameras on the CH-4B, as well as locations for external munitions are just like those on the Reaper, Popular Mechanics reported in 2016, calling the two aircraft “identical.”
Breaking Defense reported in 2015 that, in addition to the same domed nose and V-shaped tail, the UAVs both have 66-foot wingspans.
Drone designer Shi Wen, of the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, told China Daily three years ago that the CH-5 model “can perform whatever operations the MQ-9 Reaper can and is even better than the US vehicle when it comes to flight duration and operational efficiency.”
But again, Chinese technology and specifications likely don’t match up to US counterparts.
For starters, the Reaper can carry roughly double the munitions of the CH-5. And while the CH-5 can travel farther, with a range of about 1,200 miles, its flight ceiling is about 23,000 feet, compared to the Reaper’s nearly 50,000-foot ceiling, according to the Center for Strategic International Studies’ China Power project.
The Reaper also has a heavier maximum takeoff weight and can travel at twice the speed of the CH-5, due to persistent challenges with Chinese-made engines.
The Chinese air force’s Y-20 transport aircraft has design similarities to the US Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III.
Su Bin pleaded guilty in 2017 to conspiring to steal technical data related to the C-17 from Boeing and the US Air Force.
That data likely was used to build the Xian Y-20, China’s large transport aircraft, nicknamed the “Chubby Girl.” As Garrett M. Graff notes in Wired, Su helped pilfer about 630,000 files related to the C-17.
Whether China used information about the C-17 to build the Y-20 is unclear — Beijing has denied stealing US technology for its weapons systems — but the similarities are apparent, from the nose to the tail stabilizer, as Kyle Mizokami points out in Popular Mechanics.
The Y-20 has a smaller empty weight and payload than the C-17, Popular Mechanics reported in 2016, but the Y-20 is the largest transport aircraft in production. The Chinese military lacked a large transport carrier prior to the development of the Y-20, making it difficult to quickly mobilize large numbers of supplies and troops to battlefields or disaster areas, Wired reported in 2012.
“Just because something looks somewhat similar doesn’t mean it has equivalent capabilities,” Kliman cautioned, particularly where human capability is concerned.
“It’s not the technology alone. It’s the quality of the pilots in a fighter airplane. It’s the quality of the systems that are feeding the aircraft information,” Kilman said.
China hasn’t fought a foreign war since the brief Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979. US service members and systems have much more battlefield experience than Chinese forces.
“The [People’s Liberation Army] has made a long-term effort to improve its human capital, including through training but also through education … but at this point, the US, our pilots, our operators get, certainly, the real-world experience,” Kilman said.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)
Where does China go from here?
If Esper and retired Navy Adm. William McRaven are to be believed, China is rapidly closing the technology and defense gap with the US, through both legal and illegal means.
Whether China is pouring money into research and development or committing outright intellectual-property theft, US officials have cause for concern about the future.
In August, Chinese national Pengyi Li was arrested on his way to Hong Kong after an undercover investigation by the Department of Homeland Security into the smuggling of components for missiles and surveillance satellites from the US to China, Tim Fernholz and Justin Rohrlich reported in Quartz.
Chinese nationals have also been found guilty of trying to smuggle accelerometers, which are necessary for guided missiles and spacecraft.
In terms of hypersonic technology, which “does seem pretty game-changing,” China is ahead of the US, said Kliman, who stressed that it’s important not to be alarmist.
“I think those statements are certainly well-intended and grounded in reality,” he said, referring to Esper and McRaven’s warnings.
Outside of military technology, Kliman said, China certainly is a leader in information technology. But when it comes to systems, allies, and people, the US still has a leg up on the competition — for now.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The United States Navy’s newest destroyer, USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), is the most advanced ship in the ocean today. So what actually goes into making this ship the hottest of maritime hotrods?
According to All Hands magazine, the 15,656-ton vessel is equipped with many new advances. The most visible is the 155mm Advanced Gun System. Now, the Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile program was cancelled, but this gun has other ammo options. The Zumwalt also features 20 Mk 57 vertical-launch systems, each with four cells, capable of launching a variety of weapons, including the BGM-109 Tomahawk and the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.
But the Zumwalt has more than just new firepower. The wave-piercing tumblehome design and the composite superstructure help reduce the ship’s radar cross-section, and the ship is also one of the quietest vessels in the world.
The ship also has the new Integrated Power System, a highly-survivable system that allows the power output from the ship’s LM2500 gas turbines to be used for anything from propulsion – taking the ship to a top speed of over 30 knots — to charging a crewman’s Kindle to powering the AN/SPY-3 radar.
The ship can also carry two MH-60R multi-role helicopters and has a crew of 158.
Below, take a look at a pair of videos of this American maritime hotrod.
The Army Futures Command, or AFC, is developing wearable identity authentication and authorization technologies that will enable soldiers to securely access network-based capabilities while operating on the move in contested, threat-based environments.
Since 2001, the Common Access Card, or CAC, has served as the de facto, government-wide standard for network and system security access control. However, CAC cards are not operationally suited for use in every environment.
Moreover, the Army lacks a standard way for soldiers at every echelon to prove their identity when operating systems, devices, and applications on Army networks.
With this in mind, AFC’s major subordinate command, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, is researching and developing authentication technologies that will provide soldiers with secure and simple ways to identify, authenticate and be authorized access to Army networks, operating systems, servers, laptops, applications, web services, radios, weapon systems, and handheld devices.
CCDC’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or C5ISR, Center is designing wearable identity tokens for soldiers to use to log on to mission command systems, networks and tactical platforms. The tokens are wireless, lightweight, flexible, and rugged, and they can be inserted in a soldier’s pocket, attached to a sleeve or integrated into a wrist band like a Fitbit.
Conceptually, soldiers wearing these tokens could simply approach a system to login, be recognized by that system, which would then prompt the soldier to enter a PIN or use a biometric as a second factor, and be automatically logged out when they walk out of the system’s range.
The CCDC C5ISR Center is developing wearable authentication tokens that will enable soldiers at every echelon to prove their identity when operating systems, devices and applications on the Army tactical network.
(Photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
“The Army is driving towards a simpler and intuitive tactical network, so we’re aligning our Science and Technology resources to explore the challenges associated with this mission space, inform senior decision makers of the lessons learned and deliver capabilities that support Army Modernization and address the soldier’s needs — now and in the future,” said Brian Dempsey, Tactical Network Protection chief for the C5ISR Center’s Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate, or STCD.
The wearable identity tokens combine the security of a public key-based credential — similar to the credential on the CAC — with cutting-edge advances in the commercial wireless payment industry and flexible hybrid electronics, explained Ogedi Okwudishu, project lead for the Tactical Identity and Access Management, or TIDAM, program.
“As part of the Army Futures Command, we’re looking to move at the speed of the information age. We want to be able to research, test, proof the concepts and integrate emerging IT capabilities from industry as they become available. There’s no point re-inventing the wheel,” Okwudishu said.
Under the current paradigm, tactical platforms would need to be retrofitted with specialized equipment in order to read new identity authentication technologies. Such deployments and retrofitting can be very costly. Wearable tokens, however, leverage already existing communication and protocol capabilities, Okwudishu pointed out.
“Soldiers should not have to take out a smartcard, insert it into a card reader and then remember to remove the card from the reader when they are done,” said Okwudishu. “Contactless identity tokens are not only easy to use, they provide a significant cost savings for the Army. You can continue to add authentication capabilities without needing to redesign, or deploy new, tactical hardware to every laptop, server, handheld device or weapon system in the field.”
The tokens are lightweight, flexible and rugged, and they can be inserted in a soldier’s pocket, attached to a sleeve or integrated into a wrist band like a Fitbit.
(Photo by Douglas Scott)
Since beginning the TIDAM program in 2017, the C5ISR Center has worked closely with soldiers and Program Executive Offices, or PEOs, soldier and Command, Control Communications-Tactical, or C3T, to validate, demonstrate and mature the technology.
The center’s STCD is working with Project Manager Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, to finalize a transition agreement with PEO soldier for wearable authenticator infrastructure technologies. In the meantime, the directorate is developing a wearable authenticator software provisioner that will enable the secure placement of credentials on the wearable tokens and the ability to do this “locally” at the brigade level and below.
STCD is also working from a roadmap it jointly developed with PEO soldier to integrate the capability with various systems from PEO soldier and PEO C3T. Currently, the goal for fielding the tokens is in FY 22.
“I think this is a really great idea,” said Sgt. 1st Class David Worthington, senior enlisted advisor for the C5ISR Center. “Nobody has done anything like this yet. If done properly, it will make the authentication process a lot easier and a lot faster. More important, it provides more reciprocity at the tactical level for log-ins, so you can track what people are doing on the network.”
Today, Bell is a company known for its UH-1 Iroquois and AH-1 Cobra helicopters, but Bell was once much more than a helicopter company. The corporation built front-line fighters during World War II and was also responsible for making America’s first jet fighter.
The P-59 Airacomet was never much more than a flying testbed. It had an armament that consisted of three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a single 37mm cannon — the latter being a common feature in Bell’s primary propeller-driven fighters, the P-39 Airacobra and the P-63 Kingcobra. The P-59 was also able to haul a fair load for air-to-ground ass-kicking, in the form of either two 1,000-pound bombs or eight 60-pound rockets.
The P-59, however, would make its greatest impact without ever firing a shot at the enemy.
By the early 1940s, both the Germans and the British were pursuing jet technology, having flown experimental jets before. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, General Henry Arnold saw England’s E-28/39 jet in 1941 and asked if the Americans could use the then-groundbreaking technology. The British gladly handed it over, and General Electric was given the task of building the engine.
While Bell is known for its helicopters today, during World War II, they built fighters.
Bell, which was located next to GE’s jet engine plant, then got the contract to build the jet fighter around the new engine. The process was kept very secret — a “black project.” The project was dubbed XP-59, a designation recycled from an older Bell design for a propeller-driven fighter that had a “pusher” arrangement. That design was modified to carry two J31 turbojet engines.
In addition to the three .50-caliber machine guns and the 37mm cannon, the Airacomet carried eight 60-pound rockets or two 1,000-pound bombs.
The Airacomet never made it to the front lines. Despite being technologically advanced, it just didn’t have the performance needed to join the fight. The two jets were heavy and while it had a top speed of 413 miles per hour, its range was very short. On internal fuel alone, the P-59 only could go 240 miles. External tanks more than doubled its range (carrying it up to 520 miles), but a P-51 Mustang could go as far as 2,300 miles.
The pilots who flew the P-59 didn’t see combat, but did learn lessons that paid off for pilots of more advanced jets down the road.
The P-59, despite never seeing combat, was very valuable for the United States. It taught pilots how to fly jets — and this experience that would pay off big time when more practical aircraft emerged for the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
Learn more about this jet-powered pioneer the video below!
World War II proved that tanks were very vulnerable to air attack. To deal with that threat, the United States and Soviet Union both developed some anti-aircraft guns that could keep up with and protect that valuable armor.
The “Duster” was the popular nickname for the M42 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. This vehicle took a tried-and-true weapon system, the twin 40mm Bofors gun that was responsible for eliminating many enemy planes in World War II, and mated it with the chassis of the M41 Walker Bulldog light tank. The result was a vehicle that would stick around for nearly two decades after its successor, the M163, entered service.
The M42 was intended to shoot down planes, but like the M45 “Meat Chopper,” it was also lethal against ground targets.
The 40mm Bofors gun was the heart of the system. The M42 packed 336 rounds of 40mm ammo for the twin guns, which could fire 120 rounds a minute, giving the vehicle a bit less than 90 seconds of sustained firing time. The powerful 40mm guns had an effective range of 11,000 yards, or six-and-a-quarter miles.
The M42, like the M45 “Meat Chopper,” proved to be very potent in the air-to-air role but made an even bigger impact on the ground. It seems that, like aircraft, lightly-armored trucks and troops in the open don’t fare too well after meeting up with the 40mm.
Even with the introduction of the M163, the M42 hung around through most of the 1980s.
(Photo by Chitrapa)
As surface-to-air missiles were fielded, the Duster stuck around as a supplement to systems like the MIM-23 HAWK. The introduction of the M163 saw the Duster more often fielded with reserve units, where it hung on until 1988.
Despite not seeing use with American armed forces, the system is still in use with a number of countries around the world.
Designed by a former toy maker, the Black Hornet UAV fits in a human palm and weighs the same as three pieces of paper. But don’t be fooled by its size. It has impressive capabilities as a reconnaissance drone, which is why Special Forces and U.S. infantry have begun testing it.
The tiny drone feeds surprisingly clear video to the pilot from as far as kilometer away and can bear different sensors including thermal cameras for night assaults. The video is stored on the small user station on the operator’s belt, so enemies lucky enough to catch the Hornet will not be able to see what video the pilot has captured.
See this amazing little drone in action in this video: