Maintenance is the backbone of the world’s most powerful Air Force. In recent years the maintenance career field has been battling manning challenges. With the help of Airmen like Staff Sgt. Jonathan Dantuma of Travis Air Force Base, California, the solutions will come from the airmen on the flightline.
There was only one foreign customer for the advanced F-14 Tomcat fighter during its heyday: Iran. The Shah chose to buy 80 Tomcats instead of the F-15 Eagle – and it was a good investment. Even after Imperial Iran gave way to the Islamic Republic of Iran after the 1979 revolution, the Iranian Air Force was still stacked with some of the best Tomcat pilots in the world.
And the U.S. doesn’t want any of them in the air again ever.
Iran is the United States’ ex-girlfriend that we just can’t stop thinking about. After the Islamic Revolution, the U.S. could just not leave Iran alone. A major sticking point for the United States was that our ex still had 30 of our best fighter aircraft, and they were using it to great effect against our new boo, Iraq, in the Iran-Iraq War. The Iranian Air Force was so skilled in the Iran-Iraq War that a lone tomcat could clear the skies of enemy aircraft without firing a shot. Many of the successful downings of Tomcats were at the hands of ground-based SAM batteries… Iranian SAM batteries.
But the United States eventually gets better stuff, no matter how iconic Top Gun is. Since the Tomcat, we’ve had the major advances in fighter technology that led us to develop the F-22 and F-35 fighters, technology so amazing it might seem like magic to some. So it made sense to retire our fleet of F-14s in 2007, given that we had an air superiority fighter that had the radar cross-section of a bumblebee and could take out enemy planes before it could physically see them. When Iran got wind of its retirement, you could practically hear the CEO of Northrop Grumman’s tummy growling at the idea of parts sales.
But nope. This was 2007 and Iran was still firmly placed in President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” along with North Korea. The idea of selling Iran rare F-14 parts, so it didn’t have to cannibalize its own F-14 inventory was preposterous. It was this concern that led the Pentagon to shred every last leftover F-14 Tomcat.
Did the United States have to take a million plane and reduce it to scrap metal just so Iran couldn’t repair its aging fleet? No, according to many national security experts, it did not. They said the move was more symbolic than practical. F-14 parts were considered sensitive equipment just for this reason, so the U.S. ended all parts sales to anyone, not just Iran, for fear that Iran might get them eventually. But that doesn’t matter, there isn’t much Iran could do with their F-14s if they were airworthy.
“Those planes as they age are maybe the equivalent of Chevrolets in Cuba. They become relics of a past era,” said Larry C. Johnson, a former deputy chief of counterterrorism at the State Department in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. “Even if they can put them in the air, they are going to face more advanced weapons systems.”
The decision to destroy all the surplus Tomcats was the defense equivalent of taking the house and the car despite not needing or wanting either – a purely spiteful move that makes Tomcat fans wish they would have just donated to museums.
The next advancement in cellular technology, 5G, is expected to be so fast that it’s able to surpass the speed of wired internet now provided by cable companies.
Current 4G technology provides download speeds of about 1 gigabit per second. With 5G technology, download speeds are expected to increase to 20 gigabits per second, said Ellen M. Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.
Lord spoke yesterday at the Atlantic Council here to discuss the Defense Department’s efforts to advance 5G technology in the United States and to ensure that when 5G does make its debut, it’s secure enough to transmit information between U.S. military personnel and its allies without being intercepted by potential adversaries.
U.S. and allies must take lead
That means the U.S. and its allies will need to take the lead in developing this next generation of telecommunications technology, she said.
“When we talk about 5G, everything is going to be moving over it, eventually,” Lord said. “What we need to do is make sure how that information is moving, and how you can get at it, and how you can keep it secure.”
Ellen M. Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.
Lord likened development of the 5G infrastructure and technology to that of a new home. She said new home owners certainly would want to know that whoever built their home, wired it for electricity, installed the communications systems, or installed the doors and windows hadn’t also built in a way for them to sneak back into that house undetected after the new owners had moved in.
“That’s where we are with 5G,” Lord said. “If we are going to run our entire warfighting ecosystem though communications — which is where we are today — we need to make sure that when we send a critical message that others aren’t hearing it. We need to be able to test that.”
On the modern battlefield, and on the battlefield of the foreseeable future, communications is going to play a critical role, Lord said. Information must flow between mounted and dismounted soldiers, from ships at sea and from those under the sea, as well as to space and aircraft.
“In order to get relevant situational understanding, we are trading information back and forth all the time,” she said. “What will happen is, if we do not embrace 5G, and we are just getting going in 4G in a lot of areas, we are going to have a latency or a delay in those conversations that could render everything we have as ineffective.”
U.S. industry and partners must provide advancements
Advancements in 5G must come from U.S. industry and U.S. partners to be trustworthy and reliable, Lord said.
The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense.
“Right now there is quite an intensive dialogue going on to understand where in Europe we might partner,” Lord said. “And there has been an enormous amount of discussion about the threat that we see by the Chinese — theft of intellectual property — coming into our networks. We have to collectively decide how we are technically going to secure our networks — how we legislatively have to have protection.”
Lord said a whole-of-government approach is needed to get a handle on 5G. The State, Treasury and Commerce departments and the National Security Council should be involved along with DOD, she said.
“I think you are going to see a huge call to action this year to come together with really what is almost a national industrial policy for 5G, because the stakes are high,” Lord added. “5G from a technology point of view is a huge opportunity, but it’s a huge threat.
“If we don’t embrace it and apply it towards our goals, we could be overcome quickly with technical overmatch,” she continued. “And we can’t allow that to happen. … We have a warfighting imperative. If we cannot communicate as quickly, or quicker than our adversaries, if we cannot have situational understanding as to what is happening on the battlefield, then we are going to be in a position where our national security is threatened.”
Army Reserve soldiers of American Samoa will soon train at the first indoor rifle range in the Army Reserve, a Modular Small Arms Range scheduled for a grand opening the end of April 2019.
“The sons and daughters of American Samoa serving in the Armed Forces will have the single best indoor training facility in the Army,” Brigadier Gen. Douglas Anderson, 9th Mission Support Command Commanding General, said. “We are providing our soldiers in American Samoa state of the art training facilities and the ability to conduct training at home, keeping these citizen soldiers with their families and employers to the maximum extent possible.”
Prior to this construction, soldiers of the region flew to Hawaii to conduct their regular required training. Now with the training site locally based, soldiers will be able to complete their annual requirements without having to leave home to do so.
“We need to train our soldiers to be ready so that when they are called to go in harms’ way they can meet the challenge but also defeat the enemy,” Jon Lee, 9th MSC civilian executive officer, said. “They are all serving our country to protect our freedoms. So we are giving them the newest and best to train and succeed.”
(U.S. Army photo)
“We have a commitment to the community to build the soldiers’ readiness so they can be ready at their home station which lessens their time away from their families,” Lee said.
Lee, a retired general officer and former 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment commander, his first unit was the American Samoa-based 100th Battalion, B Co., in 1984. Years later he deployed with American Samoan soldiers in 2004 to Operation Iraqi Freedom and recalled what the soldiers previously endured in order to train for said deployment.
“The first time the 100th Battalion was mobilized to go to Iraq, the soldiers of American Samoa spent almost 9 months to train and get certified,” he recalled. “So that’s almost two years they were away from home. It shouldn’t be that way.”
“The Army is committed to the training and readiness, for the people of American Samoa who have sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, wives, husbands who serve, and we are bringing in a State of the Art facility, the first of its kind for their sons and daughters,” Lee said. “We are bringing them the best of the best so that they can maximize to train in their local area.”
“We now have a greater chance to focus on the mission and training instead of spending a whole day at the shooting range,” Staff Sgt. Faiupu Tagaleo’o, unit supply sergeant for Theater Support Group- Pacific, American Samoa. “Now we don’t have to travel 5,000 miles or 10,000 miles to qualify with weapons. We can do it right here at home.”
Other Army Reserve soldiers of American Samoa expressed similar sentiments.
(U.S. Army photo)
“I support the building of MSAR because I won’t have to wait a whole year for Annual Training to shoot,” Sgt. K. Moetala, C. Co. 100th Battalion, 442nd Inf. Regt. said. “Also I get to train but I will be spending more time with my family.”
Furthermore, Lee stated, the MSAR is safe.
“It has zero escape for a round, 100 percent containment, from the ceiling to the walls to the ground,” he specified. “We issue ammo inside the building, with the doors closed and lock the building while firing. We take accountability of spent casings. We do accountability before we open the room again.”
The MSAR is also environmentally safe, with a filtration system so the fumes and gases released from the weapons are filtered. An additional benefit of the indoor facility, not only is it environmentally sound, but contains literal sound within from insulation.
“Noise abatement measures have been taken so that our community neighbors aren’t listening to the sounds of the rifle range during a training weekend,” said Anderson.
While maintaining U.S. Army Safety standards during use of the facility, the existence of the facility will also enable law enforcement and other security and protection entities such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard, access to train.
Through the duration of construction, 9th MSC has hosted three community town halls continuing the relationship with its neighbors.
“Thanks to the community for participating in the three community engagements that we’ve held,” Anderson said. “Safety is a priority for the Army Reserve and the Modular Small Arms Range is safe and we welcome any opportunity to show this.”
This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.
The Pentagon wants a new style of sophisticated protective eyewear that features adjustable vision enhancement so Marines and soldiers can identify and sight in on targets more quickly than ever before.
The goal of Vision Enhancement for the Dismounted Soldier is to “enhance natural eyesight to aid in visual detection, identification, and acquisition of targets, friendlies, and other items of interest that would otherwise be obscured or difficult to see in military relevant environments with the unaided eye,” according to a Sept. 24, 2018 solicitation posted on the government website for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which is designed to encourage small businesses to engage in federal research and development.
The research effort is looking to defense firms to present designs that “take into consideration the pupil location of the individual wearer, as needed, to optimize performance and compatibility with weapon technologies,” the solicitation states.
“Hands-free activation (such as voice command) is also of interest, but not necessary for the purposes of this effort. In the event of power loss, imaging shall revert to an unaided mode for unobstructed vision,” the document states. “Ultimately, the objective of the effort is to increase lethality and survivability through enhanced vision, and faster target detection and identification times, of persons and items of interest in military environments, without limiting capabilities naturally afforded by unaided vision.”
Currently, soldiers and Marines rely on a combination of natural vision and optical aids such as scopes, binoculars, image intensifiers and thermal imagers to enhance combat vision.
Soldiers observe the impact zone during a howitzer live-fire exercise at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, Jan. 17, 2018.
(Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)
“Donning and doffing of individual visual aids takes time and are impractical in situations when seconds count,” according to the solicitation.
The effort, however, is not intended to duplicate or replace current weapons’ optics and other sensors, it states.
The program is searching for concepts that:
- Reduce time needed to detect targets or friendly forces as compared to performance when relying on unaided vision.
- Ensure natural vision is not degraded in the event of power failure.
- Ensure performance is reasonably stable in different operating environments, such as temperatures, lighting conditions and humidity levels.
- Minimize distracting or confusing images that may decrease situational awareness, such as unwanted reflections, glare, ghost images, erratic flickering and image distortion.
Companies wishing to participate have until Oct. 24, 2018, to submit proposals, the solicitation states.
The document does not provide a timeline, contract awards or fielding goals except to say that phase one deliverables shall include monthly reports and conceptual drawings and designs.
Phase two deliverables include schematics and 12 working prototypes of spectacles or goggles.
“End item cost shall be considered early on,” the solicitation states. “Target cost is 0 or less (with an ultimate goal of 0 or less once in production).”
The target weight of the entire system — including batteries — is less than 3 ounces if a “spectacle platform is chosen” and less than 6 ounces if a “goggle platform is chosen,” the solicitation states.
“The ability to enhance vision and increase lethality shall be validated through testing,” according to the solicitation.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Marine Corps is hoping industry can make lightweight .50 caliber ammunition that provides machine-gunners with a 30 percent weight savings over existing linked belts of .50 caliber ammo.
Marine Corps Systems Command recently released a request for information to see if commercial companies have the capability to produce lightweight .50 caliber ammo that “will provide a weight savings when compared to the current M33 .50 cartridge in the DODIC A555 linked configuration,” according to the document released on FedBizOpps.gov.
“A belt of 100 Lightweight .50 Caliber cartridges with 101 links shall have a threshold overall weight of 24.6 lbs. or 15 percent weight savings compared to the legacy A555 configuration,” the document states. “A belt of 100 lightweight cartridges with 101 links shall have an objective overall weight savings of more than 20.3 lbs. or 30 percent compared to the legacy A555 configuration.”
Lightweight ammunition is not a new concept. Commercial companies continue to work new methods to lighten one of the heaviest necessities of warfare.
The Chesapeake Cartridge Corporation showed off its new line of nickel ammunition at SHOT Show 2018 in Las Vegas.
The shell casings, made of aluminum-plated nickel alloy, are lighter and stronger that traditional brass casings, Ed Collins, Chesapeake’s director for business development, told Military.com in January 2018.
The company is working toward creating ammunition that’s 50 percent lighter than conventional brass ammo. Currently, the company makes military calibers such as 9mm, 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO, but it plans to make it in additional calibers in the future.
Companies such as PCP Ammunition make polymer-cased ammunition, which offers up to a 30 percent weight savings compared to brass-cased ammo.
Textron Systems makes case-telescoped weapons and ammunition. The ammo concept relies on plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell.
Over the past decade, the U.S. Army has invested heavily in Textron’s concept, formerly known as Light Weight Small Arms Technology.
Textron doesn’t currently make .50-caliber, case-telescoped ammunition, but its 5.56mm CT ammo weighs about 37 percent less than standard belted 5.56mm.
Companies have until June 1, 2018, to respond to the RFI, the document states.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
When we talk about American arms deals, usually the United States is the seller, and almost everyone else is the buyer (if they know what’s good for them). But this time, Israel has the technology that everyone in the air defense arena should aspire to, especially in terms of protecting people from missile attacks.
The Israelis have had to perfect their surface-to-air missile tech, especially when it comes to intercepting missiles and rockets while in mid-flight. The Jewish state has been taking random rocket, mortar, and missile attacks from anti-Israel terrorist organizations like Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip to Israel’s south and Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, to Israel’s north. Currently, the system is a short-range interceptor system, but its effectiveness is its primary selling point.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, the Iron Dome’s high rate of success can be repeated almost anywhere, given that the system is a mobile, all-weather system. In 2011, before its widespread deployment, the Iron Dome successfully intercepted four of the five rockets fired by Palestinian militants at the city of Beersheba. The next year, when IDF troops invaded the Gaza Strip, Hamas Qassam rockets were successfully intercepted 75-90 percent of the time, with some 300 rockets being fired at Israel.
This kind of success rate far outpaces the U.S. Patriot missile batteries, which is around 50 percent most of the time but can be as high as 75 to 85 percent. Given this success and the dire need for short-range anti-missile batteries in NATO-allied Europe, the 7 million deal is an easy win for both parties. Israel’s Iron Dome beat out similar weapons from Boeing and General Dynamics Land Systems’ Stryker during short-range air defense operation demonstrations at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
Israel’s Iron Dome Missile Defense System intercepts an incoming projectile during 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense.
(Photo by Emanuel Yellin)
The United States currently used its THAAD missile defense system to protect Europe from short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missile threats but does not have short-range surface-to-air defense systems in place as of now. The best part about the Iron Dome deal for the United States is the all-weather mobility the system offers as well as the ability of the Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles to fire at multiple targets simultaneously, at different ranges.
In the 1980s, the threat of the Soviet armored divisions pouring through the Fulda Gap in Germany was a serious one. The Pentagon was looking for a way to thin out the Red Army’s tanks before they reached contact with the main NATO lines — or even the cavalry screen.
If the thinning out could include the command tanks, even better.
This has been a habit of American fighting forces for a long time. It’s been a part of pop culture military strategy even as far back as the American Revolution (when Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot says, “Shoot the officers first, work your way down”) to a hypothetical World War III in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising, when one Russian explains that NATO trains its troops to shoot the command tanks first.
The MGM-157 Enhanced Fiber-Optic Guided Missile, or EFOGM, was intended to help in this sort of mission.
It looks a lot like the BGM-71 Tube-Launched Optically-Tracked, Wire-guided missile, or TOW. Well, it uses a number of TOW components, according to Designation-Systems.net.
The big differences are that the EFOGM weighs more (117 pounds to 50 for the TOW), and can go four times as far as the TOW (9.3 miles to 2.33 miles).
The range makes EFOGM a bit of an indirect-fire weapon. Eight missiles can fit onto a Humvee, and two at a time can be guided. This is a very useful capability when it comes to decapitating an enemy regiment or brigade — often by hitting the tank from above, where its armor is the weakest.
The key is that EFOGM flies higher – at around 1,000 feet. The missile uses a TV camera for guidance with the signal traveling on a fiber-optic cable. That allows EFOGM to serve as a reconnaissance asset en route to the target.
So, why did this missile not make it into the inventory? Simply put, the Army cancelled funding, and EFOGM ended up being just a cool technology demonstrator. Japan did develop a similar system dubbed the “Type 96.”
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the system is for use against enemy tanks, landing craft, and helicopters.
Makes you wonder if EFOGM could have helped out during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
A female National Guard soldier is set to graduate and don the coveted Green Beret at the end of the month. SOFREP has learned that she passed Robin Sage, a unique Unconventional Warfare exercise and the culminating event in the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), earlier this week.
This marks a significant milestone for women across the force. She will be the first woman to have successfully completed a Special Operations pipeline and join and an operational team since President Obama opened all jobs within the military to women.
The graduation at the end of the month definitely will not be typical. Because of this historic milestone, graduation will be held in a closed hangar to conceal her identity. A Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (18C) with the 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, the female soldier has big hopes of going active duty. However, her warm welcome may not be as welcome as she may like.
Just over five feet tall, her walking into a Special Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) team room will not be high fives and handshakes. Culture takes time to adapt to change. There are plenty of older generations still within the Regiment that believe there’s no place for a woman on a team. However, when talking to newer graduates, they accept it, if she can pass the same standards. So did the new graduate pass with the same standards? All reports indicate yes. She did, however, have her fair of challenges, recycling at least one phase.
For personal security reasons, SOFREP is withholding her identity.
While this is an incredible feat, she won’t be the first. Captain Kathleen Wilder became the first woman to be eligible for the Army’s Special Forces in the 1980s (the selection was somewhat different back then). Captain Wilder attended the Officers Special Forces Course at Fort Bragg but was told just before graduation that she had failed a field exercise and could not be a candidate for the military’s premier Unconventional Warfare unit. She filed a complaint of gender discrimination. Brigadier General F. Cecil Adams, who investigated it, determined that she had been wrongly denied graduation. No reports were found on whether or not she ever graduated.
Additionally, in the 1970s, Specialist Katie McBrayer, an intelligence analyst, had served with Blue Light, a Special Forces counterterrorism element before the creation of Delta Force, in an operational role. She hadn’t graduated the Q Course, however.
Delta Force and other units Tier 1 units have been recruiting women for a variety of roles for decades. So what took the SF Regiment so long? Well for one, combat fields were previously closed to females. However at Group, since 2016, women have been working at the Battalion level. So to walk around Battalion these days and see women is now a very normal thing. And these roles could be right beside the operators while deployed as mechanics, SOT-As, intel, and now as actual operators themselves. So watch out Fort Bragg, you soon may see this woman wearing a long tab.
The U.S. Army of the future needs the gear appropriate for tomorrow’s conflicts — and that means armor. Not only will that that future Army be responsible for everything it does at current, it also needs to be prepared for the unknown — situations we can’t foresee today. Who knows which country or actors will be the major threat of the coming days anyway?
The Army’s solution is the Soldier Protection System, a modular, scaleable armor that is both lightweight and adaptable to future technology and threats.
Like former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once infamously said, you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might wish you had. Now, the Army is prepping to go to war with the Army it wants to have. Each piece of the new armor system is designed so the wearing soldier can modify and scale it up (or down) depending on the nature of their mission on any given day.
At its most minimal, the system is a 2.8 pound vest that is capable of being worn under civilian clothing. Even at such a small weight, the new armor can still stop rounds from a sidearm. At its most protective, the armor is a mix of plates and soft kevlar that can stop blasts from explosions and shell fragments from munitions like Russian artillery shells — all without compromising the soldier’s range of motion.
Pfc. Chris Lunsford, 4-14 Cavalry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, communicates with local children during a presence patrol in Sinjar, Iraq, on May 30, 2006.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)
Over the course of the last 15 years of war, body armor has evolved — but usually only getting bigger and more restrictive in the process. The total weight of armor added to a soldier’s carry topped out at 27 pounds in 2016. The Soldier Protection System, from its onset, has been aimed at curbing the weight, reducing it as much as one-quarter in some areas of protection. New systems also include hearing protection and a modular face shield, all without increasing the weight carried overall.
The old system was protective, but limiting in many ways. It had none of the included ear and eye protection the Soldier Protection System has and it was not very conducive to the terrain troops had to overcome in the mountains of Afghanistan. It also wasn’t very helpful in beating the blazing heat of Iraqi deserts. The clunky armor was protective, but often impaired mobility while maneuvering and bringing small arms to bear while in the heat of the moment. When facing lightly-outfitted insurgents, and the armor could impede a soldier’s ability when running to cover.
U.S. Army Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment conduct a halt while searching mountains in Andar province, Afghanistan, for Taliban members and weapons caches June 6, 2007.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Quarterman)
Even with the new modifications, the Army’s armor doesn’t protect much against the blast-induced brain injuries so common on the battlefields of the Global War on Terror. Even firing heavy weapons at an enemy can cause traumatic brain injuries. Some studies suggest the new, lighter-weight helmet of the Soldier Protection System can help with the issues surrounding blast damage, but cannot mitigate it completely.
The recent improvements in armor design aren’t the end of the road for Army researchers. They continue to design and redesign the armor to meet the needs of today’s (and tomorrow’s) Army operations, to protect vulnerable areas not covered by even the Soldier Protection System while continuing to drop the total weight carried by U.S. troops in combat.
United States special operators needed a custom, remotely-controlled vehicle, one that had mapping abilities, infrared sensors, and the ability to send a video live feed back to a waiting vehicle. The defense industry told the operators it would take at least 10 months and cost $1.7 million.
That wasn’t going to cut it. So a group of operators decided to do it themselves. You can probably imagine what a group of people who get the U.S. military’s dirtiest jobs can do when pressed.
So can a lot of people, most of whom are dead now.
It took the U.S. military’s best-trained troops just four days and ,000 to do what the military-industrial complex said would take nearly a year. The industry’s proposal was “unresponsive,” according to Gen. Richard Clarke, the new head of Special Operations Command said on May 19, 2019. Rather than give up the mission because of big defense’s proposed waste of time and money, the operators put their thinking caps on.
They “took stock of their own in-house skills and commercially available equipment and they filled their own system that fulfilled the requirement,” Clarke said. The General went on to describe how this wasn’t the military’s first DIY defense project – and it likely won’t be the last.
Because improvising in tough situations is kinda what they’re known for.
“The nature of industry and SOF collaboration is changing as our personnel learn and adapt to new technological possibilities,” he said. “They are establishing their own garage labs, frequently well forward in the operating environment to develop solutions to technical and tactical problems they’re facing.”
It’s good to know they’re on our side.
Congressional decision-makers are working with the Navy to explore massively speeding up construction of its emerging fleet of new amphibious assault ships as part of an urgent push to expand the overall fleet faster and address an enormous deficit of available amphibs.
A July 3, 2018 Congressional Research Service report, titled ” Navy LPD-17 Flight II (LX[R]) Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” says the currently proposed Navy plan to buy the second LPD-17 Flight II Amphib in 2020 may need to be accelerated to fall within the services’ 2019 budget.
The Navy currently has slightly more than 30 amphibious assault ships the fleet, and plans to reach 38 in coming years; However, the current plan still falls short of meeting the global requirements of combatant commanders, Navy leaders say.
While Navy officials are clear to tell Warrior Maven that the service does not comment on pending legislation related to Congressionally-authorized funding, service leaders have been quite vocal about the Navy and Marine Corps need for more amphibs for many years now.
“Navy and Marine Corps officials have testified that fully meeting U.S. regional combatant commander requests for day-to-day forward deployments of amphibious ships would require a force of 50 or more amphibious ships,” the Congressional report states.
The first LPD-17 Flight II ship, formerly called the LXR, is being acquired this year. Speeding up procurement of the second ship of this new class of amphibs helps address the Navy’s shortage of amphibious assault ships and further expedites the Navy’s planned fleet expansion to 355-ships.
LX(R) concept based on the LPD-17 design
The Navy plans new LPD-17 Flight II amphibs to replace its current fleet of Dock Landing Ships, or LSD 41s, which have functioned for years as a support ship in an Amphibious Ready Group. This strategic move to replace Dock Landing Ships with an LPD 17-like hull seems to speak to a Navy effort to expand amphibious capability to adjust to a new, fast-changing threat environment.
The demand for amphibs is in part so great, because the versatile ships are needed for combat and a wide range of humanitarian and non-combat missions.
“Although amphibious ships are designed to support Marine landings against opposing military forces, they are also used for operations in permissive or benign situations where there are no opposing forces. Due to their large storage spaces and their ability to use helicopters and landing craft to transfer people, equipment, and supplies from ship to shore without need for port facilities,” the CRS report writes.
New Navy LPD-17 Flight II — future amphib strategy
The Navy hopes to add much greater numbers of amphibious assault ships to the fleet while simultaneously adjusting to a modern threat landscape which will require more dis-aggregated operations and require single Amphibious Ready Groups to perform a much wider range of missions. Modern near peer adversaries increasingly posses long range sensors and precision-guided munitions, a phenomenon which will require much more operational diversity from ARGs.
The Navy used to be able to deploy up to five ARGs at one time, however the fleet is no longer the size it used to be in the 1980s and the service is working on a strategy to get by with fewer ARGs and as fewer amphibs overall. As a result, the Navy needs more ships that have the technological ability to operate independently of an ARG if need be.
LCAC-55, a Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Sarah E. Ard)
The modern threat environment contains a wider range of contingencies to include counterterrorism operations, counter-piracy, humanitarian missions, disaster response, and full-scale amphibious combat operations against near-peer adversaries. This requires that the three ships in an ARG have an ability to disperse when necessary and operate independently. The Navy and Marine Corps increasingly explains that modern missions require more split or dis-aggregated operations.
A lead Amphibious Assault Ship, a Dock Landing Ship, or LSD, and the San Antonio-class LPD 17 amphibious transport dock are both integral to an Amphibious Ready Group, which typically draws upon a handful of platforms to ensure expeditionary warfighting technology. The ARG is tasked with transporting at least 2,200 Marines and their equipment, including what’s called a Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU.
The 684-foot long LPD 17s can hit speeds of 22 knots and carry four CH-46 Sea Knights or two MV-22 Osprey aircraft. The LSD, or Dock Landing Ship, also travels around 20 knots however it is only 609-feet long and not equipped to house aircraft.
Both the LPD 17 and the LSDs have well-decks for amphibious operations along with the ability to launch Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs. However, the LPD17 weighs close to 25,000 tons and the LSD is only 16,000 tons.
The 1980’s-era LSD dock landing ships consist of eight Whidbey Island-class 609-foot long ships. The 15,000-ton ships, configured largely to house and transport four LCACs, are nearing the end of their service life, Navy developers say.
While the mission of the existing Dock Landing Ship (LSD) is primarily, among other things, to support an ability to launch Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs, for amphibious operations, the new LPD-17 Flight II ship will have an expanded mission to include more independent missions. LCACs are ship to shore connector vehicles able to transport Marines and equipment from ship-to-shore beyond the horizon. LCACs can even carry M1 Abrams tanks over the ocean.
An Amphibious Transport Dock, or LPD, is designed to operate with greater autonomy from an ARG and potentially conduct independent operations as needed. An LSD is able to operate four LCACs and the more autonomous LPD 17 can launch two LCACs.
USS Saipan LHA-2 amphibious assault ship
(U.S. Navy photo)
Developers explain that the LPD-17 ship will have a much wider mission set than the fleet of LSD ships it is replacing.
As a result of this wider mission requirement for the LX(R), the ship is being engineered with greater aviation and command and control technologies that the LSD 41 ships it is replacing.
Additional command and control capabilities, such as communications technologies, will allow the ship to reach back to the joint force headquarters they are working for, stay in with the parent ship and control the landing force, Navy and Marine Corps developers added.
Having more amphibs engineered and constructed for independent operations is seen as a strategic advantage in light of the Pacific rebalance and the geographical expanse of the region. The widely dispersed territories in the region may require a greater degree of independent amphibious operations where single amphibs operate separately from a larger ARG.
Corps officials explain that the greater use of amphibious assault ships is likely as the Marine Corps continues to shift toward more sea-based operations from its land-based focus during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the same time, Navy and Marine Corps leaders are quick to acknowledge that there is a massive shortfall of Amphibious Assault Ships across the two services. In recent years, senior service leaders have said that if each requirement or request for amphibs from Combatant Commanders worldwide were met, the Navy would need 50 amphibs.
The Navy currently operates only roughly 30 amphibs and plans to reach 38 by the late 2020s.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, military surplus gear is like a box of chocolates — you never know what’s inside until you open it up and look.
For one lucky buyer, Nick Mead, who owns a tank-driving experience business in the United Kingdom, a $38,000 purchase of a Chinese-built Type 69 main battle tank off of eBay was a bargain, since he scored $2,592,010 of gold that had been hidden in the vehicle’s diesel tank! That represents a net profit of over $2.55 million.
According to militaryfactory.com, a battle-ready Type 69 main battle tank is armed with a 100mm gun, a 7.62mm machine gun, and can be equipped with a 12.7mm machine gun. The tank has a crew of four. Over 4,700 of these tanks were produced by China.
But this tank, while produced by China, was exported to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Saddam bought as many as 2,500 Type 59 and Type 69 tanks. While many were destroyed during Operation Desert Storm, this one survived the BRRRRRT!
The tank is believed to have also taken part in the original invasion of Kuwait. During the occupation of that country, Iraqi forces looted just about everything that wasn’t blasted apart. That included gold and other valuables.
Mead discovered the gold when checking out the tank after he’d been told by the tank’s previous owner that he’s discovered some machine-gun ammo on board. Mead then discovered the gold hidden in the fuel tank.
Currently the five bars of gold, each weighing about 12 pounds, are in police custody as they try to trace the original owners.