Starting in December, the Marine Corps began issuing thousands of rifle suppressors to its infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations units.
In total, by 2023, the Marine Corps will issue approximately 30,000 suppressors made by the Knight’s Armament Company for its M4 and M4A1 rifles and M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles, all of which are chambered with the 5.56 NATO cartridge.
Suppressors minimize—but don’t completely eradicate—noise and also help reduce the muzzle flash and recoil.
Recon Marines and Marine Raiders have already been using suppressors for years. But the widespread introduction of suppressors to line infantry companies is novel.
Everything began in 2016 when a Marine infantry battalion used suppressors during a warfighting exercise. The feedback from that was very positive, and the Marine Corps began searching for the best way to implement suppressors on a largescale level.
According to Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Tomlinson, the Marine Corps System Command’s infantry weapons officer, the addition of suppressors will foster better communications between troops in the squad and platoon level as the overall noise will be much less.
“As I travel and brief units, this capability has generated the most interest—from lance corporals to colonels,” CWO4 Tomlinson added. “There has been an overwhelming excitement to receiving the suppressors, which we anticipate will serve as an effective capability for the warfighter.”
Here is (now retired) Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian P. Wade, the division gunner of the 2nd Marine Division, discussing suppressors and expelling some common misconceptions.
Marine Corps Systems Command is the Corps’ acquisition command. Comprised of Marines, Sailors, and civilians, the MCSC is head of contracting authority and exercising technical authority for all ground weapon and information technology programs.
But although the widespread introduction of suppressors to frontline units is mainly about combat effectiveness and better communication on the battlefield, there is another aspect to the change. Close proximity to gunshots and explosions takes a toll on the body even with ear protection. Hearing loss or tinnitus (a constant ringing in the ears) are fairly common to veterans. The introduction of suppressors aims to improve the long-term quality of life of Marines.
“In the big picture, the VA pays out a lot in hearing loss claims,” said Major Mike Brisker, a weapons product manager in the MCSC’s Program Manager for Infantry Weapons, in a press release. “We’d like Marines to be able to continue to hear for many years even after they leave the service. These suppressors have that benefit as well.”
The Lockheed F-22 Raptor has been a very dominant plane for the United States. Combining high performance, effective stealth, and lethal weapons, the 183 Raptors currently in the U.S. fleet have been international game-changers. But on the road to dominating the skies, the Raptor first had to beat out a spider.
The YF-23 “Black Widow II” was McDonnell-Douglas and Northrop’s entry into the Advanced Tactical Fighter competition of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The plane was named in honor of the P-61 Black Widow, a night fighter that served in World War II, and competed with the Raptor for a place in the U.S. Air Force.
The two YF-23 prototypes were handed over to NASA after the F-22 was chosen as America’s fifth-generation fighter.
Only two YF-23s were ever produced — and each had a different set of engines. The ATF program wasn’t just a competition to decide which fighter the Air Force would buy, it also was to decide which engine, the Pratt and Whitney YF119 or the General Electric YF120, would be used.
The YF-23 had a top speed of 1,451 miles per hour, a maximum range of 2,796 miles, a ceiling of just under 65,000 feet, and could carry air-to-air missiles, like the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile and the AIM-9 Sidewinder. It also has a M61 20mm cannon. The F-22, by comparison, has a top speed of 1,599 miles per hour, a maximum range of 2,000 miles, and a ceiling of 50,000 feet.
A YF-23 fills up on gas from a tanker. The YF-23 had a maximum range of almost 2,800 miles.
On paper, the two fighters are fairly comparable. One’s faster, but the other can go higher and further. So, what gave the Raptor the edge? Agility. To put it succinctly, the Raptor a better dogfighter than the Black Widow II. In an Air Force where many senior leaders were around during the Vietnam War, that made all the difference.
The two YF-23s have ended up in museums. Today, they serve as a reminder of what might have been.
Learn more about this lethal spider in the video below!
The moment the people of Iraq and Syria have waited so long to see has finally arrived: the Kurdish SDF are assaulting the last ISIS stronghold in the Middle East. For years, ISIS and its so-called caliphate conquered and subjugated people across the two countries – including the Kurds, against whom they committed numerous atrocities.
It’s all in the past now, as the U.S.-backed Kurdish SDF just brought the war on ISIS to their last doorstep.
In the small Syrian town of Baghuz, near its eastern border with Iraq, ISIS fighters are using smoke and suicide bombers to try to slow the progress of the Kurds as they roll through ISIS’ last stronghold. The SDF waited weeks before assaulting the area in an attempt to allow innocent civilians to flee the combat zone. Now, the battle has begun, and it’s not looking good for the Islamic State, despite its potentially thousands-strong numbers.
No one in the region will be particularly sad to see the threat of the Islamic Caliphate dissipate. In 2014, the Islamic State saw a surprisingly easy territory grab across Iraq and Syria, capturing weapons, vehicles, cash, and oil in a blitz of unprecedented success.
Kurdish SDF forces have arrested scores of ISIS fighters trying to flee the area.
Inside the captured territory, life under ISIS rule was harsh and repressive, with dire consequences for noncompliance. Under the strictest forms of Islamic law, civilians would be put to death for offenses ranging from smoking cigarettes to dancing. The terror group destroyed numerous historical and religious sites considered blasphemous by their brand of Islam and threatened persecution and genocide against religious and ethnic minorities they considered apostates.
Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq began to strike back just as fast. U.S.-backed Kurdish and Iraqi forces had retaken all ISIS-held territory in Iraq by the end of 2017. Though Syria remains a country fractured by civil war, at least one faction is finally on its last leg as the SDF empties the last pocket of ISIS.
At the end of the operation, American forces are likely to go home, as President Donald Trump has restated time and again, most recently in the 2019 State of the Union Address. They are slated to leave Syria by the end of April. For the U.S.-backed Kurdish militias, the future is far from certain.
Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, considered armed Kurdish groups in Syria to be terrorist groups, no better than ISIS itself. Turkey maintains a large presence in Syria after intervening in the country in 2015. To date, Turkey has struck SDF positions numerous times, despite U.S. warnings – and the SDF has promised retaliation for any Turkish attacks in Syria.
In 2011, Libyans took arms against the 40-plus year rule of Muammar Gaddafi. The dictator tried to brutally crush a demonstration against his regime in Benghazi. The response from the Libyan people was a nearly nine-month-long civil war which ended with the death of the dictator near his hometown of Sirte. But it was a victory that almost never was. The Libyan Rebels needed to level the playing field when it came to air superiority – they needed to be able to call in airstrikes.
That’s where Twitter came in.
Some people swear by it.
By mid-March 2011, Gaddafi’s loyalist forces were pushing the rebels back fast. All their hard-won gains liberated more than half of Libya from the dictator who promised to make the streets of Benghazi run red with rebel blood. Gaddafi’s air power was proving to be a decisive advantage in the civil war. Luckily for the rebels, there was a NATO task force assembling offshore.
American, French, British, and Canadian ships had all joined each other off the Libyan coast and began to hit Gaddafi’s positions with the full might of their respective sea-based air forces. They also began to enforce a no-fly zone. This was enough to turn the tide of the rebels, who were battle-hardened veterans, fighting for their lives. It was a strategic win for them, no doubt, but the tactical use of NATO air power proved problematic.
“I can just call a jet fighter and one will come kill these tanks? This must be what being a U.S. soldier is like.”
Many wondered how NATO fighters could know where to drop tactical missiles and bombs when their own JTACs are not on the ground with rebel forces, and NATO has no direct communications with the fighters it’s supporting. The answer is that the Twitter social media network became part of NATO’s overall “intelligence picture.” NATO allies began analyzing data gleaned from Twitter posts to understand Gaddafi’s movements but also to assist rebel fighters in pushing down pro-Gaddafi attacks.
Rebel fighters using their cell phones would gather coordinates from Google Earth and then tweet those coordinates to NATO, who would then come in and light up the loyalist forces. The top NATO brass says it’s a normal step any military would take.
That’s how Gaddafi would meet his end, and where his death would be posted for the world to see.
“Yes, right up his butt. It’s on YouTube.”
“Any military campaign relies on something that we call ‘fused information’,” said Wing Commander Mike Bracken, a NATO spokesman. “We will take information from every source we can… The commander will assess what he can use, what he can trust, and the experience of the operators, the intelligence officers, and the trained military personnel and civilian support staff will give him those options. And he will decide if that’s good information.”
Since NATO had no boots on the ground but deems it vital to support the Libyan rebels, extrapolating the information needed by commanders seems like a totally legitimate means of intelligence gathering – and an effective one to boot. NATO airplanes decimated Libyan air defenses and made the critical difference in the war for the Libyan people to liberate themselves from a terrible dictator.
In the 1960s, Japan was importing a number of high-speed fighters to replace Korean War-vintage F-86s. After all, Godzilla needs to practice using the halitosis from hell. Or maybe he wanted a more challenging target.
Actually, in all seriousness, the Korean War-era planes were old. Japan was replacing them with F-104 Starfighters and F-4 Phantoms. But they needed a trainer. Ultimately, they decided to build one. That became the Mitsubishi T-2. The plane proved to be an excellent trainer, but the Japanese discovered it could be armed. Once Japan got 28 T-2A unarmed trainers and 62 T-2Bs that were equipped to carry some weapons, notably AIM-9 Sidewinders and a M61 20mm Gatling gun, the line was available, and Mitsubishi went to work.
The F-1 took the T-2’s limited weapons capability to a new level. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the F-1 became Japan’s first indigenous supersonic fighter. Mitsubishi was a logical choice – not only had they license-built F-4s and F-104s, but its best-known fighter was the A6M Zero. The F-1’s primary weapon is the ASM-1 anti-ship missile.
This missile, also known as the Type 80, carried a warhead that was roughly 330 pounds of high explosive. The initial version with a rocket engine had a range of roughly 31 miles. Swapping out the rocket for a turbojet gave the missile a range of almost 112 miles.
The F-1 had a top speed of 1,056 miles per hour, could carry two ASM-1s, two drop tanks, and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, plus it carried a 20mm M61 Gatling gun. Japan built 77 of these planes, which served from 1978 to 2006. The replacement was the Mitsubishi F-2, Japan’s F-16 on steroids, which also has taken over the supersonic trainer role.
The Russian-built MiG-29K “Fulcrum” multi-role fighters purchased for use off the Indian navy’s carrier, INS Vikramaditya, are breaking. This marks the latest hiccup for Russian naval aviation, going back to the Kuznetsov Follies of last year’s deployment, as Russia plans to replace its force of Su-33 Flankers with MiG-29Ks.
According to a report by the London Daily Mail, serviceability of the Fulcrums has dropped to below 16 percent in some cases. The Indian Navy had planned for the Fulcrums to last 25 years, and to also operate from the under-construction INS Vikrant, which is expected to enter service in 2023.
The MiG-29K made its combat debut over Syria in 2016, primarily flying from land bases after being ferried over by the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. One MiG-29K made a splash landing during that deployment, which came to be called the Kuznetsov Follies. Land-based versions of the Fulcrum have turned out to be second-best in a number of conflicts, including Operation Desert Storm, Operation Allied Force, and the Eritrea-Ethiopia War.
The MiG-29K is a single-seat multi-role fighter designed by the Mikoyan design bureau. According to GlobalSecurity.org, it carries a variety of air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons, including the AA-11 Archer, the Kh-35 anti-ship missile, and bombs. It has a top speed of 2,200 kilometers per hour, and a range of up to 3,000 kilometers. India has purchased a total of 45 MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB fighters.
INS Vikramaditya started out as a modified Kiev-class carrier known as the Baku. The vessel was re-named the Admiral Gorshkov in 1991 before being placed up for sale in 1996. When in Russian service, the vessel was armed with six twin launchers for the SS-N-12 Sandbox anti-ship missile, 24 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 Gauntlet surface-to-air missile, two 100mm guns, eight AK-630 Gatling Guns, and ten 533mm torpedo tubes.
For Indian service, many of those weapons were removed, and a ski-jump ramp was added. The vessel can fire Israeli-designed Barak surface-to-air missiles, and still has four AK-630s.
There are plenty of remarkably cool tanks out there, but this one is something else. The Polish-made PL-01 concept tank made by Obrum looks like a cousin of the F-117 Nighthawk. Not only does it look like the stealth fighter on tank tread, it also adopts its signature technology that can evade radar.
Both are black, covered in radio absorbent material, and sport the same two-dimensional shape. But here is where the tank is different in terms of stealth (via Army Recognition):
The PL-01 is also fitted with external infrared sensors to create an infrared suitable camouflage on the field. The tank can also create effects to its temperature controlled wafers to look like a car or another common object, an effective countermeasure against radar, infrared and visual signature detection equipment.
Beside it’s stealth capabilities, the PL-01 can be armed with a 105mm or 120mm cannon that can fire six rounds per minute (video demonstration at 0:41). It also has a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and a remote control station that can be outfitted with another 7.62mm machine gun or 40mm grenade launcher.
At 21 feet long by 10 feet wide, it’s considered lightweight. But what it lacks in size it makes up in agility and range. It can go as fast as 45 miles per-hour and travel 310 miles on a single tank with a three or four-man crew.
The tank looks like something you would see in a sci-fi movie. However, the PL-01 is expected to start production in 2018 and start exporting by 2022. Check it out:
In the 1980s, the U.S. Army needed to be able to rapidly deploy a sizable force to face off against heavy forces. But that requirement created two problems: Most light forces were little more than speed bumps against tanks, and it took a long time to deliver a heavy force – and their supplies – to a likely theater outside of Europe or South Korea. So the Army began to explore ways to create a light force that could hold its own.
Enter the 9th Motorized, a force that proved it’s utility in several big exercises during the mid-1980s, most notably in Border Star 85 when the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment lost badly to the 3rd Brigade of the 9th Motorized. The Army’s strategy seemed to be playing out in a good way.
But a change at the top of the Army detoured the promise of the 9th. The new Army Chief of Staff favored the light infantry division concept over the motorized division. Ultimately, four active light infantry divisions (the 6th, 7th, 10th Mountain, and 25th) were formed, with one more, the 29th, in the National Guard. Later, the 9th, as well as the 6th and 7th Infantry Divisions, were deactivated after the fall of the Berlin Wall as the budget ax fell.
The 9th Infantry Division first made use of Fast Attack Vehicles; basically, souped-up dune buggies that special operations units had used during Desert Storm. The Army later went with the M1114 High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, or HMMWV.
The signature tool used in the front-line battalions was the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. With a range of almost 2500 yards, the Mk 19 could send one grenade a second onto a target. The grenade blasted lethal fragments 50 feet from the point of impact. The Mk 19 was also able to take out light armored vehicles. While it might not have been enough to take out a BMP or T-72, the Mk 19 could wreak havoc on supply convoys or rear-area headquarters units. Depending on the table of organization and equipment, a front-line battalion with the 9th Motorized could have had almost 100 of these powerful weapons.
The 9th Motorized also made heavy use of the BGM-71 TOW missile to deal with the threat posed by tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. The TOW had a reputation as a reliable tank-killer, with a range of almost two and half miles and a 13-pound warhead. The TOW provided a heavy punch when the Army decided not to use a ground-launched version of the AGM-114 Hellfire. Infantry assigned to the 9th Motorized also made use of the FGM-77 Dragon anti-tank missile. With a range of just under a mile, the Dragon added to the firepower of the division, despite its drawbacks.
Would something like the 9th Motorized Division’s organization work today? With the FGM-148 Javelin, and the development of lightweight UAVs, it may be worth bringing back the concept – particularly in the fight against ISIS.
The balloons can float as high as 65,000 feet, and are able to track vehicles day or night, regardless of the weather.
The goal of the balloons, according to the FCC filing, is: “To provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats.”
The company named in the filing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, is working on behalf of the United States Department of Defense to test the balloons. The United States Southern Command (Southcom) commissioned the tests; the balloons are scheduled to begin flying in South Dakota and conclude in central Illinois.
An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted drone aircraft flies a combat mission.
(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)
Though the technology might sound strange, it’s not the first pairing of balloons with tech hardware to enable surveillance: The Israeli government has repeatedly used surveillance balloons with cameras attached in Israel.
The surveillance balloons in this case, however, are equipped with so-called “synthetic-aperture radar” devices from Artemis Networks — a tech company that makes wireless radar devices. Using an SAR device, users can create high-resolution images using radio pulses, which enables a much higher level of detail in surveillance use.
Neither the Department of Defense nor the Sierra Nevada Corporation responded to requests for comment as of publishing.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Air Force confirmed in mid-2019 that the AC-130U gunship (affectionately known as “spooky”) had finished its final combat deployment. The last Spooky gunship returned from a mission to Hulbert Field, Florida, on July 8. Spooky’s final ride ushers in the new era of the AC-130J Ghostrider. So as Spooky’s illustrious career pridefully rises to the rafters, we look back on some of the coolest facts about the AC-130U gunship.
Each one costs about 0 million
According to the USAF website, one Spooky AC-130U runs about 0 million. Compare this to the infamous “brrrrrt brrrrrt” A-10 Warthog’s total unit cost of million. This makes the AC-130U one of the single most expensive units in the Air Force. The rest of these facts make Spooky’s price tag make a bit more sense.
The cockpit of the AC-130U, 2016.
(Senior Airman Taylor Queen)
It takes a crew of 13 to operate
That’s right, it takes a baker’s dozen airmen to operate Spooky. The 13 crew members consist of: a pilot, a co-pilot, a navigator, a fire control officer, an electronic warfare officer, a flight engineer, a loadmaster, an all-light-level TV operator, an infrared detection set operator, and finally—four aerial gunners.
It can attack two targets simultaneously
The “fire control system” in the AC-130U is capable of targeting two separate targets, up to one kilometer apart, and then engaging each target individually with two different guns. This versatile offensive advantage is referred to, simply as “dual-target attack capability.” And you thought your job required multi-tasking.
The AC-47 “Puff the Magic Dragon”, 1965.
It was originally nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon”
The original (and unofficial) nickname was “Puff the Magic Dragon.” This nickname came about for the predecessor of the AC-130U. The predecessor was the Douglas AC-47 Spooky. It was developed and utilized during the Vietnam War. “Puff” ran so that “Spooky” could walk.
It contains over 609,000 lines of software
The versatile functionality of the AC-130U Spooky gunship also calls for extremely advanced onboard computer processing. One single Spooky gunship has over 609,000 lines of software. For reference, a complicated iPhone full of apps would contain about 50,000 lines of software. The software on the AC-130U covers advanced sensor technology, fire control systems, infrared technology, global positioning, navigation, and radar.
Air Force AC-130U Gunship Close Air Support Live-Fire Training
In a testament to both the maintainers quality of work, and the exorbitant price tag—only 47 AC-130s (of any variant) have ever been built… since the Vietnam War. Another reason why so few have been built is because their role in nighttime counter insurgency is incredibly specific. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
And only 7 AC-130s have been lost
Six of these were lost during the Vietnam conflict, when the AC-130s humble beginnings were just recently developed. In modern conflicts, the most significant lost AC-130 was the Spirit 03 that was tragically lost in the Iraqi conflict on Jan. 30, 1991, from a lone shoulder-fired surface to air missile. The attack came after the ship had battled through the cloak of night, but doubled back after refueling to defend ground forces after dawn had broke. There were no survivors, but the bravery and service of the Spirit 03 lives on.
It’s likely that whoever US troops fight in the next war, these enemies will be armed with drones. That’s why Army researchers have invented a smart and cost-effective way to bring them down.
The US Army has invented a new grenade in the 40 mm configuration that is packed with a net and specifically designed to take out enemy drones.
The weapon, which was developed by Army engineers at the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) in New Jersey, can be launched from the standard grenade launchers regularly used by the US military and law enforcement.
The Army’s simple yet effective invention has purportedly outperformed existing net-centric counter-drone techniques, such as drone-operated drag nets, where a pilot must outmaneuver an enemy aerial drone. That tactic would likely be ineffective against a swarm of drones, which a sophisticated adversary like Russia would be capable of wielding.
Furthermore, the new net-packed grenade is a lot cheaper than surface-to-air weapons, such as surface to air missiles, to take out an adversary’s drones. A US ally once used a million Patriot missile to shoot down a quadcopter drone that probably cost no more than 0, US Army Gen. David Perkins last year, calling attention to the need for affordable counter-drone capabilities.
Ground units equipped with the M320 grenade launchers could carry dozens of these grenades to eliminate enemy drones from hundreds of yards away, TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer ,explained, adding that units equipped with the Mk-19 launchers could down enemy drones from even farther away.
The Army wants to eventually expand this concept to disable boats and trucks and much more.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Australian airline Qantas is taking the next steps towards its goal of having nonstop 19-hour flights between Sydney and London and New York.
The airline has openly discussed the endevour — internally known as “Project Sunrise” — for several years, following the successful launch of a slightly shorter, but still lengthy, nonstop flight between Perth and London in March 2018.
That route is measured as about 9,000 miles and takes around 17 hours, while the Sydney-New York route would be around 10,000 miles, and the Sydney-London flight is about 500 miles longer.
Qantas is scheduled to receive three new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft this fall — one each in October, November, and December 2019. The planes are being built at Boeing’s Seattle plant, and would normally be flown by Qantas pilots straight to Australia from there.
(Photo by Suhyeon Choi)
Instead, the airline plans to fly the planes to New York and London first, and then fly nonstop to Sydney from there.
The planes won’t have paying customers — instead, they’ll each have about 40 people on board — including crew — most of whom will be Qantas employees. the airline says it plans to study how those on board react to the lengthy 19-hour flights.
According to the airline, “[s]cientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Centre will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement, and inflight entertainment to assess impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.”
Commercial flights with full or mostly-full passenger loads are not currently possible due to the range of the airplanes available today. Keeping the planes mostly empty will increase their range, making the test flights possible. A normal Qantas 787-9 can seat up to 236 passengers, plus crew, and carry both luggage and cargo, while still achieving a range of about 9,000 miles — the length of the Perth-London flight.
(Photo by John Kappa)
The airline is considering new ultra-long-range aircraft from Boeing and Airbus for the eventual New York and London to Sydney flights — Airbus’ rumored A350-1000ULR airplane, and Boeing 777X project, both of which are still being tested. Qantas has previously said it would make a decision around the end of 2019.
The world’s current longest flight— from Singapore to New York’s Newark Airport — is operated by a Singapore Airlines A350-900ULR configured with only business class and premium economy seats— no regular economy cabin.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Air Force experts and researchers now argue that, when it comes to the prospect of major power warfare, the service will need higher-tech, more flexible and more powerful bombs to destroy well fortified Russian and Chinese facilities.
“There is now a shift in emphasis away from minimizing to maximizing effects in a high-end fight. Requirements from our missions directorate say we continue to have to deal with the whole spectrum of threats as we shift to more of a near-peer threat focus. We are looking at larger munitions with bigger effects,” Dr. John S. Wilcox, Director of Munitions for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), said recently at the Air Force Association Annual Conference.
While the Air Force is now moving quickly to engineer new bombs across a wide range of “adjustable” blast effects to include smaller, more targeted explosions, exploring 2,000-pound bomb options engineered for larger attack impacts are a key part of the equation.
The principle concept informing the argument, according to Air Force weapons experts, is that variable yield munitions, and certain high-yield bombs in particular, are greatly needed to address a fast-changing global threat calculus.
While Wilcox did not specify a particular country presenting advanced threats, as is often the case with Air Force weapons developers, several senior former service officers cited particular Russian and Chinese concerns in a recent study from The Mitchell Institute.
“The Russians and Chinese, in particular, have observed American warfighting strategies over the last several decades and have sought to make their valued military facilities especially difficult to destroy. US commanders involved in future scenarios with these two potential adversaries may find themselves requiring exceedingly powerful munitions to eliminate these types of targets,” the study, called “The Munitions Effects Revolution,” writes.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
Developers make the point that fast-changeable effects need to present Air Force attackers with a “sniper-like” precision air attack as well as massive attacks with expanded “energetics” and more destructive power. To reinforce this point, Wilcox explained that counterterrorism, counterinsurgency or pinpointed attack requirements — and “high-yield” warzone weapons — will all be essential moving forward.
“We will continue to deal with violent extremist organizations,” Wilcox said.
Dialable Effects Munitions
The technical foundation for this need for more “variable yield” effects is lodged within the widely-discussed fact that bomb-body advances have not kept pace with targeting technology or large platform modernization.
“The bomb body, a steel shell filled with explosive material, is relatively unchanged across the past 100 years. But some elements of modern munitions have significantly evolved — particularly guidance elements. Munition effects — the destructive envelope of heat, blast, and fragmentation — remain essentially unchanged” the report, co-authored by By Maj Gen Lawrence A. Stutzriem, (Ret.) and Col Matthew M. Hurley, (Ret.) writes.
Specifically, the report explains that attack platforms such as a Reaper drone or fighter jet are all too often greatly limited by “fixed explosion” settings and weapons effects planned too far in advance to allow for rapid, in-flight adjustments.
An excerpt from the report:
Investment in munition bomb bodies, key components that govern the nature of an actual explosion, has yielded limited incremental improvements in concept, design, and manufacturing. However, the essential kinetic force—the “boom”—is relatively unchanged. Given a rise in real-world demand for more varied explosive effects, it is time for the Air Force to consider new technologies that can afford enhanced options
Time-sensitive targeting driven by a need for fast-moving ISR is also emphasized in the Mitchell Institute study, according to Wilcox.
Wilcox explained that emerging weapons need to quicken the kill chain by enabling attack pilots to make decisions faster and during attack missions to a greater extent.
“The bomb body, minus the guidance unit is relatively unchanged. A 500-pound bomb body flown in 1918 is now being dropped by the F-35 — with a fixed explosive envelope,” Stutzriem writes. “Once weapons are uploaded and aircraft are airborne, fuse flexibility is usually limited and sometimes fixed.”
For instance, the report cites a statistic potentially surprising to some, namely that Air Force F-15s during periods of time in Operation Inherent Resolve, were unable to attack as much as 70-percent of their desired targets due to a lack of bomb-effect flexibility.
Air Force weapons developers are accelerating technology designed to build substantial attack flexibility within an individual warhead by adjusting timing, blast effect, and detonation.
This, naturally, brings a wide range of options to include enabling air assets to conduct missions with a large variation of attack possibilities, while traveling with fewer bombs.
“We want to have options and flexibility so we can take out this one person with a hit to kill munition crank it up and take out a truck or a wide area,” Col. Gary Haase, Air Force Research Laboratory weapons developer, told Warrior Maven and a reporter from Breaking Defense in an interview at AFA.
A dozen 2,000-pound joint direct attack munitions.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)
Hasse explained “multi-mode energetics” as a need to engineer a single warhead to leverage advanced “smart fuse” technology to adjust the blast effect.
He described this in several respects, with one of them being having an ability to use a targeted kinetic energy “hit-to-kill” weapon to attack one person at a table without hurting others in the room.
Additionally, both Stutzriem and Hasse said building weapons with specific shapes, vectors and sizes can help vary the scope of an explosive envelope. This can mean setting the fuse to detonate the weapon beneath the ground in the event that an earth penetrating weapon is needed — or building new fuses into the warhead itself designed to tailor the blast effect. These kinds of quick changes may be needed “in-flight” to address pop-up targets, Hasse explained.
“We are looking at novel or unique designs from an additive manufacturing perspective, as to how we might build the energetics with the warhead from a combination of inert and explosive material depending upon how we detonate it,” Hasse told Warrior Maven.
The emerging technology, now being fast-tracked by the AFRL, is referred to as both Dialable Effects Munitions and Selectable Effects Munitions.
A high-impulse design allows a single round to have the same effect against a structure as four to five Mk-82s, the Mitchell Institute report says.
“We are talking about the explosive envelope itself, which is a combination of heat, blast and fragmentation,” Stutzhiem said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.