For the past few years, DARPA has been working on a system called ARGUS-IR, or Autonomous Real-Team Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Infrared, which can take video over an area that is so super high resolution — 1.8 gigapixels — it would take a fleet of 100 Predator drones to produce the same images.
A PBS documentary last year explored the program, which uses hundreds of cell phone cameras linked together into a sophisticated rig. Mounted underneath an RQ-4 Global Hawk for example, ARGUS could loiter over an area at 17,500 feet and capture images as small as six inches square on the ground, effectively being able to tell the color of the shirt you are wearing.
It’s pretty incredible — and somewhat scary — stuff.
Current infrared systems either have a narrow field of view, slow frame rates or are low resolution. DARPA’s Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Infrared (ARGUS-IR) program will break this paradigm by producing a wide-field-of-view IR imaging system with frame rates and resolution that are compatible with the tracking of dismounted personnel at night. ARGUS-IR will provide at least 130 independently steerable video streams to enable real-time tracking of individual targets throughout the field of view. The ARGUS-IR system will also provide continuous updates of the entire field of view for enhanced situational awareness.
In July, the Air Force made the first step toward making ARGUS a reality with the implementation of the Gorgon Stare Increment 2 pod on the MQ-9 Reaper.
Here’s the view from an ARGUS system from 17,500 feet. It can capture a very wide area.
When an operator wants to zoom in, the system places boxes over cars, people, and other objects and tracks them in real time.
Now check out the PBS Nova documentary on the project:
This month has been a great month to own a gun store. For many, it was black Friday every day of the week, just without the crazy deals. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, NICS background checks are up 80.4% compared to March 2019. NICS is the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and is maintained by the FBI for the purpose of background checks during gun sales. March 2020 has seen the highest volume of NICS checks for the month of March in over 21 years.
March 2020 saw 2,375,525 background checks. That’s over 76,000 a day. The raw NICS numbers are different from the NSSF numbers, but there is a valid reason why. The NSSF adjusts their number to exclude NICS checks used for concealed carry permits. This results in more accurate information for tracking gun sales.
With the end of March also being the end of the first quarter, the NSSF released the first-quarter NICS numbers that showed a 41.8 percent increase from the first quarter of March 2019. That’s a radical increase in background checks, and according to many retailers, a big chunk of these buyers are new gun owners.
This sharp increase in gun sales is evident that American’s want their guns. The more new owners we can welcome to the fold, the better chance we have at preserving our right to keep and bear arms.
Painting a Clearer Picture with NICS
It’s important to contextualize the NICS numbers and to understand they do not represent all gun sales. What makes the picture a little muddier is that multiple firearms can be purchased with a single NICS check. On top of that, 25 states allow people to skip background checks by having a permit of some type. These purchasers with a permit who purchase firearms do not contribute to the NICS numbers.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has gone silent, ending a historic mission that studied time capsules from the solar system’s earliest chapter.
Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA’s Deep Space Network on Oct. 31, 2018, and Nov. 1, 2018. After the flight team eliminated other possible causes for the missed communications, mission managers concluded that the spacecraft finally ran out of hydrazine, the fuel that enables the spacecraft to control its pointing. Dawn can no longer keep its antennas trained on Earth to communicate with mission control or turn its solar panels to the Sun to recharge.
The Dawn spacecraft launched 11 years ago to visit the two largest objects in the main asteroid belt. Currently, it’s in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, where it will remain for decades.
“Today, we celebrate the end of our Dawn mission – its incredible technical achievements, the vital science it gave us, and the entire team who enabled the spacecraft to make these discoveries,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The astounding images and data that Dawn collected from Vesta and Ceres are critical to understanding the history and evolution of our solar system.”
Dawn launched in 2007 on a journey that put about 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion kilometers) on its odometer. Propelled by ion engines, the spacecraft achieved many firsts along the way. In 2011, when Dawn arrived at Vesta, the second largest world in the main asteroid belt, the spacecraft became the first to orbit a body in the region between Mars and Jupiter. In 2015, when Dawn went into orbit around Ceres, a dwarf planet that is also the largest world in the asteroid belt, the mission became the first to visit a dwarf planet and go into orbit around two destinations beyond Earth.
“The fact that my car’s license plate frame proclaims, ‘My other vehicle is in the main asteroid belt,’ shows how much pride I take in Dawn,” said Mission Director and Chief Engineer Marc Rayman at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “The demands we put on Dawn were tremendous, but it met the challenge every time. It’s hard to say goodbye to this amazing spaceship, but it’s time.”
The data Dawn beamed back to Earth from its four science experiments enabled scientists to compare two planet-like worlds that evolved very differently. Among its accomplishments, Dawn showed how important location was to the way objects in the early solar system formed and evolved. Dawn also reinforced the idea that dwarf planets could have hosted oceans over a significant part of their history – and potentially still do.
“In many ways, Dawn’s legacy is just beginning,” said Principal Investigator Carol Raymond at JPL. “Dawn’s data sets will be deeply mined by scientists working on how planets grow and differentiate, and when and where life could have formed in our solar system. Ceres and Vesta are important to the study of distant planetary systems, too, as they provide a glimpse of the conditions that may exist around young stars.”
This photo of Ceres and one of its key landmarks, Ahuna Mons, was one of the last views Dawn transmitted before it completed its mission. This view, which faces south, was captured on Sept. 1, 2018, at an altitude of 2220 miles (3570 kilometers) as the spacecraft was ascending in its elliptical orbit.
Because Ceres has conditions of interest to scientists who study chemistry that leads to the development of life, NASA follows strict planetary protection protocols for the disposal of the Dawn spacecraft. Dawn will remain in orbit for at least 20 years, and engineers have more than 99 percent confidence the orbit will last for at least 50 years.
So, while the mission plan doesn’t provide the closure of a final, fiery plunge — the way NASA’s Cassini spacecraft ended in 2017, for example — at least this is certain: Dawn spent every last drop of hydrazine making science observations of Ceres and radioing them back so we could learn more about the solar system we call home.
The Dawn mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. JPL is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Northrop Grumman in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.
Check out the Dawn media toolkit, with a mission timeline, images, video and quick facts, at:
John Browning’s most famous creation, at least in the United States, is the ubiquitous Model 1911. It’s everywhere, and probably within reach of well more than a few people reading this article. The 1911’s active service life in military organizations is pretty much over. However, another of Browning’s continues to serve — the Model 1919 Machine Gun.
The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. Unlike most ground-mounted WWI-era machine guns, the 1919 was air cooled, had a heavier barrel, and was easier to maintain under combat conditions than its water-cooled cousins.
It didn’t require all the accouterments of a water-cooled gun, such as a bulky water jacket, water, and a condensing can. The 1919 was originally fed by a cloth belt and designed for vehicles—or a very solid (and heavy) tripod. It had a reasonable rate of fire at 500 rounds per minute on average. By WWII, it was the standard U.S. light machine gun, serving alongside Browning’s M1917 and the legendary Browning M2 HMG.
Like most of Browning’s designs, the 1919 was very reliable for the day and age in which it was produced (insert Glock joke here). It was also apparent early on that the 1919 was versatile. By the end of WWII, it was mounted on tanks, in aircraft, and found in various calibers, including .303 British. It served in virtually every Allied army, and if you dig hard enough, you can even find pictures of enemy troops using captured 1919s. It was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles.
In the air, the modified M1919 was called the ANM2. This variant was specifically modified for aerial warfare, boasting a blistering rate of fire at 1,200-plus rpm. The improvements in aircraft technology and design during the period meant rifle-caliber machine guns were only effective when their throw weight could be boosted by increased rates of fire, and by mounting anywhere from two to six of the guns. Feeding them with the most destructive type of ammunition available, generally one form or another of API-T (Armor Piercing Incendiary Tracer), helped.
While the ANM2 served valiantly, it was not as effective as its Browning M2 brethren as an anti-aircraft machine gun. In the decade before WWII, fighter aircraft were increasingly fitted with heavier machine guns, generally .50 BMG Browning variants in the U.S., or 20mm (or larger) cannons in Europe. It wasn’t the fault of the ANM2 that it was less effective against aircraft; it was the fault of the ordnance officers who decided to mount it in aircraft in the first place.
In the infantry role, the M1919 was successful within its limitations. Keep in mind the M1919 was designed in an era when the belt-fed machine gun was essentially a static weapon. The exception to this trend at the time was the MG08/15, which was an intentional departure designed specifically to make the infantry machine gun more portable and useful. By WWII, the MG08/15 concept (a highly mobile, portable general-purpose machine gun [GPMG]) evolved into the MG34 and eventually the MG42 in German service. This is where the M1919’s combat failings became apparent.
Although accurate, reliable, and possessing a good sustainable rate of fire, it was clumsy and awkward on a mobile battlefield compared to the MG34 and MG42. The tripod was large and unwieldy, and it was not always easy to emplace. U.S. troops frequently had to improvise with the 1919, more or less propping it up against or on the WWII equivalent of “a rock or something” when the tripod simply wouldn’t work under the conditions.
As a result, the M1919A6 was developed. This variant added a buttstock and a bipod to the M1919 in attempt to turn it into a light machine gun, more like the MG34 or MG42. However, it was still about a pound heavier than the standard M1919 without the tripod, weighing in at 32 pounds. It was an improvised solution akin to adding a bipod and a buttstock to a boulder. It was still awkward; although it was a bit less unwieldy and more stable, it appeared far too late in the war to have much of an impact.
Again, don’t blame the gun, blame the ordnance weenies.
Until the M60 (a less-than-fantastic GPMG, but a product of the “made here” school of ordnance development) was made widely available during the Vietnam War, the U.S. infantry were saddled with the M1919 and M1919A6 combination.
As a vehicle-mounted machine gun, the 1919 excelled. As a matter of fact, it does such a good job it’s still in service in many places across the globe. It’s been modernized, now using disintegrating link belts instead of old-fashioned cloth belts. Most 1919s still in service were converted to 7.62 NATO, as well, to ease the strain on logistics. Notably, however, one 1919 variant, the M37 Coaxial MG, was somewhat notoriously problematic, again mostly because some people just can’t resist fixing something that works.
There have been some interesting variants of the 1919 over the years. Several ANM2s were converted into a variant called the Stinger. The Stinger was basically a scavenged aircraft-mounted gun with a bipod, carry handle, and buttstock. The extremely high rate of fire was welcomed (for the six or so guns which appear to have actually made it into combat), but the Stinger only served in limited numbers. Its primary claim to fame was being the weapon “Terrible” Tony Stein used during the combat action that earned him a Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima.
If you ever get a chance to fire a ground-mounted M1919, we highly recommend you do so. As it was originally designed, it’s accurate, reliable, and very easy to shoot. As a machine gun for a fixed position, it can easily hold its own against any gun of its era. It’s easy to manipulate, strip, and clean, and it’s very robust in its most common and most current variant, the 1919A4. However, remember it’s almost a 100-year-old design; don’t expect it to perform like a modern machine gun.
Every Marine is a rifleman — we all know this to be true. One Marine and his rifle can deliver a world of hurt unto the bad guys. But it’s been a long time since Marines have relied on rifles alone to complete the mission.
In fact, Marines often employ guns that are a heck of a lot bigger than an M16 rifle, like the
M777 howitzer. The M16 fires a 5.56mm round. The M777 fires 155mm rounds — nearly 28 times larger. If a Marine delivers a world of hurt with a rifle, then they deliver an entire galaxy of pain with a howitzer.
But, just as with rifles, learning how to use a howitzer requires practice — the sort of practice best done at large-scale war games.
U.S. Marines with Battery B, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, fire the M777 towed 155 mm howitzer during the assault support tactics 1 exercise in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructors course 2-17 at Fire Base Burt, Calif.
(USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Clare Shaffer)
Believe it or not, it’s a lot more complicated than just pointing the howitzer at the enemy, loading it, and pulling the lanyard. The M777 weighs over 8,250 pounds and fires shells at targets up to 19 miles away with a normal HE round (other rounds have a longer range). This gun is operated by a crew of seven, each of whom play an essential role in sending rounds (very far) down range.
This howitzer has been used by American troops since 2005 and has seen plenty of action in Iraq and Afghanistan, where both soldiers and Marines have used this big gun to take out al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban. This British design has also been acquired by Australia, India, Saudi Arabia, and Canada. Funnily enough, British troops don’t use this big gun.
U.S. Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fire an M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria during combat against ISIS forces.
(USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery Laning)
One motivated Marine with his rifle is bad news for the enemy — now imagine what seven motivated Marines can do with a howitzer!
Check out the video below to watch Marines practice with the M777 howitzer during this year’s Saber Strike exercise in Latvia.
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:
She doesn’t look like much. Weighing in at just under 19,000 tons, this ship doesn’t have much in the way of firepower, either. She’s relatively slow with a top speed of 23 knots. So, when you look at a Blue Ridge-class ship, you may wonder to yourself, “just what the heck is this thing’s purpose?”
The short answer: She’s the brains of the fleet. To be more precise, she’s there to “provide command and control for fleet commanders” according to the United States Navy. But it’s not entirely uncommon for a lesser-armed ship to take on such an important role.
Back in World War II, the auxiliary USS Argonne (AG 31) served as a flagship in the South Pacific for Admiral William F. Halsey. The transport USS MacCawley (APA 4) was used as the flagship for Admiral Richmond “Kelly” Turner until its loss in a friendly fire incident in 1943. The United States even converted a pair of amphibious ships, USS Coronado (APF 11) and USS LaSalle (AGF 3), to act as fleet flagships during the Cold War.
USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) in the South China Sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Behnke)
The two-ship Blue Ridge-class, however, was built specifically for the task of enabling a fleet commander to handle his fleet. As a small, mobile command post, it is much less vulnerable to attacks from terrorists or enemies. There’s a lot of ocean to hide in, so you have to search really hard to find it.
If worst comes to worst, the Blue Ridge does have some emergency firepower. For self-defense, the ship is outfitted with two Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems. These 20mm guns are a last-ditch defense against incoming missiles, but this ship is intended to be well out of harm’s way. Its primary weapons are its array of communications antennae, allowing commanders to handle operations across an entire theater if need be.
The reason for these ships in one photo: It provides a secure location for command and control, allowing admirals and generals to run operations.
(DOD photo by Cherie A. Thurlby)
The Blue Ridge-class command ships will be around for at least 20 more years, if not longer — not bad for ships that were commissioned nearly 50 years ago!
Learn more about the brains of the United States Navy’s fleet in the video below.
The United States military has relied on drone aircraft for years, but to date, few other automated platforms have made their way into America’s warfighting apparatus — that is, until recently anyway. After achieving a number of successes with their new 132-foot submarine-hunting robot warship the Sea Hunter, the Navy is ready to pony up some serious cash for a full-sized drone warship, and the concept could turn the idea of Naval warfare on its head.
Earlier this month, the Navy called on the shipbuilding industry to offer up its best takes on their Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LUSV) ship concept, and they mean business. According to Navy officials, they want to have ten of these drone warships sailing within the next five years. The premise behind the concept is a simple one: by developing drone ships that can do what the Navy refers to as “3-D” work (the stuff that’s Dull, Dirty, or Dangerous) they’ll be freeing up manned vessels for more complex tasks.
The Navy expects these ships to be between 200 and 300 feet long with about 2,000 tons of water displacement, making them around half to two-thirds the size of an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, potentially landing in the light frigate classification. To that end, the Navy has already requested $400 million in the 2020 budget for construction of the first two vessels for the purposes of research and development.
The Sea Hunter, a Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV)
US Navy Photo
In order to manage a variety of tasks, the Navy wants its robot warship to be modular, making it easier to add or remove mission-specific equipment for different sets of circumstances.
“The LUSV will be a high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the Navy’s manned surface force,” The Navy wrote in their solicitation.
“With a large payload capacity, the LUSV will be designed to conduct a variety of warfare operations independently or in conjunction with manned surface combatants.”
The Navy also requires that the vessel be capable of operating with a crew on board for certain missions. That capability, in conjunction with a modular design, would allow the Navy to use LUSV’s in more complex missions that require direct human supervision simply by installing the necessary components and providing the vessel with a crew.
The solicitation included no requests for weapons systems, but that doesn’t mean the LUSV would be worthless in a fight. The modular design would allow the Navy to equip the vessel with different weapons systems for different operations, or leave them off entirely during missions that don’t require any offensive or defensive capabilities.
Swapping drone ships in for monotonous work could free up the Navy’s fleet of manned vessels for more important tasks.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate)
By equipping these ships with modular vertical launch systems, for instance, a fleet of LUSVs could enhance the Navy’s existing fleet of destroyers and cruisers in a number of combat operations, and eventually, they could even be equipped with the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, allowing them to bolster or even replace destroyers currently tasked with steaming around in defensive patterns amid concerns about North Korean or Chinese ballistic missile attack.
Like the Sea Hunter, the LUSV represents little more than the Navy dipping its toe in the proverbial drone waters, but if successful, it could revolutionize how the Navy approaches warfare. Manning a ship remains one of the largest expenses associated with maintaining a combatant fleet. Capable drone ships could allow the Navy to bolster its numbers with minimal cost, tasking automated vessels with the monotonous or dangerous work and leaving the manned ships to the more complex tasks.
The tank was introduced in World War I when Britain unveiled the then-secret weapon against German forces and were able to run these rolling fortresses right over German barbed wire and trenches, firing cannons and machine guns into German fortifications. Now, armored columns are a commander’s fist, punching holes in enemy lines and then rushing through them to annihilate enemy formations.
1. British Centurion
Originally designed to give British tankers and edge against German Panthers and Tigers, the Centurion arrived months after the end of World War II and ended up being the greatest Cold War tank instead. It had plate armor while cast armor was still the norm, and its 105mm gun was beefy for the time.
The Panzer Mark II was, to say the least, not a “Tanker’s tank.” It was a stopgap design to hold the line in the 1930s until the Panzer Mk. III and IV were ready. It was a light tank with limited range, an only 20mm gun, and thin armor.
But it made this list because it did perform well on the battlefield and changed future tank design for one reason: It had a dedicated gunner and a dedicated tank commander. Many tank designs, especially smaller ones with smaller crews, combined these two roles, forcing the commander to ignore the larger battlefield for crucial moments while firing. The Mark II broke from that tradition and essentially all modern tank designs have a commander and dedicated gunner.
By 1945, this resulted in a Panzer IV with a longer 75mm gun, widened tracks, and thicker armor than most medium tanks. It even had armored skirts to protect against infantry anti-armored weapons. This allowed it to tackle the Allies most numerous tanks—such as the Sherman and the T-34—with relative ease. But larger tanks were able to shred it, hence Germany’s growing reliance on the late-arriving Panther as those made it to the front.
5. Char B1
France’s tanks saw limited fighting in World War II since, you know, France fell so early in the war. But a couple of French tanks made a real impact, including the Char B1 with its sloped armor, two large guns, and decent speed. Its smaller, 47mm gun could kill many tanks while its 75mm could slaughter nearly anything available in 1939.
But, you know, France still fell, so that part sucked.
6. British Mk. I
Look, to be honest, we’re including this little fellow because, for a while, it was the only deployed tank in the world. The British Mk. I was the first tank, dreamed into existence by British Royal Navy engineers under the “Landship” concept that would see America’s new tractors developed into weapons of war.
Ah, the legendary Tiger, the tank so powerful that it immediately became the focus of any battle in which it fought. Its thick armor could shrug off 75mm rounds from most guns at 50 yards. But its 88mm gun could open most Allied tanks like a can opener.
Russian crews often preferred the Sherman to the T-34, and they had good reason. The tank was easy to maintain and spare parts were almost always available, leading to an 80 percent rate of damaged Shermans returning to combat. In fights, the Sherman was able to kill Mk. IIs and Mk. IVs, but could only attack Tigers in desperation and Panthers in strength. It was a “commander’s tank,” great strategically but few tankers wanted to face a heavy tank in one.
The Germans were forced to call on any weapon they thought could pierce the armor, deploying anti-aircraft guns and infantrymen carrying shaped charges to try and take the T-34 down. It was a leading factor in the Russian victory at the Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history, and it eventually became the most-produced tank of the war.
Police around the country have begun using a new tool that comes straight out of comic book lore: a device that shoots out a cord, binding a person’s arms or legs together.
The BolaWrap 100, which some media organizations have compared to a tool from Batman’s utility belt, was developed by Las Vegas-based Wrap Technologies. It allows the police to fire a Kevlar cord, and wraps tightly around a person.
Wrap Technologies has touted the benefits of the device as a way to subdue suspects without using force. But last week, when Los Angeles Police Department leaders told the city’s board of police commissioners that it intended to test the device for a trial period in January, the LA Times reported that critics pushed back at this notion.
One member of Black Lives Matter, Adam Smith, told commissioners the department would probably deploy the tool mostly in minority communities, according to the LA Times.
Wrap Technologies has said over 100 police agencies across the country currently use the Bola Wrap.
Or, it binds their legs together, restricting their movement.
The LAPD intends to start testing the device during a trial period in January.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia is planning to supply its troops with small-scale drones that can drop bombs, Russian news site Izvestia reported July 2019. The quadcopters outfitted with explosives are modeled after similar commercial drones rigged with explosive devices used by ISIS fighters in Syria.
“This is a very tactical [unmanned aerial vehicle], we’re talking about small UAV with a close range,” Samuel Bendett, a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a member of CNA’s Center for Autonomy and AI, and a fellow in Russia studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, told INSIDER.
“Downrange, they will probably be able to strap a couple of grenades or bombs” to the UAVs, Bendett said.
While the UAVs aren’t yet outfitted with weapons, Izvestia cited sources in the Ministry of Defense saying the upgrade is imminent, and Bendett told INSIDER via email “given the relative simplicity in turning them into strike drones so they can drop grenades or mortar rounds, I would say that can happen relatively quickly.”
U.S. Air Force Academy cadets in the Unmanned Aerial System Operations Program familiarize themselves with quad-copter flight controls at the Cadet Field House, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., March 4, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua Armstrong)
The US has pioneered drones in military operations, and many of them are larger than piloted planes and carry a suite of surveillance sensors and missiles. The armed MQ-9 Reaper has a 66-foot-long wingspan that’s twice that of an F-16 fighter. In contrast, the kind of small drones favored by remote-control hobbyists weren’t thought of as a weapon until their use by ISIS combatants.
“Suddenly ISIS does a 180 and turns these very simple, unsophisticated devices into very deadly ones,” he said. “So there was that realization that anything and everything could be turned into a weapon and therefore the Russian military should look at the successful adoption of the systems that have proven successful.”
ISIS fighters used drones to terrifying effect against the US-led coalition, the attacks did not result in a “large number of deaths,” according to a report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.
Russian law enforcement agencies already use small drones, Bendett said. What’s new is Russia’s decision to weaponize them — and the Ministry of Defense announcement of the decision.
It’s unclear how large the drones will be, or how many Russia will utilize, although Bendett said they could number in the thousands.
A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac)
“I don’t believe that very small weaponized drones pose a particularly dangerous threat simply because a drone that weighs 33 grams simply can’t carry much of a payload,” Jeff Ellis, a partner at Clyde Co. in New York, told INSIDER via email.
“That being said, slightly larger drones can be used to target individuals or small groups and remain very difficult to detect and interdict,” he said.
The drones will need to be able to support secure communication and small-scale sensors before they are useful to the Russian military, Bendett said.
But anything that the military uses, Bendett noted, would eventually trickle down to Russia’s state security apparatus, including the FSB, but only for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance efforts “for now.”
While the adoption of terrorist tactic by a state might seem ethically dubious, Bendett said that Russia has adopted other technologies used by extremist groups, like technicals — a pick-up truck that has a mounted machine guns.
Furthermore, Bendett said it’s important to note that the Russian military is thinking tactically. “For Russians it’s a very matter of fact thing right now,” he told INSIDER. “They’re seeing what works best, and if it doesn’t work, they’ll discard it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems has received a $39.6 million contract to provide MQ-9 Reapers to a Marine advisory unit in Afghanistan for air overwatch and reconnaissance, according to Pentagon announcements.
The Reapers, the first Group 5 unmanned aerial systems to be assigned exclusively to a Marine unit, may arrive in theater very soon, documents show. Group 5 is the largest class of UAS and includes platforms such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-4C Triton.
According to the contract announcement, General Atomics contractors, not Marines, will operate the systems in Afghanistan. The award was first reported June 27, 2018, by The Drive.
While Task Force Southwest, a small contingent of several hundred Marines on the ground in Helmand Province, Afghanistan is primarily charged with providing advice and assistance to Afghan National Security Forces in their fight with local Taliban elements, a significant portion of the unit’s work involves coordinating strikes on enemy targets using UAS.
When Military.com visited the unit in December 2017 and toured its operations center, Marines coordinated three deadly strikes in a single morning, using small ScanEagle drones to identify targets and Air ForceF-16 Fighting Falcons to drop ordnance to take them out.
“This is what we do on a daily basis, is provide overwatch,” Capt. Brian Hubert, battle captain for Task Force Southwest, told Military.com at the time. “And then also, there’s a little bit of advising, because we will call them and say, ‘Hey, think about doing this, or we see you doing this, that looks good, you should go here.’ We’re trying to get them to the point where eventually, with their Afghan Air Force, they can do all themselves.”
Having Reapers, which can fly at top speeds of 300 miles per hour and can carry more than 3,700 pounds of ordnance, including Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II bombs and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, would allow the Marine task force to operate more independently rather than depending on other units for deadly force from the air.
“Task Force Southwest currently uses Group 5 [Unmanned Aerial Systems] extensively when they are provided from available assets in theater,” Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, commander of the task force, told Military.com in January 2018. “An organic Group 5 UAS capability will give us more capacity to assist our Afghan partners as they conduct continuous offensive operations against the enemy in Helmand province.”
(U.S. Air Force photo)
As an additional benefit, having the Reapers available may help the Marines prepare to receive and operate their own Group 5 drone, the MUX, which is now in the requirements phase.
That system, which will be designed to take off vertically from a ship and provide surveillance and network capabilities from the air, is planned to reach initial operational capability around 2027.
The contract award notice for the Reapers does not specify when the systems will arrive in Afghanistan. Earlier solicitations called for the capability by March 2018. But all work on the contract is set to be completed by November 2018, the announcement states.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.