In 2012, Mullah Falzullah, a high-ranking member of the Pakistani Taliban, ordered his thugs to murder Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl who had become outspoken in her advocacy for women’s education. Yousafzai survived and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
A pilot was at a ground control station similar to this one when controlling the MQ-9 Reaper that blasted the terrorist responsible for the attack on Malala Yousafzai.
(USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Don Branum)
The exact drone that took the terrorist out wasn’t identified in media reports, but seeing as the MQ-1 Predator was retired in March, 2018, the drone used was likely an MQ-9 Reaper, a larger drone that entered service in 2007. Just as the Predator helped make the world a better place one strike at a time, the Reaper is very capable of doing so as well, famously interrupting an ISIS execution.
The Reaper can carry up to four AGM-114 Hellifre missiles (the Predator was limited to two), and can also be configured to carry GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. It normally flies at about 230 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 1,150 miles.
MQ-9 Reapers have been operating in Afghanistan since 2007.
The Hellfire missile, the preferred weapon in targeting terrorists, has a maximum range of five miles and travels at Mach 1.3. The missile has been in service since 1984 and was primarily intended as a tank-killing weapon for use by the AH-64 Apache helicopter. The missile has since become the basis for the British-designed Brimstone.
The Reaper/Hellfire combo will likely take out a lot more terrorists in the future, in addition to providing precision strike capabilities against other targets.
Lockheed Martin has developed a new weapons rack meant to give the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter a boost in firepower without sacrificing stealth, the defense contractor announced May 1, 2019.
The fifth-generation stealth fighters today carry four AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles, but the new weapons rack — Sidekick — will allow the aircraft to hold an additional Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile in each of the aircraft’s two internal weapons bays, Lockheed’s F-35 test pilot Tony “Brick” Wilson said at a media briefing, according to Seapower Magazine.
That would raise the number of Amraams the F-35 can carry to six from four, giving the fighter more to throw at an enemy fighter or drone in air combat.
An F-35A Lightning II test aircraft during a live-fire test over an Air Force range in the Gulf of Mexico on June 12, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Jackson)
The F-35 stores weapons internally to maintain stealth. Presently, a strictly internal loadout allows the fighter to carry up to 5,700 pounds of ordnance.
Internally, the planes can carry a full set of Amraams or a mixture of air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
The aircraft can also operate in “beast mode,” a combined internal and external loadout that allows the F-35 to fly into battle with up to 22,000 pounds of weaponry — but this configuration degrades the jet’s stealth advantage.
Three F-35C Lightning II aircraft over Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach on Feb. 1, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)
Lockheed’s new Sidekick weapons rack will reportedly be available for the Air Force F-35As and Navy F-35Cs but not the Marine Corps F-35Bs. These planes have smaller weapons bays because of a lift fan needed for short takeoff and vertical landing, a requirement for operations aboard US amphibious assault ships.
The F-35 program office first mentioned efforts to add capacity for another Amraam in each weapons bay two years ago. “There’s a lot of engineering work to go with that,” the program’s director explained at the time, according to Air Force Magazine.
Speaking with reporters May 1, 2019, Wilson said the “extra missiles add a little weight but are not adding extra drag.” He also said the F-35 had the ability to eventually carry hypersonic missiles should that capability be necessary.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“We physically left the lab, got into the field with the operators, and observed firsthand the challenges and deficiencies they face,” said Dr. Gregory Burnett, who managed the BATDOK program. “And when I say into the field, I mean we literally rode in the helicopters into hot landing zones, and observed medical Airmen stabilize and package up patients for transport and load them back on the helicopter.”
The result? By observing with the operators, and working with them – no feature was added to BATDOK without a request from the operators – the team was able to avoid what the release called “unforeseen downsides to new technology.” Instead, the researchers and the operators were able to integrate BATDOK into the suite of tactical gear.
The BATDOK app can deliver real-time health status for multiple patients, can keep medical records at a PJ’s fingertips and can house first-aid information and location data all in one place, engineers say.
“BATDOK was designed to not add any additional burden to battlefield Airmen’s tactical ensemble,” Burnett added. “From the beginning, we are designing to enhance capabilities, while aiding their survivability and lethality.”
While PJs and many combat troops deploy with heavy loads, it looks like many won’t mind having this new piece of gear along for the ride.
Combat aviators are conducting operational tests of Army modernization efforts using three UH-60V Black Hawk helicopters.
The UH-60V Black Hawk will retrofit the Army’s remaining UH-60L helicopter fleet’s analog cockpits with a digital cockpit, similar to the UH-60M helicopter.
Retrofitting aircraft that are already owned by the Army is a major cost saving measure over purchasing new builds, according to Mr. Derek Muller, UH-60V IOT Test Officer, with the West Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Aviation Test Directorate.
Muller and his test team worked with aircrews from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade by applying realistic operational missions, post-mission surveys and after action reviews along with onboard video and audio instrumentation to collect data directly from crewmembers.
Instrumentation installed by Redstone Test Center (RTC), Alabama provided audio, video and position data for test team to review after each mission.
“The OTC/RTC partnership has been paramount to the successful testing and evaluation of the UH-60V,” said Muller.
“The data collected during the test will support an independent evaluation by the U.S. Army Evaluation Center,” he added.
Aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and support personnel from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team conduct sling load operations at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during a logistics resupply mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.
(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)
The evaluation will inform a full-rate production decision from the Utility Helicopter Program Office at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
Aircrews flew over 120 hours under realistic battlefield conditions.
They conducted air movement, air assault, external load and casualty evacuation missions under day, night, night-vision goggle, and simulated instrument meteorological modes of flight.
“Anti-aircraft weapon simulation emitters are a valuable training enabler and reinforce much of the Air Mission Survivability training assault aircrews have received with respect to operations in a threat environment,” said Capt. Scott Amarucci, A Co. 2-158 Company Commander.
“This approach permitted evaluators from the U.S. Army Evaluation Center to see and hear how a unit equipped with the UH-60V performed operational missions against a validated threat in a representative combat environment,” said Muller.
“The operational environment designed by USAOTC and 16th CAB helped evaluators accurately assess the company’s ability to complete doctrinal missions, when equipped with the UH-60V,” said Mr. Brian Apgar, Plans Deputy Division Chief of USAOTC AVTD.
Aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade staged at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., prepare the cockpit and conduct final pre-mission checks for a nighttime air assault mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.
(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)
The U.S. Army Center for Countermeasures employed three types of threat simulations to stimulate the aircraft’s survivability equipment and trigger pilot actions using the updated cockpit capabilities.
“The three independent threat simulation systems enhanced the quality of the test and enriched the combat-like environment,” said Muller.
“2-158th aircrews reacted to threat systems they rarely have the opportunity to encounter,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Toby Blackmon, Test Operations Officer in Charge, USAOTC AVTD.
“Using Blue Force Tracking, the test operations cell and Battalion Operations Center tracked and communicated with crews during missions,” he said.
“Each day I hear feedback from the crews about the testing,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Clyde, 2-158 BN Commander. “Each Soldier I talk to is glad to place a fingerprint on a future Army Aviation program.”
Aircrews executed their Mission Essential Task Lists using the UH-60V conducting realistic missions against accredited threat systems.
“The UH-60V training has allowed excellent opportunities to train important tasks which enable our proficiency as assault aviation professionals,” added Amarucci.
In this photo clip of a 360-degree-view, aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and support personnel from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team conduct sling load operations at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during a logistics resupply mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.
(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)
Testing at A Co.’s home station allowed the application of key expertise and resources, provided by the test team, while flying in its routine training environment.
New equipment collective training and operational testing caused A Co. to focus on several critical areas, including mission planning, secure communications, aircraft survivability equipment, and internal/external load operations, improving its overall mission readiness while meeting operational test requirements, according to Muller.
“Moreover,” Muller said, “the test’s rigorous operational tempo provided an ideal opportunity for 2-158th Aviation Regiment to exercise key army battle command systems including, but not limited to, Blue Force Tracker (BFT), secure tactical communications, and mission planning.”
Ground crews from the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) prepared and hooked up sling loads during 18 missions, allowing pilots to see how the UH-60V cockpit displays provided situational awareness while carrying an external load.
“Static load and external load training not only improved unit readiness, but fostered safe operations during day and night missions throughout the test,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Keefer, AVTD’s Test Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge.
Future operational testing will ensure soldiers continue to have a voice in the acquisition process, guaranteeing a quality product prior to fielding.
The US Air Force has two of its most elite aircraft — the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-22 Raptor — training together in the Pacific, reassuring America’s allies and sending a warning to strategic competitors and adversaries about the sheer power the US brings to the table.
These stunning photos show the powerful aircraft tearing across the Pacific, where the US has increasingly found itself facing challenges from a rising China.
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, after completing interoperability training, Jan. 15, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)
Three B-2 bombers and 200 airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri deployed to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Jan. 10, 2019, to support US Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force mission.
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, during an interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)
While B-2 bombers regularly rotate throughout the Pacific, having previously been deployed to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, the most recent deployment marks only the second time these powerful stealth aircraft have been sent to Hawaii to drill alongside the F-22s.
A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
The stealth bombers were deployed to the Pacific to send a message to allies and adversaries alike, specifically that “the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies.”
The B-2 Spirit bomber is reportedly a crucial part of most war plans to fight China.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
When the B-2s were first deployed to Hawaii October 2018, the US military stressed that the deployment highlighted the bomber’s completely unmatched “strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world.”
An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron, conducts an aerial refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
The F-22 Raptor, an elite air-superiority fighter, which the Air Force asserts “cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft,” is an extremely lethal aircraft capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions.
The choice to carry a knife as a means of self-defense brings with it the responsibility of learning how to use it, but just knowing how to do something doesn’t make you good at it. Skill comes from repetition through dedicated training. Attending a couple edged-weapons seminars might give you a base knowledge, but it won’t make you proficient with a blade. You must incorporate that knowledge into a regular training regimen to hone your skills.
The great thing about blade training is it can be done pretty much anywhere. Unlike firearms training, you don’t need a designated training area. You don’t need to worry about noise and backstops, and your neighbors aren’t likely to call the police if you do it in the backyard.
The greatest challenge with solo blade training is knowing where to start. Once you know how to train on your own, the possibilities become endless. The information presented here will give you some good starting points to help you develop a consistent solo training program that will sharpen your edged-weapons skills.
Some solo training tools pictured here include aluminum training blades, a shot timer, a tennis ball on a string, bubbles, and a Rubber Dummies 3D Silhouette Target.
Shadow shanking is the edged-weapon equivalent of shadow boxing, with a little urban slang mixed in. It’s the act of fighting with an imaginary opponent to develop technique, timing, lines of motion, and muscle memory. It’s one of the most useful training methods for learning and training basic movements and movement patterns. There are a few different ways to implement shadow shanking into your training regimen.
Shadow shanking is the edged-weapon equivalent of shadow boxing. When done with the proper progression and mind-set, it can be a valuable training tool.
1. Working the basics
This is how you build your foundation. The best way to set this up is to stand in front of a mirror and watch yourself perform the movements. You might also want to draw a large asterisk on the mirror with lipstick or a grease pencil to give you a visual reference for the various angles of attack. You can then follow these lines with your blade.
We tend to be very unaware of ourselves. Seeing yourself moving in a mirror helps you develop a mind-body connection. It’s the reason gyms and martial arts schools are covered in mirrors. Use the mirror to correct flaws and solidify proper technique until your body knows what the right motion feels like. Go back to the mirror frequently to reinforce proper technique.
2. Free flow
Another form of shadow shanking is free flow. This is where you develop your ability to flow from one cut or thrust to another using the most efficient path for each angle of attack. Start with preset combinations to engrain paths of motion into your central nervous system. As those combinations become more fluid, you can begin linking the lines between various combinations until you’re able to free flow without thinking.
3. The ghost
Visualization is the key to fighting the ghost, a cool name for an imaginary opponent. To fight the ghost, you have to imagine an opponent as vividly as possible, seeing his every move through your mind’s eye. Visualize his attacks and react to them using footwork, evasions, defenses, interceptions, and counters. Imagine how he’s reacting to your movements and respond accordingly. This variation of shadow shanking is the most challenging, but the benefits you reap from it are invaluable.
The training post
The training post is one of the oldest and simplest combat training tools known to man. Historically known as a pell, this solid wooden post was used to practice striking, cutting, and thrusting with the sword, shield, and spear. It was the ancient swordsman’s equivalent of a boxer’s heavy bag, and its use is recorded in historical documents dating back to the 1st century.
The training post is a vital piece of solo training equipment. Delivering cuts and thrusts against the air is great for developing basic technique, but the resistance of a solid target is necessary for conditioning the mind and body for impact. Just like a heavy bag, using the training post will strengthen your muscles and increase connective tissue resilience. Striking a solid post will challenge your grip and expose weaknesses in your technique.
Historically known as the pell, the training post is the ancient swordsman’s equivalent of a boxer’s heavy bag.
Training on a post requires very little logistics. A 6-foot pole with a sturdy base is all you need. A solid, dead tree can work just as well. It’s also a good idea to add some target markings like lines and circles to aid with working your cutting angles and thrusting accuracy.
Proper safety precautions are necessary when working the post. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying pieces of wood. If you’re going to use a live blade, it’s a good idea to wear Kevlar-lined gloves to protect your hand in case it rides onto the blade during a thrust, especially if your blade doesn’t have a substantial guard.
Your best buddy “BOB”
Century’s Body Opponent Bag is one of the most useful combatives training devices available. The vinyl skinned, lifelike mannequin provides all the shapes and contours of a human head and torso, making for a realistic, target-rich training environment. BOB isn’t very practical for live-blade training, at least not if you want to keep him around for a while. A synthetic or aluminum training blade, or a homemade “stubby” (knife-shaped, hard foam cutout wrapped in electrical tape), are your best options for blade work on BOB.
The Body Opponent Bag is one of the most useful combatives training tools. Shown here with the Dionisio Zapatero anatomical rash guard for vital target identification.
When training on the BOB, focus on targeting and precision. Work the eyes, neck, throat, lungs, and abdomen with various thrusts and cuts. It’s easy to forget you have two hands during weapons training, so take advantage of the liveliness of the BOB and emphasize the use of both hands by incorporating empty-hand strikes, checks, and grabs with your live hand (the hand not holding the blade). Move around the mannequin and work as many angles as possible.
Another way to up your game on the BOB is with anatomical drilling. This form of training involves the use of a Dionisio Zapatero anatomical rash guard in conjunction with the BOB. The purpose is to identify the anatomical location of vital targets on the body in order to increase your ability to recognize target landmarks. This particular method was developed with the input of this author and popularized by Scott Babb in the Libre Fighting System.
Rubber Dummy mayhem
The Rubber Dummies 3D Silhouette Body Target is a self-healing rubber target designed for close-quarters firearms application, but has proven effective for edged weapons training as well. Filipino martial arts practitioners have long employed used automobile tires in various configurations to practice stick and blade combatives.
The Rubber Dummy combines many elements of the training post and BOB into one device, able to withstand the abuse of a live blade while offering human target features.
The Rubber Dummy puts a modern twist on this solo training concept with its three-dimensional human shape and tire-like, hard rubber texture. The Rubber Dummy combines many elements of the training post and the BOB into one training device. The Rubber Dummy can withstand the abuse from a live blade, while offering human target features. Cuts and stabs leave visible markings on the renewable “skin” (applied with spray paint), yielding instant feedback.
Speed drilling is a broad category of solo training with many variations. The purpose is to develop speed, efficiency, and accuracy. For solo training, using a programmable shot timer in conjunction with a suitable striking target, such as the ones mentioned above, works extremely well. The idea is to program the shot timer using delayed start and perform the action within a set par-time parameter. Striking a target that makes an audible sound, like a balloon or X-ray paper will signal the shot timer to record the split, letting you see your actual hit time.
A programmable shot timer and a quality training blade are excellent tools for developing speed and accuracy.
Speed drill progression should look something like this: Begin drilling from a ready position with your blade in hand and address the target at the sound of the beep. Then, perform the drill from a neutral position with the blade in hand. Next, deploy the blade from its carry location and engage from a ready position. Finally, deploy and engage from a neutral position.
Speed drilling with the aid of a shot timer adds stress and challenges you to leave your comfort zone. It pushes you to the edge of failure, so you can recognize how fast you can move without compromising your accuracy or control of your weapon. Always use training blades for these types of drills.
Ball on a string
Striking a simple ball on a free-hanging string can be one of the most challenging solo drills for edged-weapons training, and it’s also one of the cheapest and easiest tools to set up. Attach a ball to a string and hang it up — that’s it. The weight and size of the ball and the length of the string are variables you can vary to change the level of difficulty. Let the ball swing freely and work your cutting and thrusting angles as the ball swings toward you. Don’t forget to include footwork. That’s about all there is to this simple but effective drill.
Who hasn’t at some point in their life run around poking bubbles out of the air with their finger? It was fun when you were a kid, and it’s even more fun with a knife. Borrow your kid’s bubble machine and go to town. You’ll have random targets floating all around you, so you’ll have to move up and down, side to side, back and forth, and turn around. If a bubble hits you, it means you’ve been tagged, so keep moving and pop them before they land on you. The one caveat is you have to be precise with your blade, no wild swinging or flailing about.
Putting it all together
The less effort involved in setting up a training drill, the more likely we are to do it, especially when we’re limited on time. The training tools and drills presented here take very little effort to set up. Most can be left in place wherever you set them up, meaning you can quickly visit them and get in some quality repetitions within 5 or 10 minutes. Practice makes permanent, so focus on getting quality repetitions.
Physical preparation is only half the equation when it comes to any deadly force issue. Mental preparation is just as important, if not more so. You must train your mind to deal with the emotional trauma that comes with a violent physical assault. Rather than mindlessly performing countless repetitions, consider incorporating visualization into your solo training. Work through various attack/response scenarios in your mind as you do your drills. This will help prepare you to perform under stress and reduce the likelihood that you’ll freeze during a violent encounter.
The F-15 Eagle, arguably the most successful fighter jet of the modern age, could be in for an early retirement with the US Air Force thanks to skyrocketing upgrade and refurbishment costs.
In a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Air Force and Air National Guard brass informed the panel that a plan was recently formed to retire and replace the F-15C/D variant of the Eagle far ahead of schedule by a matter of decades, though no decision had been made on that plan. While the Air Force did plan to keep the Eagle flying till 2040 through a $4 billion upgrade, it was recently determined that a further $8 billion would need to be invested in refurbishing the fuselages of these Eagles, driving up the costs of retaining the F-15C/D even higher than originally expected — presenting what seems to be the final nail the Eagle’s eventual coffin.
So, what will the Air Force likely do to replace this 40-year-old wonder jet?
The Air Force had at first planned to replace the F-15 with the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, but successive cuts to the Raptor program left the branch with only 187 fighters, a substantially lower quantity than the planned buy of around 700. This forced the decision to keep the Eagles in service longer, and thus, the aforementioned investment of over $4 billion was made towards upgrading all combat coded F-15C/Ds with new radars, networking systems, and avionics to keep these fighters in service up till around 2040, when it would be replaced with a newer sixth-generation fighter, also superseding the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor.
Once the F-15 gets pulled by the mid-2020s, the Air Force claims it already has a solution to replace what was once a bastion of American air power.
This solution comes in the form of enhancing F-16 Fighting Falcons with new radars from Northrop Grumman, and networking systems to take over the Eagle’s role in North American air defense, at least in the interim until the Air Force begins and completes its sixth-generation fighter project, which will bring about an even more capable air superiority fighter replacement for both the F-22 and the F-15.
The Air Force has already begun extending the lives of its F-16s till 2048, through a fleet-wide Service Life Extension Program that will add an extra 4,000 flight hours to its Fighting Falcons. Air Force leadership has also advocated buying more fighters, namely the F-35A Lightning II, faster, so that when the hammer does eventually drop on the Eagle, the branch’s fighter fleet won’t be left undersized and vulnerable.
Even with upgrades, however, the F-16 still has some very big boots to fill.
The F-15 was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, meaning it was built to excel at shooting other aircraft down; all other mission types, like performing air-to-ground strikes, were secondary to its main tasking. To perform in this role, the Eagle was given stellar range, sizable weapons carriage, fantastic speed (over two and a half times the speed of sound), and a high operational ceiling. Conversely, the F-16 was designed as a low-cost alternative to the F-15, able to operate in a variety of roles, though decidedly not as well as the F-15 could with the air-to-air mission. Its combat range, weapons load and speed fall short of the standard set by the Eagle. Regardless, the Air Force still believes that the F-16 will be the best interim solution until the 6th generation fighter is fielded.
The USAF’s most decorated F-16 pilot, Dan Hampton, doesn’t disagree with these plans. In an interview with The War Zone, Hampton argues that though the F-16 lacks the weapons payload that the F-15 possesses, advances in missile guidance and homing make carrying more air-to-air weaponry a moot point, as pilots would likely hit their mark with the first or second shot, instead of having to fire off a salvo of missiles. Hampton adds that the F-16’s versatility in being able to perform a diverse array of missions makes it more suitable for long-term upgrades to retain it over the Eagle. Whether or not this will actually work out the way the Air Force hopes it will is anybody’s guess.
The Air Force has made the F-15 Eagle an icon of air superiority fighters. The Navy’s F-14 Tomcat has its iconic status, thanks in large part to Top Gun and JAG, among other Hollywood productions.
But the Navy could have flown the F-15 off carriers. In fact, McDonnell-Douglas, who had made the iconic F-4 Phantom, which was in service with the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, proposed what was known as the F-15N “Sea Eagle.”
There was, though, a problem with the Sea Eagle. Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that the design could not carry the AIM-54 Phoenix, which the Navy needed in order to counter Soviet long-range bombers armed with heavy anti-ship missiles.
The track records of both planes are nothing to sneer at. The F-14 proved to be a superb addition — it never had to face the big fight with the Soviet Union, but it nevertheless scored five air-to-air kills in United States Navy service. The F-15 scored 104 air-to-air kills with no losses across all operators, including the United States Air Force and Saudi and Israeli planes.
Here’s a video showing just what might have been, and why it didn’t happen.
The ability to detect and identify targets at night and under poor visibility conditions has long been an essential military requirement. History has shown that the ability to maneuver under the cover of darkness gives tacticians a big advantage over the enemy. Since its invention, night-vision technology has taken a firm place not only in individual soldiers’ kits, but in almost every component of the tactical spectrum, ranging from the perimeter defense to helicopter pilots and tank drivers.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams)
Today’s reality: Modernizing and retrofitting
Today, many governments face the costly need to upgrade their fleets of armored vehicles (AVs) that have become obsolete with time. Despite budget cuts and insufficient funding, armies around the world still need effective, affordable modernization options for their AV fleets.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were great lessons, too, in terms of understanding the usefulness of this modern technology. Many new technologies sprang up during these wars, ranging from unmanned platforms to smart sensors, but night-vision technology offered a completely new dimension to tactical operations and, possibly, changed the course of war.
But what are these systems capable of? Let’s explore what thermal imaging systems can do and what they cannot.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini)
Fighting tank blindness: Improved situational awareness
Thermal imaging is a boon to the armed forces, especially for ground troops. Nowadays, armored vehicles are required to operate in all-weather battlefield environments, and there is the need for proactive situational awareness (SA). Modern thermal imaging cameras certainly provide the necessary technological innovation to achieve this end.
A tank, besides being a formidable machine, is also a large target. For tank crews, it is important to detect before they are detected. Modern thermal imaging systems can offer up to 360° visibility and generate higher-resolution images — this will help AV crews get crucial information before they physically encounter a potential threat.
Such systems also typically have a wide-view screen with the ability to select a point of interest anywhere on the screen, and the capability to zoom in to study the object further, or the ability to switch between multiple camera feeds. To improve the operators’ tactical edge, such cameras have different screen orientations with options for secondary views of the periphery. What’s more, these systems can provide supporting analytics and alert operators to important events for faster decision-making and therefore higher survivability.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Richard Wrigley)
Besides the rich SA about what is happening around them, AV operators need to know the nature of the terrain on which they are advancing to successfully maneuver and tactically position themselves for battle.
This is what modern thermal imaging technology excels at. It gives AV operators the ability to reconnoiter, identify, and tag targets at greater distances or at close range, 24/7 and in any weather conditions. By being able to see the terrain ahead in total darkness, through tall grass, camouflage, dust, light fog, sand storms, and rain, drivers are able to detect obstacles or potential threats sooner and will have more time to react. Thermal imaging can also see through smoke, which is exactly what AV crews need on a smoke-covered street or battleground.
(DoD photo by Benjamin Faske)
How effective thermal imaging is for AVs?
Since zero-visibility conditions have zero impact on thermal imaging cameras, they are capable of “seeing” in environmental conditions that are impenetrable to any other technology on the market. The types of threats these systems can detect are diverse: IEDs, vehicles, human targets, anti-tank missiles, and various terrain features and obstacles (cliffs, large boulders, waterways etc.).
This technology is not infallible though. Thermal imaging will have difficult time detecting AVs that use invisibility cloaks or other stealth technology, for example, the one in use by the Russian army.
The modern army’s growing need to operate at night and under poor visibility conditions has led to development of more and more sophisticated thermal imaging devices. One example is a research project that an experimental physicist Dr. Kristan Gurton and electronics engineer Dr Sean Hu are conducting for the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL). Their new camera, which relies on sensing polarized light, can see small hidden objects such as tripwires and booby traps, and it shows images in such detail that AV crews soon may be able to detect and identify specific individuals, for example, in urban environments or in the open field. Other advances, such as battle management systems, can be integrated as well with thermal imaging units for improved capabilities.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the event occurred on a test vessel, not aboard the Ford as previously stated.
The Navy recently got a step closer to getting the first ship in its new class of aircraft carriers ready for combat missions with a live-fire test off the coast of California.
A drone was taken out by Raytheon’s latest integrated combat system that’s being developed for the supercarrier Gerald R. Ford, Raytheon announced Feb. 5, 2019. The event took place on a test vessel off the coast of California, said Ian Davis, a Raytheon spokesman.
The system the Navy used to take down the drone is called the Ship Self-Defense System. It integrates a myriad of equipment that will be used aboard the Navy’s first Ford-class carrier, such as sensors, missiles and radars.
Raytheon program manager Mike Fabel said in a release that the new system allowed for “seamless integration” when its sensors and missiles were put to the test.
Aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)
“This first-of-its-kind test [proves] the ability of the system to defend our sailors,” Fabel said. “This integrated combat system success brings Ford [herself] one step closer to operational testing and deployment.”
At least five of the integrated-combat system’s capabilities, which are also used on amphibious assault ships, were used during the live-fire event, according to the release detailing the test.
That included a radar that searched for, tracked and illuminated the target; the Ship Self-Defense System, which processed the data and passed launch commands to the missile; and missiles that took out the targeted drone.
The Ford, which is the first in its class of next-generation carriers, is expected to deploy in 2022.
The first in the new generation of carriers, the flattop has faced a series of mechanical and technological setbacks. That has left lawmakers and the commander in chief pressing Navy officials to explain the issues, including those with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and advanced weapons elevators.
This fall, Air Force fighter pilots taking to the skies to train might find themselves going up against a ghost.
Pilots chasing “enemy” jets in air-to-air dog-fighting exercises or avoiding them during training targeting runs will see the familiar sign of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The Air Force is converting older-generation, retired F-16 fighters that were wrapped and stored at the military’s aircraft boneyard in the Arizona desert into the latest unmanned drone called the “QF-16.”
A QF-16 full scale aerial target from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron takes off on its first unmanned flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Sept. 19, 2013. The 82nd ATRS operates the Department of Defense’s only full-scale aerial target program. The QF-16 will provide a fourth generation fighter representation of real world threats . (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Javier Cruz)
The QF-16 is a “full scale aerial target” and for all intents and purposes it looks like the sleek, single-engine jet that was built by General Dynamics (now part of Lockheed Martin) and first flown during the height of the Cold War — with the same body, same size, same profile, same maneuverability as the manned Fighting Falcon. The target drone is converted so it has similar radar signatures and capabilities as potential adversary aircraft – including the latest generation of the multi-role F-16 flying today – that U.S. pilots might encounter in the not-so-friendly skies.
The Air Force’s F-16 drone program became fully operational in September when the Air Combat Command declared it had reached initial operational capability.
“This leap forward in airframe capabilities, combined with advanced electronic pods, will allow us to properly test and evaluate our 5th generation aircraft and weapons,” Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, who commands the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, said in a Sept. 26 news release. The squadron belongs to the 53th Wing, which serves as the Air Force’s only operational test unit.
The orange-tipped jet drones can break the sound barrier in supersonic flight, sans pilot – and even reach 9Gs. That’s as tough as the latest high-tech jets out there — U.S.-built or otherwise. The “pilot,” though, is on the ground, controlling the drone just as other unmanned aircraft .
Various onboard sensors and instruments in the drone jet collect data and information that can be used by whoever’s got the finger on a missile (or other ordnance and weaponry) directed at it from the ground control station. During a 2014 ground missile test fired at the drone that registered a “kill” hit, an engineer described its role as a target to help in weapons training.
“The QF-16’s mission is really to act as a target and validate weapons systems. So, we do have a scoring system on the airplane and its job is to tell us basically how close the missile came and its trajectory,” Paul Cejas, a chief engineer, said in a Boeing news release.
Maintainers begin post-flight checks on the first Lot 1 production model QF-16 after it arrived at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., March 11. The aircraft is the first of 13 deliveries to the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 53rd Wing, headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base. The QF-16 will replace the QF-4 as the next generation aerial target. (Courtesy photo)
St. Louis-based Boeing Defense, Space Security got the first contract in 2010 to create as many as 126 of the drones. It flew the first unmanned flight – with an empty cockpit – over Tyndall AFB in Florida’s Panhandle in 2013.
As of March, Boeing had delivered 11 QF-16s to the Air Force, and the most-recent contract called for the conversion of another 30 target drones, according to the company. Several dozen retired jets are undergoing conversion. The F-16s are pulled from the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where several hundred of the mothballed jets are parked in the sun outside of Tucson, Arizona. Crews with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group help prepare for the trek to Florida, where the bulk of the conversion work is done.
The first QF-16 arrives at Tyndall escorted by a QF-4 Nov. 19. The QF-16 will undergo developmental testing by Boeing and eventually become part of the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group. The QF-16 is a supersonic reusable full-scale aerial target drone modified from an F-16 Fighting Falcon. At this time, the group uses QF-4s, made from 1960s F-4 Phantom, to conduct their full-scale aerial target missions. The targets allow the Air Force and allied nations to have a realistic understanding of what they could face on the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Cokeing)
The QF-16 isn’t the first unmanned fighter-like drone. But it is the latest generation, replacing the QF-4, an aerial target created from the previous generation of F-4 Phantom jets, which saw their glory during the Vietnam War.
There’s simply not enough of them left, and time has aged them toward obsolescence. The Air Force flew its final QF-4 mission on Aug. 17 at Holloman AFB in New Mexico, and the service plans to officially retire it in December.
Russia reportedly plans to arm its most advanced fighter jet with a powerful hypersonic air-to-air missile that can take aim at aircraft nearly two hundred miles away, making them a potential threat to critical US air assets.
The Su-57 multipurpose fighter jet, a fifth-generation stealth fighter built for air superiority and complex attack operations that is still in development, will be armed with the new R-37M, an upgraded version of an older long-range air-to-air missile, Russia Today reported Sept. 27, 2018, citing defense officials.
The Russian Ministry of Defense is reportedly close to completing testing for this weapon, the development of which began after the turn of the century.
With a reported operational range of 186 to 248 miles and a top speed of Mach 6 (4,500 mph), the R-37M is designed to eliminate rear support aircraft, critical force multipliers such as early warning and aerial refueling aircraft. Russia asserts that the missile possesses an active-seeker homing system that allows it to target fighter jets during the terminal phase of flight.
While Russia initially intended to see the weapon carried by the MiG-31 interceptors, these missiles are now expected to become the primary weapons of the fourth-generation Su-30s and Su-35s, as well as the next-generation Su-57s. The weapon’s specifications were modified to meet these demands.
The Russians are also apparently developing another very long-range air-to-air missile — the KS-172, a two-stage missile with a range said to be in excess of the R-37M’s capabilities, although the latter is reportedly much closer to deployment.
Mockup of the KS–172 in front of a Sukhoi Su-30.
China, another US competitor, is also reportedly developing advanced long-range air-to-air missiles that could be carried by the reportedly fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter. The China Daily reported in January 2017 that photos of a J-11B from the Red Sword 2016 combat drills appeared to show a new beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile.
“China has developed a new missile that can hit high-value targets such as early-warning planes and aerial refueling aircraft, which stay far from conflict zones,” the state-run media outlet reported, citing Fu Qianshao, an equipment researcher with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.
Slow, vulnerable rear-support aircraft improve the overall effectiveness of key front-line fighter units, such as America’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, which just conducted its first combat mission. The best strategy to deal with this kind of advanced system is to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very-long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are ‘eyes’ of enemy jets,” Fu told the China Daily, calling the suspected development of this type of weapon a “major breakthrough.”
The missiles being developed by US rivals reportedly have a greater range than the American AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), giving them a potential edge over US military aircraft.
The Russian Su-57 is expected to enter service in 2019, although the Russian military is currently investing more heavily in fourth-generation fighters like the MiG-29SMT Fulcrum and Su-35S Flanker E, which meet the country’s air combat needs for the time being. Russia canceled plans for the mass production of the Su-57 in July 2018 after a string of development problems.
There is some evidence the aircraft may have been active in Syria in early 2018, but the plane remains unready for combat at this time. Military analyst Michael Kofman previously told Business Insider that the Su-57 is “a poor man’s stealth aircraft,” adding that it doesn’t quite stack up to the F-35 or F-22.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The new PWS Diablo AR15 pistols give us the warm ‘n’ fuzzies.
A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo of BreachBangClear.com.
Remember: At the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you – this is just a “be advised”, a public service if you will, letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement, or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.
PWS recently released a limited run of AR15 pistols, and while it’s too late to get one in hand for Christmas, it’s not too late to ask for one. Why? Two reasons:
One, its close kin to the Diablo AR pistol. Diablo, as you already know if you’ve ever watched Talladega Nights, is Spanish for “fightin’ chicken.”
Two, they make snow-dicks at their headquarters during the winter.
True story, and one that might stem from or more of the large number of veterans PWS employs.
There are actually two new pistols, both using the PWS long stroke *snicker* piston system. That system is something of a bastard offspring, merging elements of the Kalashnikov operating system with that of the Stoner. More on that below.
Both pistols use the Maxim Defense CQB Pistol EXC, a so-called “cheek rest” that runs something like $400 by itself. The EXC is a well regarded brace, and its use reduces overall weight.
The pistols are available in .223 Wylde or 300BLK, and with a 7.75 in. or 11.85 in. barrel, but the MK1 MOD1-P (Patrol) version features a forged receiver set with forward assist and uses a KeyMod rail, while the MOD2 uses PicMod, with a proprietary upper receiver with lightening cuts and no forward assist.
Barrels are machined there in-house at the PWS facility in Idaho; they’re rifled with a 1:8 twist.
Now, speaking of bastard offsprings, if you’re not already familiar with the PicMod system from Bootleg, you should check it out. PicMod itself is the love child of Pic rails and KeyMod.
In addition to providing the utilitarianism of having two mounting systems, it will allow you to tuck accessories like a WML in really tight too.
Grunts: utilitarianism. We may not be using that correctly, but you already knew that.
Both weapons ship with the PWS CQB Comp, a muzzle device designed to tame muzzle blast and improve rifle control at short distances.
Here’s a quick look at that long stroke *snicker* piston system:
If you’re looking for more details about the CQB Comp, you can learn more about the various PWS muzzle devices in a blog post from earlier this year on Rogue Dynamics (here). Here’s what they had to say about the CQB:
“At first glance it looks like some gimmicky, wannabe-sound suppressor, but just a few rounds later and it’s clear that this is something else. The CQB was specifically designed for SBRs that would be running in close quarters, with rounds going off inches from friendly forces.”