These technologies will help return astronauts to the Moon - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

These technologies will help return astronauts to the Moon

Robotically surveying lunar craters in record time and mining resources in space could help NASA establish a sustained human presence at the Moon – part of the agency’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach. Two mission concepts to explore these capabilities have been selected as the first-ever Phase III studies within the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

“We are pursuing new technologies across our development portfolio that could help make deep space exploration more Earth-independent by utilizing resources on the Moon and beyond,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “These NIAC Phase III selections are a component of that forward-looking research and we hope new insights will help us achieve more firsts in space.”

The Phase III proposals outline an aerospace architecture, including a mission concept, that is innovative and could change what’s possible in space. Each selection will receive as much as $2 million. Over the course of two years, researchers will refine the concept design and explore aspects of implementing the new technology. The inaugural Phase III selections are:


​Robotic technologies enabling the exploration of lunar pits

William Whittaker, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh

This mission concept, called Skylight, proposes technologies to rapidly survey and model lunar craters. This mission would use high-resolution images to create 3D model of craters. The data would be used to determine whether a crater can be explored by human or robotic missions. The information could also be used to characterize ice on the Moon, a crucial capability for the sustained surface operations of NASA’s Artemis program. On Earth, the technology could be used to autonomously monitor mines and quarries.

Illustration of the Skylight mission concept, a 2019 NIAC Phase III.

(William Whittaker, Carnegie Mellon University)

Mini Bee prototype to demonstrate the apis mission architecture and optical mining technology

Joel Sercel, TransAstra Corporation, Lake View Terrace, California

This flight demonstration mission concept proposes a method of asteroid resource harvesting called optical mining. Optical mining is an approach for excavating an asteroid and extracting water and other volatiles into an inflatable bag. Called Mini Bee, the mission concept aims to prove optical mining, in conjunction with other innovative spacecraft systems, can be used to obtain propellant in space. The proposed architecture includes resource prospecting, extraction and delivery.

Illustration of the Mini Bee mission concept, a 2019 NIAC Phase III.

(TransAstra Corporation)

NASA selected the Phase III proposals through a review process that evaluated innovativeness and technical viability of the proposed projects. All projects still are in the early stages of development, but this final phase is designed to mature technologies so they can be transitioned to government and industry for implementation.

“This is the first year NASA offered a NIAC Phase III opportunity, and there were many strong proposals,” said Jason Derleth, NIAC program executive. “We selected two proposals because we think both of the technologies could positively impact the industry. We are excited that these technology concepts could help humanity explore space in new ways.”

The NIAC program supports visionary research ideas through multiple progressive phases of study. While NIAC will award two 2019 Phase III studies, the program expects to award one Phase III per year in subsequent years.

NIAC partners with forward-thinking scientists, engineers and citizen inventors from across the nation to help maintain America’s leadership in air and space. NIAC is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.

Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon within five years, NASA’s lunar exploration plans are based on a two-phase approach: the first is focused on speed – landing on the Moon by 2024 – while the second will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028. We then will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare to send astronauts to Mars.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force C-130 pilots get new gas mask

With the help of the 374th Operations Group, Yokota Air Base C-130J Super Hercules aircrews are always ready for potential chemical and biological threats.

By using the Aircrew Eye/Respiratory Protection Equipment, aircrews can safely fly and execute their mission under any real-world chemical scenario.


The current mask, the Mask Breathing Unit-19/P (MBU-19/P), is nearing the end of its lifespan and has been found to have many faults during its service. Its successor, the Joint Service Aircrew Mask, or JSAM, Strategic, is scheduled to be available for Yokota AB’s C-130Js in 2021.

Maj. George Metros, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules evaluator pilot, puts on a M50 gas mask, allowing communication during a flight, Feb. 5, 2019, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Juan Torres)

The standard issue M50 gas mask, a newer, more portable option for chemical protection, can be modified for use in-flight by adding communication-enabled wiring. With these modifications, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J crewmembers and 374th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen can use the M50 gas mask as a cost-efficient, user-friendly stopgap during the transition.

Yokota AB Airmen are now leading the way, reviewing the tactics, techniques and procedures for other large-frame aircraft units across the Air Force on the use of the M50 gas mask by aircrew.

Learning how the M50 gas mask works alongside other Air Force assets is a top priority for 374th OG Airmen.

“We’re making sure the equipment is flight-worthy, there are no difficulties flying and seeing how well it integrates with our other AFE equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. David Showers, 374th OSS AFE lead trainer. “We want know what can we keep and what we can make better. By reducing the components and the kits we’ll be giving back time to our people, our training and our mission.”

Maj. George Metros, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules evaluator pilot, connects a M50 gas mask during a training flight, Feb. 5, 2019, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Juan Torres)

By making this integration possible, 374th OG Airmen are saving the Air Force time and money.

Maintenance on the older, more complicated MBU-19/P could take anywhere from three to four hours to a full day depending on the inspection and what kind of fixes the technician needs to make. With the introduction to the M50 gas mask on flights, inspection and maintenance times could be cut to approximately 30 minutes per mask freeing up valuable time to complete other tasks.

“By switching to the M50 gas mask we’ll increase our workflow and mission flow,” said Airman 1st Class Matthew Wilson, 374th OSS AFE technician. “With this switch we’ll avoid a lot of maintenance hours and we could have our aircrews running missions more effectively.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army accidentally just revealed a mind-blowing new weapon

It’s no secret that the United States military is working tirelessly to develop new hypersonic weapon systems to close the gap presented by Chinese and Russian platforms that have recently entered into service. Hypersonic weapons, for those unfamiliar, are missile platforms that are capable of maintaining extremely high speeds (in excess of Mach 5). That kind of speed means these weapons impact their targets with a huge amount of kinetic force, and perhaps most important of all, there are currently no existing missile defense systems that can stop a hypersonic projectile.


Sources inside China and Russia have both indicated that these nations already have hypersonic weapons in service, which means the United States is lagging behind the competition in this rapidly expanding field, despite testing hypersonic platforms as far back as the early 2000s. In order to close that gap, the Pentagon has acknowledged at least six different hypersonic programs currently in development, including the U.S. Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike weapon, the U.S. Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), and the U.S. Air Force’s AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW, pronounced “arrow”).

However, it’s now clear that Uncle Sam isn’t acknowledging all of the hypersonic programs currently under development, thanks to an unintentional gaff made by U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the recent Association of the U.S. Army convention. In a photo that was uploaded to McCarthy’s own Flickr account (it’s still there), a document can be seen on a table in front of him titled, “Vintage Racer – Loitering Weapon System (LWS) Overview.”

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dana Clarke)

McCarthy likely didn’t anticipate that anyone would be able to make out what was written on the sheet of paper in front of him, and to his credit, most probably couldn’t. Aviation Week’s Steve Trimble, however, isn’t most people–and he not only managed to make out a fair portion of what the sheet says, but also has the technical knowledge behind him to make a few assertions about just what “Vintage Racer” may really be.

Twitter

twitter.com

“The Vintage Racer concept, as revealed so far, suggests it may be possible to launch a hypersonic projectile into a general area without knowing the specific location of the target,” Trimble wrote in his analysis you can find in full here. “As it reaches the target area, the projectile may be able to dispense a loitering air system, which is then uses its own sensors to find and identify the target.”

If Trimble’s assertions are right (and they do appear to be based on the document), then “Vintage Racer” could potentially be the most advanced and capable hypersonic weapon anywhere in the world. Most hypersonic weapons currently employ one of two methodologies: they either follow a long arc flight path similar to intercontinental ballistic missiles, gaining extreme speed with a reentry glide vehicle that has to literally re-enter the atmosphere, or they utilize a combination of traditional and scramjet propulsion systems to achieve similar speeds along a linear flight path.

A DARPA diagram of a hypersonic glide vehicle reentering the atmosphere to engage a target. (DARPA)

In either case, the hypersonic body is, in itself, the weapon: using a combination of warhead and the sheer force of transferred kinetic energy at such high speeds to destroy a target.

“Vintage Racer” on the other hand seems to leverage high speed propulsion to reach hypersonic velocities, but then rather than using all of the energy amassed from moving at that speed, the weapon would instead deploy a “loitering” system that could identify targets in the area and engage them independently with ordnance.

In effect, instead of thinking of “Vintage Racer” as a missile, it might be more apt to think of it as a hypersonic drone not all that unlike the SR-72 program we’ve written about on Sandboxx News before. The platform would enter contested airspace at speeds too high for intercept, deploy its loitering weapon system, and engage one or multiple targets that are identified once the weapon is already in the area. This capability is especially important when it comes to defending against long range ballistic missile launches like nuclear ICBMs employed by a number of America’s opponents, including Russia, China, and North Korea. These missiles are often launched via mobile platforms that move regularly in order to make it difficult to know where or when a nuclear missile launch may come from.

By the time a mobile launcher is identified by satellite or other forms of reconnaissance, there may not be enough time to deploy fighters, bombers, or other weapons to that site in order to stop a missile launch. However, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could feasible cruise into the general area of a launcher at speeds that most air defenses couldn’t stop. From there, it could deploy its loitering asset to locate and identify mobile missile launchers in the area–and then destroy those launchers with its included ordnance.

To further substantiate that possibility, Trimble points to a Russian defense technology expert who recently warned of just such an American platform.

“The fear is that [this] hypersonic ‘something’ might reach the patrol area of road-mobile ICBM launchers [after] penetrating any possible air and missile defense, and then dispense loitering submunitions that will find launchers in the forests,” said Dmitry Stefanovitch, an expert at the Moscow-based Russian International Affairs Council.

This weapon system was also briefly mentioned in Defense Department budget documents released this past February, but aside from calling the effort a success, few other details were included.

Theoretically, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could be used in a number of military operations other than preventing nuclear missile launches. By combining the extreme speed of a hypersonic missile with the loitering and air strike capabilities currently found in armed drones or UAVs, this new weapon could shift the tides of many a battle in America’s favor; from Iranian armed boat swarms, to Russian mobile missile launchers, and even as a form of rapid-delivery close-air-support for Special Operations troops. The potential implications of what may effectively be a Mach 5-capable unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) are far reaching.

In warfare, speed often dictates the outcome of an engagement–and “Vintage Racer” sounds like it has that in spades.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

Among the many planes flying sorties against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a version of the C-130. No, not the AC-130 gunship – although that plane did help blow up a lot of ISIS tanker trucks according to a 2015 Military.com report.


Here we’re talking about the EC-130H Compass Call. And while the highly-modified cargo plane doesn’t have the firepower appeal of the AC-130, it brings a lot of lethal wizbangery to the fight.

Things can go pear-shaped even with the best-laid operational plans when comms are crystal clear. Commanders can issue orders, and subordinates receive them and report information up the line.

An EC-130H Compass Call prepares to taxi Dec. 5, 2016 at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The Compass Call employs a crew of roughly a dozen Airmen working together to jam Da’esh communications. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Park)

Now imagine being an ISIS commander who is unable to send orders to units, and concurrently, they can’t send you any information. You’re now fumbling around, and figuratively blind as a bat against the opposition.

When the anti-ISIS coalition comes, backed up by special operators and air power, pretty soon you find yourself in a world of coalition hurt.

According to an Air Force release, the EC-130H has been doing just that against ISIS. This plane is loaded with jamming gear that cuts off communications.

According to an Air Force fact sheet, it works with the EA-18G Growler, the F-16CJ Fighting Falcon, and the EA-6B Prowler. The plane, though, has been in service since 1983. It was first designed to help take down air-defense networks, usually by working with other planes like the F-4G Wild Weasel and the EF-111 Raven.

These are old airframes. The plane may have entered service in 1983, but the airframes are old.

“We have a 1964 model out here on the ramp and you run the gamut of issues from old wiring to old structural issues (and) corrosion. You find that many of the items on the aircraft have been on there for well over 20 or 30 years, and parts fail all the time. So the aircraft more often than not come down and they need us to fix it before it can fly again safely,” 1st Lt. John Karim, the Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge with the 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, told the Air Force News Service.

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM — An EC-130H Compass Call with the 398th Air Expeditionary Group takes off from a forward-deployed location for a mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

They might be old, they don’t make things go boom, but they still help kick some terrorist ass.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force successfully flies hypersonic missile on B-52 bomber

The U.S. Air Force just flew its first test flight of the AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon, a hypersonic weapon Lockheed Martin says it will continue to ground and flight test over the next three years.

The weapon, known as ARRW (pronounced “Arrow”), flew on a B-52 Stratofortress bomber aircraft on June 12, 2019, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The tests were aimed to gather data on “drag and vibration impact” to the weapon as well as the performance of the carriage bay on the aircraft, the service said. The Air Force released photos of the flight via Twitter on June 18, 2019.

As part of a rapid prototyping scheme, the Air Force has been working with Lockheed, the prime contractor, to develop the hypersonic tech that would move five times the speed of sound as the Pentagon races to win the global race for new hypersonic technologies.


Lockheed officials touted the Air Force’s first flight here at the Paris air show.

“This captive-carry flight is the most recent step in the U.S. Air Force’s rapid prototyping effort to mature the hypersonic weapon, AGM-183A, which successfully completed a preliminary design review in March,” Lockheed officials said in a release. “More ground and flight testing will follow over the next three years.”

(U.S. Air Force)

Joe Monaghen, spokesman for Lockheed’s tactical and strike missiles and advanced programs, told Military.com that the first test of ARRW represented a milestone that paved the way for future flights and continued integration.

While the Defense Department is pursuing multiple avenues for hypersonic technologies, the variety will give the Pentagon better selection “to determine what works best operationally, across the different branches and mission sets,” Monaghen said.

Boeing Co., manufacturer of the B-52, said the recent test shows that the Cold War-era bomber can operate for years to come despite its age.

(U.S. Air Force)

“This recent success put the [Air Force] well on its way to the live-launch testing of an extraordinary weapon soon,” said Scot Oathout, director of bomber programs at Boeing, in a statement. “The future B-52, upgraded with game-changing global strike capability, such as ARRW, and crucial modernizations like a new radar and new engines, is an essential part of the [Air Force’s] Bomber Vector vision through at least 2050.”

The Air Force awarded a second contract to Lockheed in August 2018 — not to exceed 0 million — to begin designing a second hypersonic prototype of ARRW. The Air Force first awarded Lockheed a contract April 2019 to develop a separate prototype hypersonic cruise missile, the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW).

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How artillery actually kills you

Artillery fires are the kind of big, thundering fireworks shows that look awesome in movies. That being said, there’s always that crazy scene where Nicholas Cage (or some another action hero) runs through multiple explosions from mortars and artillery, remaining miraculously unscathed as every extra around them is cut down instantly.

So, which is real? Does artillery slaughter indiscriminately or can you get lucky and walk through a storm unscathed?


Marines carry rounds for an M777 howitzer during an exercise in Australia on August 8, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

Well, the actual story is much more complicated. It is possible, even on flat, featureless ground, to survive an artillery strike with little visible injury. But it’s nearly just as possible that you’ll be killed even with an inch of steel between you and the blast when one goes off.

It actually all comes down to fairly basic physics, and the British did extensive research during World War II to figure out how this plays out on the battlefield.

There are three ways that artillery most often claims its victims. The most common is through fragmentation of the shell, when the metal casing is split into many smaller bits and hurled at high speed in all directions. The next most common cause of death and injury is the blast wave; the sudden increase in pressure can damage soft tissue and shatter buildings and vehicles if the round is close enough.

A white phosphorous round busts far over the earth as artillerymen create a screen during an exercise at Fort Stewart, Georgia, on May 22, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Scott Linblom)

The least common cause of death and injury is the heat wave, where the sudden increase in temperature causes burns on flesh or starts fires.

Whether a given soldier will survive or not is basically a question of whether they are seriously affected by one or more of these lethal effects. So, let’s look at them one by one.

First, the fragmentation, also commonly known as shrapnel. Most artillery rounds are designed to create some kind of shrapnel when they explode. Shrapnel works kind of like a bullet. It’s a piece of metal flying at high speed through the air, hopefully catching an enemy soldier along its path.

​An M109 Paladin fires a 155mm high-explosive round during a combined armslive fires exercise on September 9, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)

When it hits flesh, the shrapnel shreds the tissue it passes through, just like a bullet. But, also like a bullet, the biggest factor in lethality is the amount of energy imparted by the munition into the flesh.

Basically, physics tells us that no energy or mass is created or destroyed except in nuclear reactions. So, a piece of metal flying at high speeds has a lot of energy that is imparted to the flesh it passes through, causing cell death and destroying tissue in a larger area than just what the piece of metal actually touches. According to the British estimates, approximately 43 percent of the front of a human (or 36 percent of a human’s surface area in total) accounts for areas in which shrapnel is likely to cause a lethal wound.

So, if a piece of shrapnel hits any of those spots, it will likely cause cell death and then human death. But, shrapnel dispersion is its own, odd beast. When an artillery shell goes off, it’s easy to imagine that the shrapnel explodes in 360 degrees, creating a sphere of destruction.

Lance Cpl. Miguel Rios, field artillery cannoneer with Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11 Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, arms 155mm rounds for an M777 Howitzer in preparation to fire during training Aug. 9, 2018, at Mount Bundey, Northern Territory, Australia.

(U.S. Marines Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

But shrapnel still carries a lot of momentum from its flight. As the round explodes, the force of the explosion propels the shrapnel out, but the metal fragments still carry a lot of the momentum from when they were crashing down towards the earth.

So, if the artillery round was flying straight down, the shrapnel would hit in a near-perfect circle, as if a giant had fired directly downwards with a shotgun. But the rounds are always flying at some sort of angle, sometimes quite shallow, meaning they’re still flying across the ground as much as falling towards it.

In that case, the shrapnel takes on a “butterfly wing” pattern, where a little shrapnel lands behind the round and a little shrapnel lands ahead of the round, but the vast majority lands on the left and the right.

A howitzer crew with 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, Alpha Battery, 2nd Platoon fires artillery in Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel, July 23 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Elliot Hughes)

The momentum of the round and the force of the explosion combine to form what’s referred to as a “butterfly wings” pattern where shrapnel is flying at high speed as it hits people and the ground. But, in a likely surprise to most people, even this most lethal area typically only injures or kills just over half the time..

That’s right, even if you’re standing under an artillery round as it goes off, you still have a chance of surviving (but we still don’t recommend it).

But what if you have a nice thick steel plate or concrete wall protecting you? Well, that’ll protect you from most of the effects of shrapnel, but an artillery round that detonates closely enough to your concrete or steel will kill you a different way: the blast wave.

An artillery crewman from Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment, 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Spartan, uses a tool to secure the fuse to the 155mm round during a combined arms live fire exercise on September 11, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)

See, the explosion at the heart of the an artillery round creates lots of shrapnel because of the sudden expansion of air as the explosive is consumed. But, the blast wave keeps going and can break apart other things, like the concrete or steel protecting you, or even your own body. After all, a blast wave that hits you hard enough will crush your skull much more easily than steel.

The blast wave is most effective at extremely close ranges, measured in feet or inches, not yards. This is what is likely to kill a tank or destroy a bunker, both of which typically require a direct hit or multiple direct hits.

The final lethal effect, the heat wave, is most effective at short ranges and against flammable materials. Think thin-skinned vehicles filled with gas or the flesh of your enemies.

So, if nearly all artillery shells kill you with the same three mechanics, why are there so many types and why are artillerymen so into things like fuses and powder?

Well, remember that quick note about “angles” when it came to shrapnel patterns? Different targets are susceptible to different artillery effects. And changing out fuses and changing the gun’s angle and number of powder bags allows an artilleryman to change how the round flies and where it explodes.

Troopers from the Field Artillery Support Squadron “Steel,” 3d Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles,” support Iraqi army operations with artillery fires from their M777A2 Howitzers, Aug. 12, 2018

(U.s. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Jamie Douglas)

For vehicles, especially armored ones, the best way to kill them is to get the explosive to happen as close to the vehicle as possible, preferably while the round is touching the target. That requires an impact fuse that cases a detonation when the round reaches the target or the ground.

But, if you want to cut down hordes of infantry or shred tents and wooden buildings, you want to maximize lethal shrapnel dispersion. The British studied the problem and recommended the rounds go off at 30 feet above the surface. This was traditionally accomplished with timed rounds; the fire direction center did all the math to figure out how long it would take the round to fly and then set the times for when the rounds was near 30 feet off the ground.

But the fuses were imperfect and the math was tricky, so the U.S. eventually figured out proximity fuses, which detonated a set distance from an object or surface.

So, how do poor Joe and Josephine Snuffy try to survive the steel rain? Well, by minimizing their susceptibility to the three effects.

Even just laying down in the dirt reduces the chances that you’ll catch lethal shrapnel — face down is best. That’ll cut your chances of death or major injury down by over 60 percent. Firing from trenches or fox holes can take your chances down to under 5 percent, and lying or crouching in those same trenches or foxholes can get you into the 2-percent range.

Dig some tunnels into the mountain, and you’ll be nearly impossible to kill. That’s why so many troops were able to survive on Japanese islands despite hours or days of bombardment.

If you’re stuck on the move, opt for cover and concealment. Walking or driving through the trees can drastically increase your chances of survival since most shrapnel can make it through one inch of wood or less — but watch out for falling limbs. The blast waves and shrapnel damage can knock massive branches off of trees and drop them onto troops.

If you’re in a vehicle, reduce the amount of flammables on the outside.

This is actually why artillerymen try to hit with as many rounds as possible in the first blast, using methods like “time on target” to get all of their first wave of rounds to land at the same moment. This maximizes the amount of destruction done before the targets can rush for cover or hop into trenches.

So, you know, heads on a swivel, and all that.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

The Air Force is short of funding to speed development of a laser weapon for what is already one of the most lethal platforms in the U.S. arsenal — the Special Operations AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, Air Force Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb testified April 11, 2018.

“We’re $58 million short of having a full program that would get us a 60-kilowatt laser flying on an AC-130 by 2022,” Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging threats.


Webb was responding to questions from Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, who said at the current pace of testing, and funding, a laser weapon for the AC-130 would not be operational until 2030.

“I’m quite concerned with the crawl-walk-run approach when I think we’re reaching a point in the technology where we could literally jump from crawl to run” on the laser weapon, Heinrich said.

Heinrich said the current plan called for progressive demonstration steps in moving from a four-kilowatt laser to a 30-kilowatt version, “which really isn’t operationally relevant.”

If the previous steps were successful, the Air Force would then move to a 60-kilowatt device, and “at that rate the system would not be fieldable until 2030,” Heinrich said.

“What’s wrong with skipping the 30-kilowatt demo entirely and moving to something that could be used in the field?”

An AC-130.
(Photo by Josh Beasley)

“I would couch this as a semi-good news story,” Webb said. “I don’t disagree with your assessment at all,” he told Heinrich, adding that “we’re starting to see funding that would accelerate what you’re talking about” but there was still a $58 million shortfall.

Webb earlier pointed to the funding problem in a February 2018 roundtable discussion with reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

Military.com reported then that Webb said “The challenge on having the laser is funding.”

“And then, of course, you have the end-all, be-all laser questions. Are you going to be able to focus a beam, with the appropriate amount of energy for the appropriate amount of time for an effect?” Webb said.

“We can hypothesize about that all we want,” he continued. “My petition is, ‘Let’s get it on the plane. Let’s do it, let’s say we can — or we can’t,”

The AC-130J Ghostrider’s current suite of armaments led retired Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, the former commander of Air Force Special Operations, to dub it “the ultimate battle plane.”

In 2015, a 105mm howitzer was added to the existing arsenal of AGM-176A Griffin missiles, GBU-30 bombs, and a 30mm cannon.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A storied Delta Force leader just suddenly died this week

One of U.S. Special Forces’ most legendary figures died suddenly and tragically on April 29, 2019. Eldon Bargewell, a 72-year-old retired Major General, was killed after his lawnmower rolled over an embankment near his Alabama home. His 40-year military career saw him serve everywhere from Vietnam to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably every hotspot in between.


Bargewell as an enlisted recon troop in Vietnam.

He first joined the military in 1967, going to Vietnam for a year, going home, and then volunteering to return to Vietnam – in the same recon outfit he left a couple of years earlier. He was working areas outside of Vietnam, technically in Laos, monitoring NVA supply routes.

In an action for which he received the Distinguished Service Cross, he was hit by an AK-47 round in the side of his face but still managed to carry on the fight. Deep inside enemy territory, his unit was hit with two RPG rounds as a hail of enemy bullets overcame them. In minutes the entire recon team was wounded. Bargewell, carrying a Russian-made RPD machine gun (because he wanted to ensure he killed the enemies he shot), broke up an onslaught of charging NVA soldiers, numbering anywhere from 75-100 men.

“Very few people come through the path Eldon Bargewell did,” said Maj. Gen. William Garrison, commander of the Special Forces effort to capture a Somali warlord in 1993. “Starting out as a private, working his way as a non-commissioned officer, and then getting to the highest levels of leadership. Very few people can do that. He is the type of man, soldier, leader that we all want to be like.”

Major General Eldon Bargewell, U.S. Army.

The NVA sent wave after wave of men toward the Army Special Forces’ perimeter, and each was gunned down in turn by Bargewell and his 7.62 RPD. With the dead and wounded piling up, including Bargewell himself, the Americans needed to get out of the area in a hurry. They anxiously awaited the helicopters that would lift them to safety. When they finally arrived, Bargewell refused to be evacuated.

“He wouldn’t go up,” said Billy Waugh, Bargewell’s then-Sergeant Major. “He had the weapons that was saving the day… he was the last out and that’s what saved that team.” And it really was. Bargewell went through half of his 1000 rounds protecting the perimeter and defending his fellow soldiers as they boarded the helicopter. That’s when 60 more NVA bum-rushed him.

Bargewell went up with the next helicopter.

“His selfless sacrifice touched so many,” said Lt. Gen. Lawson MacGruder III, one of the Army Rangers’ first commanders and a Ranger Hall of Famer. “In just about every conflict since Vietnam.”

After returning from Vietnam, he went to infantry officer candidate school, earning his commission. From there he commanded special operations teams in Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, the Middle East, El Salvador, Panama, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and Afghanistan. In his last deployment, he was the director of special operations at Headquarters Multi-National Force-Iraq in Baghdad. He retired in 2006, the most decorated active duty soldier at the time.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Yes, the Army has fixed-wing aircraft and it flew this tank for 30 years

When you think ‘sherpa,’ the first thing that comes to mind is probably the folks who help people climb Mount Everest. Unless you’re a pro, you’re probably not thinking about the Army’s C-23 transport plane.


Wait, the Army has a transport plane? That’s right. You see, the Army operates unarmed, fixed-wing aircraft. After the Army and Air Force split, the Air Force got the armed aircraft in the divorce settlement.

One of the unarmed transports the Army flies is the C-23 Sherpa. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Sherpa was acquired to serve as an intra-theater transport between U.S. Army bases in Europe. However, the plane soon took on responsibilities beyond that limited role. The C-23 can haul up to 30 troops or three pallets of cargo. The plane is also capable of using smaller runways than the C-130 Hercules and is cheaper to operate than a CH-47 Chinook. With a top speed of 281 miles per hour and a range of 771 miles, the C-23 soon found work outside Europe as well.

A C-23 Sherpa over Europe in the 1980s. (Photo from USAF)

According to a 2014 United States Army release, the C-23 was used in the American peacekeeping mission in the Sinai Peninsula. The plane was also a valuable asset during Operation Iraqi Freedom, moving cargo to places where C-130s couldn’t land, which was particularly valuable in humanitarian relief missions.

Related: This is what happened when a C-130 and a C-17 had a baby

Ultimately, the United States bought 62 airframes and, aside from losing one in a crash, the planes remained in service until it was retired in 2014 to be replaced by the C-27J Spartan. Still, the C-23 isn’t going away just yet. Ethiopia, Djibouti, and the Philippines are receiving some of these short-haul airlifters as second-hand assets. As for the C-27J, it was retired by the Air Force and Air National Guard without replacement.

A US Army (USA) C-23B Sherpa aircraft assigned to Company H, 171st Aviation Regiment unloads Soldiers at an undisclosed airfield in Iraq, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. (USAF photo)

To learn more about this aircraft, check out the video below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hZqkTZIbcE
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
Intel

These Soviet airplanes were built to fly fast right over the surface of water

During the Cold War, the Soviets made a new type of vehicle called a ground effect vehicle (GEV). These vehicles earned their own classification because they aren’t quite airplanes or hovercrafts but something in between.


Ground effect is the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface of the Earth, which reduce the drag and lead to greater cruise efficiency, according to AVweb. Pilots simply describe it as “floating.”

Although the Soviets didn’t discover the ground effect phenomenon, they did take full advantage of it by making these behemoth low-flying vehicles.

YouTube, CVEJIN

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch what happens when a missile misfires on a German frigate

A missile malfunction aboard German navy frigate FGS Sachsen on June 21, 2018 scorched the ship’s deck and injured two sailors.

The Sachsen, an air-defense frigate, was sailing with sub-hunting frigate Lubeck in a test and practice area near the Arctic Circle in Norwegian waters, according to the German navy.


The Sachsen attempted to fire a Standard Missile 2, or SM-2, from the vertical launch system located in front of the ship’s bridge. The missile did not make it out of the launcher, however, and its rocket burned down while still on board the ship, damaging the deck and injuring two crew members.

“We were standing in front of a glistening and glowing hot wall of fire,” the ship’s captain, Thomas Hacken, said in a German navy release.

Sachsen class frigates are outfitted with 32 Mark 41 vertical launch tubes built into the forward section of the ship. Each SM-2 is about 15 feet long and weighs over 1,500 pounds.

It was not immediately clear why the missile malfunctioned; it had been checked and appeared in “perfect condition,” the German navy said. Another of the same type of missile had been successfully launched beforehand.

While the ship’s deck and bridge were damaged, the effects were likely limited by the design of the Mark 41 launcher, which is armored, according to Popular Mechanics.

The two ships sailed into the Norwegian port of Harstad on June 22, 2018, before returning to their homeport in the German city of Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea.

Damage on the vertical launch system aboard the German navy frigate Sachsen, June 2018.

(Photo by German Navy)

“We have to practice realistically, so that we are ready for action in case of emergency, also for the national and alliance defense,” Vice Adm. Andreas Krause, navy inspector, said in the release. Despite the risks, Krause said, “our crews are highly motivated and ready to do their best.”

Germany’s military has hit a number of setbacks in recent years, like equipment shortages and failures. Dwindling military expertise and a lack of strategic direction for the armed forces have contributed to these problems.

The navy has been no exception. The first Baden-Württemberg frigate, a program thought up in 2005, was delivered in 2016, but the navy has refused to commission it, largely because the centerpiece computer system didn’t pass necessary tests.

At the end of 2017, it was reported that all six of the German navy’s submarines were out of action— four because they were being serviced in shipyards with the other two waiting for berths.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Here’s what the US military’s future helicopter fleet could look like

In what the participants call a “unique” collaboration, government agencies and aerospace corporations are working together to develop advanced platforms and technologies for vertical lift that are intended to replace virtually all the current rotary wing and tilt-rotor aircraft being used by the four U.S. military services.


The results of those efforts are likely to also influence future civilian and international vertical lift programs.

The ultimate goal is to produce a family of vertical lift aircraft that can serve as transports for personnel and cargo and perform attack, scout, search and rescue, anti-submarine and anti-surface ship missions from land or sea at speeds and ranges far exceeding existing capabilities.

During a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, the industry and government representatives said the focus was on achieving the maximum commonality of aircraft components and open architecture in mission systems to reduce production and sustainment costs and promote interoperability among individual aircraft and services.

The Sikorsky X-2. (Courtesy photo)

The coalition of talent is working on two separate but closely related programs: Future Vertical Lift and Joint Multi-role Technology Demonstration, which are managed by the Army with participation by the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

Under the FVL part of the effort, Bell Helicopter is working on an advanced tilt-rotor aircraft called the V-280 Valor, which advances the technologies produced for the V-22 Ospreys that are operated by the Marines and Air Force Special Operations Command and in the future by the Navy.

For FVL, Boeing-Sikorsky team is building a “coaxial” helicopter called the SB-1 Defiant, which uses counter-rotating rotors for vertical operations and a rear-mounted propeller for high-speed level flight. It builds on technology demonstrated by Sikorsky’s X-2 that hit speeds of 260 knots, or 300 miles an hour.

At CSIS, Chris Van Buiten, vice president of Sikorsky Innovations, and Vince Tobin, VP for advanced tilt-rotor systems at Bell, said their aircraft will fly next year in preparation for a competitive “fly off” for the FVL program.

Both of those firms, Rockwell Collins and other companies are participating in the JMR program, which is focused on developing a new generation of mission systems and avionics that would go into any future vertical lift aircraft and, the panelist said, could be retrofitted into some of the legacy platforms that are likely to remain in service for decades.

The Rockwell Collins officials said the advanced computer systems being developed in the JMR effort would allow the future vertical lift platforms to be “optionally manned,” meaning they could be operated as unmanned systems as well as flown by humans.

Bell has also introduced an unmanned tilt-rotor proposal, the V-247 Vigilant, with a folding wing and rotor for the Marines.

Dan Bailey, program director of JMR/FVL for the Army, said the technology demonstration program is expected to culminate in 2020, and will “set the conditions for the future” as they seek to replace all the military’s vertical lift systems over decades.

The FVL competition for the air frame should conclude in 2019, he said.

Bailey said the vertical lift “airframe designs we have today are very limited on what we can get out of them.” And the ability to increase efficiency in those platforms “is limited.”

“We need new platforms,” he said.

Bailey and the others stressed the importance of pushing open architecture capabilities in the systems developed under JMR. Open architecture generally means the software within mission systems and other aircraft avionics is independent of the hardware. That allows rapid and relatively inexpensive changes in the systems as technology improves or mission requirements change.

Bailey said the FVL/JMR program provides the ability to partner with industry “that is unique” and will allow the government “to do this efficiently.”

To meet the multi-service requirements of the FVL program, Van Buiten and Tobin said their aircraft could be produced with the rotor and wing folding capabilities that the Navy and Marines require for shipboard operations.

Intel

A mesmerizing look at a taser being fired in super slow-motion

The Slow Mo Guys — a YouTube channel dedicated to filming action shots in super slow motion — released a cringeworthy video of one of their cameramen getting bare body tazed.


The video starts with a couple of incredible slow motion shots of the Taser being deployed: one side shot followed by a frontal.

Source: The Slow Mo Guys/YouTube

Dan Hafen, the volunteer for this experiment, is introduced at 1:50 of the video and soon takes off his shirt to capture the full prong penetration. OUCH.

Source: The Slow Mo Guys/YouTube

Watch his muscles contract from the point of impact to the rest of his back like a water rippling in a pond after a stone is tossed in.

Source: The Slow Mo Guys/YouTube

His face says it all.

Source: The Slow Mo Guys/YouTube

Here’s the barbed prong being pulled out of his skin.

Source: The Slow Mo Guys/YouTube

Service members authorized to carry Tasers have to pass a written test and be able to effectively engage a target with a minimum of two Taser cartridges before they can carry a Taser. Once they complete training, they have the option to get tazed, according to the Air Force.

Watch:

NOW: Airman gets tasered, grabs another airman’s junk

OR: Here’s the military’s incredibly painful ‘OC Spray’ training