The Navy’s insane vertical take-off fighters of the 1950s - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy’s insane vertical take-off fighters of the 1950s

Nearly two decades before the Harrier jump jet would prove the efficacy of vertical take-off and landing platforms, the U.S. Navy considered taking another approach to fielding fighters without a runway.

In the years immediately following World War II, the United States found itself trying to adapt its newfound airpower to a world with nuclear weapons in it. America knew its monopoly on atomic bombs wouldn’t last forever, and by the mid 1940s, it seemed clear that the Soviet Union would eventually become the planet’s second nuclear power.

That day came sooner than many expected, when a nuclear detonation at the Semipalatinsk test site in modern-day Kazakhstan on August 29, 1949, ushered in an era of military competition between global powers. In just a few short decades, the combined nuclear weapon stockpile of the U.S. and Soviet Union exceeded 70,000. The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction tends to be discussed in terms of just the U.S. and Soviets these days, but with stockpiles that large, it was truly the world that hung in the balance as these two superpowers stared one another down from their respective hemispheres.

Nuclear war and the need for VTOL aircraft

(National Nuclear Security Administration)

For some time, nuclear war seemed not only possible, but even likely, as the two nations postured for territory and prestige. Within some defense circles, the question really wasn’t if a nuclear war would break out… but when.

The fact that just 21 years passed between the conclusion of World War I and the onset of World War II is an important piece of context to consider when looking back at the decades immediately following that second great conflict. Military leaders in both nations were largely old enough to have seen not one, but two world wars, each setting a new precedent for war’s horrific destructive capacity. World War III wasn’t a hypothetical concept for much of the world as it is today. World War III seemed like a very real and potentially likely scenario, and the one thing both sides were certain of was that the next global conflict would start the same way the last one had ended: With nuclear weapons.

(Wikimedia Commons)

While America’s politicians largely saw the concept of nuclear war as the end state of a diplomatic failure, America’s military leaders were stuck in the unenviable position of having to plan to fight and win such a war. That meant finding ways to stay in the fight after the first nukes made landfall, and one way that manifested in a number of military aircraft development programs was the concept of VTOL, or Vertical Take-Off and Landing.

Throughout World War II, the world saw an explosion of aviation infrastructure development, as landing strips popped up in every region of the fight. These airstrips throughout Europe and the Pacific would almost certainly be seen as an imposing threat to the Soviets in a new conflict, as they would provide America and its allies with ample opportunity to launch heavy payload bombers deep into Soviet territory.

U.S. Air Force B-29s in 1945 (USAF Photo)

As a result, Pentagon brass believed airstrips would be among the first targets of a Soviet nuclear attack. If they were right and the U.S. couldn’t count on having airstrips positioned around the globe to support combat operations, they needed a new fighter that could take off and land without the need for a well-manicured runway.

The U.S. Air Force considered the Canadian flying saucer known as the VZ-9 Avrocar. The U.S. Navy sought their own solution, and by 1950, they had received proposals from both Lockheed and Convair.

The Lockheed XFV “Salmon”

While the need for VTOL aircraft was seen all across the Pentagon, the Navy saw vertical take-off and landing platforms as an opportunity to deploy intercept fighters from non-aircraft carrier vessels. In fact, the Navy even considered launching VTOL fighters off of merchant ships in a new World War if necessary.

In June of 1951, Lockheed was awarded a Navy contract to build the XFV-1; a prototype fighter with traditional wings, a massive reinforced X-shaped tail, and a 5,850 horsepower turboprop engine spinning a pair of three-bladed contra-rotating propellers that made the aircraft look like the bastard child of a helicopter and a prop-driven fighter. Most unusual of all, the aircraft was designed to take off and land on its tail, with its nose pointed straight up in the air.

(Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed called on famed aviation pioneer Kelly Johnson to design their VTOL XFV, and one could have argued at the time that the program couldn’t have been placed in better hands. Johnson was just coming off of the development of the P-38 Lightning and then America’s first jet fighter, the P-80 Shooting Star. His long and storied career as an aeronautical engineer eventually included overseeing first of their kind platforms like the U-2 Spy Plane, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Nighthawk.

For testing, the XFV-1 was fitted with an awkward-looking set of landing gear, which included mounting wheels on the bottom of the lower tail wings. In December of 1953, the XFV-1 got its first taste of the sky when Chief Test Pilot Herman ‘Fish’ Salmon managed to make the aircraft “hop” briefly during taxing tests. Less than a year later, in June of 1954, it would make it all the way into the sky for its first real flight.

XFV-1 with landing gear attached (U.S. Navy photo)

Unfortunately, the Allison YT40-A-6 turboprop engine installed on the prototype was not powerful enough to manage actual vertical take-offs or landings. Instead, Lockheed planned to use the forthcoming (and more powerful) Allison T54 engine, which would produce 7,100 horsepower, but issues with the engine’s development meant the XFV’s desperately needed power plant would never arrive.

Scaffolding for the pilot to board the XFV-1 (Lockheed)

The prototype XFV-1 did make a total of 32 brief flights and even managed to hover with its nose up for a short period of time, but never accomplished a single vertical take-off or landing.

The Convair XFY Pogo

(Wikimedia Commons)

Convair’s take on the vertical take-off and landing premise shared a number of similarities with Lockheed’s. Like the XFV, Convair’s XFY Pogo was designed to sit upright on its tail so it could leverage its pair of three-bladed contra-rotating propellers to take off like a helicopter. Then, once in the air, the aircraft would re-orient itself to fly forward like a traditionally prop-driven plane.

XFY on a launch cart (Wikimedia Commons)

For its purposes, the Pogo was more successful than Lockheed’s outing. The first outdoor test flights began in August of 1954, and a series of 70 successful vertical take-off and landing drills following shortly thereafter. By November of that year, the team at Convair with test pilot and Marine reservist, Lieutenant Colonel James F. “Skeets” Coleman at the stick, achieved their first successful transition from vertical flight to horizontal. In order to make the transition easier, the pilot’s seat within the cockpit was mounted on gimbals that oriented the pilot at 45 degrees in vertical flight mode and 90 degrees when flying horizontally.

(U.S. Navy Photo)

Despite its successes, subsequent test flights began to reveal problems with the VTOL upright fighter’s very premise. While flying, the Pogo lacked airbrakes or spoilers to help it slow down after high-speed flight, but more troubling was just how difficult landing the unusual aircraft could be. Pilots had to look over their shoulder and back to the ground as they slowly lowered the fighter down onto its tail. Eventually, a low-power radar system was installed that would help the pilot gauge their altitude with a series of lights, but landing was still risky. It quickly became apparent that the Navy’s plan to put these fighters on a wide variety of non-carrier vessels just wouldn’t work, because only the best pilots in the force had a chance at landing the plane.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Further damning the concept were jet fighters of the era that were reaching speeds as high as Mach 2, while the prop-driven vertical take-off fighters the Navy was testing couldn’t even break the sound barrier. Ultimately, the concept was scrapped, damning both the Lockheed and Convair vertical take-off fighters to life in museums by the end of 1956.

Ultimately, the U.S. Navy would invest heavily into fixed-wing and sweep-wing carrier-based fighters like the F9F Panther, the F-14 Tomcat, and the F/A-18 Hornet. However, vertical or short take-off fighters did still find their way into America’s arsenal. The U.S. Marines began flying the AV-8A Harrier in 1971, and today, Marines are experimenting with using amphibious assault ships to launch sorties of the short take-off, vertical landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35B.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 things geardos buy that are actually useful

No one wants to be labelled a “geardo.” They’re the person in the unit that spends way too much money to buy themselves things that are either not authorized for wear with the uniform or are redundant because the issued version is just as good.

It’s not inherently a bad thing to make yourself more prepared for combat, it’s more that people who buy extra crap are wasting their money to tack on useless crap that will do nothing but slow them down. Being fully decked out in mostly useless gear is also a telltale sign that the person has no idea what is actually used in combat — meaning they’re probably a POG.

All that being said, some of the crap they buy isn’t without merit. Sometimes, buying your own version of gear, something that was designed by someone other than the lowest bidder, helps plenty. The following pieces of gear are popular among geardos, but are actually useful.


If you’re on a boring field op that you know won’t require you to fire your weapon, having a muzzle cap will make it so you can just immediately turn your weapon into the armorer, no problem.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Muzzle caps

A dumb geardo buys anything to look cool. Smart geardos, however, buy things that actually serve a tangible purpose. Take the muzzle cap, for instance. It costs all of seven bucks for a pack of five and it’s literally just a piece of plastic.

That insignificant-seeming muzzle cover makes sure that dust and sand don’t get inside your barrel. Typically, grunts clean their rifles more often than POGs, but making sure that you’re spending time cleaning just carbon out of the chamber instead of all the rest of the gunk makes life so much easier.

They also make great unit shirts that everyone will actually want to wear… just saying.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech Sgt. Carlos J. Treviño)

Moisture-wicking shirts

If you’re sent to the desert, you’re going to sweat every minute of the day. Standard-issue undershirts are made of heavy cotton, which means they’re heavier, thicker, and hold all that nasty sweat.

Most Army regulations state the undershirt of your ACU top needs to be the same, “coyote tan” color. Thankfully, there’s a lot of wiggle room in the regulations and there are plenty of third-party options to pick from.

They’re helpful, once you learn how to put the damn thing on.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Cayce Nevers)

Three-point rifle slings

When you’re deployed, you constantly need to have your assigned weapon on your person, POG or grunt. The single-strap sling that you’re given can get caught when you’re trying to get to the low-ready. The three-point sling makes things a lot more ergonomic and less of a hassle.

And then there’s the overly cool one-point slings that just tie around the buttstock. You’re going to drag your rifle through the dirt and mud with that thing — that’s entirely a geardo buy.

You seriously don’t want to ever overdo it. Ounces make pounds, after all.

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

Store-bought magazine pouches

One of the defining traits of a geardo is the number of pouches they have on their kit or rucksack. As long as you don’t have more than your standard six plus one magazine pouches, no one will accuse you of being a Fobbit.

But if you swap out the six that the Army gave you with the store-bought varieties, you can use the extra magazine pouches to hold all the other crap, like those AAFES pogs that replaced coins. The M249 SAW drum pouch is actually extremely useful because it’s about the same size as a folded-up poncho.

Whatever it takes to make you not go deaf.

(DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kitt Amaritnant)

High-speed ear pro

Tinnitus is a very serious problem. It’s a constant ringing in your ears that lasts for the rest of your life, and it seems to hit the military community in far greater numbers than the civilian world — for obvious reasons. It’s actually the number one disability among U.S. veterans.

The ear pro that your supply NCO tosses out barely works and is a pain in the ass to put in properly. If going out of your way to buy a good set of ear protection gets you to actually use them and not screw up your hearing, it’s a hundred-percent justified.

Once you make the switch, it’s kinda hard to go back to regular boots.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert L. McIlrath)

Barely authorized boots

If there’s one piece of military gear that the Army keeps issuing out despite being complete garbage, it’s got to be the general-issue boots. They rip easily, they have no arch or heel support, and the soles wear out extremely quickly.

As long as you can find a pair that is within regulations for your branch and your command doesn’t seem to mind if you supply your own, these are a must.

Articles

4 weapons a Reaper can drop

With news that the MQ-9 Reaper has gained the ability to drop the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, this unmanned aerial vehicle has gained some new capabilities. But this leads to a big question: What else can a Reaper carry?


Here’s a look at some options:

1. AGM-114 Hellfire

This is perhaps the oldest of the UAV-mounted weapons, making its debut off the MQ-1 Predator. With a range of five miles and a 20-pound high-explosive warhead, the Hellfire proved to be very capable at killing high-ranking terrorists — after its use from the Apache proved to be the bane of enemy tanks.

AGM-114 Hellfire missiles (Creative Commons photo)

2. GBU-12 Paveway II

While the 2,000-pound GBU-24 and GBU-10 got much more press, the GBU-12 is a very important member of the Paveway laser-guided bomb family. Its most well-known application came when it was used for what was called “tank plinking” in Desert Storm. GBU-12s, though, proved very valuable in the War on Terror, largely because they caused much less collateral damage than the larger bombs.

Super Hornet pilot checks a GBU-12 – a laser-guided 500-pounder.

3. GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)

This is the 500-pound version of the JDAM family. While it has a larger error zone than the laser-guided bombs, it still comes close enough to ruin an insurgent’s day. The GPS system provides a precision option when weather — or battlefield smoke — makes laser guidance impractical.

Aviation Ordnancemen place a weapons cart of GBU-38 500-pound satellite guided bombs on an ordnance elevator on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Stephen Early)

4. AGM-176 Griffin

This missile has longer range and a smaller warhead, but it still packs enough punch to kill some bad guys. The Griffin has both a laser seeker and GPS guidance. In addition to blasting insurgents out of positions with minimal collateral damage, Griffin is also seen as an option to dealing with swarms of small boats, like Iranian Boghammers.

USS Firebolt fires a version of the AGM-176 Griffin missile. (U.S. Navy photo)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Indian Air Force is more powerful than you think

India hasn’t been given a lot of credit as a military power. Given that Mahatma Ghandi is highly revered for his advocacy of non-violence, it seems ironic that India has quietly become a significant military power in Asia. This is evidenced best by the Indian Air Force. When it comes to air-power, India is hard to beat.


An upgraded Indian MiG-27 Flogger. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Part of what makes India a formidable airborne combatant is that it operates such a wide variety of aircraft. FlightGlobal.com notes that seven multi-role fighters are in service with the Indian Air Force and at least two other systems are on order. These aircraft range from the venerable MiG-21 Fishbed (which India has modified into an effective fighter) to the ultra-modern Sukhoi Su-30MKI Flanker and the indigenously designed Tejas (formerly known as the Light Combat Aircraft). The force totals over 800 fighters.

But there’s more to an air force than just fighters. India also sports a lot of transports, ranging from the relatively small An-32s to the powerful C-17 Globemasters — and these are just two of the six transport types in service. Additionally, India has a grand total of seven Il-78 Midas aerial refueling planes and two Airbus A330-based tankers on order.

An Il-78 refuels two Mirage 2000s. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Staffing such a force requires a talented crew, and you can’t have that without trainers. India has over 300 trainers, from British-designed Hawk 132s to India’s own HJT-16 Kiran. The country also has two-seat versions of the Jaguar and Mirage 2000 to help train pilots for the vast force of fighters.

An Indian Air Force (IAF) 14th Squadron SEPECAT (Breguet/BAC) Jaguar GR-1 Shamser (Sword of Justice) ground attack aircraft prepares to receive fuel from a IAF 78th Squadron Ilyushin IL-78 Midas aerial refueling aircraft. (Image from USAF)

The Indian Air Force also has a lot of helicopters. Many are Mi-8 or Mi-17 “Hip” transports, joined by home-built Dhruvs. A small force of Mi-24 Hinds are in service, and the country has ordered some of the latest AH-64 Apaches, but the bulk of the attack helicopters are from the country’s Light Combat Helicopter program.

Two BAe Hawks. (Image from Indian Navy)

In short, if a country wants to attack India, it’s got one heck of a fight coming.

Articles

This is how US ships defeat missiles without firing a shot

When the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) came under attack multiple times in October 2016, the ship was able in at least one instance to use its defenses to shoot down the incoming Noor anti-ship missiles.


But there are times when a ship can’t shoot down the missiles – and thankfully, U.S. Navy vessels have plenty of options.

There are a number of reasons why a U.S. Navy ship may not be able to fire. In some cases, it may be due to restrictive rules of engagement. Other times, the inability to shoot may be due to battle damage. Perhaps there’s concern about what a miss might do.

In those cases, the Navy relies on decoying an inbound missile in one of several ways.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) steams through the Atlantic Ocean. Mason is participating in Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 08-4 as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katrina Parker /Released)

One option is via electronic countermeasures, or “ECM.” Specifically, the goal is to interfere with the guidance systems on the missiles by confusing or blocking the seekers on radar-guided ones.

The confusion angle is very simple. An ECM system like the AN/SLQ-32 would create false targets. This gets the missile to hopefully chase into empty ocean. Another method is to reduce the seeker’s effective range with jamming. This would allow the ship to get outside the seeker’s ability to acquire a target — again sending the missile off on a merry chase to nowhere.

An antenna for the AN/SLQ-32 system on board USS Nicholson (DD 982). (US Navy photo)

However, missile makers are wise to the countermeasures and haven’t stood still. The field of electronic counter-countermeasures exists to help make seekers both more powerful and more intelligent, enabling them to beat the ECM. Thankfully, there is another option.

Most U.S. Navy ships also have launchers for chaff. Like the deception portion of ECM, it creates a false target for a missile seeker. Unlike the deception portion of ECM, since it is actually physically metal, it creates a real “target” for the seeker to home in on.

Furthermore, firing a bunch of the rockets makes a bigger “target” – which the incoming missile will hopefully go for.

You can see a Burke-class destroyer launch a chaff rocket in the video below.

These are known as “soft” kills. The enemy missile is negated, but it is misdirected as opposed to being shot down. “Soft” kills do have a potential to go bad, though.

During the Argentinean air attacks on the Royal Navy on May 25, 1982, a Royal Navy frigate, HMS Ambuscade, fired off chaff to decoy incoming Exocet anti-ship missiles. The missiles flew through the chaff cloud and locked on to the Atlantic Conveyor, a merchant vessel carrying supplies for the British forces. Two missiles hit the vessel, which sank three days after being hit.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Bell 360 Invictus and Sikorsky Raider X selected for the next phase of Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program

The U.S. Army Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team on March 25, 2020 selected the two competitors for the second phase of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program: the Bell 360 Invictus and the Sikorsky Raider X. As you may already know, FARA is intended to fill the capability gap left by the retirement of the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior with initial fielding of the new helicopter by 2028.


BREAKING NEWS: @USArmy selects @BellFlight and @Sikorsky (@LockheedMartin) to build and test #FARA Competitive Prototypes @armyfutures #FVL #ArmyModernizationpic.twitter.com/dktlAS25Wc

twitter.com

As noted in the official statement, the program is structured into three phases: preliminary design; detailed design, build, and test; and prototype completion assessment and evaluation for entrance into production phase. The first phase saw the preliminary design of five candidates presented by Bell, Sikorsky, Boeing, AVX Aircraft/L3 Harris and Karem Aircraft. The U.S. Army selected Bell’s and Sikorsky’s proposals after an initial design and risk assessment, granting them contracts for detailed design, build and test of their air vehicle solutions worth respectively $ 700 million and $ 940 million. The two companies will face a final fly-off competition in 2023.

“The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft is the Army’s number one aviation modernization priority and is integral to effectively penetrate and dis-integrate adversaries’ Integrated Air Defense Systems. It will enable combatant commanders with greater tactical, operational and strategic capabilities through significantly increased speed, range, endurance, survivability and lethality”, said Dr. Bruce D. Jette, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

Bell 360 Invictus – Penetrate Defensive Positions

www.youtube.com

The Bell 360 Invictus, which we covered in greater detail in a previous article here at The Aviationist, uses a simple design with proven technologies to reduce risk and cost, like its main rotor which is a scaled down version of the articulated five-blade rotor designed for the Bell 525 Relentless, a super-medium-lift twin-engine commercial helicopter for the off-shore market.

One aspect that hit the headlines as soon as the Invictus was unveiled is its streamlined design much comparable to the RAH-66 Comanche. Here’s what this Author wrote about this in that occasion:

Another feature that will help the helicopter reach high speeds is its streamlined profile, internal weapon bays, main rotor aerodynamic shroud, retractable landing gear and a ducted tail rotor, which is also slightly canted. This design is highly reminiscent of the Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, the stealth armed reconnaissance helicopter designed in the 1980s to replace the OH-6 Cayuse and the OH-58 Kiowa and to designate targets for the AH-64 Apache. The program was canceled in 2004 with only two flying prototypes built.

Stealth, however, is not the reason of the design adopted for the Invictus. “Everything we have done has been focused on how do you keep the lowest drag possible on the aircraft, so we don’t have to add exotic solutions to the aircraft the meet the requirements to get the speeds that you need for the FARA program”, said Flail during the presentation.

The Sikorsky Raider X, on the other hand, features a more complex solution with a coaxial main rotor and a pusher propeller. The Raider X is a scaled-up version of the S-97 Raider, with a side-by-side cockpit to widen the fuselage and increase the payload carried in the internal weapon bays. Speaking about the payload, Lockheed Martin (which acquired Sikorsky in 2015) published a new concept art that shows for the first time the Raider X with its weapon bays open and the turret for the 20 mm cannon in front of the cockpit.

Meet Sikorsky RAIDER X™.

www.youtube.com

Recently, Bell and Sikorsky were awarded contracts also in the other Future Vertical Lift program, the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) that will replace the UH-60 Black Hawk. Like for FARA, the two companies submitted two completely different designs, with Bell proposing the V-280 Valor tiltrotor and Sikorsky (in partnership with Boeing) proposing the SB1 coaxial compound helicopter. This time there were no additional competitors, so Bell and Sikorsky received two-years contracts to refine their already flying prototypes and produce conceptual designs, requirements feasibility, and trade studies for a final, ready to combat, aircraft proposal.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How a Marine Corps scout sniper managed to sneak up on his enemy naked

An expert sniper can sneak up on an enemy naked as the day he was born. It’s not particularly advised, but one top sharpshooter did exactly that just to prove a point, Marine snipers told Insider.

“Ghillie suits make people feel like they are invisible,” a Marine Corps scout sniper instructor at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia explained of the full-body uniforms that snipers are trained to adorn with grass and other materials to blend into their environment.

“The vegetation and the camouflage, that’s only one part of it,” the instructor added. “It’s more route selection and movement. It’s about what you are putting between you and the target.”


One top sniper proved that to be true by completing stalking training — an exercise where snipers are asked to sneak into position and fire on a target without getting caught by observers using high-powered optics — in nothing but his boots, two Marines told Insider.

A Marine undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course prepares to move during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)

“He was one of our instructors, and he wanted to show up his fellow HOGs on the glass,” a schoolhouse instructor said, referring to the observers (nicknamed “Hunters of Gunmen” or HOGs) searching for the PIGs (Professionally Instructed Gunmen) in the field with monocular or binocular devices.

“I’m going to do this naked, and you’re not going to catch me,” the legendary sniper supposedly said. “I’m going to go out there and burn you guys down naked except for boots on.”

And, he did, Insider learned from the Marines.

No clothes. No ghillie suit. No vegetation. The sniper went into the field with nothing but a painted face and a pair of boots. Insider recently observed a stalking exercise at Quantico, where snipers in training worked their way down a lane filled with snakes, various bugs, and quite a few thorns. It was not an environment for someone to crawl around in nude. It’s unclear what type of stalking lane the naked Marine was on.

The sniper is said to have used screens, natural features on the stalking lane that shield the sniper from view, to avoid the watchful eyes of his training enemy.

He was also very careful and deliberate with his movements.

A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment looks through the scope of his rifle during a stalking exercise.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)

“That’s the art of invisibility,” an instructor told Insider. “It’s all about movement. Some animals are phenomenal at it.” Lions, for example, will crawl low and burn through the grass until they get in range of their target.

That’s a hard skill to learn though. “When you are crawling on the ground, it’s hard to understand where you are at. It’s like being an ant,” a second instructor explained. “It’s the weirdest thing in the world when you get that low to the earth and you start crawling. It makes people uncomfortable.”

When Insider visited the base last month, we watched a group of trainees go through stalking training for the first time. Several of them were spotted in the lane because they raised their heads to see their target more clearly.

“They love to raise up. They love to look up,” an instructor explained. “It’s such a natural human instinct, to think that to see something you need 180 degrees.”

“Human beings are so uncomfortable when they can’t see what is going on around them,” another instructor told Insider. “You have to fight that uncomfortable feeling. You have to force yourself to act unnaturally to be an effective stalker.”

The naked Marine, whose fully clothed picture hangs in the scout sniper schoolhouse at Quantico, seems to have a great grasp of that concept.

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

Articles

Did Russia actually get its LCS right?

America’s Littoral Combat Ship program has generated more than its share of controversy. Despite a promising SOUTHCOM deployment by USS Freedom (LCS 1) in 2010, it is more in the news for engine problems than for its potential.


The ship’s armament has been criticized for being too light. Heck, the Navy couldn’t decide between the two designs (it should be noted, both had their strong points).

Also read: The 11 most powerful weapon systems in the Russian military

Life may have gotten worse for the LCS. According to NavyRecognition.com, Russia’s Derzky-class combatants are on the way – and the Russians may have gotten the concept right.

Concept photo of Russian Projekt 20386 littoral combat ship. (Photo from Thai Military and Region blog)

Officially known as Projekt 20386, the 3,400-ton Derzky has a single 100mm gun, two eight-cell launchers for the Redoubt system, two four-cell launchers for the Kalibr anti-ship missiles, two quad torpedo tube mounts, and two AK-630 close-in weapon systems. It also has the ability to carry a helicopter, a multi-mission bay, and a top speed of 30 knots.

What does the LCS bring to the table? A single 57mm gun, a RAM launcher (either the Mk 31 or the SeaRAM), and a few .50-caliber machine guns. The Freedom-class LCS displaces 3900 tons, the Independence-class, about 3,100. They both have top speeds in excess of 40 knots (44 for the Independence, 47 for the Freedom). Both can also carry two MH-60R helicopters. Earlier this year, the Navy test fired both the Harpoon and NSM anti-ship missiles from USS Coronado (LCS 4). The Navy’s Small Surface Combatant program is slated to add heavier armament to either the Freedom or Independence design.

The Russian vessel is packing a lot more firepower into a hull that is a little smaller than the LCS. The Derzky gives up anywhere from 14 to 17 knots of speed when compared to the LCS, but the LCS cannot outrun the Kalibr anti-ship missile. The LCS has more helicopter capacity, but the MH-60s are only equipped with the AGM-114 Hellfire anti-ship missile (older SH-60Bs had the AGM-119 Penguin). Some off-the-shelf systems could make the LCS a much closer match for the Derzky.

The good news is that the Russians will not get the Derzky until 2021, and they are only planning to buy 10 of these vessels. By then, the United States will have most of the Flight 0 littoral combat ships in service and those ships will have some upgrades.

The bad news for the United States is that Russia may have built the better LCS.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force just used its new laser to shoot down a missile

The Air Force Research Laboratory Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration Program successfully completed a major program milestone with the successful surrogate laser weapon system shoot down of multiple air launched missiles in flight, April 23, 2019.

The SHiELD program is developing a directed energy laser system on an aircraft pod that will serve to demonstrate self-defense of aircraft against surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.

“This critical demonstration shows that our directed energy systems are on track to be a game changer for our warfighters,” said Dr. Kelly Hammett, AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate director.


During the series of tests at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility, the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System, acting as a ground-based test surrogate for the SHiELD system, was able to engage and shoot down several air launched missiles in flight.

During the series of tests at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., April 23, 2019, the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System, acting as a ground-based test surrogate for the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator system, was able to engage and shoot down several air-launched missiles in flight.

(Air Force Research Laboratory)

The demonstration is an important step of the SHiELD system development, by validating laser effectiveness against the target missiles. The final SHiELD system, however, will be much smaller and lighter, as well as ruggedized for an airborne environment.

“The successful test is a big step ahead for directed energy systems and protection against adversarial threats,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, AFRL commander. “The ability to shoot down missiles with speed-of-light technology will enable air operation in denied environments. I am proud of the AFRL team advancing our Air Force’s directed energy capability.”

High Energy Laser technology has made significant gains in performance and maturity due to continued research and development by AFRL and others in the science and technology ecosystem. It is considered to be a game changing technology that will bring new capabilities to the warfighter.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This tank is the backbone of the Russian Army

We hear a lot about the T-14 Armata and the T-90, some of Russia’s latest designs. But neither of these tanks, historically, has served as the backbone of the Russian Army. Let’s face facts: Most of the T-90 production has been for export — India is arguably the world’s biggest operator of the T-90 — and the T-14 is still, technically, in development. That means that the most modern tank that the Russians can operate in significant numbers is still the T-80.


This late-Soviet-era tank was produced in multiple locations, some of which are in what is now Russia and others in what is now Ukraine. Russia has around 4,500 of these tanks on hand, either in active service or in reserve. Russia may have more T-72s currently, but, frankly, the T-72 is an overhyped piece of junk.

A Soviet T-80 main battle tank on maneuvers. (DOD photo)

The T-80 is a much-improved version of the T-64. The T-80 has a top speed of 43 miles per hour and can go 273 miles on a single tank of gas. It also has a crew of three, like most Soviet tanks, but uses an auto-loader as opposed to a 19-year-old grunt to feed the gun.

It’s armed with a pair of anti-tank missiles, the AT-8 Songster and the AT-11 Sniper, that can be fired from its 125mm gun. The tank also has a 12.7mm anti-aircraft gun and a 7.62mm machine gun. This all sounds good, but this is virtually the same gun that couldn’t penetrate an Abrams at 400 yards. The usual load is 36 rounds for the gun and five AT-8s.

A Soviet T-80 tank with reactive armor. The tank performed poorly in the First Chechen War. (DOD photo)

The T-80 saw action in the First Chechen War — but woefully underperformed. As many as 200 tanks were lost in the city of Grozny alone. That didn’t stop the tank from being exported, however, especially as former Soviet republics fell into a cash crunch (South Korea even bought some).

Learn more about the mainstay of Russia’s task force in the video below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mcxcvfy0OSQ
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Still the champ: 3 things you should know about the SR-71 Blackbird

Before the advent of stealth aircraft, the U.S. military had a very different approach on how to operate its planes in contested airspace. That approach could be summarized in two words:

Brute force.

In those early years of air defense system development, the U.S. was less interested in developing sneaky aircraft and more concerned with developing untouchable ones– utilizing platforms that leveraged high altitude, high speed, or both to beat out air defenses of all sorts — whether we’re talking surface to air missiles or even air superiority fighters.


Lockheed’s legendary Kelly Johnson, designer of just about every badass aircraft you can imagine from the C-130 to the U-2 Spy Plane, was the Pentagon’s go-to guy when it came to designing platforms that could evade interception through speed and altitude. His U-2 Spy Plane, designed and built on a shoestring budget and in a span of just a few months, first proved the concept of flying above enemy defenses, but then America needed something that could also outrun anything Russia could throw its way. The result was the Blackbird family of jets, including the operational SR-71 — an aircraft that remains the fastest operational military plane ever to take to the sky.

You could make a list of 1000 amazing facts about the SR-71 without breaking a sweat — but here are three even a few aviation nerds may not have of heard before:

USAF

The Blackbird had over 4,000 missiles fired at it. None ever hit their target.

The SR-71 Blackbird remained in operational service as a high speed, high altitude surveillance platform for 34 years — flying at speeds in excess of Mach 3 at altitudes of around 80,000 feet. This combination of speed and altitude made it all but untouchable to enemy anti-air missiles, so even when a nation knew that there was an SR-71 flying in their airspace, there was next to nothing it could do about it. According to Air Force data collected through pilot reports and other intelligence sources more than 4,000 missiles were fired at the SR-71 during its operational flights, but none ever managed to actually catch the fast-moving platform.

Its windshield gets so hot it had to be made of quartz.

i1.wp.com

Flying at such high speeds and altitudes puts incredible strain on the aircraft and its occupants, which forced Lockheed to find creative solutions to problems as they arose. One such problem was the immense amount of heat — often higher than 600 degrees Fahrenheit — that the windshield of the SR-71 would experience at top speeds. Designers ultimately decided that using quartz for the windshield was the best way to prevent any blur or window distortion under these conditions, so they ultrasonically fused the quartz to the aircraft’s titanium hull.

The SR-71 was the last major military aircraft to be designed using a ‘slide rule.’

USAF

There are countless incredible facts about the SR-71 that would warrant a place on this list, but this is one of the few facts that pertains specifically to the incredible people tasked with developing it. Not long after the SR-71 took to the sky, the most difficult mathematical aspects of aircraft design were handed off to computers that could crunch the numbers more quickly and reliably — but that wasn’t the case for the Blackbird. Kelly Johnson and his team used their “slide rules,” which were basically just specialized rulers with a slide that designers could use to aid them in their calculations in designing the mighty Blackbird. Years later, the aircraft was reviewed using modern aviation design computers only to reveal that the machines would not have suggested any changes to the design.

Just for fun, here’s Major Brian Shul’s incredible “Speed Check” story about flying the Blackbird.

Major Brian Shul, USAF (Ret.) SR-71 Blackbird ‘Speed Check’

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These pocket-sized drones could be a game changer on the battlefield

US soldiers have started receiving pocket-sized drones that could be a game changer for troops on the battlefield.

Soldiers with the 3 rd Brigade Combat Team, 82 ndAirborne Division recently got their hands on FLIR Black Hornet personal reconnaissance drones, a part of the Army’s Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) Program.

These drones, which are small enough to be carried on a soldier’s person, allow troops to see the field of battle more clearly without putting themselves in harms way.


A soldier with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division trains with a personal drone at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

(US Army photo by Patrick Ferraris)

The personal reconnaissance system includes two drones, one for day and one for night, as well as a base station, which connects to a handheld controller and a display.

These drones are small — only about 6 inches in length — and extremely lightweight, making it possible for soldiers to carry these tiny unmanned aerial vehicles on a utility belt.

Able to fly out to roughly one and a half miles, these little drones allow soldiers to assess the situation beyond them without abandoning their cover.

This technology, according to the Army’s PEO Soldier, “mitigates future losses of life and injuries by having a drone complete dangerous work that combat soldiers would usually perform on their own,” such as sending out a fire team to gather intel and conduct field reconnaissance.

One of the engineers involved in the project likened the new drones to flying binoculars that allow soldiers to see their surroundings like never before.

A personal reconnaissance drone flies in the sky at Ft. Bragg.

(US Army Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division will take these drones with them on their upcoming deployment, which will be the first time these UAVs will be deployed at the squad level.

Soldiers trained for a week at Fort Bragg in North Carolina with the new drones, getting a feel for the possibilities provided by this technology.

“This system is something new that not a lot of Soldiers have touched or even seen before, so it’s cool to test it out and push it to its limits before we take it with us on our deployment,” Army Sgt. Dalton Kruse, one of the operators, said in a statement.

He further commented that most of the operators who were trained on this new system had never flown a drone before, but they were able to adapt to the technology quickly.

“It was easy to pick up and fly, very user-friendly, and I can already tell that this system will benefit my unit downrange,” Kruse explained.

A soldier with the 3rd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division gets his turn during the recent fielding at Fort Bragg.

(US Army Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

This is life-saving technology that helps reduce the risk soldiers face on the battlefield.

“This kind of technology will be a life-saver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on,” Sgt. Ryan Subers, another operator, said in a statement.

The Army plans to eventually equip every squad with its own personal reconnaissance drone.

“It is the start of an era where every squad will have vision beyond their line of sight,” Nathan Heslink, the Assistant Program Manager for SBS with PEO Soldier, explained. “This allows soldiers to detect threats earlier than ever, meaning it is more likely Soldiers won’t be harmed during their missions.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines experiment with first-of-its-kind 3D printing operation

Marines from Marine Corps Systems Command and 7th Engineer Support Battalion along with engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory conducted the first known 3D concrete printing operation with a three-inch print nozzle at the CERL headquarters in early August 2019 in Champaign, Illinois.

The CERL, MCSC and 7th ESB team tested a new continuous mixer and three-inch pump for this print operation after successfully printing multiple structures, including a barracks and a bridge using, a two-inch pump and hose.

“This is really the first time we’ve ever printed something large with this system,” said Megan Kreiger, project lead for the Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures — or ACES — team at CERL. “It is experimental right now and we are trying to push the technology forward. This is the first time in the world anyone has really tried using these larger bead systems with these larger pumps.”


Increasing from a two-inch to a three-inch nozzle allows Marines to print larger structures faster and with less waste, according to Kreiger. The teams have envisioned printing with up to a four-inch nozzle in the future.

Marines from 7th Engineer Support Battalion along with engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory pose with a concrete bunker during a 3D concrete printing exercise Aug. 15, 2019, in Champaign, Illinois.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Michael Smith, 7th ESB)

While this was the first known printing of concrete with a three-inch hose and nozzle, the exercise was also significant because it incorporated a continuous mixer similar to the one currently fielded to Marines.

“The new mixer we are testing is a commercial model of a mixer that is already within the Marine Corps repertoire in the Airfield Damage Repair Kit,” said Capt. Matthew Audette, project officer for the Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell at MCSC. “That means we don’t have to field a new piece of gear in addition to the printer to make this work.”

This time the team printed a bunker that was designed by the Drafting and Survey combat engineers from 7th ESB based on practical field experience.

“The Marines from 7th ESB are the ones who designed what we are printing today,” said Audette. “They came up with the plans themselves, [Computer Aided Designed] the model, sliced it and then fed it through the printer.”

Marines from 7th Engineer Support Battalion along with engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory construct a concrete bunker during a 3D concrete printing exercise Aug. 15, in Champaign, Illinois.

(U.S. Marine Corps courtesy photo from Staff Sgt. Michael Smith, 7th ESB)

The 7th ESB Marines plan to build a conventional bunker similar to this 3D-printed version and compare them in blast or demolitions testing on a range.

The combat engineers envisioned a system like this being deployed to a forward operating base, and being operational within a few days of arrival. The system would quickly print small structures that can be transported to entry control points and operating posts in an efficient and timely manner using fewer Marines and less material.

According to ACES team data, 3D printing concrete structures reduces cost by 40 percent, construction time by 50 percent and the use of concrete materials by 44 percent. Additionally, it more than doubles the strength of walls, improves thermal energy performance by 10 times, reduces manpower by 50 percent and reduces the overall need for hard labor.

“With vertical construction, we are still in the realm of what we were doing 100 years ago,” said Audette. “Working with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop this technology we are reducing the man-hours involved, the labor involved and the materials involved.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.