The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The ability to detect and identify targets at night and under poor visibility conditions has long been an essential military requirement. History has shown that the ability to maneuver under the cover of darkness gives tacticians a big advantage over the enemy. Since its invention, night-vision technology has taken a firm place not only in individual soldiers’ kits, but in almost every component of the tactical spectrum, ranging from the perimeter defense to helicopter pilots and tank drivers.


The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams)

Today’s reality: Modernizing and retrofitting

Today, many governments face the costly need to upgrade their fleets of armored vehicles (AVs) that have become obsolete with time. Despite budget cuts and insufficient funding, armies around the world still need effective, affordable modernization options for their AV fleets.

India is a good example. Surrounded by hostile neighbors, like China and Pakistan, India’s government has quickly identified the need to modernize its tank fleet. The biggest defense vulnerability were gaps in the night-vision capabilities. Eventually, the government decided to equip its army’s old 3,500 battle tanks with modern night-vision devices.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were great lessons, too, in terms of understanding the usefulness of this modern technology. Many new technologies sprang up during these wars, ranging from unmanned platforms to smart sensors, but night-vision technology offered a completely new dimension to tactical operations and, possibly, changed the course of war.

As a response to similar demand around the world, many companies started offering retrofitted thermal imaging cameras and driver vision enhancement kits that can be installed on refurbished vehicles or added as an upgrade to new vehicles. Using these upgrades, older-generation military machinery can be modernized relatively inexpensively.

But what are these systems capable of? Let’s explore what thermal imaging systems can do and what they cannot.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini)

​Fighting tank blindness: Improved situational awareness

Thermal imaging is a boon to the armed forces, especially for ground troops. Nowadays, armored vehicles are required to operate in all-weather battlefield environments, and there is the need for proactive situational awareness (SA). Modern thermal imaging cameras certainly provide the necessary technological innovation to achieve this end.

A tank, besides being a formidable machine, is also a large target. For tank crews, it is important to detect before they are detected. Modern thermal imaging systems can offer up to 360° visibility and generate higher-resolution images — this will help AV crews get crucial information before they physically encounter a potential threat.

Such systems also typically have a wide-view screen with the ability to select a point of interest anywhere on the screen, and the capability to zoom in to study the object further, or the ability to switch between multiple camera feeds. To improve the operators’ tactical edge, such cameras have different screen orientations with options for secondary views of the periphery. What’s more, these systems can provide supporting analytics and alert operators to important events for faster decision-making and therefore higher survivability.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Richard Wrigley)

​Improved maneuvering

Besides the rich SA about what is happening around them, AV operators need to know the nature of the terrain on which they are advancing to successfully maneuver and tactically position themselves for battle.

This is what modern thermal imaging technology excels at. It gives AV operators the ability to reconnoiter, identify, and tag targets at greater distances or at close range, 24/7 and in any weather conditions. By being able to see the terrain ahead in total darkness, through tall grass, camouflage, dust, light fog, sand storms, and rain, drivers are able to detect obstacles or potential threats sooner and will have more time to react. Thermal imaging can also see through smoke, which is exactly what AV crews need on a smoke-covered street or battleground.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

(DoD photo by Benjamin Faske)

How effective thermal imaging is for AVs?

Since zero-visibility conditions have zero impact on thermal imaging cameras, they are capable of “seeing” in environmental conditions that are impenetrable to any other technology on the market. The types of threats these systems can detect are diverse: IEDs, vehicles, human targets, anti-tank missiles, and various terrain features and obstacles (cliffs, large boulders, waterways etc.).

This technology is not infallible though. Thermal imaging will have difficult time detecting AVs that use invisibility cloaks or other stealth technology, for example, the one in use by the Russian army.

New advances

The modern army’s growing need to operate at night and under poor visibility conditions has led to development of more and more sophisticated thermal imaging devices. One example is a research project that an experimental physicist Dr. Kristan Gurton and electronics engineer Dr Sean Hu are conducting for the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL). Their new camera, which relies on sensing polarized light, can see small hidden objects such as tripwires and booby traps, and it shows images in such detail that AV crews soon may be able to detect and identify specific individuals, for example, in urban environments or in the open field. Other advances, such as battle management systems, can be integrated as well with thermal imaging units for improved capabilities.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out Blackhawk’s new T-series retention holsters

Blackhawk is in the midst of reinventing itself. Josh Waldron, who founded and ran SilencerCo, took the reins as president last year.

No more yelling

Note in particular that we’re no longer yelling “Blackhawk!” — as the exclamation point has been excised from the over two-decades old brand. It’s emblematic of the new leadership at Blackhawk and the revitalization they wish to propagate throughout the company. Waldron’s been pushing hard to transform the company’s culture and brand, build a passionate team, and release innovative products.


T-Series holsters

So it’s fitting that the first full-scale product launch from the new team is the Blackhawk T-Series, a new line of retention holsters and successor to Blackhawk’s ubiquitous and controversial Serpa holsters.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The type of retention provided by holsters is commonly referred to as ranging from level 1 to 3 (or 4). A level 1 holster only has passive retention, whereby friction keeps the pistol in place in the holster. Most concealed carry holsters are in this category. Level 2 holsters add active retention on top of friction, using some sort of mechanism that the user must actively disengage before they can draw their weapon. This could be a thumb break snap, as you might find on a leather holster, or some sort of button or lever. A typical application for this type of holster is law enforcement or open carry, as it provides additional security against someone accessing your sidearm. A level 3 holster adds yet another retention mechanism, such as a hood; these in particular are commonly used by uniformed law enforcement officers.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The highlight of the new T-Series system is its thumb-actuated retention release. By simply acquiring your master grip on the gun, your thumb naturally falls on the release lever. Pushing inward toward the gun with your thumb, as you would as you acquire your grip anyway, releases a spring-loaded trigger guard lock and allows you to draw the weapon. The release lever can only be accessed from directly above, making it more secure in a potential scuffle.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The level 3 duty holster version features a secondary retention mechanism, a spring-loaded rotating strap that loops behind the pistol’s slide. Whereas some other holster systems require two separate motions to clear the first and second retention, the T-Series releases both the trigger guard lock and the strap in one fell swoop by pressing the thumb lever.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The polymer holster benefits from a two-stage manufacturing process that results in a strong Nylon exoskeleton with a soft-touch elastomeric inner liner that’s waterproof, slippery, and noise-dampening.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

As commonly found on concealment holsters, a screw adjusts the friction provided for passive retention. It tightens or loosens the holster to your preference. The backside of the holster features Blackhawk’s three-hole pattern to attach belt loops, spacers, and quick detach attachments. The hole pattern allows you to configure the holster vertically or with a forward or backward rake. The offset belt loop on our sample was robust (much more so than Blackhawk’s mass market belt loops and paddles) and can be screwed down to bite into a belt rig.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

Removing the derp from the Serpa situation

In our range session with the T-Series holster, we found the thumb-actuated release to work well and to be very intuitive. The primary adjustment we had to make was to make sure to keep our thumb vertical when grabbing the gun rather than sweeping the thumb into place; the latter would result in hitting the shields around the lever and fumbling the draw. Additionally, we also had to adjust to the lack of a speed cut on the front of the sample holster, which fully shields the entire slide and rear sights.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The new system addresses key complaints about the Serpa system. First, the trigger finger isn’t tasked with any other job than simply being a trigger finger. There’s even a relief molded into the outside of the holster to guide your trigger finger safely. Instead, the thumb releases the retention, and it does so in a very intuitive motion for quick and efficient draws. Second, if you pull up on your gun before depressing the release on a Serpa, it stays locked. The T-Series will release the retention when the lever is pressed whether or not you’re yanking on it like a teenage boy. Finally, the Serpa’s retention latch is susceptible to locking up when clogged with debris. We’ve observed this ourselves during some training evolutions years ago. Blackhawk says the new T-Series has additional clearance specifically for debris and a different spring design to avoid this problem.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

We also noticed that the new materials did mute the distinctive sounds of holstering and unholstering. It was by no means ninja-quiet, but certainly wasn’t as loud as typical kydex or polymer holsters.

Blackhawk put a lot of thought and attention to detail into the design and manufacturing of the T-Series. This bodes well for the new Blackhawk, with or without an exclamation point.

The T-Series will initially be available for Glocks and in black, with support for additional pistols to come later in the year as well as variants with a speed cut that will be red dot compatible and options for weapon-mounted lights.

MSRP for the level 2 T-Series holster will be 0. The level 3 holster will retail at 0.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this World War II icon measures up to the Humvee

The High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, better known as the Humvee, is one of the most ubiquitous and iconic vehicles in military history. Between 1984 and 2012, 281,000 Humvees have been produced and the line is still running. This vehicle does everything, from evacuating the wounded to taking out enemy tanks.

But as impressive as the Humvee’s 30+ year production run is, it still only accounts for about 85 percent of the 335,531 Willys MB, better known as the jeep, manufactured in just four years. So, numbers aside, how do these versatile, wheeled vehicles stack up?


The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

Two World War II icons on Guam: a Jeep and a M4 Sherman tank.

(USMC)

The Willys MB had a top speed of up to 65 miles per hour and could go 300 miles on a single tank of gas. It had a crew of two and could carry another three additional personnel. It could carry up to 800 pounds of cargo and tow 1,000 pounds. This vehicle saw action all over the world. Two major variants, the “slat” and the Sea Jeep (“Seep”) were also produced, which accounted for over 38,000 of the MB’s already-massive production total.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The HMMWV is capable of firing TOW missiles to kill enemy tanks.

(U.S. Army)

The HMMWV can go as fast as 70 miles per hour. Some variants can haul nearly 5,000 pounds of cargo or eight troops. It can get as far as roughly 250 miles on a tank of diesel. The use of diesel fuel is an important detail — it’s less flammable than gasoline. The HMMWV was also capable of mounting a wide variety of weapons, including the BGM-71 TOW missile.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

This Jeep is packing a 37mm gun and a .30-caliber water-cooled machine gun,

(U.S. Army)

One could argue that the HMMWV is three times the vehicle than the classic Jeep. That said, one HMMWV can’t be in three places at once. So, would you rather have had three Jeeps or one HMMWV?

Before you make up your mind, watch the video below and learn a little more about the iconic World War II Jeep.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5buMTtEdw8

www.youtube.com

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Army tests laser that shoots down drones

During a recent Army exercise, a prototype laser shot down so many drones that its operator started losing count. “I took down, I want to say, twelve?” Staff Sgt. Eric Davis told reporters. “It was extremely effective.”


The Army has made air defense an urgent priority, especially against drones. Once icons of American technological supremacy, unmanned aircraft have proliferated to adversaries around the world. The Islamic State uses them for ad hoc bombing attacks; the Russian army to spot Ukrainian units for artillery barrages.

So last month’s Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment threw 14 different types of drones against a slate of counter-UAS technologies, from a .50 caliber machine gun loaded with special drone-killing rounds, to acoustic sensors that listened for incoming drones, to jammers mounted on rugged, air-droppable Polaris 4x4s.

But the laser was the star.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
The Army wants to arm the versatile Stryker combat vehicle with high-energy lasers to defeat a variety of threats — including drones. (Photo: US Army)

“We had a lot of fun with the Stryker vehicle this time,” said John Haithcock, the civilian director of the Fires Battle Lab at Fort Sill, which hosts the exercise. The Stryker is a moderately armored eight-wheel-drive vehicle, lighter than an M1 tank or M2 Bradley but much heavier and more robust than a Humvee or MRAP, and its boxy hull has proved adaptable to a host of variants.

Earlier MFIX exercises had tested a counter-drone Stryker, with radar and optical sensors to detect drones, plus jammers to scramble drones’ datalinks, causing them to lose contact with their operators and even crash. Two prototypes of this CMIC vehicle (Counter-UAS Mobile Integrated Capability) are now in Europe with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, the unit on the cutting edge of testing new technology to counter the Russians.

But there’s still space and electrical power to spare on the CMIC Stryker, so for April’s MFIX the Army added the 5 kilowatt laser, derived from the Boeing-General Dynamics MEHEL 2-kw prototype. For November’s MFIX, they plan to double the power, 10 kilowatts, which will let it kill drones faster — since the beam delivers more energy per second — and further away. If November’s tests go equally well, Haithcock said, the 10 kw laser Stryker will graduate to an Army-led Joint Warfighting Assessment at Fort Bliss, Texas, where soldiers will test it in all-out mock battle.

Not that the MFIX exercise was easy: Soldiers operating the laser Stryker had to contend with real drones and simulated artillery barrages. Just managing the Stryker’s complex capabilities — laser, radar, jammers, sensors — was challenging. In fact, a big part of the experiment was assessing whether the soldiers’ suffered “task saturation,” a polite way of saying “overloaded.”

“The crew on the Stryker had never worked together….We didn’t know each other,” Staff Sgt. Davis said. “(But) all the systems were pretty easy to use, and after 15-20 minutes, I was able to program all the different types of equipment.”

Once the shooting started, he managed to multi-task, Davis said: “I was able to troubleshoot the radar while I was using the laser.” The artillerymen manning the laser Stryker were even able to continue acting as forward observers, spotting targets for artillery attack, at the same time they defended the force against incoming drones.

A Stryker-mounted 10 kw laser should be far more maneuverable and survivable on the front lines than the Army’s early experiment, a 10 kw weapon on an unarmored heavy truck. (The truck’s still in play as a platform for a 60 kw long-range laser to kill artillery rockets). But a Stryker is too much hardware for the Army’s light infantry brigades, which mostly move on foot with a smattering of Humvees and other offroad vehicles.

For those forces, this MFIX experimented with splitting the CMIC kit of sensors and jammers across two Polaris MRZR 4x4s. The Army also tested a heavy-duty jammer called the Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS), currently mounted on a cargo pallet in the back of a medium truck but potentially Polaris-transportable as well. No word whether they can make a laser that compact — at least, not yet.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

See the stealth fighters and bombers patrolling the Pacific

The US Air Force has two of its most elite aircraft — the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-22 Raptor — training together in the Pacific, reassuring America’s allies and sending a warning to strategic competitors and adversaries about the sheer power the US brings to the table.

These stunning photos show the powerful aircraft tearing across the Pacific, where the US has increasingly found itself facing challenges from a rising China.


The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, after completing interoperability training, Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)

Three B-2 bombers and 200 airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri deployed to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Jan. 10, 2019, to support US Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force mission.

Source: Pacific Air Forces

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, during an interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)

While B-2 bombers regularly rotate throughout the Pacific, having previously been deployed to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, the most recent deployment marks only the second time these powerful stealth aircraft have been sent to Hawaii to drill alongside the F-22s.

Source: US sends stealth B-2s to the Pacific, warning regional rivals that America’s bombers are ‘on watch’ 24/7

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The stealth bombers were deployed to the Pacific to send a message to allies and adversaries alike, specifically that “the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies.”

Source: Pacific Air Forces

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The B-2 Spirit bomber is reportedly a crucial part of most war plans to fight China.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

When the B-2s were first deployed to Hawaii October 2018, the US military stressed that the deployment highlighted the bomber’s completely unmatched “strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world.”

Source: Air Force

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, conducts aerial refueling near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The multi-role B-2 Spirit bomber has the ability to break through tough defenses, bringing a significant amount of firepower, both conventional and nuclear, to bear on enemy targets.

Source: Air Force

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

A close-up of the B-2 Spirit bomber refueling.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Despite its large size, the B-2’s low-observable or stealth characteristics make it almost invisible to enemy radars, allowing it to slip past enemy defenses and put valuable targets at risk.

Source: Pacific Air Forces

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron, conducts an aerial refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The F-22 Raptor, an elite air-superiority fighter, which the Air Force asserts “cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft,” is an extremely lethal aircraft capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions.

Source: Air Force

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber flies near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during a interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, conducts aerial refueling.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Together, a B-2 accompanied by a pair of F-22s could kick in an enemy’s door, let loose a firestorm of devastation, and get out before the enemy figures out what happened.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Air Force wants to get rid of some of its most well-known aircraft — here’s what’s on the chopping block

The $207.2 billion total spending in the Air Force’s 2021 budget request holds even with what the service was allotted in 2020.


The lack of change in dollars contrasts with Air Force officials’ comments about a need for dramatic change to prepare for potential high-end conflict with a power like Russia or China.

“If you have platforms that are not going to play in that 2030 fight, is there a near-term risk, which is real risk, that we need to take as a department to buy our future, to be able to have the connectivity we need to fight at the speeds the future’s going to demand?” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in January.

The 2021 request, released Monday, stopped short of big shakeups, such as ditching entire aircraft inventories or scrapping major procurement programs, according to Defense News.

But the proposed 2021 budget would part with a number of noteworthy aircraft, freeing up .1 billion in the next five-year spending plan and reflecting a belief that “winning in the future will require investing in the right new capabilities now,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com.

Below, you can which aircraft the Air Force wants to retire.

17 B-1B Lancer bombers.

The B-1B bomber fleet would drop from 61 aircraft in 2020 to 44 in 2021, all of which are in the active-duty Air Force, according to budget documents.

The Lancer, which is no longer capable of carrying nuclear weapons, doesn’t have the highest ceiling of the Air Force’s bombers, but it is considered the bomber fleet’s “backbone,” as it can fly the fastest, topping 900 mph, and carries the largest payload, up to 75,000 pounds of guided and unguided weapons.

The service plans to get rid of the oldest of the B-1Bs, which have required more attention from maintainers given the high operational tempo the bomber has faced in recent years.

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Airmen reconfigure weapons on an A-10 Thunderbolt II at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, November 19, 2019.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton

44 A-10 Thunderbolt ground-attack aircraft.

The Air Force has flirted with retiring some A-10s for years, and its 2021 proposal would finally cull that fleet, with the Air National Guard losing 39 and the Air Force Reserve losing seven. (The active Air Force would gain two, for a total of 44 A-10s removed from service.)

The Air Force currently has 281 A-10s and recently finished putting new wings on 173 of them. Boeing got a billion-dollar contract in 2019 to finish re-winging the A-10s that needed them.

Once those 44 aircraft are removed from service, the Air Force will proceed with re-winging those that remain, an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com.

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A KC-135 refuels an F-16

US National Guard/Master Sgt. Mark A. Moore

16 KC-10 and 13 KC-135 aerial refueling tankers.

The Air Force’s 2021 budget proposes dropping 16 KC-10 tankers from the active fleet and eight and five KC-135s from the active fleet and the Reserve, respectively.

KC-10s date to the 1980s and KC-135s to the 1950s. The Air Force says the ones that would be removed would be the oldest and least capable in the force, according to Air Force Magazine, but the cuts would come as the tanker meant to replace them, the KC-46, is still at least three years away from being able to deploy.

The 2021 budget includes nearly billion for 15 more KC-46 tankers, as well as an additional 0 million for modifications and research, and development, testing, and evaluation.

Air Force officials have said they want to hold on to legacy tankers until the KC-46 is working properly. The head of US Transportation Command, which oversees aerial refueling operations, said in January that KC-46 delays risked causing “a real dip” in the military’s tanker availability.

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A US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft.

US Air Force

24 RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drones.

Starting in 2021, the Air Force wants to divest its Block 20 and Block 30 RQ-4 surveillance drones, a total of 24, leaving only its 10 Block 40 RQ-4s.

Four of the Block 20s had been converted to Battlefield Airborne Communications Nodes, which allow different battlefield communications systems to talk to each other.

To replace the RQ-4s with the BACN (which makes them EQ-4s), the service will get five E-11A manned aircraft with the BACN system, buying one a year starting next year, an Air Force spokesperson told Defense News.

The RQ-4 often works in conjuction with other space-based and airborne information-gathering aircraft, like the U-2 spy plane, whose future was also put in doubt by the latest budget documents.

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Wyoming Air National Guardsmen prepare a C-130H for a mission out of Cheyenne, February 27, 2019.

US Air Force/Master Sgt. Robert Trubia

24 C-130H Hercules airlifters.

The Air Force also wants to retire 24 C-130H mobility aircraft from the Air National Guard.

The C-130H airlifter, as well as the MC-130H used for special operations operations, are among the oldest in the Air Force and “are experiencing airworthiness, maintainability and operational limitations,” according to budget documents.

In the 2021 proposal, the active force would lose three MC-130Hs and gain four MC-130J, the next model, while the Air National Guard would acquire 19 C-130Js.

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

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This is how the US could save billions of dollars on bombs

The U.S. Navy may have come across a common sense way to save billions on bombs, according to statements made from U.S. officials at the AFCEA West 2017 conference.


For years now, the Navy has been working on the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) network to help detect, track, and intercept targets using a fused network of all types of sensors at the Navy’s disposal.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
An F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced surface ship. The F-35C Lightning II is designed as the U.S. Navy’s first-day-of-war, survivable strike fighter. The U.S. Navy anticipates declaring the F-35C combat-ready in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)

Essentially, NIFC-CA allows one platform to detect a target, another platform to fire on it, and the original platform to help guide the missile to the target. The system recently integrated with F-35s, allowing an F-35 to guide a missile fired from a land-based version of a navy ship to hitting a target.

Remarks from Cmdr. David Snee, director for integration and interoperability at the warfare integration directorate, recently revealed that NIFC-CA could also help save the Navy billions on bombs.

“Right now we’re in a world where if I can’t see beyond the horizon then I need to build in that sort of sensing and high-tech effort into the weapon itself,” Snee told conference attendees, as noted by USNI News.

“But in a world where I can see beyond the horizon and I can target, then I don’t need to spend a billion dollars on a weapon that doesn’t need to have all that information. I just need to be able to give the data to the weapon at the appropriate time.”

According to Snee, with an integrated network of sensors allowing the Navy to see beyond the horizon, the costly sensors and guidance systems the U.S. puts on nearly every single bomb dropped could become obsolete.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Shirley Shugar, from Joppa, Ala., takes inventory of ordnance in the bomb farm aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicholas A. Groesch)

In the scenario described by Snee, today’s guided or “smart bombs” could be replaced with bombs that simply receive targeting info from other sensors, like F-35s or E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.

Essentially, the “smart” part of the weapon’s guidance would remain on the ship, plane, or other sensor node that fired them, instead of living on the missile and being destroyed with each blast.

The Navy would have to do extensive testing to make sure the bombs could do their job with minimal sensor technology. But the move could potentially save billions, as the U.S. military dropped at least 26,000 bombs in 2016, the vast majority of which contained expensive sensors.

Articles

Special Forces are testing the tiniest drone ever

Designed by a former toy maker, the Black Hornet UAV fits in a human palm and weighs the same as three pieces of paper. But don’t be fooled by its size. It has impressive capabilities as a reconnaissance drone, which is why Special Forces and U.S. infantry have begun testing it.


The tiny drone feeds surprisingly clear video to the pilot from as far as kilometer away and can bear different sensors including thermal cameras for night assaults. The video is stored on the small user station on the operator’s belt, so enemies lucky enough to catch the Hornet will not be able to see what video the pilot has captured.

See this amazing little drone in action in this video:

To learn more, check out this article at Defense One.

NOW: DARPA is building a drone that can tell what color shirt you’re wearing from 17,500 feet

OR: The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How US ships can stop devastating ‘carrier killer’ missiles

The US Navy’s new USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier cost $13 billion dollars and will set to sea at a time of great power competition when Russia and China have both perfected missiles designed to sink the massive ships.

“Critics of the aircraft carrier believe that because there are so many weapons systems that are being optimized to go after them, that the aircraft carrier is obsolete,” retired Navy officer Bryan McGrath said on the Smithsonian Channel’s new “Carriers at War” series.

With the ship costing billions itself, holding billions in aircraft, and as many as 7,000 US Navy sailors and marines, the sinking of a modern US aircraft carrier would be one of the most severe losses of American life and the biggest blows to the US military in history.


But in an episode set to premier on June 10, 2018, on the Ford, US Navy Capt. James C. Rentfrow said the US has taken steps to even the odds.

As Russia and China “continue to develop better offensive capabilities against us, we continue to develop better defensive capabilities against them,” Rentfrow said.

Future weapons

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Every US aircraft carrier has two sets of onboard missile defenses as well as a close-in weapons system that uses a gun to knock out approaching missiles and aircraft with 4,500 rounds per minute. They all sail in a carrier strike group as well, but aboard the Ford, room for new systems is being made.

Among these are a laser system designed to take out small boats or drones that may be laden with explosives. Six concentrated beams of light combine to put incredible heat on a target at the literal speed of light.

Next is the railgun. This electronic gun fires metal projectiles with no explosive charge. But a railgun shot still creates a fireball because the projectile rips through the air so quickly that the air and metal itself combust.

“Putting one on an aircraft carrier or putting several on an aircraft carrier, to me is a no-brainer,” McGrath said of the rail gun.

But lasers and railguns, both electronic-only weapons, require a massive amount of electricity to run. For that reason the Ford’s two nuclear reactors have been designed to provide three times the power of the old carriers.

Also, with new catapults and landing gear to launch and land heavier jets, the Ford can get its jets to fly further, thereby keeping them out of harm’s way.

Whole new air wing

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
USS George Washington transits the Atlantic Ocean conducting carrier qualifications with F-35C Lighting II carrier variants, assigned to both the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 and the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, Aug.u00a016, 2016.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Finally, the Ford makes way for a whole new air wing.

“The beauty of the aircraft carrier is that you can radically and dramatically change the weapons systems by never entering the shipping yard,” McGrath told Business Insider. Instead of installing new missiles or guns, you simply fly old aircraft off, and fly on new jets.

So whatever new jets the US Navy can come up with, perhaps some with missile-intercepting capabilities, the Ford can handle them.

According to McGrath, it’s the flexibility of the carrier that keeps it relevant and worth risking nearly $20 billion in every outing.

“If you believe you have a need for two classic Navy missions, power projection and sea control, and if you believe you’re going to continue to have a requirement for those missions, then an aircraft carrier remains a very valuable part of the mission,” said McGrath.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How a 200-year-old engine is changing sub warfare

Swedish submarines have proven themselves in exercises against the U.S. One of their subs successfully lodged a kill against the USS Ronald Reagan as the carrier’s protectors stood idly by, incapable of detecting the silent and stealthy Swedish boat. Oddly, the Swedish forces succeeded while using an engine based on a 200-year-old design.


The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The USS Ronald Reagan was sailing with its task force for protection when a single Gotland-class submarine snuck up, simulated killing it, and sailed away without damage.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart)

First, a quick background on what engines were available to Sweden when it was looking to upgrade its submarine fleet in the 1980s. They weren’t on great terms with the U.S. and they were on worse terms with the Soviets, so getting one of those sweet nuclear submarines that France and England had was unlikely.

Nor was it necessarily the right option for Sweden. Their submarines largely work to protect their home shores. Nuclear boats can operate for weeks or months underwater, but they’re noisier than diesel subs running on battery power. Sweden needed to prioritize stealth over range.

But diesel subs, while they can run more quietly under the surface, have a severe range problem. Patrols entirely underwater are measured in days, and surfacing in the modern world was getting riskier by the day as satellites kept popping up in space, potentially allowing the U.S. and Soviet Union to spot diesel subs when they came up for air.

So, the Swedish government took a look at an engine originally patented in 1816 as the “Stirling Hot Air Engine.” Stirling engines, as simply as we can put it, rely on the changes in pressure of a fluid as it is heated and cooled to drive engine movement.

That probably sounded like gobbledygook, but the important aspects of a Stirling engine for submarine development are simple enough.

  • They can work with any fuel or heat source.
  • They generate very little vibration or noise.
  • They’re very efficient, achieving efficiency rates as high as 50 percent while gas and diesel engines are typically 30-45 percent efficient.
The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

An officer from the HMS Gotland watches the crew of a U.S. patrol plane track his sub during war games near Sweden in 2017.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Brian O’Bannon)

Sweden tested a Stirling engine design in a French research vessel in the 1980s and, when it worked well, they modified an older submarine to work with the new engine design. Successes there led to the construction of three brand-new submarines, all with the Stirling engine.

And it’s easy to see why the Swedes chose it once the technology was proven. Their Stirling engines are capable of air-independent propulsion, meaning the engines can run and charge the batteries while the sub is completely submerged. So, the boats have a underwater mission endurance measured in weeks instead of days.

But they’re still stealthy, much more quiet than nuclear subs, which must constantly pump coolant over their reactors to prevent meltdowns.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The HMS Gotland sails with other NATO ships during exercise Dynamic Mongoose off the coast of Norway in 2015.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

So much more stealthy, in fact, that when a single Swedish Gotland-class submarine was tasked during war games to attack the USS Ronald Reagan, it was able to slip undetected past the passive sonars of the carriers, simulate firing its torpedoes, and then slip away.

The sub did so well that the U.S. leased it for a year so they could develop tactics and techniques to defeat it. After all, while Sweden may have the only subs with the Stirling engine, that won’t last forever. And the thing that makes them so stealthy isn’t restricted to the Stirling design; any air-independent propulsion system could get the same stealthy results.

Shortened to AIP, these are any power systems for a submarine that doesn’t require outside oxygen while generating power, and navies are testing everything from diesel to fuel cells to make their own stealthy subs. China claims to have AIP subs in the water, and there is speculation that a future Russian upgrade to the Lada-class will introduce the technology (as of August 2017, the Lada-class did not feature AIP).

So, for the U.S., getting a chance to test their mettle against them could save lives in a future war. And, if it saves a carrier, that alone would save thousands of lives and preserve tons of firepower.

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For its part, Sweden is ordering two new submarines in their Type A26 program that will also feature Stirling engines, hopefully providing the stealth necessary to catch Russian subs next time their waters are violated. Surprisingly, these advanced subs are also cheap. The bill to develop and build two A26s and provide the midlife upgrades for two Gotland-Class submarines is less than id=”listicle-2589628522″ billion USD.

Compare that to America’s Virginia-Class attack submarines, which cost .7 billion each.

Articles

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

As you may have heard, the legendary T-38 Talon, which has been in service since 1961, is slated for replacement. GlobalSecurity.org notes that the T-X competition has apparently come down to a fight between Boeing and Saab on the one hand, and Lockheed and Korea Aerospace Industries on the other.


The Lockheed/KAI entry is the T-50A, a derivative of the South Korean T-50 “Golden Eagle.” According to Aeroflight.co.uk, KAI based the T-50 on the F-16, leveraging its experience building KF-16 Fighting Falcons under license from Lockheed. The result was a plane that has actually helped increase the readiness of South Korea’s air force, largely by reducing wear and tear on the F-16 fleet.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
A ROKAF T-50 at the Singapore Air Show. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

FlightGlobal.com notes that South Korea already has about 100 T-50 variants in service. The plane is also in service with Iraq, Indonesia, and the Philippines, plus an export order from Thailand. The plane also comes in variants that include lead-in fighter trainer and a multi-role fighter (A-50 and FA-50).

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the T-50 has a range of 1,150 miles, a top speed of Mach 1.53, and can carry a variety of weapons on seven hardpoints, including AIM-9 Sidewinders on the wingtips, AGM-65 Mavericks, cluster bombs, rocket pods, and it also has a 20mm M61 cannon. The plane is equipped with an APG-67 radar as well.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The T-X contract is big, with at least 450 planes to be purchased by the Air Force to replace 546 T-38s. But with how many countries that have the F-16 or will have the F-35 in their inventory, the contract could be much, much more.

So, take a look at what it is like to fly the T-50A.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why weapons like flamethrowers are permitted by the Geneva Convention

At a quick glance, the rules as outlined by the Geneva Conventions on which weapons are allowed (and disallowed) to be used in combat make little sense. The objective of combat is, ultimately, to put an enemy down so the conflict will end — and yet such killing must be done via the most humane means available.

Weapons like a nuclear ICBM are strongly condemned by the international community — but a depleted uranium tank buster round is fine. A Browning .50 caliber Machine Gun is entirely legal, but simply shaving a side of a bullet is a war crime. Incendiary grenades are banned, but (and it’s very explicitly stated) a flamethrower was permitted and often used during the Vietnam War.

So how, exactly, do the Geneva Conventions delineate what is and isn’t allowed when killing the enemy? It all boils down to two simple words: military necessity.


The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

We follow the rules and keep war humane because we are not — nor shall we ever allow ourselves to become — the f*cking bad guys.

(UN International Criminal Tribunal)

This idea of the Conventions was to keep war as humane as possible, not just for the sake of civilians that may be in the area of operations, but for combatants. This is achieved by limiting the infliction of undue harm.

It’s understood that, by the very nature of combat, one side’s troop will be required to end the life of the other, but such killing doesn’t need to be sadistic or cruel. The previously-mentioned shaved bullet, or “dum-dum round,” is banned because, instead of entering the human body and either exiting or stopping, a dum-dum round ricochets around the organs, causing an extreme level of pain before ultimately killing via internal bleeding.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

Human rights abuses can and will be tried by the UN.

(Photo by Ludovic Courtes)

Say the enemy is attacking troops from a positioned reinforced by armor. The troops in that position are allowed to use the lowest-level solution to counter enemy actions. Sure, an ICBM would technically get the job done, but that’s escalating the situation to an extreme level, putting civilians at unnecessary risk. Still, The troops something to punch through that armor, like a depleted uranium tank buster round.

It’s not quite as cut-and-dry as that, though. “Military necessity” accounts for what’s available at any given moment. If troops roll up in a vehicle outfitted with an M2 machine gun and terrorists open fire, troops aren’t required to fall back and find something a little less powerful than the .50 cal they have on hand.

That being said, the use of weapon, round, or weapon system must be carefully considered when there’s a chance civilians are in the area. After all, the objective of a given conflict is to stop the enemy by whatever means — not to harm innocents.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

It’s also assumed that a flamethrower is only used on strictly military targets and that the troops ensure what they’re burning is indeed a military target.

(U.S. National Archives)

With those qualifying factors in mind, let’s consider a weapon like the flamethrower. Despite its reputation, this weapon wasn’t designed solely to roast the enemy alive. The flamethrower’s intended use is to clear out hard-to-reach tunnels and bunkers when sending in troops with only conventional means would likely result in their deaths. This same justification can be applied to thick forests or jungles.

It cannot, however, be used as the sole weapon of a troop, unless it is the only weapon on hand, and it cannot be used to specifically destroy the plant cover to prevent it from spreading, unless the plant cover is being used by the enemy as a military objective.

The aftermath of using a flamethrower isn’t something that can be controlled, so it’s highly discouraged, but not forbidden if used with caution.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This anti-aircraft Stryker is really good at killing tanks

The Army is pursuing a new variant of the Stryker wheeled armored fighting vehicle, the Stryker Initial Maneuver Short-Range Air-Defense system, or Stryker IM-SHORAD. As the name implies, this vehicle will specialize in knocking nearby airborne targets out of the sky — but it’s not exclusively a threat to drones, helicopters, and tactical jets. Tanks and armored vehicles will need to watch their step, too.

According to reports, this vehicle is going to pack a lot of firepower options. At the heart of the Stryker IM-SHORAD is the Reconfigurable Integrated-weapons Platform from Moog — a versatile turret that can be configured to support a wide range of weapons options.


The loadout that the Army has selected will feature a 30mm M230 chain gun (similar to that on the AH-64 Apache), a M240 7.62mm machine gun, four FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, and a pair of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. What this means, in short, is that just about any main battle tank or armored vehicle can be killed by Stryker IM-SHORAD.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

This configuration of the Reconfigurable Integrated Weapons platform packs a M230 chain gun, a M240 machine gun, and the BGM-71 TOW.

(Moog)

The Army is reportedly planning on buying four battalions’ worth of these vehicles — a grand total of 144 — by 2022. That distills down to 36 vehicles per battalion — yeah, that number seems a little low to us, too. The fact of the matter is, in a potential fight with a peer competitor (like Russia or China), the Army will need some sort of air defense alongside maneuver units on the ground. This would not be the first vehicle the Army has tested with both anti-air and anti-tank capability. The Air Defense Anti-Tank System, or ADATS, was developed but never purchased by the Army.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The ADATS system was tested by the Army in the 1980s.

(US Army)

This may not be the only setup the Army goes with for the short-range air-defense mission. The Army is looking to adopt new, innovative weapons systems (these could range from electronic warfare to lasers weaponry) by as early as 2023.

Only time will tell if these futuristic weapon options make the Stryker IM-SHORADs look like a primitive solution.