New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

Whether it’s in the desert, arctic, jungle, an urban environment or at sea, the men and women of the Air Force train to handle any situation.

The primary focus of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists is to train military personnel to survive any situation. These elite instructors are experts on how to survive in the most remote and hostile environments on the planet, and it’s their responsibility to ensure when a mission doesn’t go as planned, the airmen involved are ready for anything.

This focus on readiness was on display Aug. 5, 2019, during a SERE exercise in Vallejo, California, which provided airmen an opportunity to train using realistic scenarios while testing new technology.


“Aircrew must maintain combat mission ready status, allowing them to be deployable worldwide,” said Tech. Sgt. Emanuel Espino-Mata, 60th Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of SERE operations. “Pilots and other airmen considered to be at high risk of isolation during a mission attend refresher training at remote locations near Travis AFB every three years to stay proficient in SERE skills. It’s also vital we as SERE instructors do all we can to ensure our airmen can survive and operate in contested environments.”

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

Maj. Justin Krull, 6th Air Refueling Squadron KC-10 Extender instructor pilot listens to last-minute instructions on communication devices before a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training exercise for aircrew members Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

During the exercise, which took place among steep, rocky hills covered with insect-infested trees, 11 airmen from flying squadrons across Travis AFB joined two SERE instructors to test the Somewear Labs Hotspot paired with a combat-configured smartphone, a device that can increase radio battery life.

“Today’s exercise was the first-ever field test of the device developed by Somewear Labs,” Espino-Mata said. “Our C-cell radios only maintain limited battery power. They are also bulky and heavy. This new device can be paired with any smartphone once the user downloads the application and provides encrypted messaging between the user in the field, the receiver, another team member, a recovery force or a personnel recovery cell.”

The device, which is smaller and lighter than some secure communications devices currently being used, has the potential to improve life saving capabilities by using a smartphone platform to run the software, which is something everyone is familiar with and comfortable using, Espino-Mata added.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

Aircrew members study communication devices utilized during a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training exercise Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

It also offers a wide range of features.

“Our system supports digital maps for navigation, a modern digital experience for satellite messaging and data transmission, as well as comprehensive blue-force tracking for the tactical operations center or any command center,” said Nate Simon, Somewear Labs product manager. “This is a huge step in evasion capability. This device is one of the lightest and smallest of its kind and a major enhancement to the current survival kit.”

airmen assigned to aircrew positions are trained to evade enemy forces if their aircraft is brought down in enemy territory. They are taught to find water, food and shelter while evading capture.

“This is important because help may not come for around a week and they may have to travel several miles without being detected,” Espino-Mata said.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Heard, 60th Operations Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape training noncommissioned officer in charge gives last minute instruction on communication devices before a SERE training exercise for aircrew members Aug. 5, 2019 in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

In 2018, Simon, who holds a bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, was part of an Air Force Research Laboratory study conducted by Stanford’s class, Hacking 4 Defense: Solving National Security Issues with the Lean Launchpad. The goal of the study was to address issues with survival radios and increase the survivability of downed airmen.

“My team was given a problem by the AFRL to improve personnel recovery,” Simon said. “Given Travis AFB’s proximity to the Bay Area, one of our initial contacts was Sergeant Espino-Mata, who arranged several visits to the base. After over 100 interviews with pilots, aircrew, SERE specialists, rescue squadrons and other Department of Defense experts, we realized a combat smartphone and satellite transceiver could drastically improve the personnel accountability and recovery space.”

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape personnel field test Somewear Lab’s Hotspot Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

“Somewear’s first product enables any remote operative to reliably access secure communications and improve their situational awareness with a combination of compact satellite hotspots and software designed for low-bandwidth applications,” Simon added.

One exercise participant was thrilled with how well the Somewear Hotspot performed.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Tech. Sgt. Bernie Rowe, 60th OSS KC-10 Extender instructor flight engineer. “It was really simple to use and with the encryption, I was able to make contact and receive new coordinates and instructions by text without it being coded, like the C-cell survival radios. It is light years ahead of the C-cells.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Researchers at the University of Buffalo, working on research grants from the Army Research Office, have discovered a way of layering plastics that results in a material 14 times stronger than steel and eight times lighter. The layering technique is inspired by the way clams make pearls, and the final result is strong, light, but still slightly flexible armor.


New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.

(Courtesy University of Buffalo)

The outer coatings of pearl are nacre, a structure of calcium carbonate that resembles interlocking bricks when viewed under a microscope. The researchers took ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, a souped-up plastic used in orthopedic devices, and layered it in a way similar to nacre.

The results are outstanding. Current body armor can contain up to 28 pounds of small arms protective inserts. The Kevlar plates used are about 80 percent of the weight of a steel plate of similar size. A UHMWPE plate of the same size would be about 12-13 percent the weight of a steel plate. That would put the plates needed for a large set of UHMWPE body armor at about 4 pounds instead of the 28 pounds for ceramic Kevlar armor.

Anyone who has worn 30 pounds of body armor and 50 pounds of additional gear while carrying an 8-pound weapon can tell you that shaving 24 pounds off the total load makes a huge difference. (Even though, in mortar sections, they’ll probably just make troops carry more ammo to make up the difference.)

And the inner layers of the armor deform to absorb the impact suffered by the outer layers, better protecting the target from the impact of the enemy’s shot.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

82nd Airborne Division paratroopers work their way up a short slope while patrolling in Southern Afghanistan in 2012.

(U.S. Army)

The total protection provided by the UHMWPE is so great that the researchers are considering its use in applications beyond body armor.

“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters, and other vehicles.”

The wide range of potential applications is partially thanks to the strength to weight ratio. But it’s also more flexible than other materials. This makes it easier to form the material into a variety of shapes for different uses.

“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for Soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom of the ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for Soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”

And, with the addition of boron nitride, the material becomes a little stronger and much better at shedding heat. This would allow it to more rapidly cool off after being hit by enemy fire, giving it better protection against a second or third hit.

So it’s much lighter, stronger, and more adaptable than any armor you’re currently wearing.

But before you throw your SAPI plates off the roof in celebration, be aware that it will take time to create suitable manufacturing methods and products. The researchers used a 10-step process to create the small samples for their experiments and testing. It will be years before you and your vehicle are rocking this super-light armor.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Space Force might inherit these crazy robots

As the U.S. Space Force grows from a command in the Air Force to the proposed sixth branch of the military, it will take on the space assets of the other branches, including DARPA’s ghost robots in orbit, used to manipulate satellites in geosynchronous orbit.


New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

The robotic arms of DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program.

(DARPA)

Yes, DARPA has robots in development that would orbit the earth, using their little robot arms and other tools to repair American and corporate satellites, but they would also be useful for taking out enemy satellites without triggering the dreaded “Kessler Effect,” where damaging a single satellite dooms all satellites in orbit.

The robots are in development with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, selected by DARPA because it already has 15 years of experience in space robotics. The basic idea is to develop robots that can maintain satellites in orbit.

Right now, once a satellite goes into orbit, that’s basically it. It can do its job, but there’s little chance to repair it or its payload. If its payload becomes outdated or if it’s hit by space debris, the damage is permanent. Something as small as bits of dust or flakes of paint can sideline a multi-million dollar asset.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

Astronauts repair the Hubble Telescope in the space shuttle bay of Endeavour.

(NASA)

One of the few exceptions to this rule, the Hubble Space Telescope, has been repaired five times, but this required five different trips by the Space Shuttle to the Hubble.

What DARPA wants is a group of satellites equipped with repair tools, including robot arms, that could fix their brethren while still in orbit. While the bulk of satellites are in low-earth orbit, the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program sets its sites higher, at geosynchronous orbit.

Geosynchronous orbits typically include weather, surveillance, and communications satellites, all assets that the military needs to keep in working order.

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But the U.S., China, and Russia are also in an arms race to figure out how to destroy each other’s satellites without risking their own.

The greatest challenge comes at low-earth orbit where there are a lot more satellites in a lot less space. Satellites in LEO can be destroyed with anti-ballistic missile weapons, but doing so could create a chain reaction where the fast-moving debris from the killed satellites starts taking out other satellites.

This chain reaction is known as the “Kessler Effect,” and it works similar to a nuclear reaction, but with satellites in orbit instead of nuclei in dense metal. Once it gets started, it’s self-sustaining and all-destructive.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

The Space Shuttle Atlantis takes off in 2010. After a catastrophe triggers the Kessler Effect, it could make exiting Earth’s atmosphere impossible for nearly a generation.

(Nasa Tony Gray and Tom Farrar)

A space attack or accident that triggers the Kessler Effect could make exiting Earth’s atmosphere too dangerous for generations, and it’s guaranteed to destroy friendly and enemy satellites alike.

So, if the Space Force ever does have to fight America’s wars in orbit, they need tools that can disable enemy satellites without putting out a lot of debris. These satellite repair bots could dock with adversary assets and disassemble or otherwise disable them.

No fast-moving debris, no catastrophic chain reaction, no muss, no fuss.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

Artist’s concept of the robotic servicing vehicle for repairing satellites.

(DARPA)

For now, though, there are no stated plans to use the satellites for anything but repairs and upgrades. In fact, the bots aren’t even expected to take flight on military rockets when they first launch in 2021. Instead, they will reach orbit on commercial launches of private spacecraft.

And their repairs won’t be limited to military customers, either. Private companies can join a “cooperative servicing” agreement to obtain the services of one of the robots. Each robot is expected repair up to 20 space assets while in space, so a single repair launch can revitalize or repair 20 existing satellites.

Or, in times of war, conduct a controlled disabling of 20 satellites — depending on how it’s deployed.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 rye whiskies you should sip on this summer

What’s old is new again. So it is with rye whiskey. In the 17-and-1800s, Bourbon’s spicier, dryer sibling was once the pre-eminent whiskey on this continent. But after prohibition, American’s taste for the stuff waned. Thankfully for the whiskey drinkers of today, times have changed. Our golden age of whiskey has turned back the clock and rye is resurgent. Whiskey, drinkers of all stripes cant seem to get enough of the brown stuff and as their pallets are becoming increasingly adventurous, rye’s spice is becoming more and more a called shot. Not only is it great on the rocks but, rye is killer in a summer cocktail. Whether you like your whiskey neat, on the rocks or in a mixed drink, here are five rye whiskeys to try.


1. Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye

New for this year, Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye was recently named the best in class at the San Fransisco World Spirits Competition. Bottled at 119.6 proof, Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye is quite capable of kicking you in the teeth if you’re not careful, but all that undiluted flavor will also waltz beautifully along your tastebuds. It’s a thick, rich mouthful with spicy, peppery notes playing off a deeply satisfying caramel sweetness.

Best Enjoyed: With a couple of cubes.

2. Willet Family Estate Single Barrel Rye

Well-balanced and richly complex, Willet rye never fails to impress. It’s peppery spice is enhanced with deep rich dark fruit flavors. It can be a bit tough to find, so if you come across it a retail, stock up… and give us a shout, so we can replenish our bar.

Best Enjoyed: In a Manhattan. While great on the rocks, the Willet’s thick, cherry richness can elevate an ordinary Manhattan to the level of craft cocktail.

3. Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond

If you’re totally unfamiliar with rye, Rittenhouse is the place to start. Long a bartender favorite, Rittenhouse is not quite a spicy as some but still has tons of flavors to discover, citrus, vanilla and chocolate to name a few.Bottled at 100 proof, Rittenhouse easily stands out in a substantially iced cocktail.

Best Enjoyed: You can sip this one, but where it really shines is in a cocktail like an Old Pal. At under $30, this is a great rye for experimenting.

4. High West Double Rye

For the last several years, High West has been concocting some of the tastiest and most creative blends on the market. But until recently, they weren’t making their own spirit to formulate their creations. Finally the first batch from their new distillery is ready and High West has incorporated it into the latest release of their Double Rye. It’s a spice-forward whiskey with notes of honey, mint a cinnamon.

Best Enjoyed: We love the Double Rye in cocktails. It makes a great Old Fashioned but if you’re feeling a little more adventurous and up for pounding a few ice into pellets, try it in a rye mint julep.

5. Lock Stock and Barrel 16 Year Rye

Made from a mash of 100% rye, Lock Stock and Barrel 16 Year Rye is big, bold and intense. A glass of this rye is so chalked full of flavor, you can get lost in it’s amber waves and before your know it you’re three drinks deep. It’s a pricey indulgence, but it’s one of the best bottles you’re likely to try, if you can find it.

Best Enjoyed: Sip it… Slowly.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

The Navy is now creating its own version of ‘Waterworld’

The Navy has had a change of heart about the new expeditionary floating base sailing to the Fifth Fleet. The vessel USNS Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller (T ESB 3) will become USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), becoming a commissioned warship.


No matter the designation, in essence, the Kevin Costner box-office bomb “Waterworld” — where people were living on supertankers because ocean levels rose and covered almost all the land — partially become reality.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
Artist’s impression of USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3). (USMC image)

The Puller is a 78,000-ton vessel capable of operating up to four Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters. It has a crew of 145 and will be commanded by a Navy captain. It can also accommodate up to 298 additional personnel. Unlike the Exxon Valdez from “Waterworld,” the Puller is propelled by diesel-electric engines that give her a top speed of 15 knots.

It’s part of an ongoing program within the Navy and Marine Corps to create offshore bases for troops to execute raids and amphibious operations where countries are reluctant to base U.S. troops. Think of them as floating versions of the Chinese artificial islands cropping up in the South China Sea.

According to a report by USNI News, the decision to make the Puller a commissioned warship is due to requirements of the law of armed conflict. The current afloat base in the region, the Austin-class amphibious ship USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15, ex-LPD 15), is a commissioned warship that has supported mine countermeasures and special operations forces.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
USS Ponce. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ian M. Kummer)

“Without going into specific details on missions USS Ponce carried out, warship status for ESB will greatly enhance the combatant commander’s flexibility in using the ship to respond to emergent situations,” Navy Lt. Seth Clarke told USNI News. “Without this status, there would be significant limitations on ESB’s ability to support airborne mine countermeasure and special operations missions.”

The Lewis B. Puller will operate alongside the Ponce for a while, until Ponce returns to Norfolk for a 2018 decommissioning. While some assets will be transferred during that time, one item that won’t be is the prototype Laser Weapon System on board the Ponce.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What happens when you put a rocket on a Starfighter?

When you look at the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, this is a plane that looks like it could be a rocket from some sci-fi movie or show from the old days. In some ways, it was. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the F-104 had a top speed of 1,320 miles per hour. This was about 173 percent of the speed of sound. But there was one minor hiccup. The F-104 needed a lot of runway to take off, mostly because its wings were small. Okay, on the puny side.


New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
A F-104 with its canopy open. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This causes a quandry. One big concern was that the Soviet Union would be able to get control of the air by hitting the runways on the airbases. The United States began testing Zero-Length Launches (ZeLL) with the F-100 Super Sabre. According to The Aviationist, West Germany also was looking into this concept. They had a good reason to do so. They were likely to be on the front lines, and airfields were not only threatened by bombers, but also by fighters and missiles.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
Zero-Length Launch of F-100D-60-NA (S/N 56-2904) with Maj. R. Titus as pilot. Note the dummy nuclear weapon on the right wing has been retouched out of the photograph. (U.S. Air Force photo)

ZeLL was accomplished by use of a big, powerful rocket that was installed on the plane. The F-104 was a natural as it was intended to be a point-defense interceptor. West Germany had bought a lot of these planes as multi-role fighters (which resulted in a big investigation as the F-104’s manufacturer had… well, let’s just say some money changed hands).

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
German Me-163B Komet. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Germany had used rocket-powered interceptors, like the Me-163 Komet in World War II. The planes hadn’t worked well. Still, the Germans gave the ZeLL-equipped F-104 a shot. By 1966, though, the West Germans, as America had earlier, gave up on the idea. But the United Kingdom would solve the problem by developing the V/STOL jet known as the Harrier. That plane would later prove to be a decisive factor in the British winning the Falklands War. And it all started with using rockets to throw fighters into the air.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
An AV-8B Harrier assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311 lands on amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). The program that created the Harrier came out of the ZeLL experiments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael McNabb/Released)

You can see more about the ZeLL-equipped F-104 in the video below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The oldest computer program around is still in use at the Pentagon

In 1958, the DoD’s first contracting software was launched, using an early computer language called COBOL. As of 2017, that software still manages Pentagon contracts. It’s one of the oldest computer programs still in use.


According to Technology Review, the program known as MOCAS, Mechanization of Contract Administration Services, began its life on punchcards. Eventually it was updated to green screened, terminal-style computers.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

Though a new-looking graphic interface often replaces the antiquated green text prompts, the insides are still very much the same. A series of new additions and plug-and-play storage devices hides an eight-gigabyte RAM system that manages $1.3 trillion in Pentagon contracting.

The reason the system was never replaced is due to the fact that its replacement would have to immediately take over the entire system as a whole to ensure that no contract — and none of the money — is lost in the transition.

The U.S. government has sent out multiple requests for proposals, but the cost of a replacement is a prohibitive factor.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
Grace Hopper could have written a new program for them by now.

It wasn’t always this way. The U.S. military is usually known for being on the cutting edge of technological development.

Although the F-14 Tomcat is no longer part of the U.S. Navy’s airborne arsenal, the Tomcat was using a 20-bit microprocessor in 1970, the year before Intel created the world’s first single-chip four-bit microprocessor.

The 28-point chipset controlled the fighter’s swing wings and flight controls.

MOCAS isn’t the only antiquated military technology. The U.S. nuclear missile force is known to run on 8-inch floppy disks, and spends $61 billion every year to maintain that system.

The Army’s COMPASS system, which tracks the shelf life of Army equipment, is 52 years old.

Furthermore, COBOL, FORTRAN, and Windows 3.1 are commonly found in government systems. Do you think they’ll ever stop using the oldest computer programs on the planet?

Intel

The Navy’s New Weapon System Is A Laser Pointer On Steroids

The U.S. Navy Research team published a video on Wednesday showing off the capabilities of its new “Laser Weapon System” or LaWS, and it’s terrifying. It shoots a 30 kilowatt blast within 2 nanometers of its target according to Defense One.


Also Read: 7 Jobs That No Longer Exist In The Modern Navy

Simply put, it’s an oversized laser pointer on steroids.

The video starts with a time lapse of the weapon aboard a Navy ship while a boat appears over the horizon. It quickly cuts to an operator housed somewhere within the vessel. He’s standing in front of several screens holding what looks like a glorified X-Box controller. A blast is fired but there’s no bang, no smoke, no projectile, and no tracer, all you see is an explosion.

The video switches to a camera aboard the approaching boat for a close-up of the target. It’s a small stack of shells next to a cut-out of a human. The stack is precisely destroyed without damaging the wooden dummy.

Maybe I’ve seen too many comic book movies, but this is like X-Men’s Cyclops with an invisible laser beam.

Defense One reported that this is the Navy’s answer to drone attacks. Drones are becoming cheaper and more accessible, we’ve had them for years, but now American adversaries have begun to roll out their own versions. The LaWS will hopefully help the Navy keep drones at bay.

According to the Office of Naval Research, this isn’t the final version of the weapon. A more powerful 150-kilowatt version is scheduled for testing in 2016.

Check out the video:

usnavyresearch, YouTube

Articles

The Air Force will have lasers on planes soon

By 2020, the U.S. Air Force expects to have “directed energy combat weapons pods” on its jets. During the Air Force Association Air Space conference, the Air Force General with the most Air Force name ever, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said “I believe we’ll have a directed energy pod we can put on a fighter plane very soon. That day is a lot closer than I think a lot of people think it is.”


New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
DARPA Air Force Laser Concept

The lasers will be a weapon against unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), missiles, and other aircraft, according to Gen. Carlisle. The Army, Marine Corps, and the Navy, thinks of lasers as a defensive weapon. The Army, Navy, and Marines’ laser weapons are designed shoot down incoming artillery shells, rockets, and drones, their objective is developing a defensive weapon to shoot down incoming high-speed ballistic and cruise missiles.

The Air Force’s ideas for laser tactics is actually much more aggressive then Gen. Carlisle would lead us to believe. Since directed energy weapons can shoot multiple shots at the speed of light on a single gallon of gas, the Air Force sees a nearly unlimited weapon, capable of taking out not only incoming missiles, but also their source.

“My customer is the enemy. I deliver violence,” Air Force Lt Gen. Brad Heithold, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, told an audience at a directed energy conference in August 2015. Heithold wants the chance to mount such a laser onto one of AC-130 gunships.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
For the uninitiated, this is what the current gun on the AC-130 looks like.

Laser weapons are becoming much more compact and capable of being mounted on aircraft as small as a Predator drone. Portability is what makes the difference in battlefield development. Such a laser used to be the size of a passenger jet. The previous restrictively large sizes were based on their cooling methods. Liquid lasers that have large cooling systems can fire continuous beams, while solid state laser beams are more intense but must be fired in pulses to stop them from overheating.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
It’s like Star Wars lasers vs. Star Trek lasers. So that debate might be settled soon too.

Now, General Atomics is field testing a DARPA-funded weapon it calls “High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System” (or HELLADS), which is roughly five feet long.

The actual HELLADS system doesn’t have video of tests yet but here’s a similar American-Israeli system being tested to take out incoming mortar rounds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=11v=LThD0FMvTFU

 

NOW: The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots

OR: The Navy’s new weapon system is a laser pointer on steroids

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 fastest military aircraft in service today

Every Air Force and Navy feels the need for speed. It’s just a fact. When trying to scramble your defending aircraft, time is of the essence and speed is a critical element of that. Aircraft developers have come a very long way since the development of the first jet engine in the mid-20th Century. These days, an airframe that can’t cruise at supersonic speeds might as well be a diesel-powered propeller plane.


It was a long and winding road human engineering took to get to the point where fighter aircraft have the radar cross section of bumblebee. Here are the fastest examples currently in service.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

 Boeing X-37

The Boeing X-37 is an unmanned space drone operated by the U.S. Air Force and boosted into space by NASA. Its mission is to test reusable space technologies, then come back to Earth. On the way down, the X-37 re-enters Earth’s atmosphere at an average speed of 16 times the speed of sound, but has come back as fast as Mach 25.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

MiG-25 Foxbat

The fastest fighter still in service today is the Soviet-built MiG-25. Mikoyan designed this fighter to be a pure interceptor aircraft. As a result, the Foxbat can sustain a cruising speed of Mach 2.8 and kick it into overdrive with a top speed of 3.2 – not a bad technology for an aircraft that first took off in 1964.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
Aug. 3 airpower summary: F-15E provides cover for disabled convoy

F-15E Strike Eagle

The F-15 has been flying for more than 30 years and is set to keep going. The reason is just good design, another aircraft initially designed to catch incoming enemies and destroy them. The F-15 can fly at a top speed of 3,017 miles per hour, then stop, hit ground targets, and fade away.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

MiG-31 Foxhound

When the Russians needed something that could try to chase down the vaunted SR-71 Blackbird, they called up the MiG-21 and its Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. The only problem is that it doesn’t handle as well as its predecessor, the MiG-25. With a top speed of 2,993 miles per hour, it also isn’t as fast.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

Sukhoi SU-27

The Su-27 is a heavy fighter, designed to be the Soviet Union’s answer to the F-15 program. First flown in 1977, it’s still used by a handful of different countries, and is relied on for its 2,496 miles per hour top speed. The United States even has four SU-27 aircraft it uses to train pilots.

Articles

The world’s most expensive bomber traces its roots to World War II

The B-2 Spirit is the most expensive bomber ever built, with a $500 million fly-away cost that climbs much higher when the RD costs are taken into account. The B-2’s story, though, really starts in World War II – because the B-2 was the culmination of an idea.


Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that Jack Northrop, the founder of Northrop Aviation, had been pursuing the flying wing since 1923. By 1940, he got a technology demonstrator up.

The next year, the U.S. Army Air Force was looking for a long-range bomber that could hit Europe from bases in the U.S. in the event England were to be knocked out of the war.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
XB-35. (USAF photo)

Northrop submitted a four-engine propeller-driven design that the Army Air Force designated the B-35. It was to have a range of 8,150 miles, a top speed of 391 miles per hour, and a maximum bomb load of 51,070 pounds. Production versions were to have up to 20 .50-caliber machine guns for defense.

The plane had a difficult development, and fell behind schedule. The Army Air Force, though, saw potential and kept it as a research project. Northrop was asked to develop a jet-powered version known as the YB-49, replacing the propeller-driven engines with eight jet engines. While this increased the top speed to 493 miles per hour, it cut the range down to about 4,000 miles.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
YB-49 takes off. (USAF photo)

The plane had its share of problems. Keeping the plane steady was very difficult in the best of times, and it was missing targets when it dropped bombs. Then, one of the YB-49s crashed on June 5, 1948, killing all four crew, including United States Air Force Capt. Glenn Edwards.

There were also hot disputes over the plane’s manufacturing. Northrop insisted on having his company build the B-49 and its variants, while the Air Force wanted Northrop to work with Convair, which had designed and built the B-36 Peacemaker and B-32 Dominator bombers. Jack Northrop would later claim that the Secretary of the Air Force had demanded that Northrop agree to a merger of his company and Convair.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives
Photo by U.S. Air Force

Northrop would abruptly retire and sell off his interest in the company he founded. However, shortly before his death in 1981, he was returned to Northrop, where Air Force officials took the extraordinary step of showing him a scale model of what would become the B-2 Spirit. The B-2 would be able to reach operational status in 1997, largely because by this time, the technology to address the stability issues had been developed.

Today, 20 B-2s are in service with the Air Force, and the service plans to buy another flying wing, the B-21 Raider.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to protect a ship’s crew from a weapon of mass destruction

Ships at sea have long had to contend with efforts to sink them. Traditionally, this was done by busting holes in the hull to let water in. Another way of putting a ship on the bottom of the ocean floor is to set the ship on fire (which would often cause explosions, blowing holes in the hull).

The two act in combination at times — just look at the saga of USS Liscome Bay (CVE 56) for one such case.


These days, however, threats to ships have become much more diverse and, in a sense, non-conventional. Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons have emerged as threats to seafaring vessels.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

Marines train for a chemical weapons attack on civilians. While chemical weapons have often been used on land, they can also be used against ships.

(DoD photo by Senior Airman Daniel Owen, U.S. Air Force)

Nuclear weapons are obvious threats. If a ship is in very close proximity to the detonation of such a weapon, it’d quickly be reduced to radioactive dust. Further out, the blast wave and extreme heat would cause fires and do serious damage. Don’t take my word for it, check out Operation Crossroads. In a test, two nuclear blasts sank a number of retired ships, including the Japanese battleship Nagato and the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV 3) that had survived many battles in World War II.

Chemical, biological, and radiological threats, though, are a bit more insidious. They don’t do direct damage to the warship, but can kill or incapacitate the crew. A warship without a crew faces some serious trouble. Thankfully, there’s a way to detect and mitigate such threats.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

The Baker shot from Operation Crossroads — with the Japanese battleship Nagato on the left.

(US Navy)

Currently, a Finnish company known as Environics is developing gear that monitors for CBRN threats. Once the alarms sound, the ship’s crew can then seal off the ship into a citadel. Afterwards, the decontamination process can begin.

While the use of chemical and biological weapons has been banned by international treaties, recent events in Syria show that, sometimes, political agreements don’t hold weight. Thankfully, systems like those from Environics will crews potentially in danger a way to protect themselves.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New acting SecDef reportedly thinks F-35 was huge mistake

The new defense chief, a former Boeing employee, has reportedly been extremely critical of Lockheed Martin’s embattled F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in private meetings, raising questions about whether he is biased in overseeing the largest weapons program in history.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who took over when Jim Mattis resigned, spent over 30 years at Boeing before joining the Department of Defense in 2017 as the deputy secretary of defense.


Though he signed an ethics agreement recusing himself from matters involving Boeing, Shanahan has continuously bashed the F-35, a key program for one of Boeing’s top competitors, in high-level meetings at the Pentagon and at other private gatherings, Politico reported on Jan. 9, 2019, citing former government officials who heard Shanahan make the comments.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

US Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter crew chief Tech. Sgt. Brian West watches his aircraft approach for the first time at Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base in 2011.

(US Air Force Photo)

A former senior Defense Department official told Politico that Shanahan described the F-35 stealth fighter as “f—ed up” and said its maker, Lockheed Martin, “doesn’t know how to run a program.”

“If it had gone to Boeing, it would be done much better,” the former official recalled Shanahan saying, Politico reported.

Lockheed beat out Boeing in the Joint Strike Fighter competition, with the Department of Defense ultimately picking Lockheed’s X-35 — which became the F-35 — over Boeing’s X-32 in 2001. Had Boeing been awarded the contract, the military’s JSF might look very different.

A former Trump administration official told Politico that Shanahan “dumped” on the aircraft regularly and “went off” on the program in 2018.

“He would complain about Lockheed’s timing and their inability to deliver, and from a Boeing point of view, say things like, ‘We would never do that,'” the former official said.

In other private meetings, the former official added, Shanahan has called the program “unsustainable,” complaining about the cost of the stealth fighters, with separate versions built for the Navy, the Marines, and the Air Force. The F-35 is expected to cost more than id=”listicle-2625627238″ trillion over the life of the program, making it the most expensive weapon in US military history.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

Maintainers from the 388th Maintenance Group preparing an F-35A for its mission.

(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Current administration officials, however, told Politico that Shanahan’s comments were being taken out of context, stressing that he was not advocating for Boeing.

“I don’t believe that’s the case at all. I think he’s agnostic toward Boeing at best,” one official said, adding, “I don’t think there’s any intent to have Boeing favored in the building.”

It’s not the first time Shanahan’s loyalties have been called into question. The Pentagon is said to be planning a request for id=”listicle-2625627238″.2 billion for 12 Boeing F-15X fighter jets, a decision that was made at Shanahan’s urging, Bloomberg reported.

Air Force leaders had previously said there was no reason to buy these advanced fourth-generation fighters because they lack the necessary stealth capabilities provided by fifth-generation planes like the F-35, according to Defense News.

New high-tech technology may save airmen’s lives

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.

Shanahan’s office told Politico he remained committed to his recusal. In public, he has spoken highly of the F-35 program.

“The F-35 is our future,” he said in September 2018 at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space Cyber Conference.

“I think we can all agree that it is a remarkable aircraft, with eye-watering capabilities critical to the high-end fight,” he added. “I tip my hat to its broad team of government, industry, and international partners. Having worked on programs of similar size and complexity, I have enormous respect for your talent and commitment.”

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