The stuff that goes boom on an enemy target is very important. But that is just the payoff at the end of a long and what used to be a dangerous process. You see, the first thing you had to do was find the thing you want to want to make go away. That can be hard in and of itself, but let’s assume that the scouts do their job and find the target.
That is only half the work… you see, once the scouts have FOUND the target, you gotta tell the folks dropping the bombs that location. In the old days, the scouts would try to get back – and sometimes, they didn’t make it. And we all know that dead men tell no tales. Furthermore, there was always a time-lapse aspect. Technology has helped in this regard – first with radios, but in recent years, something newer has emerged.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk can help find targets, but Radiant Mercury allows the information to be passed to shooters very quickly.
According to material obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo at National Harbor, Maryland, that something newer is called Radiant Mercury, and it takes passing information to a new level. The methods range from old-school data using old-school ASCII text files to the latest technology, including Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. This is a huge game-changer.
How so? Because with all the options, the scouting elements, be they special operators or a drone, can send the information securely to the shooters – and do so very quickly. This is known as shortening the kill chain. The only way to make it better is if the scout actually carried the weapons.
A shooter like the F-15E Strike Eagle can act on information passed on to it via Radiant Mercury.
Radiant Mercury is one of those programs that will not make big headlines or draw much attention. Yet being able to pass on information between scouts and shooters is one of the most important things in warfare. With Radiant Mercury, the United States gets an edge in doing that.
A precision strike missile was fired on April 30, 2020, at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, and hit a target 85 kilometers away. (Lockheed Martin)
U.S. Army modernization officials want to field a new mid-range missile that can kill targets at triple the distance of the 500-kilometer-range Precision Strike Missile (PrSM). For context, that’s enough range to fire from Washington, D.C. and hit Florida.
The new surface-to-surface missile that the Army wants — which would be capable of operating between 500 kilometers to 1,500 kilometers, or 310 to 930 miles — could be positioned in strategic areas in the Pacific island chains to deter China, Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long-Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team (LRPF CFT), said in a recent service news release.
“What a dilemma that would create for our adversary,” Rafferty said. “How we would change the calculus in a second, if we could deliver this kind of capability out there.”
Modernization officials hope to introduce the new mid-range missile sometime in 2023, according to the release. The effort is currently a research project by the officials at the LRPF CFT, Field Artillery School, Fires Capability Development Integration Directorate, and Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.
The long-range precision fires effort is the Army’s top modernization priority and the focus of several strategic-range weapons programs.
The PrSM recently completed a successful April 30 test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The next phase of testing will include four shots, one to be fired out into the Pacific Ocean from the California coastline.
“We’ll go to Vandenberg Air Force Base, and we’ll test it out into the ocean and see how far it will go,” Rafferty said in the release.
If successful, the PrSM will have a maximum range of 500 kilometers, or 310 miles, compared to 300-kilometer, or 186-mile, range of the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) it will begin replacing in 2023.
The Army is also working with the Navy to develop and field a hypersonic missile battery by 2023. The joint-service effort successfully tested a common hypersonic glide vehicle across the Pacific in March. An Army unit is slated to start training on the system without the live rounds next year, according to the release.
But the project is not without controversy, Rafferty said in the release, adding its feasibility is being examined by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
“We’re going to get a fair evaluation,” he said. “They appreciate the operation and utility in our approach of a volume of fire with more affordable projectiles.”
Even if the system is not expected to be fielded soon, Rafferty said that science and technology projects such as strategic long-range cannon will ultimately help with deterrence.
“It’s not just moving units around and fielding systems,” he said in the release. “It’s also where our research and development is and where our science and technology investment is. So, we’re having an effect with our approach to this.”
As DARPA and other military research organizations create crazy new technologies for the battlefield, the military will have to start training service members to start using and maintaining these capabilities. Here are five jobs that the military doesn’t need today but will tomorrow.
1. Beekeepers and trainers
The military began training bees to detect explosives and defeat IEDs, but they will also be useful for finding mines when the U.S. is fighting other nation states. Bee keepers will work in anti-mine and counter-IED teams to identify probable buried explosives. Since the bees’ training wears off after after a certain period, trainers will stay on forward operating bases to re-certify colonies. The bees move around the battlefield on their own, so these troops will rarely leave their bases.
The military already has cyber defenders and has discussed the possibility of some of those troops conducting limited counter-attacks to network incursions. This won’t be enough for long. Future enemies will have robust networks and drones. Maneuver commanders will need intelligence that can be stolen from enemy networks and will need enemy drones taken out as part of a planned assault.
They won’t need network defenders for this, they’ll need network attackers. These troops will likely stay on a well-defended base, possibly in theater for faster connection to the enemy’s network.
3. Forward drone controller
Every U.S. military branch has dedicated drone pilots with the Air Force’s being the most famous. But as drones become more intelligent, a second branch of drone operators will be needed. Rather than piloting the machines, they will input simple commands for the drone to move to a point or patrol a designated area.
These service members will go forward with patrols and control semi-autonomous drones in support of a platoon leader’s commands. There will be both walking and flying drones capable of ferrying supplies, surveilling key terrain on a battlefield, or carrying indirect fire radar or sensors to detect enemy muzzle flashes.
4. Robotic systems maintainer
With the military getting robotic pack mules, robotic hummingbirds, and robotic people, they’re going to need dedicated mechanics to service the equipment in the field. Robotics systems maintainers will mostly replace whole parts and send damaged pieces to vendors for repair. They’ll likely operate like vehicle and generator mechanics do now: small teams will deploy to outposts when required while most maintainers will stay on forward operating bases or larger installations.
5. Powered armor maintainer
Currently, damaged body armor is simply replaced from stocks in supply. For expensive and complicated suits like the TALOS, this won’t be a viable option. Powered armor maintainers will operate like computer/detection systems repairers, working in a secure location to replace and repair damaged components. Powered armor maintainers may even be able to focus on the mechanical parts of the system while allowing computer/detection systems repairers, who already maintain a wide variety of electronic systems, handle any software or electronic issues.
Bonus: Jetpack qualifier
While it won’t be a separate job, certain units will field new DARPA jetpacks to allow soldiers to quickly move on the battlefield or for scouts to break contact if discovered on a mission. Going to jetpack school will be a privilege new recruits could enlist for or re-enlisting soldiers could choose. Like airborne or air assault schools, some graduates would go on to serve in units where they actually need to know jetpack warfare while others would just attend training for the cool skill badge and promotion points.
Ever since President Trump first announced his intentions to establish a new branch of the American Armed Forces dedicated specifically to space and orbital defense, imaginations have run wild with what this new era of conflict miles above our heads might look like. Decades worth of movies and video games have shaped our idea of war among the stars, and it’s hard not to let our imaginations run a bit wild when the concept of zero-G warfighting is suddenly so real that our lawmakers are actually budgeting for it.
The thing is, our ideas of space warfare and the reality of conflict in space are pretty far off from one another… at least for now. America’s near-peer opponents in China and Russia have both already stood accused by the international community of launching weapons systems into orbit, but these aren’t Decepticons equipped with doomsday lasers and vessels full of jet-pack laden Space Marines. Warfare in space doesn’t take nearly that much effort or panache. In fact, in some cases, an act of war would require little more than a nudge. In practice, there’s very little difference between the sorts of tools being developed to capture and destroy space junk and weapons being designed to capture and destroy satellites.
The truth is, America’s massive orbital infrastructure was largely deployed in an era with no serious competitors on the horizon. That means many of the satellites we rely on for communications, navigation, and defense lack any real means of defending themselves from attack or even moving out of the way of many kinds of danger. Departing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson aptly described it by saying the United States had built “a glass house before the invention of stones.” Like a glass house, our satellite infrastructure is incredibly vulnerable, and now America’s opponents have already begun throwing stones.
The 1967 Outer Space Treaty outlines what its framers hoped would be the path to peaceful coexistence in orbit and beyond, but the language of the treaty allows for a great deal of latitude when it comes to orbital weapons. China, Russia, and the United States are all among the signatory members of the treaty, alongside a long list of others. Article IV of the treaty bans any signatory nation from deploying nuclear weapons (or other weapons of mass destruction) in orbit, and while other portions of the treaty also attempt to dissuade a real-life remake of Star Wars, the treaty itself bars little else when it comes to weapons.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped nations like Russia from referencing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty when accusing the United States of violating international norms during ongoing debates about the future of American space defense. This bit of tomfoolery notwithstanding, America, Russia, and China do want to appear as though they’re honoring the intent of this treaty, and as a result, orbital weapons often come in the guise of something else entirely. Russia’s Inspector satellites, for instance, are believed to have been designed specifically for use as a weaponized platform that can both eavesdrop on nearby satellite communications and directly interact with other orbital platforms.
Ground based lasers may soon be able to blind satellites temporarily, wreaking havoc with communications, navigation, and early warning systems.
All an Inspector satellite would need to do in order to poke a hole in America’s defensive infrastructure is grab an American satellite with a retractable arm and pull it down into a degrading orbit. Eventually, the Russian satellite would just let go and watch its target burn up as it enters the atmosphere. The entire process would be fairly slow and even mundane to look at, but without any form of defense in orbit, there would be nothing U.S. Space Command could do but watch until the satellite went dark.
Similar methods to the same end would include deploying nets to capture enemy satellites or even simply giving them a push. Depending on the age and capability of the satellite, that could really be all it took to take it out of commission. In extreme cases, like the satellites the U.S. relies on to identify nuclear ballistic missile launches, simply incapacitating a satellite for a few minutes (by pushing it off its axis, for instance) could neuter the nation’s ability to spot or intercept inbound nukes. China has already demonstrated the theoretical ability to do exactly that using ground-based lasers that are invisible to the naked eye.
There are a number of strategies already being developed to counter this form of orbital warfare, like developing a fast-launch infrastructure to replace damaged satellites rapidly and deploying more maneuverable and capable platforms that aren’t as susceptible to these simplistic forms of attack… but for the next few decades, that’s the reality of our space wars: simple satellite drones nudging, poking, and maybe shooting at one another while we watch from below with bated breath.
The M60 Patton was America’s first main battle tank and a heavy-lifter for the U.S. from its adoption in 1960 to its final retirement in 1997. It’s still in service in allied countries around the world and Raytheon has come out with a modernization kit to get it ready for 21st-century combat.
The Raytheon M60A3 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) features a 950-horsepower engine (a 200-horsepower improvement), a 120mm main gun, new fire control and targeting systems with thermal and day sights, and more reactive motors to move the turret and main gun.
Replacing the old, 105mm M68 rifled gun with the L44 120mm smoothbore cannon is probably the most visible and important part of the SLEP upgrades. The L44 is also known as the M256, the main gun on the M1 Abrams main battle tank that America uses today. It features greater range and penetrating power than the M68 it is replacing.
The upgraded electric motors will allow crews to respond more quickly to enemies spotted on the battlefield than the old hydraulic motors. They also do their job more quietly, reducing the chances that the Pattons will be spotted as quickly in combat.
Meanwhile, the new, 950-hp engines will allow the tanks to reach more places more quickly, giving commanders better tactical and strategic options on the battlefield.
Finally, the sights on the tank are a leap forward for it, allowing crews to quickly and reliably engage targets with their larger cannon.
The tanks featured in a Raytheon video about the SLEP also seem to feature armor upgrades, but Raytheon hasn’t commented on what new capabilities the armor gives.
Of course, this is still an old dog learning new tricks and M60s would struggle against the most modern tanks on the battlefield. For Raytheon, it seems to be about giving customers who can’t afford new tanks an upgrade option rather than making the M60 a peer to Abrams, Leopard, or Armata tanks.
For countries who field the M60 and aren’t yet ready for a tank acquisition program, the SLEP offers a chance to deter aggressive neighbors without breaking the bank.
Coming from the relatively flat state of New Jersey, Capt. Matthew Munoz recently learned for the first time how to land a UH-60 Black Hawk above 12,000 feet.
As a National Guard pilot, Munoz normally does flight training with sling loads and hoists, or he transports soldiers in air assault courses.
For the most part, those missions allow a large power margin for his helicopter, meaning there is less stress on the aircraft.
But here surrounded by the Rocky Mountains in western Colorado along Interstate 70, it’s a whole new ballgame. The mountainous terrain tests helicopter pilots with risky landing zones on limited, uneven space often strewn with large rocks and trees.
Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“There definitely is that pucker factor,” Munoz said. “You have that caution and fear in that confined space. And there’s that potential for the rotors of the aircraft to strike an obstacle.”
A student at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, Munoz recently took the site’s weeklong course to hone his power management techniques that may one day help him out of a bad situation.
The only aviation school of its kind in the Defense Department, HAATS teaches about 350 students per year across the U.S. military as well as from foreign militaries, which account for about 20 percent of its enrollment.
The school is one of four Army National Guard aviation training sites in the country. Given its access to over 1 million acres of rugged forest with landing zones from 6,500 to 12,200 feet, HAATS mainly focuses on power management that teaches pilots how to maximize the utility of their helicopters.
The training sharpens pilots heading into combat or to perform missions back home, where they may find themselves flying in high altitudes, hot weather or carrying heavy loads, all of which can sap power from an aircraft.
“It’s important for us to give them the tools they need to make sure that they can complete their mission successfully and not bend or break aircraft in the process,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.
Operated by a small 30-member cadre of full-time Colorado Guardsmen, federal employees and an instructor pilot from the Coast Guard, the school relies on pilots to bring their own helicopters that can range from Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks and UH-72 Lakotas.
Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
What they lack in numbers, the staff makes up with experience. Many of the instructors have thousands of hours of flight experience and multiple combat tours from when they served in line units, Reed said.
Instructors also have a dual role of conducting search and rescue missions when emergencies pop up across the state.
Once they arrive, students head to the classroom to learn about approaches and takeoff sequences, weather and environmental considerations, and then power management.Afterward, pilots typically fly twice a day out in the rugged terrain, practicing the skills they just learned.
Reed considers the training to be “graduate level,” intended for more experienced pilots.
“It would be difficult to take a student fresh out of flight school and put them through this training,” he said, “while they’re trying to learn their aircraft and how to maneuver it.”
With only two years of experience as a Lakota pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Ferguson said he was lucky to be chosen for the recent course.
The Virginia Guardsman plans to use the skills when he is next called upon for drug interdiction operations in the state. High above the ground, Ferguson helps conduct surveillance for law enforcement as they search for suspects or illegal marijuana fields hidden in the forest.
An instructor pilot from the Coast Guard teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Many times the job requires him to hover at high altitudes so as not to spook suspects and for safety reasons.
“If you get too low, the helicopter hovering over the house becomes pretty obvious, pretty quick,” he said. “So, you got to know how to maintain standoff, how to read the wind, [and] position the helicopter where you need it to be positioned.”
The techniques and finesse he picked up at the HAATS course, he said, gave him a better control touch of the aircraft when it’s using a lot of power.
Since they manage the aircraft, crew chiefs frequently join the pilots in the training to hone their skills, too.
By being together, aircrews can improve their teamwork, especially in dangerous landing zones where a crew chief is needed to spot dangers on the ground.
“Having good aircrew coordination between everybody in the aircraft is pinnacle because if you’re not talking to each other, then something is going to get missed,” said Sgt. Robert Black, a Black Hawk crew chief.
One time while deployed to Iraq, Black said he was on a helicopter that landed roughly on the side of a mountain as his crew went to check out a new landing zone during a training event.
“When we came in, we kind of browned out and then touched down a little bit harder than usual,” said Black, who is assigned to the Virginia National Guard.
While no one was injured, Black still saw it as a wake-up call. “If we would have had the training we had here, that probably wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
During the course, instructors will show videos that simulate previous helicopter crashes and discuss how to avoid the issues faced by those crews.
While somber, since some of the crashes have led to deaths, the videos are valuable learning aids.
“They’re all lessons learned,” Black said. “Being able to recognize somebody else’s mistakes and being able to learn from them is a key part of any kind of training.”
Seasoned crew chiefs also share their personal stories with their students.
Instructor Staff Sgt. Greg Yost often draws upon lessons from his time in Afghanistan where he served as a crew chief on a medical evacuation helicopter, which had to fly quickly in hot weather that sometimes took a toll on its power supply.
“If I can’t teach you something here in this course, then I have failed you,” Yost said of what he tells his students. “It is my goal, my duty to impart some kind of knowledge to every student that comes into my classroom.”
Training for combat
Earlier this year, Reed said the school was requested by the 10th and 82nd Combat Aviation Brigades to train up its younger crews ahead of deployments. The units flew several helicopters out to the site and for weeks the school cycled soldiers through.
HAATS even has mobile training teams that travel around the country to prepare aircrews.
At times, instructors hear back from crew members downrange they’ve helped train, who thank them and tell them they were able to apply the skills to real-world missions.
Staff Sgt. Greg Yost, a crew chief instructor, teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Occasionally, crews will even share newly-found techniques with instructors that may help future students.
“More than anything, it validates what we’ve been doing,” Reed said.
While counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East may be waning, Yost believes skills in the course can still be used to mitigate risks in future operations.
For instance, helicopters may require heavier equipment, such as armor or technology, to offset anti-air threats posed by near-peer adversaries.
“As that stuff develops, it will be bolted onto the aircraft,” the senior crew chief said. “It will be adding weight, maybe increasing drag. All these contributing factors will reduce the aircraft’s performance.”
Whatever the mission, it’s no secret what they teach at the site, Reed said, who hopes every aircrew takes advantage of the course.
“We’re trying to spread the word and share it,” the commander said. “Often times we hear about a helicopter crash that’s power related. We want to do everything we can to make sure that all the aviators out there have these tools and make the right decisions.”
Naval fleets are predominantly created and organized for power projection, taking the fight to the enemy on their turf to ensure that American are safe at home. But the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps do practice defending the fleet at sea should it come under a direct attack.
Here’s how they do it:
The guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) fires its Phalanx close-in weapons system during live-fire training exercises in the Atlantic Ocean on August 31, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Chen)
The Navy has a number of weapons that are custom designed for protecting ships and personnel. Perhaps one of the most famous of these is the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System. This is the final, goal-line defense against anything above the waterline. Basically, it’s R2-D2 with a 20mm, multi-barrel gun.
The Phalanx is typically associated with cruise missiles, and that’s because it’s one of the few weapons that can destroy cruise missiles in their final attack. But it’s also perfectly capable of attacking other threats, especially slower-moving items in the air, like planes and helicopters.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) travels alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during a replenishment-at-sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Rosencrans)
Of course, the Marines aren’t content to wait for threats to approach the Navy’s Phalanx, and so, on larger ships like LHAs and LHDs, the Marines can drive their vehicles onto the decks and fire the guns off the ship, striking attack boats or enemies on nearby shores with anything from the .50-cal. machine guns to 25mm Bushmaster cannons to rounds from a 120mm Abrams cannon.
All of that’s in extremis, the-enemy-is-at-the-gates kinda of defense. The next ring out is provided by cruisers and destroyers who try to keep all the threats away from the heart of the fleet.
The beefier of these two is the cruiser. For the U.S. Navy, that’s the Ticonderoga class. It has 122 vertical-launch cells that can fire a variety of missiles. Lately, the Navy has been upgrading the cruisers to primarily fire the Navy’s Standard Missile-3. This baby can hit objects in space, but is predominantly designed to hit targets in the short to intermediate ranges from the ship.
The guided missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) conducts a tomahawk missile flight test while underway in the western Pacific.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devin M. Langer)
But the Ticonderogas, and their destroyer sisters, the Arleigh-Burkes, can also carry Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, Standard Missile-2s, and Evolved SeaSparrow Missiles. Need to hit something below the waterline? Try out the ships’ Mk. 46 or Mk. 50 torpedoes. Both ship classes can fire the torpedoes via rockets, and the Ticonderoga can fire them directly from tubes.
The Tomahawk is the weapon that really increases the fleet’s range, hitting ships at ranges of almost 300 miles and land targets at over 1,000 miles. As attackers get closer, the fleet could start firing the shorter range weapons, like the anti-submarine rockets and SeaSparrows.
But there’s an overlap between the Tomahawks’ range and that of the fleet’s most powerful and longest-range protection: jets. The carrier groups and amphibious readiness groups have the ability to launch fighter and attack jets. As time marches on, these jets will be F-35Bs and Cs launching from carriers and Landing Helicopter Assault and Landing Helicopter Dock ships.
A U. S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Norwegian Sea, October 25, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adelola Tinubu)
For now, though, its mostly Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets taking off from carriers and Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers taking off from the LHAs and LHDs. The Harriers can only reach out to 230 miles without refueling, but the Hornets have a combat radius of over 1,000 miles without refueling.
And both planes can refuel in the air, usually guzzling gas from modified Super Hornets, but the Navy is working on a new, specialized drone tanker called the MQ-25 Stingray.
The Super Hornets pack 20mm cannons as well as a variety of air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles and bombs, but their greatest ability to cripple an enemy attack comes from another plane: The E-2 Hawkeye.
An E-2C Hawkeye, assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron, approaches the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)
The Navy’s E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning and Control plane is unarmed and slower than most of its buddies in the sky, but it’s a key part of the Navy’s fleet defense and offense thanks to its massive radar. That radar can see out 340 miles and track over 2,000 targets. It can actively control the interception of 40 targets, helping guide friendly fighters to the enemy.
So, when the Navy’s fleets come under attack, enemies have to either catch them off guard, or fight their way through the concentric rings. Their land-based assets are susceptible to attack from over 1,000 miles from the fleet thanks to ground-attack aircraft and Tomahawks. Their ships are vulnerable at similar ranges from aircraft and 300 miles from the Tomahawks.
As they draw closer, they face SeaSparrows and Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and their fighters can come under surface-to-air missile attacks from the Standard Missile-2. If they actually draw within 20 miles, they start facing the Navy’s deck guns and torpedoes. A short time later, the Marine get in on the fight with their vehicles driven up onto decks.
A Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine participating in Exercise Keen Sword with Submarine Group 7 and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors and staff.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Electronics Technician Robert Gulini)
And all of that’s ignoring the possibility that a nuclear submarine is in the water, just waiting for a surface contact to fire their own torpedoes at.
Of course, a determined enemy could use their own large fleet to push through those defenses. Or, a crafty enemy could wait for a fleet to transit a chokepoint and then attack from the shore or with a large fleet of fast attack craft.
That’s the kind of attack the U.S. fears from Iran in the Straits of Hormuz. At it’s most narrow point, the strait is only 35 miles wide. U.S. ally Oman is on one side of the strait, but that still leaves any ships passing through within relatively easy range of Iran, even if they’re hugging the Omani shore.
The expeditionary mobile base platform ship USS Lewis B. Puller transits the Strait of Hormuz, Oct. 22, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialists 3rd Class Jonathan Clay)
And so, fast attack craft from Iran would be able to target one or two ships as they pass through the Strait, sending dozens of speedboats against the ships, preferably while those ships armed with Phalanxs and missiles are out of range or blocked by other vessels.
And that’s why the Navy makes such a big deal about chokepoints, like the Straits of Hormuz, or certain points in the South China Sea. Multi-billion dollar assets with thousands of humans aboard, normally well-protected at sea, are now within range of relatively unsophisticated attacks from American adversaries.
So, while the Navy needs to protect its fleets at sea, that’s the relatively easy part of the equation. The scarier proposition is taking an attack near hostile shores or being forced to sail into range of the enemy’s shore-based aircraft, where the fleet’s overwhelming firepower finds a strong counter that could cripple it.
The Second World War saw the US government press a number of civilian aircraft into military service for use as transports and cargo haulers, thanks to a rising demand for vehicles. Known as the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, this force consists of hundreds of passenger and freight aircraft flown by companies such as JetBlue, UPS and United Airlines, which can be ushered into military service whenever the Department of Defense needs more aircraft to fulfill its various missions.
The CRAF was officially formed in December 1951 through an agreement brokered between the Department of Defense and the Department of Commerce that would streamline the realignment of civilian aircraft into military service if the military’s own airlift capabilities weren’t able to handle the volume of transport operations caused by national emergencies, crises, or war.
If called upon, airlines and freight carriers that have agreed to a CRAF contract would provide aircraft and aircrew (i.e. pilots and flight attendants) to the U.S. Transportation Command, which will then assign these airliners to airlift missions — from moving troops and gear to evacuating the injured and wounded in “air ambulance” roles.
At the moment, virtually all major American commercial aircraft operators — including international and domestic airlines and parcel delivery companies with aviation divisions — are fully-contracted members of the CRAF, making their aircraft available to USTRANSCOM as and when they are needed. This includes scores of short, medium and long-range airliners and cargo aircraft which can have their interiors reconfigured to carry gear or troops.
Long-range widebody airliners and cargo transporters, such as the Boeing 747 and 777, Airbus A330, or McDonnell Douglas MD-11, are operated in sizable numbers by carriers like FedEx, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. These aircraft, according to the CRAF’s guidelines, are slated to augment the Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III and C-5M Galaxy fleets because of their transoceanic range.
Smaller aircraft like the Boeing 737 series and the Airbus A320 series are also listed among the aircraft available to USTRANSCOM in the event of a CRAF activation. As they lack the range and capacity of larger widebody airliners, they are relegated to domestic roles instead.
The CRAF was last activated during the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s to transport scores of American troops and tons of military hardware to the Middle East in preparation for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Airlines like Pan Am, United and TWA were responsible for providing large passenger aircraft to haul Marines, airmen, soldiers and sailors from the continental United States to Saudi Arabia and other major staging points in advance of the coordinated assault on Iraqi forces.
In the years since, the US military has been mostly able to rely upon its own airlift abilities to fly troops and gear in and out of combat zones. However, should the need arise, the military also tenders contracts to civilian charter companies like Omni Air International, who provide aircraft and pilots to ferry personnel and equipment wherever the military requires.
Airlines can indeed opt out of joining the CRAF, but many choose not to as it makes them more competitive for government transportation contracts, including charter flights for military personnel across the world.
When you think of artillery, you’re probably thinking of something like the M777-towed 155mm howitzer or the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled gun. But in the Civil War, artillery was very different.
Back then, a gun wasn’t described by how wide the round was, but how much the round weighed. According to a National Park Service release, one of the most common was the 12-pounder Napoleon, which got that name from firing a 12-pound solid shot. The typical range for the Napoleon was about 2,000 yards. Multiply that by about twenty to have a rough idea how far a M777 can shoot an Excalibur GPS-guided round.
Another round used was the shell, a hollowed-out solid shot that usually had about eight ounces of black powder inserted. This is pretty much what most artillery rounds are today. The typical Civil War shell had a range of about 1,500 yards — or just under a mile.
However, when enemy troops were approaching, the artillery had two options. The first was to use what was called “case” rounds. These were spherical rounds that held musket balls. In the case of the Napoleon, it held 78 balls. Think of it as a giant hand grenade that could reach out as far as a mile and “touch” enemy troops.
When the enemy troops got real close, there was one last round: the canister. In essence, this turned the cannon into a giant shotgun. It would have cast-iron shot packed with sawdust. When enemy troops got very close, they’d use two canister rounds, known as “double canister” (in the 1993 movie, “Gettysburg,” you can hear a Union officer order “double canister” during the depiction of Pickett’s Charge).
To see what a canister round did to enemy troops, watch this video:
A selection of security cameras that are being sold and touted by Amazon on its website come with “huge” security risks, according to findings from an investigation conducted by UK consumer watchdog Which? that were released on Sept. 27, 2019.
After testing six different wireless cameras, Which? found that the devices were easy to hack thanks to weak passwords and unencrypted data that could enable strangers to remotely take control of the camera to spy into people’s homes and view footage as they please.
One of the cameras tested in the investigation has an Amazon Choice label. This essentially means that it is an item that many buyers have purchased and were satisfied with, but it doesn’t mean it has been heavily vetted by Amazon. The Amazon Choice label is important as these are the items that Amazon’s search engine will deliver when you ask Alexa to search for you.
Which? says that the lack of vetting on these Amazon recommended products is extremely concerning.
“There appears to be little to no quality control with these sub-standard products, which risk people’s security yet are being endorsed and sold on Amazon,” Adam French, a consumer rights expert at Which? said in a statement to the press on Sept. 30, 2019.
“Amazon and other online marketplaces must take these cameras off sale and improve the way they scrutinize these products,” he continued. “They certainly should not be endorsing products that put people’s privacy at risk.”
Customers raised safety concerns in some reviews online.
“Someone spied on us,” said one customer who reviewed a .99 Victure security camera that carries the Amazon Choice badge. “They talked through the camera and they turned the camera on at will. Extremely creepy. We told Amazon. Three of us experienced it, yet they’re still selling them.” Business Insider has reached out to Victure for comment.
Another customer wrote that he had “chills down his spine” after hearing a mysterious voice coming from a camera next to his child’s crib after it was apparently hacked, Which? wrote in its press release.
Which? said it asked Amazon to remove these products and is urging the company to monitor customer feedback and investigate cases where consumers have identified issues with security. Amazon declined to comment on Which?’s findings, however. A spokesperson for the company did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When you look at the Iowa-class battleships, in a way, you are looking at the ultimate in a surface combat platform. They are huge – about 45,000 tons — they carry nine 16-inch guns and have an array of other weapons, too, from Tomahawk cruise missiles to Phalanx close-in weapon systems.
Looking at them, could you imagine diluting that surface-combat firepower for some Harriers? Well, the U.S. Navy did.
According to the 13th Edition of “The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet,” the Navy kicked around the idea of turning the Iowa and her three sisters into a combination battleship-carrier. The after turret would be removed, and the space would be turned into a flight deck. WarisBoring.com noted that the plan called for as many as 20 AV-8B Harriers to be carried on the ship.
There was also a consideration for adding vertical launch systems for Tomahawks and Standard surface-to-air missiles.
It wasn’t as if the battleships hadn’t operated planes before, as in World War II the battleships operated floatplanes – usually for gunfire spotting. The Iowas kept their planes in an on-board hanger in the aft section of the ship.
That section was later used to land helicopters when they were in service during the 1980s. The New Jersey even operated a UCAV, the QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter, while blasting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese positions during her one deployment in the Vietnam War.
That said, the project never went forward. One big reason was at the end of the Cold War, the Iowa-class ships were quick to go on the chopping block — even as the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin provided outstanding fire support to the Marines during Operation Desert Storm.
Another can be ascribed to history. Late in World War II, Japan was desperate for carriers. And when they tried to convert the battleships Ise and Hyuga to carrier, the effort wasn’t successful.
It is open to debate whether 20 Harriers would have been a fair trade for a third of an Iowa’s 16-inch firepower. What isn’t open for debate is that the Iowa-class fast battleship has never truly been replaced a quarter-century after their decommissioning.
The past versus the future is always an interesting debate. One of the biggest naval hypotheticals centers around the Iowa-class battleships, which have often been featured in “what if” match-ups with anything from the Bismarck and Yamato to the Kirov. The Iowas are now museums, supposedly replaced by the Zumwalt-class destroyers.
Could the Zumwalt-class ships really be a replacement? Could they measure up to an Iowa? This could be a very interesting fight, given that the two ships were commissioned slightly over seven decades apart.
The Zumwalt is perhaps the most high-tech ship to sail the seven seas. MilitaryFactory,com notes that this ship has two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, 20 four-cell Mk 57 vertical-launch systems, and it can carry two helicopters. The vessel displaces about 14,500 tons, and has a top speed of 30 knots. In short, this destroyer is a little smaller than a World War II-era Baltimore-class heavy cruiser.
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) (Photo: U.S. Navy)
An Iowa, on the other hand, comes in at 48,500 tons, per MilitaryFactory.com. She could reach a top speed of 35 knots, and was armed with nine 16-inch guns in three turrets, each with three guns. When modernized in the 1980s, she added 32 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and still kept six twin five-inch gun mounts. This is still one of the most powerful surface combatants in the world, even though it is old enough to collect Social Security and Medicare.
A fight between an Iowa and a Zumwalt would be very interesting. The Zumwalt would use its stealth technology to stay hidden and then rely on helicopters and UAVs to locate the Iowa. Its biggest problem would be that none of its weapons could do much against the heavy armor on the battleship. If the Iowa gets a solid solution on the Zumwalt, on the other hand, it can send its own gun salvos at the destroyer – which won’t survive more then one or two hits.
USS Iowa (BB-61) fires a full broadside of her nine 16″/50 and six 5″/38 guns during a target exercise near Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. (DOD photo)
In short, the Iowa would likely demonstrate why so many people want to see them back in service at the expense of the ship that was intended to replace it.
For a number of centuries, the battleship and its predecessor, the ship of the line, ruled the oceans. They were big, heavily armed, and were able to take a lot of punishment. But battleships haven’t sailed on the high seas for nearly a quarter-century, since the 1992 retirement of USS Missouri (BB 63).
In fact, the only capital ship in active service (outside of aircraft carriers), the Petr Velikiy (Peter the Great), is in the Russian Navy.
Officially, Russia refers to the Kirov-class battlecruisers as “heavy nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers.” But at 24,500 tons, and with a top speed of 32 knots, these ships are powerful. The Soviets started five of these vessels, and in the 1980s, completed three of them before the fall of the Soviet Union.
Those three were named Kirov, Frunze, and Kalinin. The fourth vessel under construction, Yuri Andropov, and the planned fifth, October Revolution, were placed on hold.
The ships were renamed by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992 to Admiral Ushakov (ex-Kirov), Admiral Lazarev (ex-Frunze), Admiral Nakhimov (ex-Kalinin), Petr Yelikiy (ex-Yuri Andropov), and Admiral Kuznetsov (ex-October Revolution). The Admiral Kuznetsov was cancelled, and the name went to Russia’s troubled carrier. The Petr Velikiy was eventually put into service in 1998. But during that time, the Admiral Ushakov, the Admiral Lazarev, and the Admiral Nakhimov went into “operational reserve.”
So, let’s get to the good stuff: the firepower. Petr Velikiy can handle any threat in the wild blue yonder (that’s the sky, for those of you who don’t sing the Air Force song regularly). She carries 96 SA-N-6 “Grumble” surface-to-air missiles, 20 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” anti-ship missiles, 16 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 “Gauntlet” point-defense surface-to-air missile, six CADS-N-1 point-defense systems (each with eight SA-N-11 “Grison” surface-to-air missiles and two 30mm Gatling guns), a twin 130mm gun mount, and two quintuple 533mm (21-inch) torpedo tube mounts. The ship can also carry two Ka-27 “Helix” helicopters.
Russia is planning to bring at least one of the non-operational ships back into service. Currently Admiral Nakhimov is being upgraded with plans to return her to service in 2018. The Petr Velikiy would then receive a four-year modernization. Whether the Admiral Ushakov or Admiral Lazarev follow suit remains to be seen, with conflictingreports among those who follow the Russian Navy. Admiral Ushakov reportedly suffered a reactor accident in 1990 that was never repaired. Both ships are said to be in bad condition.
Technically, the United States Navy is required to be able to reactivate two of its Iowa-class battleships. USS Iowa (BB 61 ) and USS Wisconsin (BB 64) were designated as such under Section 1014 of the National Defense Authorization Act 2006. But barring a major national emergency for the United States, it looks as if the Petr Velikiy and the Admiral Nakhimov will remain the last of their kind.