The U.S. military has a lot of great options when it wants to kill the enemy. Some of the world’s best planes, artillery, and helicopters work with ground pounders to dominate lethal operations.
But when it comes to dealing with crowds, the military wants more options. One of its most promising candidates is the Active Denial Technology system, which focuses a beam of energy to heat the target’s skin 1/64 of an inch deep. It creates a sensation of sudden heat and pain, convincing the target to run.
Flying close to ground troops in combat in hostile and high-threat conditions requires a host of unique attributes for an aircraft — such as flying slow and low to the ground, absorbing some degree of small arms fire and having an ability to quickly maneuver in response to fast-changing ground combat conditions.
These and many more are among factors now being analyzed as proponents of both the A-10 Warthog and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter assess their respective abilities to perform the crucial and highly valued Close Air Support mission. The Pentagon and the Air Force are now conducting a thorough examination of each plane’s capability for this role – including extensive analysis, simulated tests, flights of both aircraft under combat-like conditions and a range of tests, Air Force and Pentagon officials have explained. While many of the details of the ongoing evaluation are not now being discussed publically, the results are expected to bear prominently upon the visible ongoing debate regarding the future mission scope of both the A-10 and the F-35.
While the cherished A-10 is unambiguously combat-tested in the role of Close Air Support, some F-35 advocates have mused that the JSF sensors, maneuverability, high-tech computers, 25mm canon and arsenal of weapons just might better position the 5th generation aircraft for the mission; at the same time, the A-10s titanium frame, built-in redundancy, famous nose-aligned 30mm cannon and wide-ranging precision-weapons envelope make clearly make it the best choice for close air support.
Sure enough, the A-10s performance against ISIS, Congressional lobby and broad adoration among ground troops are among the many factors believed to have influenced the Air Force’s current plan to both extend the life of the current A-10 and also explore requirements options for a future Close Air Support platform. Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior the ongoing requirements and analysis procedure is looking at three options – upgrading the existing A-10 airframe, using the best available commercial-off-the shelf aircraft, or simply engineering an building a newly designed A-10-like Close Air Support airplane.
Many A-10 proponents are convinced that there is no other plane capable of succeeding with the highly-dangerous, revered and essential Close Air Support Mission. Nevertheless, the Air Force does plan to use the emerging F-35 for Close Air Support moving into the next decade. In addition, F-35 advocates argue that the stealth aircraft’s speed, maneuverability and high-tech weapons and sensors give the F-35 a decisive Close Air Support advantage.
In the meantime, the F-35 weapons integration including live fire drops, weapons separation assessments and modifications for future munitions adaptions is progressing as well alongside the existing F-35/A-10 analysis.
The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
By the early 2020s, the F-35 is slated to be configured with a next-generation Small Diameter Bomb II
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Built-in ISR is an asset which could have the effect of greatly helping close-air-support efforts.
Also, F-35 advocates reiterate that the airplane’s high-tech Electro-Optical Targeting System and 360-degree sensors Distributed Aperture System will give the newer aircraft an uncontested combat and close-air-support ability. The F-35s so-called computer-enabled “sensor fusion” might enable it to more quickly ascertain and destroy moving targets by gathering, integrating and presenting fast-changing combat dynamics and circumstances.
Finally, the F-35’s stealth configuration and speed is expected to better enable it to evade air defenses and move closer to emerging ground-targets in many instances — and its air-to-air ability will enable the aircraft to respond to potential air-threats which could appear in the course of a ground-support mission.
AIM-9X Sidewinder Missile
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time earlier this year over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.
The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.
Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.
“If you think if a boresight in terms of a firearm… that’s the adjustments made to an optical sight, to align the barrel of a firearm with the sights. If you think of it in aircraft terms… traditionally air-to-air missiles are fired at targets in front of the them,” Joint Strike Fighter Program Office spokesman Joe DellaVedova, told Scout Warrior.
The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.
“For example, instead of having to position the aircraft directly in front or behind the enemy fighter… a high off-boresight weapon enables the pilot to just look to the left, right or up and down to engage a target, fire it and the missile locks on for the kill,” he explained.
The AIM-9X missile, which can also be fired at surface-to-air and air-to-surface, is currently in use on a number of existing fighter aircraft such as the Air Force’s F-15E and F-16 and the Navy’s F-18 Super Hornet.
Engineered by Raytheon, the newest AIM-9X Block II weapons are built with a redesigned fuse for increased safety and a lock-on-launch capability. The missile is also configured with a data link to support what’s called “beyond visual range” engagements, meaning targets at much farther ranges picked up by sensors or early warning radar. This could provide a fighter jet with an ability to destroy enemy targets in the air while remaining at a safer stand-off distance less exposed to hostile fire.
“The AIM-9X Sidewinder is an infrared-guided, air-to-air missile employing a focal plane array sensor for unparalleled target acquisition and tracking, augmented by jet vane control technology for extreme maneuverability against a variety of high performance threats,” Mark Justus, Raytheon AIM-9X program director, told Scout Warrior in a written statement. “The missile also has proven capability in air-to-surface and demonstrated capability in surface-to-air missions.”
The AIM-9X Block II is the current version of the AIM-9 Sidewinder short range missile family in use by more than 40 nations throughout the world, Justus added.
“The AIM-9X missile has been acquired by twenty international partners. It is configured for easy installation on a wide variety of modern fighter aircraft and we are excited to complete this milestone of the first AIM-9X live fire from the F-35 as we progress through the aircraft/missile integration activities,” he said.
Weapons integration for the F-35 is designed to evolve in tandem with software advances for the aircraft, described as “increments.” Each increment, involving massive amounts of lines of computer code, improves the platform’s ability to integrate, carry and fire a wider range of weapons.
Block 2B, for example, is already operational and builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop.
Block 2B enables the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), JSF program officials have said.
The next increment, Blocks 3i will increase the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.
The Air Force plans to reach operational status with software Block 3i in 2016. Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.
Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.
F-35 25mm Gatling Gun
Last Fall, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said.
The test took place Oct. 30, 2015 in California, Pentagon officials described.
“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said.
The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground – a task of growing consequence given the Air Force plan to retire the A-10.
Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.
The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.
“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.
The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.
“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.
The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.
The gun is slated to be operational by 2017.
Small Diameter Bomb II
The Air Force is engineering and testing a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.
The Small Diameter Bomb II, or SDB II, is designed to integrate onto the F-35 by 2022 or 2023; it is engineered todestroy moving targets in all kinds of weather, such as small groups of ISIS or terrorist fighters on-the-move in pick-up trucks.
A weapon of this kind would be of extreme relevance against ISIS fighters as the group is known to deliberately hide among civilian populations and make movements under cloud cover or adverse weather in order to avoid detection from overhead surveillance technologies.
While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, the SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight.
A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.
A tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.
Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground.
Also, the SBD II brings a new ability to track targets in flight through use of a two-way Link 16 and UHF data link, Raytheon officials said.
The millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology, Raytheon officials said.
The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air dropped bombs, so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.
The merchant vessel British Mariner reported seeing a flashlight signal them as they passed the otherwise uninhabited island on August 24.
The U.S. Navy overflew the island the next day in P-8A Poseidon aircraft. The Navy reported seeing a help message from castaways to the U.S. Coast Guard at the Guam Command Center.
Navy observers saw “SOS” written in the beach sands by Linus and Sabina Jack, who left nearby Wenu Island on an 18-foot boat with limited supplies and no emergency equipment. They never reached their reported destination.
The pair left on August 17th and the Coast Guard began its search two days later when they failed to arrive at Tamtam Island. The multi-agency team searched some 16,571 square miles before the British Mariner saw their flashlight.
A patrol boat picked the castaways up on August 26.
The international search for the couple lasted seven days and used a Coast Guard-sponsored ship reporting system designed to assist vessels under these exact conditions. Called AMVER, the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System, the network is voluntary but is used worldwide. With AMVER, users can identify ships in the area of distress and ask them to respond or assist.
Helmets and body armor are heavy, and wearing them in desert air rippling with heat is a grueling and uncomfortable experience. But no matter how hard you’ve been tempted to go helmet-free for a few minutes, these 16 stories of troops surviving headshots thanks to a little Kevlar should make you a believer for life — literally:
(Author’s note: The captions and descriptions in this story were originally written by the military public affairs specialists who took the photos. They have been edited by WATM staff for length.)
1. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Bradley A. Snipes
During a 2005 mission with his platoon, Snipes was shot in the head by an enemy sniper. The only thing that saved his life was the Kevlar helmet he wore.
2. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Stumpff
Stumpff was shot in the head by an insurgent in Khowst province, Afghanistan, but the bullet penetrated the back of his helmet, just grazed his head, and exited the front. Halberg then killed the insurgent while protecting his battle buddy.
3. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Christopher D. Hatley Jr.
Lance Cpl. Christopher D. Hatley Jr., a rifleman, takes time before a patrol for a photo. (Photo: Sgt. Earnest J. Barnes, USMC)
Hatley thought he was hit in the head with a rock after bullets impacted a wall close to him during a 2011 operation. He and his fellow Marines realized shortly thereafter he had actually been shot in the head. His Kevlar helmet saved his life and he was left with only a severe headache.
4. Marine Corps Cpl. Daniel M. Greenwald
Cpl. Daniel M. Greenwald, an assaultman, holds up the Kevlar helmet that saved his life. (Photo: Cpl. Erik Villagran, USMC)
Greenwald was shot in the head by an insurgent sniper while conducting a vehicle checkpoint. He escaped with only a minor gash on his forehead.
5. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Heath Culbertson
Tech. Sgt. Heath Culbertson, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron flight engineer, shows where a bullet entered then exited his helmet. (Photo: Capt. Erick Saks, USAF)
Davis was uninjured when he was shot in the helmet during a mission to recover the pilots of a downed Army helicopter, April 23, 2011.
6. Marine Corps Pfc. Fred M. Linck
Pfc. Fred M. Linck, an infantryman, was shot in the head and walked away from the incident. The enemy round struck his Kevlar helmet, which saved his life by stopping the bullet from penetrating his head. A piece of fragmentation caused a small laceration to the Marine’s forehead, too small even for stitches.
7. This soldier (Warning: graphic imagery and language)
The video is so graphic that it’s age-restricted and only available to watch directly on YouTube.
8. Army Staff Sgt. Kyle Keenan
Keenan was shot in the helmet at point blank range by a 9mm pistol on a mission July 1, 2007. Local tips identified an insurgent leader in a safe house in Abu Hillan, Iraq. His troops, who were originally preparing for another mission, changed focus and launched an immediate air assault to nab the cell. Keenan, unfazed by the insurgent’s attempt to shoot him, leveled his shotgun and killed the enemy.
9. Army Sgt. Shawn Snyder
10. Afghan National Army Pvt. Sangar
“I am not scared,” Sangar said through an interpreter. “I will keep fighting next to my guys and keep wearing my helmet,” he added with a laugh.
11. Army Staff Sgt. Joseph McKenzie
McKenzie received minor wounds during a firefight in Afghanistan in March 2011.
12. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Harvey
Harvey, a construction supervisor, was awarded his second purple heart after being shot in the helmet and suffering a wound to his left cheek from sniper fire during a route clearance mission in Najaf, Feb. 10, 2009.
(Author’s note: A previous version of this article contained the story of Army Staff Sgt. Kyle Keenan twice. One of them has been removed.)
Ranger, Green Beret, and Special Forces sniper are just some of the unique jobs that MMA superstar Tim Kennedy has on his resume.
After enlisting in the Army in 2003, Kennedy has deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan while serving in the 7th Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, then moved on to a successful career fighting in the rough and tumble world of the MMA octagon.
Kennedy has clashed with the best of the best in the “Ultimate Soldier Challenge” as well as being featured on Spike TV’s “Deadliest Warrior.” But now he takes on a new role as a personal defense instructor.
Tim Kennedy takes time out of his busy day for a photo op with his Special Forces unit in Afghanistan. (Photo: Kelly Crigger)
One of Kennedy’s newest training endeavors is called “Sheepdog’s Response,” a training course that trains men and women to react to the most violent situations that can erupt at any moment.
In Kennedy’s course, students learn how to defend themselves hand to hand, get instruction on the appropriate use of firearms, and he helps build confidence in a controlled environment. Sheepdog Response is intended to train students who decide they want to be hard to kill regardless of their shape or stature.
“The moment I step off in a non-permissive, semi-permissive — even in a permissive — environment, I am profiling all the time that is the thing that saves my life,” Kennedy explains to his class.
Check out Metric Nine‘s video below to see how Tim Kennedy and his team share their unique knowledge and ensure their students receive the best possible training to deal with just about any unexpected threat.
Lockheed Martin built the F-35 with integrated stealth to safely navigate the most heavily contested airspaces on earth, but if the situation calls for it, the F-35 can blow its cover and go “beast mode.”
Jeff Babione, general manager of the F-35 program, told reporters at Lockheed Martin’s DC area office that at different stages in a conflict, the F-35’s different potential weapons load outs suit it for different missions.
Down to the ten thousandth of an inch, the exterior of the F-35 has been precisely machined to baffle radars. This means holding 5,000 pounds of bombs internally, and only opening up the bomb bays at the exact moment of a strike to stay hidden.
The stealth makes it ideal for penetrating defended airspaces and knocking out defenses, but after the careful work of surface-to-air missile hunting is done, expect the F-35 to go beast.
“When we don’t necessarily need to be stealthy, we can carry up to 18,000 pounds of bombs,” said Babione. “Whether it’s the first day of the war when we need the stealth, or the second or third … whenever the F-35 is called, it can do the mission.”
The fifth-generation joint strike fighter, first announced in 2001, intends to bring the military a family of aircraft that can take on multiple roles, including air-to-air combat, air-to-ground attacks, and providing unparalleled intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.
Though the F-35’s production has been plagued by cost and schedule overruns, the US Air Force and Marine Corps’ variants hit initial operational capability in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Currently the US Navy is battling a nose gear issue with its variant of the F-35 that could delay operational capability until 2019.
Being clean shaven every day in the military is an absolute must — unless you’re a special forces operator and are allowed to grow out a manly beard. Every morning, men (and some women) wake up during with a 5 o’clock shadow that is required to disappear before morning muster.
But the day you signed your DD-214 and no longer fall under the rules and regulations of shaving, it’s time to grow out that impressive separation beard — just because you can.
Not every beard is right for the individual. With several types of styles to choose from, it’s necessary to grow one that fits your specific personality. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you pick one out that fits your unique look.
Not to be mistaken for the “Homeless Man,” this style says “I work my ass for a living, but it’s usually somewhere outside in the cold.” It’s popular for keeping your face warm and catching food crumbs.
2. The Chuck Norris
One of our favorites, this traditional style relays to the world that not only can you be rugged, but you take enough time to trim up. This typically looks good enough to step into the boardroom for a presentation, then head right out to the gun range.
Chuck Norris doesn’t shave — he orders his beard to stop growing.
3. The “I’m not too worried about it”
This unique look informs the world you’re just chilling, you’re in no hurry, and whatever happens, happens.
Named after the talent actor-comedian Zack Galifianakis, this ensures your fellow man that you’re a hard worker, but you know how to crack a good joke and don’t take life too seriously.
5. The Fuzz
Not everyone can grow a full separation beard — some of us grow them in thin-to-thick patches.
This doesn’t inform the world you have low testosterone (the male’s dominant hormone) because it isn’t a facial hair growth factor — dihydrotestosterone is the chemical that promotes thick beard growth and unfortunately is linked to hair loss. Bummer!
We still respect your commitment.
6. The Shaggy
A fashionable look for those who received their separation paperwork and ran straight to the bar, leaving their razor or clipper behind in the barracks.
The passing of Nancy Reagan gives occasion to think back on the Reagan years and their impact on the warfighting capability of the American military. Here are five things that the Reagan administration gave to the troops that endure today:
1. Reagan’s defense spending was the hallmark of his presidency
Reagan believed the Cold War policies of Containment and Détente were both outmoded. He opted for a new way forward with a strategy determined by his National Security Council. This theory was one of a long-term strategic offense and was neither reactive or proactive. The strategy was designed to pressure the Soviets through a massive military buildup, which raised defense spending from $214 billion in 1982 to $258 billion in 1983. The Soviet Union was compelled to raise its defense spending from 22 percent to 27 percent of GDP. The total number of uniformed personnel didn’t change much, but the Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles, F-117 Stealth Fighters, Apache Helicopters, and M-1 Tanks that rolled over Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army in 1991 did so because Ronald Reagan helped put them there.
2. Reagan began the tradition of presidents saluting U.S. troops
President Obama caught some flak from the U.S. right wing a while back when he saluted U.S. Marines with a Starbucks cup in his hand. Obviously, while rendering a salute holding something in the right hand is a no-go (which is why you’d be hard pressed to find military members in uniform holding briefcases in their right hand on base), the tradition of the President saluting military personnel is just that: tradition.
The fact is, military members do not salute while in civilian clothes. The tradition started with President Reagan in 1981 and even then, it was a curious thing. Reagan had served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and likely knew salutes weren’t rendered out of uniform, it also means he knew it was a courtesy, and allowed the airmen and Marines who transported him to drop their salute after he returned it. Plus, the Commander-In-Chief can do what he wants. RHIP.
3. He raised the military’s pay and gave them better gear for the fight
General Edward Meyer, Army chief of staff under President Reagan, warned him that the Army was a “hollow force,” beaten around by the Vietnam War. When Reagan took over, Meyer’s assessment of the Army for the new President found one full of racial conflict, drug and alcohol problems, and full of recruits who were barely qualified to join. He also opened large training centers for the military, such as the Army’s National Training Center in California’s Mojave Desert. Meyer to the President the military needed to be told by the top person that they were honored and appreciated, and President Reagan took the time do just that.
Reagan gave the military a much-needed pay raise. He modernized attack aircraft, like the F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Strike Eagle. The Navy grew from 479 combat ships to 525. The military soon rolled out the B-1 Bomber, Trident Attack Submarines, and Peacekeeper Missiles. M-1 Tanks replaced aging M-60 tanks used in Vietnam. Jeeps gave way to Humvees, and money flooded into training centers. He also made sure the right men were in them. It was a military an American would be proud to join.
“Regardless of the political consequences, Reagan bought us what we needed,” Reagan’s Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to The Baltimore Sun. “You can see it today.”
4. Reagan improved the morale of the force by shaking off the spectre of Vietnam
The 40th President believed the United States needed a win. Like a college football team in week one, he scheduled an easy start to what could have been a tough season. With the Cold War in full swing, the Gipper gave the troops the warmup they would have needed to fight the Russians, consequences be damned.
5. Reagan’s ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ routine kept the peace with the Soviets
During his first term, he famously called the Soviet Union an “Evil Empire,” a phrase which worried critics of the U.S. military buildup at the time and earned him the dreaded “warmonger” label. Worried that his hard stance hurt his image, Nancy encouraged the president to have a direct relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet General Secretary. President Reagan reconsidered his strategy.
In his 2004 book Nancy: A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan, senior presidential adviser Michael Deaver wrote that Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko once asked her, “Does your husband believe in peace or war?” Nancy told the Russian minister Reagan wanted peace and that she would remind him of that every night.
She also said that she would whisper it in Gromyko’s ear as well.
Roughing it in the field can be tough. The first few days might seem kind of fun and cool, but after a week of limited internet and electricity, no showers, and sleeping in the dirt, everyone starts itching for a few creature comforts.
But, there are a few gadgets and tools that can make life easier (without weighing down your ruck). Here are 8 of them:
1. Portable solar chargers
One of the best things for keeping a modern, connected life going in the field is solar power. Grunts at a small base or outpost aren’t going to get much access to generator power, but small solar panels can let them power a couple of devices.
The big concern on these is balancing weight to power. No one is willing to add too many pounds on just for a chance to play Pokemon Go in the field.
2. Rugged cell phones
Some manufacturers make special “military grade” phones, but troops can usually get away with a solid, mainstream phone in a great case.
The phone should have a solid state hard drive and either be waterproof or have a waterproof case. In a pinch, a standard case and an MRE beverage pouch make all phones waterproof.
A quality e-reader is standard kit for avid bibliophiles in the field and can keep a soldier or Marine in the field occupied during whatever off-duty time he or she is afforded. The best models are rugged, have low power requirements, and can hold plenty of books.
Avoid anything that is more tablet than e-reader. With only a limited amount of solar power, fancy readers with color graphics and other power hungry features can end up spending most of their time in a line for a charger.
4. Pop up bed net
These quick shelters keep out all the annoying bugs that bite and crawl over troops in the field. In areas at high risk for West Nile and other diseases, the military branches sometimes issue them. Everyone else has to buy them with personal funds.
Like everything else on this list, keep a firm eye on weight and make sure to pick a camouflaged or subdued color. The first sergeant won’t let you use a bright orange shelter in a tactical situation.
5. Chemical heating pads
Look, it gets cold in the field and hour six on overnight guard in a hasty machine gun position is much more comfortable with a small heating pad in your pockets or taped to your chest. The problem is most of them can only be used once.
That’s all right, though. Pick a small, long-lasting version rather than a big back pad or something that’ll give a short burst of heat. A single hand warmer on a patch of skin with high blood flow—try the hands, near the armpits, or anywhere with a major artery—can take the edge off the cold and last for an entire guard shift. It’ll usually even have enough juice left to help you get to sleep when you rack out afterward.
6. Small flashlights and headlamps
Headlamps with red lenses are a necessity for the field. No one wants to wear that big, D-battery flashlight the military often includes on packing lists. Opt for a smaller LED flashlight that can be carried in the pocket for directional lighting, and get a headlamp for map reading, walking around and general use.
7. Field stool
This isn’t complicated. There’s not always a hill or fallen log to sit on, so a nice field chair is a great asset. The best of these are small stools that only weigh a few ounces.
8. Steel spoon
Trying to cut through a beef patty with an MRE spoon can get dicey at times. You can hedge against broken utensils by always carrying an extra plastic spoon from an old MRE, or you can purchase a steel spoon like your grandfather carried and cut with confidence.
A pilot scans the screen on his helmet-mounted display, monitoring air speed and information about his ground target. Then in a quick turn and ascent, he pushes the plane through the flickering gloom of a stratus layer up to a brightly lit flight path above the clouds. For intermittent moments, his helmet-mounted display screen washes out in the changing light conditions. A thousand miles away outside a remote desert village, a special ops team storms a warehouse where hostages are being held, bursting from glaring daylight into a dark, windowless building. Do they waste precious seconds swapping sunglasses for clear ballistic eyewear before they enter?
The Air Force’s concern about reliable visibility of helmet-mounted displays led to a revolutionary light-attenuating liquid crystal technology that is working its way into flight helmet visors as well as combat eyewear for on-the-ground warfighters. In 1997, Bahman Taheri was on the faculty at Kent State University’s renowned Liquid Crystal Institute (LCI) when he learned that the Air Force was looking for solutions to their helmet-mounted display visibility issues — solutions that had been stubbornly elusive.
“They wanted a product, not more research,” Taheri says. That meant the Air Force needed to move beyond the academic realm and work with a company that could actually develop and manufacture a technology. Taheri was intrigued, challenged, and confident he could help. With backing from the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, he and two colleagues from LCI, Tamas Kosa and Peter Palffy-Muhoray, co-founded AlphaMicron, Inc. AlphaMicron’s tint is just one of many successful innovations enabled by the U.S. Air Force’s SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.
On the TV show Shark Tank, prospective entrepreneurs receive a chance to turn dreams of a successful business into reality by presenting their ideas to investors in hopes of receiving financial support.
In a way, the Air Force SBIR/STTR Program office is a ‘Shark Tank’ of sorts for the Air Force.
The SBIR program was established by congress in 1982, with the idea to set aside a substantial amount of research and development money to be focused on small businesses.
“The idea behind it was to look for problems within organizations where creative, innovative, leading-edge solutions could solve a problem not only quickly, but could also then spark the economy by nurturing a small business to grow and become a viable U.S. national asset,” said David Shahady, director of the Air Force SBIR/STTR program.
Shahady touts a recent SBIR program success story about a small business called MMA Design LLC, of Boulder, Colorado. A recipient of the 2016 SBIR Tibbetts Award, the company has developed several new technologies through the SBIR program to help alleviate the growing problem of space junk in orbit around the Earth. MMA Design employees created a virtual chute that opens up behind a satellite in order to slow and change the orbit of the satellite after it’s no longer useful, allowing it to fall and burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere. They also designed a steerable solar panel array that allows smaller-class satellites to capture more power, allowing them to be used for longer missions, and then provides operators the ability to help steer the craft down into the atmosphere to get it out of orbit.
“It’s exciting to be the front-end investor that puts money into these small companies and see these folks mature their businesses,” Shahady said. “MMA Design started with a small number of people and now they have an increasing number of employees, so you’re not only solving an Air Force problem, but you’re also helping to build the national economy.”
Each year, federal agencies which are part of SBIR publish announcements of their topics or problems to be solved and small businesses can submit proposals for consideration.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
When HMS Queen Elizabeth makes her maiden deployment in 2021, she will be operating the short take-off, vertical landing variant of the F-35 Lightning II.
There’s just one catch – the planes will not be owned by the United Kingdom.
According to a report by The Register, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy won’t have enough Lightning IIs to fill out even a reduced air wing of 12 F-35s (about the size of a squadron). To put that into perspective, plans call for a Queen Elizabeth-class carrier to have as many as 36 of the multi-role V/STOL fighters. The Brits have stood up 809 Squadron in the Fleet Air Arm and 617 Squadron of the RAF (the famous Dambusters), plus the RAF’s 17 Squadron as an operational conversion unit.
Fortunately for the Brits, the United States Marine Corps operates a similar version of the F-35Bs, and when the Queen Elizabeth deploys, some Marines with their new jets will be deploying on board the 70,000-ton carrier alongside their British brothers.
The deployment will come after a lengthy gap, since the British retired their force of GR-7 and GR-9 Harriers in 2010.
The two planes will carry some different missiles. British Lightning IIs will carry other weapons, like the Meteor air-to-air missile and the Brimstone air-to-ground missile. British combat aircraft are also able to carry the AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9 Sidewinder, and other American-made munitions.
The Marine F-35Bs that will come to the rescue might come from one of two squadrons.
The first, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-211, is the famous “Wake Island Avengers.” That unit, with five F4F Wildcats, held the line in December 1941 against long odds, and was credited with sinking a Japanese destroyer and three other vessels, as well as inflicting other losses on the enemy. Henry Elrod received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the siege.
Throughout its history VMFA-211 operated classic planes like the F4U Corsair, the A-1 Skyraider, the A-4 Skyhawk, and the AV-8B Harrier before transitioning to the F-35B.
The other unit that could deploy aboard the British carrier is Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-121, the “Green Knights,” saw action as part of the famous “Cactus Air Force” that flew from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The squadron was credited with 208 kills, and included Medal of Honor winner (and #2 Marine ace Joe Foss) among the pilots who flew with it.
The planes this squadron flew throughout its history prior to receiving the F-35B include the FU4, the F8F Bearcat, the A-1 Skyraider, the F9F Cougar, the A-4 Skyhawk, the A-6 Intruder, and the F/A-18D Hornet.
This joint air wing for HMS Queen Elizabeth’s historic deployment will harken back to World War II history as well. The Marines will be pulling from the “Cactus Air Force,” the polyglot force that held the line on Guadalcanal that included VMFA-121. The British will recall the “Eagle Squadrons” of American pilots who fought Nazi Germany before the U.S. entered World War II.
Pakistan is an awkward ally to the U.S., to put it mildly. The relationship hasn’t really been the same since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. routinely violates Pakistan’s airspace and strikes Pakistani nationals with drones, while the Pakistanis harbored America’s whole reason for global warfare — Osama bin Laden.
It’s a complicated relationship.
According to the nonprofit Arms Control Association, Pakistan has at least 140 nuclear warheads and rather than secure them in fortified bunkers, Pakistan hides them in plain sight – by driving them through rush hour traffic in an unsuspecting delivery van.
In a shocking report from the Atlantic, it seems Pakistan’s military uses civilian vehicles without “noticeable defenses” dispersed throughout the country, driving in everyday traffic. The raid on Abbottabad only increased the number of nuclear weapons driving through Pakistan like Morgan Freeman drove Miss Daisy.
When Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1998, the world kinda cringed. It wasn’t only the idea of a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and its longtime enemy, India. It was the threat of terrorists getting a nuclear weapon, parts of a nuclear weapon, or even the fissile material used in them and then sneaking it out through Pakistan’s porous borders.
The Pakistani government assures you: there is nothing to be concerned about.
“Of all the things in the world to worry about, the issue you should worry about the least is the safety of our nuclear program,” an official at the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, the Pakistani military spy agency, told The Atlantic “It is completely secure. … It is in our interest to keep our bases safe as well. You must trust us that we have maximum and impenetrable security. No one with ill intent can get near our strategic assets.”
But the United States is not the kind of country that takes chances with something like that. America already showed it can make an incursion into Pakistan to do whatever it wants (see: Raid, bin Laden). Shortly after the raid, NBC News’ Robert Windrem quoted “current and former U.S. officials” who said securing the Pakistani nukes has been a priority for the national security community since Pakistan became a nuclear state.
A former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, told NBC that the United States seizing Pakistani nukes would lead to all-out war between the two countries.
The 2011 Atlantic article recounts a number of militant attacks on Pakistan’s suspect 15 nuclear sites. The University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Index even showed a huge spike in terrorism-related incidents in the two years following the 2011 Atlantic article.
Between the attacks on their suspected nuclear sites and the looming threat of U.S. Navy SEALs coming to snatch them from secured locations the Pakistanis were at a loss for what to do with their nukes. That’s when they started using the delivery vans.
The Royal Marines apparently hold unarmed combat displays to engage with the public on “Poppy Day,” the British Commonwealth version of Memorial Day. And the display the Marines put on is pretty impressive.
This 2015 demonstration was held at the Waterloo station in London and featured four Marines fighting and a few announcing, answering crowd questions, and collecting funds for Remembrance Sunday.
The Marines showed how they could sneak up on armed guards and take them out:
They displayed a masterful and nuanced way to kick someone in the chest:
This probably didn’t hurt. Especially not when his head landed off the mat and on the tile. (GIF: YouTube/Ministry of Defence)
And, of course, they choked a dude out and then took a selfie with him:
See more of the Royal Marines’ awesome moves in the video below: