It appears that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is looking to send some of its military members to U.S. Navy SEAL training (BUD/S) and they are really shooting for the moon in terms of seeking out former U.S. Navy SEALs to prepare them. According to a source familiar with a contract entered into to train the Saudis, the Kingdom has contracted with an American security consulting firm run by a former SEAL admiral, to hire three instructors to help prepare the Saudi candidates for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.
Specifically, the Saudis are looking for a “Senior Instructor” Navy SEAL, who must have 20-plus years of Naval Special Warfare experience, and have been retired less than 5 years. He must also be a “Tier One operator,” meaning that he was assigned to the SEAL’s tier one element, commonly called SEAL Team 6. Bit of overkill, isn’t it, just to prepare someone to go to BUD/S?
The Saudis are also looking for an “Assistant Instructor,” Navy SEAL, with no less than six years of active duty service, and who also has been retired less than 5 years. This position is “Tier One preferred,” as well. Jesus, fellas, you really want to prepare these guys, don’t you?
Finally, a “Special Operations Medic Instructor” is being sought, who needs only an 18-D equivalent qualification (a special operations medic from either the Air Force, Navy, or Army special operations), and who is, again, “Tier One preferred.” He must also have the same years of service and retirement date prerequisite as the assistant instructor position. I wonder if the Saudis plan to hurt their guys as they prepare them for BUD/S, and thus need a medic? Curious.
The three contractors would be based in Saudi Arabia, for at least one year, presumably the whole time helping prepare Saudi commandos to go to BUD/S. Now, it is not uncommon for foreign militaries to send a few personnel to BUD/S now and again, to see if they can make it through and return home having completed the toughest military training in the world. That’s not really the issue here. The Saudis wanting to send people to BUD/S is pretty routine, actually.
The odd thing here is why they are requiring “Tier One operators” to train their people to go to basic SEAL training? The “B” in BUD/S stands for ‘Basic,’ after all, meaning that BUD/S is entry-level SEAL training. It has nothing to do with operations at the strategic, or national-level. No one needs SEAL Team 6 SEALs — and ones with 20-plus years of experience — to train them to go to BUD/S. Yes, they would clearly be sufficient to do the training, surely, but in no way are they necessary to prepare someone for the training.
In fact, the absolute best person to train someone to go to BUD/S would be a successful BUD/S graduate who had completed the course within the last 5 years. Why wasn’t that the contract qualification? Why require someone who has — by definition — been out of BUD/S for at least 5 years, and possibly as many as 20? There is some kind of disconnect there.
Now, I am not trying to spin up some conspiracy theory, or to imply that the Saudis are really looking for contractors to do something altogether different than preparing Saudis for BUD/S. All I am saying is, they are either being completely naive, and falling prey to the mystique of needing a “Tier One operator” to teach their guys basic stuff, and are thus willing to shell out a ton of money for it; or, they are cloaking this contract request in seemingly innocuous language, and have other plans in mind for the contractors. Honestly, either scenario is completely plausible.
The AR-15 is one of the most multi-faceted guns of our time. Whether you’re a competition shooter, a hunter, an avid self-defense proponent, or you just love to customize, this highly versatile rifle is one of the most popular among gun owners today. SIG Sauer recently unleashed their newest model of the AR-15, calling the M400 Tread “the new face of freedom.”
Whatever your reason for owning an AR-15, one thing everyone appreciates about the firearm is its modularity. These rifles are among the easiest to customize and tailor-fit to your personal needs and preferences. The struggle most face is cost — the firearm itself is a large investment, making aftermarket customizing more of a wish-list than a reality. SIG Sauer took notice of this and acted.
(Photo courtesy of SIG Sauer)
“SIG Sauer has created a premium rifle, at a moderate price point, that is packed with innovation and flexibility, and does not sacrifice the quality that our consumers demand from SIG,” Tom Taylor, the company’s chief marketing officer and executive vice president, said in a press release.
Out of the box, the M400 Tread is impressive. This budget-friendly rifle comes ready with features that typically cost extra and are considered upgrades. The Tread features a 16-inch stainless steel barrel with a free-floating M-LOK handguard; a single-stage, polished/hardcoat trigger; ambidextrous controls; a mid-length gas system; a Magpul MOE SL-K six-position telescoping stock; and is available in 5.56 NATO. Again, this is out of the box with an affordable MSRP of 1 — and we all know you’ll pay less at the gun counter. Suddenly, customization has gone from “wish list” to reality.
The author appreciated the total package provided by the SIG Sauer Tread, including the Romeo5 red dot optic.
(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee of Die Magazine)
But how does it run? SIG cut zero corners in quality with the Tread. I spent a great deal of time running this “new face of freedom” and found that it holds its own among its costlier counterparts. I used a variety of ammunition, from inexpensive to higher quality, and the Tread never wavered. I even tried non-SIG magazines to see if that would induce seating or feeding issues. Intermixing various Elite Tactical Systems (ETS) magazines with the SIG magazines did not make a difference. So, to all you clear magazine junkies, fear not — the Tread can handle them.
Staying true to the tagline “the new face of freedom,” SIG wanted Tread owners to be able to freely and affordably customize their rifle. With the launch of the Tread, they created a full line of Tread-branded accessories. One I fell in love with was the Romeo5 optic. The Romeo5 is a 2-MOA red dot sight with 10 illumination settings. It is Picatinny rail compatible, waterproof up to three feet, fog proof, motion activated, has a 40,000-hour battery life, and comes with a low mount riser and co-witness riser mount — the latter meaning you can see your iron sights through the optic.
tested these features at a Close Quarter Combat (CQB) training course with Alliance Police Training in Alliance, Ohio. This was a 36-hour course running drills, including low light/no light inside their shoot house. The Romeo5 was phenomenal! The Ohio weather was rainy and cold — with the shoot house having no ceiling, we were exposed to the weather, but the optic served me well. Never once did I have to deal with fog or a blurred view. I zeroed the optic before the course, and it never lost its zero. The accuracy was spot on, and I was able to attain quick sight alignment while taking headshots on each target.
This was my first time in this type of training environment, and the targets can be tricky. The goal is to eliminate the threat, and the best way for me to achieve said goal was headshots. We were allowed two shots per threat. Most of my shots landed right between the eyes with a grouping of less than an inch and half; some of the rounds were even going through the same hole. I was totally enamored with this optic and very thankful to put it through its paces in such an environment.
The other accessories included in the Tread-branded line include: an M-LOK handguard with lightening cuts to reduce weight, available in 13- and 15-inch lengths; a three-chamber compensator; an ambidextrous charging handle made of aircraft aluminum and a dual roll pin design; adjustable flip-up front and rear iron sights; an M-LOK front sight adapter with co-witness height made of lightweight aluminum; multiple configurations of M-LOK grip kits; factory upgraded flat blade and single-stage triggers.
“The new face of freedom” is here. With the M400 Tread, having an AR-15 that is tailored to your desires and needs is not only affordable, but also comes with the quality and precision that we have come to expect from SIG Sauer.
Ask most people about ducks, and they think of the birds that you’d feed in a park or what they would go hunting out with some buddies in the spring or fall. Others may think of it as the middle bird in a turducken. But World War II veterans will think of a very different thing – a truck that was a very crucial piece to victory in that conflict.
Well, the truck wasn’t officially called a duck. It wasn’t even officially called the DUKW. That name came about from General Motors, which had an in-house designation system (many companies that build fighters do the same thing). According to Olive-Drab.com, D stood for a vehicle that first began production in 1942. The U stood for a utility vehicle. The K meant that it was an all-wheel drive vehicle, and the W signified a dual-rear axle arrangement.
It was a modified two and a half ton truck, intended to be able to operate on water as well as on the land. The amphibious capability came from adding a boat hull and a propeller to the standard truck then in service.
The DUKW was used to haul troops and cargo through water, to the beach, and then inland.
(Photo by U.S. Army)
The DUKW first rolled off the assembly line in June, 1942, just as the United States Navy won the Battle of Midway. Production was well underway by later that year, which meant this vehicle missed Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa.
The DUKW could haul troops or cargo over most terrain. Here, one is being loaded with cans of fuel.
(Photo by U.S. Army)
But when it came time to storm Sicily, the DUKW was ready, and proved to be very valuable. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the DUKW had a top speed of 50 miles per hour, could go 398 miles on a tank of gas, and had a crew of two. Over 21,000 ducks were built, and some of them continued in military service until 2012 – seventy years after the first one was made!
Many DUKWs that are still operating in the civilian world carry out “Duck tours” in cities across the world.
(Photo by Arnold Reinhold)
Today, most “ducks” still in service are with civilians owners and operators, some of which appear in “duck tours,” one of which was featured on the TV series Undercover Boss. Learn more about this troop and cargo-hauling duck in the video below.
You can run, but you can’t hide – especially the age of satellites, hand-held GPS devices, Google Earth and inexpensive, camera-bearing drones.
So with easy surveillance tools in the hands of a technologically unsophisticated enemy, how does a unit hide its command post?
During the recent Large Scale Exercise 2016, I Marine Expeditionary Force experimented with a new tent setup for its command post, or CP, that included big swaths of tan-and-drab camouflage netting draped over hard structures and tents.
The idea, of course, was to disguise – if not hide – the presence and footprint of the command post that I MEF Headquarters Group set up for the exercise, a de facto MEF-level command wargaming drill that ran Aug. 14 to 22. During a similar exercise in February 2015, its top commander acknowledged the large footprint occupied by his field command post, then set up in a field at Camp Pendleton, California, but without any camo netting.
It was, frankly, large and obvious that the tents and structures were something important to the battle effort. And that makes it a big target, whether seen on the ground from line of sight or from the air from drones, aircraft or satellite imagery, officials say.
This year, intent on better concealment, headquarters group Marines looked at ways to hide the lines and structures of the CP. They came up with a new camo netting design and refined it with some bird’s-eye scrutiny.
The Leathernecks went “back to basics,” one officer said.
“We flew a drone over it. Now, it’s a little bit more ambiguous,” Col. Matthew Jones, the I MEF chief of staff, said last week as the command worked through the exercise’s final day from its CP set up in a dusty field. “It’s just camouflaged, it’s a lot better concealed.”
MEF officials declined to reveal the secret sauce of the new CPX camo set they used. “This is the state of the art right now,” said Jones.
Still, he acknowledged camouflage netting has some limitations, saying, “I won’t say it won’t look like a hard military installation.”
“The fact is, it’s clearly visible from space,” he added. “You can’t mistake it. Even if it’s camouflaged. … It’s big enough to be worth shooting at.”
In fact, camouflage and concealment are as basic to warfighting – whether on the offensive or defense – as weaponry.
It’s all about deception – hiding your capabilities and your location, which taken together might help spell out your intentions, unintentional as that may be. Deception like camouflage can mask your true force strength, combat power and, more so these days, technological capabilities. But a collection of tents and structures, and the presence of radio antennas, satellite dishes, power generators and containers, can spell out the obvious presence of an important headquarters.
“If you can be seen, you will be attacked,” Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, told a Center for Strategic and International Studies audience on Aug. 6.
Neller relayed I MEF’s experience with camouflaging the field CP, which despite netting efforts still had the vulnerability of detection from light shining off concertina wire that encircled the facilities. He wants Marines to get back to the basics of fieldcraft, like “digging a hole, preparing a defensive position, and camouflaging that, living in the field, and not going back to a [forward operating base] overnight to check your email.”
That will be more relevant, top leaders have noted, as more Marines deploy and operate in the dispersed, distributed battlefield of the near future.
And it’s not just the physical look that I MEF and the Marine Corps wants to change. Trendy gadgets and new technologies make it easier to detect and interfere with electronic signals. Such electronic surveillance poses real threats to military command networks and command and control.
“We are working really hard on our electronic signatures … that would make it easier for the enemy to detect you,” Jones said. It’s especially critical if U.S. forces get into a fight against a peer or near-peer adversary with similar surveillance capabilities, so “maybe we need to be thinking of other ways.”
How do you keep a country hermetically sealed off from the news in a world where the internet exists?
That’s the fundamental challenge for North Korea, the hermit kingdom whose citizens have been kept in the dark both literally and figuratively. The internet, smartphones, laptops, TV, film, radio exist, but not as most people would be familiar with them. Radio and TV sets are configured so North Koreans can’t tune into anything other than the domestic broadcasts, and the internet isn’t widely accessible to the population.
But it’s increasingly hard for North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, to control the stream of illicit microSD cards and SIM cards flowing over the border from China, which contain illegal foreign media or allow people to access the internet unfettered.
A new report by journalist and North Korea tech expert Martyn Williams for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) sheds new light on the ways Kim and his regime use technology to continue keeping the population in the dark — from signal jamming radios to modifying Android to spy on people.
1. North Korea tightly controls the internet
North Korea isn’t totally cut off from the internet, as evidenced by the numerous hacks thought to be perpetrated by state hackers operating inside the country.
Man using smartphone in Pyongyang, North Korea.
But it is tightly controlled at the network level and historically hasn’t really been open to the general population. That is changing, with more citizens buying smartphones.
As Martyn Williams notes in his report: “The entire infrastructure is State-run and the security services are heavily integrated in the running of the telecommunications network.”
Everything is monitored by a state agency called Bureau 27, or the Transmission Surveillance Bureau.
2. North Korea imports cheap Chinese Android phones, then modifies the software to spy on people
North Korea isn’t totally cut off from everyday innovations like mobile data or smartphones. Citizens can buy smartphones that were manufactured in China, but are distributed under a North Korean brand name. The phones look a lot like the cheap Android phones you could buy in any shop — but these come pre-loaded with spyware and software tailored by the state.
Alternatively, citizens can buy their own unlocked devices smuggled across the Chinese border, but they face being tracked via North Korea’s mobile network.
It’s the same on PCs, with North Korea producing a Linux-based operating system called “Red Star” that can snoop on user activity.
3. The spyware can monitor what sites people are looking at
According to Williams, North Korean phones run on Android, the open source mobile software. Engineers have modified the software to include a background program called “Red Flag”, which spies on everything a user does and takes screenshots at random intervals to capture their activity. Those screenshots are recorded on a database called “Trace Viewer.”
Although North Korea probably doesn’t have the resources to check everyone’s screenshots, Williams noted that it’s a great mechanism to get people to self-censor out of pure fear.
4. If you open a foreign media file on a North Korean device, the regime will know about it
According to the report, North Korean engineers created file watermarking software that essentially tags and monitors any media file that’s opened on a device, whether that’s a PC or mobile.
Anyone watching a foreign film on their device would have that file tagged and tracked. The tag can track every device on which the file is viewed — so if one person in particular is distributing lots of foreign media with fellow citizens, the regime would probably find out.
5. The state operates a ‘split’ mobile network, where North Koreans can’t phone anyone outside the country
North Korea does have a telecommunications system, and the current version is a joint venture with an Egyptian firm called Orascom.
The network is split into two halves, according to Williams’ report, meaning both North Korean tourists and foreign citizens can make calls and send texts inside the country — but neither can communicate with the other.
Described as a “firewall”, Williams writes that this is set at the account level. He adds that domestic citizens have phone numbers prefixed with 191-260, while phones for foreigners have numbers that begin with 191-250.
Tourist SIM cards have found their way back into the country — so North Korea has begun deactivating them so there’s no risk citizens can get hold of SIM cards that let them access the broader internet or foreign calls.
6. It’s probably a death sentence for watching porn
Williams spoke to a number of North Korean defectors, people who fled the regime into China, Japan, or South Korea.
They reported that the regime will put people to death for watching foreign content, especially for anything as illicit as porn, or anything criticizing the Kim family.
“Watching pornography is strongly restricted. I’ve heard you can get executed for watching pornography,” according to one escapee.
An Amnesty International report also found that a man who watched porn with his wife and another woman was executed, with the entire city summoned to watch his death.
But porn smuggled in on discs remains highly valuable, costing as much as 0
Unsurprisingly, few escapees are willing to talk about their porn habits.
But citing a source who knows about illegal smuggling between North Korea and China, Williams states that SD cards containing porn can fetch up to 0. That price reflects both the high demand and the extreme risk of smuggling the material across.
7. All radios sold in North Korea are fixed to government frequencies
North Koreans buying a radio through official channels will find the device locked only onto government-approved frequencies. Listening to foreign radio, or watching foreign TV, is illegal and the government regularly carries out raids to make sure people aren’t consuming anything subversive. (Lots of North Koreans have a second radio or TV which can receive foreign broadcasts and which they keep hidden, and show their “official” device to any inspectors.)
(Photo by Rob Sarmiento)
According to Williams, North Korea jams foreign radio signals. This, he writes, involves “transmitting loud noise” on the same frequencies to overpower the broadcast. In particular, North Korea focuses on jamming two stations run by South Korea’s intelligence service, called Voice of the People and Echo of Hope.
8. The state distracts people with homegrown mobile games
In a cloistered world where entertainment is low-quality or scarce, food is hard to come by, and the work repetitive and unfulfilling, it’s little wonder that foreign films and international TV holds some allure to North Korean citizens.
The state has, according to Williams’ report, come up with a softball distraction method: offer homegrown smartphone games.
The report claims there are up to 125 mobile games available to play on North Korean mobile devices, such as “Volleyball 2016” and another title called “Future Cities.” The BBC in September reported that North Korea had created a Ronaldo-focused mobile game that was becoming popular.
The idea is this: if citizens spend their leisure time playing domestically produced games (and paying for them), they’re not spending their cash on illegally smuggled media.
9. Open WiFi networks are banned
North Korea has gone to extreme lengths to make sure its citizens can’t casually access the foreign internet (or any internet).
For a time, according to Williams’ report, foreign embassies in capital city Pyongyang ran open WiFi networks. Enterprising citizens with smartphones lingered nearby to browse the internet without being caught — until the state cottoned on and banned open networks.
Eventually, North Korea introduced its own public Mirae (Korean for “future”) public network. It requires an app to use and, according to state media, only offers people access to North Korea’s intranet and not the global internet.
10. Shifting to tightly controlled streaming TV tech
North Korea doesn’t have Netflix but, like much of the rest of the world, it is shifting to streaming TV.
According to Williams’ report, there are two homegrown IPTV services, but the more popular one is called Manbang. Just like phones, the set-top box is built cheaply in China, imported, then reskinned as a domestically branded device.
People who own a Manbang device can stream a huge amount of state output, but can’t tune into to foreign services. For now, people can also tune into traditional, over-the-air broadcasts (including foreign ones, if they have a hidden TV set). But, Williams concludes, North Korea could ban traditional broadcasts altogether and only put out content through IPTV.
This would make it even tougher for North Koreans to access foreign broadcasts.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is frequently touted as the most advanced fighter ever to take to the skies, and soon it will be certified to carry nuclear bombs.
Like all fifth generation fighters, the F-35 is a stealth platform designed to avoid detection and engagement from air defense systems. As a result, the aircraft must carry its weapons payload internally, in the belly of the aircraft, rather than on external pylons like we’ve all come to expect on fourth generation jets like F-16 Fighting Falcon or the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Fourth generation fighters like this F-16 carry their bombs, missiles, and external fuel tanks under their wings. (Air Force photo by Tom Reynolds)
(F-35 Joint Program Office)
External pylons allow fighters to carry far more ordnance into a fight than the F-35 can internally (and indeed, even the F-35 has external pylons that can be used when detection is not a concern).
(F-35 Joint Program Office)
The F-35 goes nuclear
While most people tend to think of heavy payload bombers like the B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress when talking about the airborne leg of America’s nuclear triad, the role of dual purpose “nuclear fighters” has long been a part of the strategy. Currently, both the F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fill the role of “nuclear fighter” in America’s stable, alongside their aforementioned nuclear bomber sister platforms.
Americans’ nuclear triad, for those who aren’t aware, is comprised of nuclear ICBMs on the ground, nuclear missile subs in the water, and nuclear-capable aircraft in the air. The premise of maintaining this triad is simple: by keeping America’s nuclear weapons dispersed and utilizing multiple forms of delivery, it makes it all but impossible to stop American from launching a nuclear counter-attack against an aggressive state that started lobbing nukes America’s way. In other words, America’s nuclear triad is the backbone of Uncle Sam’s part in the “mutually assured destruction” doctrine.
For now, the “nuclear” title is going to remain with the F-15s and F-16s, but the U.S. intends to certify the F-35 for nuclear duty by 2023 and it will likely carry that title well beyond the retirement dates for its two nuclear predecessors.
But before it can be certified, the Air Force needs to test the F-35’s ability to deploy these weapons thoroughly, and that’s where these incredible new photos come in. Ever since last June, the F-35 Joint Program Office has been overseeing drops of inert B61-12 nuclear bombs. These bombs have already seen testing with the F-15E, and will soon replace a number of older nuclear bomb variants.
(F-35 Joint Program Office)
These bombs may be inert, but they are designed to look and act like the real thing, giving the Pentagon all the information it needs to assess the F-35’s capabilities as a nuclear strike platform.
These tests are all being conducted with an F-35A, which is the standard takeoff and landing variant of the platform utilized primarily by the United States Air Force. The Navy’s F-35Cs are designed to take off and land on the deck of aircraft carriers, and the F-35B employed by the Marine Corps can take off on extremely short runways and even land vertically on the decks of ships. At least to date, it appears that the Pentagon has no intentions of mounting nuclear weapons in the F-35B or C variants.
The Army and Navy are operating together in the Pacific to fire Army artillery from Navy ships, send targeting data to land weapons from Navy sensors, and use coastal land rockets to destroy enemy ships at sea, service leaders said.
“The Army is looking at shooting artillery off of Navy ships. Innovation is taking existing things and modifying them to do something new,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Ongoing explorations of the now heavily emphasized Pentagon “cross-domain fires” strategy are currently taking on new applications through combined combat experiments in the Pacific theater. Ferrari explained that these experimental “teams” are combining air defense units, ground combat units, cyber units, and artillery units, and putting them together in operations.
“Part of what we do is integrate with the Navy. The Naval threat for the Pacific is one of the major threats, so the Army is doing multi-domain battle. The Pacific is inherently Joint. There is very little that we do that is not done with other services,” Ferrari said.
Much of the ongoing work involves integrating combat units which have historically operated in a more separated or “single-focused” fashion. Combing field artillery, a brigade headquarters, air defense, Navy assets, and ISR units into a single operation, for instance, represents the kind of experiments now underway.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Woody Paschall)
“Instead of having three battalions of artillery, you will have pieces of these things – then go out and use it,” Ferrari said.
Tactically speaking, firing precision artillery from surface ships could possibly introduce some interesting advantages. The Navy is now exploring weapons such as long-range precision-guided ammunition for its deck-mounted 5-inch guns, ship-fired offensive weapons such as the advanced Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), Maritime Tomahawk, and an over-the-horizon weapon for the Littoral Combat Ship and Frigate.
Something like an Army Tactical Missile Systems rocket, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or GPS-guided Excalibur 155m artillery does bring the possibility to supplement existing ship-fired Navy weapons systems. Tomahawk and LRASM, for instance, can fly lower and somewhat parallel to the surface to elude enemy defensive systems.
One senior US military official explained that bringing Army artillery to surface ships to compliment existing Navy weapons could bring new dimensions to the surface attack options available to commanders.
Artillery could also lend combat support to extensive layered defensive weapons on Navy ships such as SeaRAM, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, and Rolling Airframe Missile, among others. These interceptors, it seems, could be strengthened by the potential use of land-fired weapons on Navy ships.
“Mixing all presents multiple dilemmas for the enemy,” a senior official told Warrior.
Much of this kind of experimentation will take the next step this coming summer at the upcoming Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, a joint, multi-national combat and interoperability exploration.
Navy commanders have been “all in” on this as well, previously using F-18s to identify targets for land weapons in exercises in recent years such as Noble Eagle in Alaska, senior military officials have described.
Along these lines, US Pacific Commander Adm. Harry Harris has consistently emphasized multi-domain operations in public speeches.
“I’d like to see the Army’s land forces sink a ship, shoot down a missile, and shoot down the aircraft that fired that missile – near simultaneously – in a complex environment where our joint, and combined forces are operating in each other’s domains,” Commander, US Pacific Command, said in 2017 at the Association of the United States Army LANPAC Symposium and Exposition.
During this same speech, Harris also said the Army will fire a Naval Strike Missile from land as part of the upcoming RIMPAC exercise.
Harris underscored the urgency of the US need for stronger multi-domain battle technology and tactics by telling the House Armed Services Committee early 2018 “China will surpass Russia as the world’s second largest Navy by 2020, when measured in terms of submarines and frigate-class ships.
As part of the cross-domain effort, the Army and Navy are looking at improving ways to connect their respective networks; Adm. Harris said “joint effects” in combat can be challenged by a lack of integration between different services’ “tactical ISR, target acquisition and fire control systems.”
For example the Navy’s integrated sensor network known as Cooperative Engagement Capability connects targeting and ISR nodes across the force. The emphasis now is to connect these kinds of systems with, for instance, Army weapons such as ground-fired Patriot missiles and Theater High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense weapons.
In addition, the Army’s Integrated Battle Command Systems is itself a comparable combat theater sensor network where various radar, command and control and weapons “nodes” are networked to expedite real-time data sharing. Part of the maturation of this system, according to Army and Northrop Grumman developers, is to further extend IBCS to cue Air Force, and Navy assets operating in a given theater of operations.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Fidel C. Hart)
One senior Army weapons developer told Warrior – “it’s about target acquisition and ranges. Maybe target acquisition comes from a ship and I do surface fires on land. We need to experiment with sensors.”
The advent of long-range sensors and precision fires on the part of potential near-peer adversaries has reinforced the need for the US military to operate in real time across air, sea and land domains. Furthermore, the emergence of converging newer domains, such as cyber, space and the electromagnetic sphere are naturally an indispensable element of cross-domain fires.
In an Army paper titled “Multi-Domain Battle: Evolution of Combined Arms for the 21st Century 2025-2040,” former TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins writes:
“It (Multi-Domain Battle) expands the targeting landscape based on the extended ranges and lethality delivered at range by integrated air defenses, cross-domain fire support, and cyber/electronic warfare systems. We must solve the physics of this expanded battle space, and understand the capabilities that each domain can provide in terms of echelon, speed, and reach.”
Perkins and other senior Pentagon strategists have explained Multi-Domain Battle as a modern extension of the Cold War AirLand Battle Strategy which sought to integrate air and ground attacks to counter a Soviet attack in Europe.
“AirLand Battle started developing the concept of ‘extended battlefield.’ Multi-Domain battle endeavors to integrate capabilities in such a way that to counteract one, the enemy must become more vulnerable to another, creating and exploiting temporary windows of advantage,’ Perkins writes in Multi-Domain Battle: Joint Combined Arms Concept for the 21st Century.
Army – Air Force
The Army and the Air Force are also launching a new, collaborative war-gaming operation to assess future combat scenarios and, ultimately, co-author a new inter-service cross-domain combat doctrine.
Operating within this concept, Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes are launching a new series of tabletop exercises to replicate and explore future warfare scenarios – the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.
In a Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”
“The F-35 is doing ISR and could possibly deliver a weapon on the same flight. We can then use what they can generate on the ground, fusing sensors, and target acquisition with things that can deliver effects,” a senior defense official told Warrior.
Since the mid-1950s, the US Air Force’s U-2 Dragon Lady has been cruising the upper reaches of the atmosphere, snooping almost totally unnoticed.
While the mission is pretty much the same, the aircraft doing it are much different.
“The ‘U’ in U-2 stands for ‘utility,’ so a lot of people are like, ‘OK, 1955, what are we doing in 2019, when we’re flying F-35s and F-22s … why are we flying the U-2 that was built in 1955?'” Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, a U-2 pilot, said during an event hosted by the Air Force in May at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.
“Much like the Corvette, which has been around for a long time, there’s been a lot of different versions of [the U-2],” Patterson said. “The U-2s that we fly now, they were all built in about the mid-’80s.”
“The jets are actually pretty new,” U-2 pilot Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman said at the event. “They’re a lot newer than people anticipate, even though it’s been flying for more than 60 years.”
The last of the original batch of U-2A aircraft at the US Air Force Museum.
(US Air Force)
‘It’s just the name is old’
The U-2A was the first to fly, when its massive wings accidentally turned a high-speed taxi test into a flight test in August 1955. It was followed by the U-2C, which had a new engine.
To overcome range limitations, the Air Force and the CIA outfitted U-2As and U-2Cs for aerial refueling; they became U-2Es and U-2Fs, according to The Drive.
In the early 1960s, the desire for more range led to the development of carrier-capable variants. Landing on a carrier, proved challenging, though, and several U-2As were modified with stronger landing gear, an arresting hook, and wing spoilers to decrease lift. These became the U-2G and U-2H.
The U-2R, which first flew in 1967, was 40% larger than the original and had wing pods to carry more sensors and fuel, allowing for high-altitude stand-off surveillance. (The U-2R was tested for carrier operations, but a naval variant of the U-2 never entered service.)
A U-2 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS America.
The last U-2R arrived in 1989, and since 1994 the US has spent id=”listicle-2638876726″.7 billion to modernize the airframe and sensors. After the GE F118-101 engine was added in the late 1990s, all U-2s were redesignated as U-2S, the current variant.
Between 2002 and 2007, Lockheed upgraded the U-2’s 1960s-era cockpit avionics with the Reconnaissance Avionics Maintainability Program, or RAMP, replacing dials and gauges with multifunction displays, an up-front control and display unit, and a secondary flight-display system, according to Military Aerospace Electronics.
The new displays were more user-friendly and offered a better view of the ground to the pilot, who previously had to look into a large tube in the center of the cockpit. RAMP also made the radio controls easier to reach.
The most recent cockpit upgrades were completed in 2013, Lockheed said last year. Other modifications have been floated in the years since, aimed at keeping the U-2’s sensors robust and resilient.
The Air Force currently has about 30 of the single-seat U-2 for missions and four of the two-seat TU-2, which is used for training, based at Beale Air Force Base.
Lt. Col. Lars Hoffman in a new Block 20 U-2S, with a redesigned cockpit, at Osan Air Base in South Korea, June 20, 2006.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Andrea Knudson)
Each U-2 gets a full overhaul every 4,800 flight hours, or about every six to eight years. Because the airframe doesn’t spend a lot of time under high stress, the current lifespan for a U-2 is into the 2040s and 2050s.
The Air Force still has a few of the U-2s built the late 1960s, but those have been converted, Patterson said.
“Everything’s modern — just the airframe itself came out in ’69. The engine, the cockpit’s all new,” he added. “But most of the aircraft that we have, they’re all built in the mid-’80s, about the same time as the B-2 stealth bomber.”
The newer models, Patterson said, “are about 40% larger [and] significantly more powerful than the original lot of U-2s that you saw when Gary Powers was flying over the Soviet Union, when the Cuban missile crisis is occurring, so it’s a totally different aircraft — modern glass cockpit, so we have screens. We have extremely advanced sensors.”
“So it’s not an old aircraft. It’s just the name is old.”
A U-2, with a satellite communications system on its back and antennas on its belly, over California, March 23, 2016.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)
‘Mr. Potato Head’
By the mid-1960s, US officials were already talking about retiring the U-2, but it survived and has outlasted other reconnaissance aircraft, like the SR-71, which were more expensive to operate.
Unlike satellites, a U-2 can be sent to peer at an area of interest on relatively short notice. It also has advantages over unmanned aerial vehicles, like the RQ-4 Global Hawk, Patterson said.
“When you think about some of the capabilities that our adversaries are able to put into the field pretty quickly and pretty cheaply — GPS jamming and things like that — it definitely pays dividends to have a human being that’s able to react real-time to developing situations.”
A human pilot is also better with unfamiliar surroundings, he said. “I can deploy anywhere in the world because I don’t need to program a new airfield. I can just take my airplane and land it … and I can take off within hours.”
U-2 pilot Maj. Ryan before a sortie in Southwest Asia, Feb. 2, 2017.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward)
Nauman and Patterson both touted the U-2s versatility.
“The ability for this platform to adapt to the newest imaging technology is a key piece of” its continued relevance, Nauman said. “With the size, weight, and power … we’re talking about 5,000 pounds of payload.”
That’s 2,000 pounds more than the RQ-4’s payload. The U-2’s ceiling is also above 70,000 feet — more than 10,000 feet above the ceiling of the RQ-4.
The U-2 can also test technology at high altitudes before it makes the leap to space. “The ability to actually get the most modern technology before it gets to space is kind of what makes us relevant,” Nauman said.
Other technology and payloads can be swapped onto the U-2, helping “to keep the cost down, accelerate development timelines, get these things in the air, and make sure that we run through all the issues,” Patterson said. “Then we can proliferate those [things] throughout the Air Force.”
US Air Force Senior Airman Charlie Lorenzo loads test film into a camera in preparation for a U-2 mission in Southwest Asia, April 17, 2008.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Levi Riendeau)
“The U-2’s almost like Mr. Potato Head,” Patterson said, describing its adaptability.
“So you can take a pod off here and a nose off here and put a new thing on pretty quickly, just because it’s got big wings, it’s got a big engine, so we’ve got a lot of size, weight, and power advantage over a lot of other high-altitude aircraft.”
The most well-known U-2 sensor is probably its optical bar camera.
“It’s effectively a giant wet-film camera. … It fits up in the belly of the aircraft. It’s got about 10,500 feet of film” that used to be made by Kodak, Patterson said. “In about eight hours, we can take off and we can map the entire state of California.”
The U-2 no longer does overflights of unfriendly territory, Nauman said. But its suite of cameras and sensors allow it to pick up details whether it’s looking straight down or looking hundreds of miles into the distance.
“Let’s say we don’t want to fly that camera in the belly. We can take the nose off, and we can put a giant radar on the nose,” Patterson said.
“With a big radar up in there in the front,” you can gather imagery out to the horizon, he added. “If you think about how far you can see if you’re parked off somebody’s coast with a 300-mile looking glass, it’s pretty phenomenal.”
The U-2 can also be outfitted with what Patterson described as “like a big digital camera” with a lens “about the size of a pizza platter.” With multiple spectral capabilities, “it’s imaging across different pieces of the light spectrum at any given time, so you can actually pull specific data that these intel analysts need to actually identify” the composition of particular materials.
Signals payloads also allow the U-2 to pick up different radars and other communications.
“We have a number of antennas all across the aircraft that we’re able to just pick up what other people are doing,” Patterson said. “We bring all that on board the aircraft, and we pipe it over a data link to a satellite and then down to the ground somewhere else in the world.”
“While we’re sitting by ourselves over a weird part of the world doing that [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] mission, all the information we’re collecting is going back down to multiple teams around the globe.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Navy plans to begin deploying interceptors that can shoot down hypersonic missiles aboard some Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers in just a few years. Though some critics counter that the Navy’s timeline seems awfully optimistic, as no existing missile defense system has proven capable of intercepting an inbound hypersonic weapon.
Hypersonic missiles fly in excess of Mach 5, and potentially much faster than that, making them so much faster than the ballistic and cruise missiles previously employed by national militaries that even advanced air defense systems like America’s destroyer-based Aegis Combat Systems can’t find and shoot down hypersonic missiles in flight. This has raised the alarm among many within the Defense Department, both in order to field America’s own hypersonic weapons and, of course, to find ways to defend against those employed by foreign militaries.
There are different methods of achieving hypersonic velocities with a missile, including scramjet propulsion that often requires either a rocket-assist at launch or deployment from fast moving aircraft, as scramjet motors require a high volume of airflow in order to effectively operate. Conversely there are also hypersonic “glide vehicles,” which are traditionally carried to a high altitude using a rocket motor similar to those employed on intercontinental ballistic missiles. The hypersonic glide vehicle then separates from the booster and travels back to earth at exceedingly high speeds. In fact, some of these missiles travel so fast that the kinetic transfer of their impact is enough to sink a vessel without the need for an explosive warhead.
The United States has been fairly public about its efforts to begin fielding its own suite of hypersonic missiles in the coming years, but until recently, America’s Defense Department has echoed the popular consensus that hypersonic weapons can’t be stopped. Now, however, America’s Regional Glide Phase Weapon System (RGPWS) is seeing rapid development for the purposes of deployment specifically (at least initially) aboard America’s advanced destroyers.
America already relies heavily on its fleet of Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers for missile defense, which some critics have called a waste of destroyer bandwidth. When serving in an air defense role, U.S. Navy destroyers are left criss-crossing specific areas of ocean to maximize their ability to intercept inbound missiles, which, some argue, is a waste of a platform that’s capable of supporting a wide variety of defense operations. However, it seems the U.S. Navy’s plan for hypersonic defense will also leverage the multiple launch tubes available on America’s destroyers, effectively guaranteeing the continued use of destroyers for missiles defense for years to come.
The RGPWS system has apparently been designed specifically for use in the Mk. 41 vertical launch tubes utilized by America’s destroyers and other vessels, which will allow this hypersonic-intercept capability to be rapidly deployed and adopted aboard existing vessels with little need for modifications. According to the Navy, this will allow America to “proliferate the capability” across the force very rapidly.
This system is specifically tailored toward the glide-vehicle method of hypersonic weapon propulsion, designed to engage an inbound hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) during its un-powered glide phase, which despite its extraordinary speed, is the point I which these platforms are most vulnerable to intercept.
Of course, in order to effectively intercept HGVs, the Navy will need advanced warning of their launch. In order to do so, the Navy is working with the Missile Defense Agency and the Space Development Agency to field a new space-based sensor system that is expected to be operational within the next three years. Using the early warning provided by this new sensor array, the RGPWS will theoretically be capable of projecting the trajectory of HGVs and intercept them before they’re able to reach their target.
While the RGPWS system will be limited to destroyers initially, these systems will likely find their way into a variety of platforms, including ground and air-launched varieties. If the U.S. is able to find a way to reliably intercept inbound hypersonic weapons, America’s naval stature, and many defense official’s position on the future of aircraft carriers, will both likely shift. Currently, many law makers and defense officials are looking to de-emphasize the role of carriers in near-peer conflicts over fear of losing them to indefensible hypersonic weapons.
As for exactly how the RGPWS system will work–that much remains a secret for now.
When people ask Chris Insco what he does, his answer is, “I basically stop time.”
Insco, Yuma Proving Ground’s High-speed Section Chief, goes on to explain, “Our cameras and the high-speed process we use range from 1,000 frames per second (fps) up to 10,000 fps but these cameras have the ability to take up to one-million fps which is basically a camera taking a million frames in one second.”
Watching the video captured by the high-speed section is like a scene of the Matrix movie, you can see each and every twist and turn the projectile makes. These cameras are so rapid you can see sound moving through the air, they can capture a sound wave in a photograph.
“We slow things down for the customer to allow them to see what they cannot see with the naked eye” says Insco.
Capturing the high-speed video for a test at YPG entails a lot more than simply setting up a camera and walking away. The technology behind these ultrahigh-speed video cameras demands an entire network to run their programs and entails detailed planning and setup.
(Photo by Ana Henderson)
Capturing the high-speed video for a test at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) entails a lot more than simply setting up a camera and walking away. The technology behind these ultrahigh-speed video cameras demands an entire network to run their programs and entails detailed planning and setup. Weeks before a test the crew talk the test officer (TO) to better understand the needs of the customer. From there the senior technicians plan the logistics, this includes deciding on the type of camera, working with Geodetics for assistance with camera placement and setting up generators to keep the cameras running.
Then comes the networking of the cameras which are ran on a local area network. High-speed technicians work with Network Enterprise Center (NEC) range communication to confirm if the test location on the Cibola or Kofa side of the range has the network capability required to run their computer systems. Depending on the location the high-speed technicians will set up the network other times NEC will set up the network.
The coverage of video depends of the type of test, some of the camera angles include, behind the gun, muzzle exit, and impact. Insco explains, “Sometimes it is gun coverage, sometimes it is impact coverage. With the impact coverage it depends on what the TO wants. We had one test where they had 10 different scenarios. As soon as they fired one we had to pick up all that equipment and move it to another scenario.” Adding “It’s a lot of logistics that our senior technicians learn through experience and time out here.”
“Our cameras and the high-speed process we use range from 1,000 frames per second (fps) up to 10,000 fps but these cameras have the ability to take up to one-million fps which is basically a camera taking a million frames in one second” explains High-speed Section Chief, Chris Insco.
(YPG archive highspeed photo)
A test requiring high-speed video coverage can require anywhere from two to nine technicians “One of our largest test, I think we had 20 camera systems on one test.”
One high-speed system popular with the TO is the trajectory tracker, “Those can cover from the end of the muzzle to out to usually it is 100-meters but we have tracked them out to 200-meters at time” explains Insco.
The trajectory tracker uses an algorithm to capture the projectile in motion. The high-speed technician will input coordinates and other information given by the TO into the computer software which controls the tracker and a mirror. When a round is fired, the mirror moves and the camera captures images from the mirror. Using the trajectory tracker is equivalent to using 10 cameras.
Another angle is static and moving impacts, “Target systems sets up a tank that is remote controlled and we actually chase it with pan and tilts that we control from a remote location. We can actually follow the vehicle through that course.”
Behind each camera set up on a test, is a high-speed technician who is monitoring it via a live video feed shown on a camera controller (lab top) from inside a support test vehicle.
Behind each camera set up on a test, is a high-speed technician who is monitoring it via a live video feed shown on a camera controller from inside a support test vehicle. Sean Mynster, high-speed video test lead (right) and Steven Mowery, high-speed technician (left) are shown monitoring a test site.
(Photo by Ana Henderson)
Sean Mynster, high-speed video test lead and Steven Mowery, high-speed technician were recently on a test. They monitored the test site and communicated with the TO via hand-held radios to ensure they captured the firing of the projectile.
Mowery explains, “This is the software that operates the camera, we can adjust our shutter, our resolution, our frame rate, it is also the software that arms the camera. We arm-up about 10 seconds out. When we do arm them up, they run on a loop recording so we will have pre and post frames. We will have 200 frames before and 200 frames after that way if a mishap happens and we have an early trigger we will capture it.”
Mishaps do happen because YPG is a testing center, and Insco says that’s when their video become most important, “We can shoot thousands of mortars a day, and if everything is good we just archive it. But we will have that one where a fuze will pop-off, or the round malfunctions outside of the tube and we capture it on video that’s when the customers get really excited about what we capture.”
North Korea claims it tested a hydrogen bomb on January 6, 2016, but it probably isn’t true. For starters, the seismic disturbance caused by the explosion was a magnitude 5.1, according to the U.S. Geological survey. That’s similar in strength to the disturbance caused by its atomic bomb test recorded in 2013.
Hydrogen bombs are many times stronger than atomic bombs. This insightful Discovery News video explains the science behind both weapons and how they differ.
It’s been years since knights were last sent into battle wearing insanely heavy and uncomfortable metal suits for protection against swords and arrows.
But as it turns out, while knights are now a thing of the past, their armor is still in use today with at least one special operations police unit in Germany. That’s right… Germany’s elite “SEK” Spezialeinsatzkommandos (Special Deployment Commandos in English) are sometimes sent into sticky situations wearing chain mail suits of armor.
Though they’ve traded in long swords and sabers years ago for Heckler Koch submachine guns and Sig pistols, these German cops still utilize chain mail armor to protect themselves in close quarters missions against terrorists, hostage takers, or even just your run-of-the-mill deranged knife-wielder.
While chain mail armor isn’t enough to stop bullets or anything that can penetrate at high velocities, it’s still pretty effective against close-in attacks using blades or sharp objects. Mail consists of small metal ringlets woven together to form a mesh-like sheet. These sheets are then fashioned into wearable coats and pants which still allow the wearer a fair degree of movement.
Last year, SEK operatives were spotted wearing chain mail while responding to a mentally-disturbed 21 year-old threatening to kill randomly with a pruning saw. Later on, images began surfacing of commandos donning mail shirts and hoods in urban settings, wearing a weird blend of modern tactical gear and the ancient mesh armor.
These German commandos have been known to wear their mail suits above or beneath their gear, depending on the scenario they face and their role in resolving it. Hostage or suicide negotiations would generally prompt the wearing of the armor above a Kevlar bulletproof vest and radio, for example.
According to Stefan Schubert in his book, “Inside Police: The Unknown Side of Everyday Police,” the SEK are easily some of the most high-speed special operations police units in the world, having been formed in the 1970s in West Germany to tackle hostage situations, provide protection for dignitaries, and rapid armed response to terrorist threats.
Around the same time, a similar East German police force known as Service Unit 9 was also established. Both were merged under the SEK name and mission after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany at the end of the Cold War.
SEK teams are more like highly-developed SWAT teams in the US, attached to German state police agencies across the country. Their federal counterpart is the legendary GSG 9 of the Bundespolizei, home to some of the best counterterrorist operatives today.
An SEK commando covering an assault during a demonstration in Dortmund, circa 2013 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)
The recruitment process to join an SEK team is extremely strenuous, and the ensuing selection phase has a high attrition rate. Candidates typically face between 6 to 8 months of physical, tactical and environment-specific training before being declared operational. Additional training includes skiing, snowmobiling and scuba diving.
When placed on active status, an SEK commando can choose virtually any tactical loadout that fits their preferences and mission. Operatives are also given a lot of leeway in uniforms, often choosing to be in plainclothes in order to blend into crowds and work unnoticed.
However, when on mission, you can generally tell an SEK commando apart from a regular police officer by the fact that they always cover their faces with balaclavas to protect their identities — standard procedure for all SEK teams throughout Germany.
But if ever the balaclava isn’t enough to give away their presence, just look for the guy toting a tricked-out carbine wearing Medieval armor and tennis shoes.
But the centerpiece of the US Navy’s fleet has a decade-old gap in its submarine defenses, and filling it may require new, unmanned aircraft.
A US Navy S-2G Tracker in the foreground, accompanied by its successor, the S-3A Viking, over Naval Air Station North Island, California, in July 1976.
(US Navy photo)
‘It’s got legs’
During the Cold War and the years afterward, aircraft carriers had fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for anti-submarine-warfare operations. For much of that period, the fixed-wing option was the S-3 Viking.
Introduced in 1974, the turbofan S-3 was developed with Soviet submarines in mind. It replaced the propeller-driven S-2 Tracker, carrying a crew of four. It wasn’t particularly fast, but it had a 2,000-mile range and could stay airborne for up to 10 hours to hunt submarines.
“It’s got legs,” said Capt. John Rousseau, who flew the Navy’s last Vikings as part of an experimental squadron before their retirement in early 2016.
It had strong surface-search abilities to find periscopes, a magnetic anomaly detector to search for submerged subs, and gear to analyze sounds from sonobuoys it dropped in the ocean. Its search and processing capabilities tripled its search area. And in a war scenario, it could fire Harpoon missiles at ships and drop torpedoes and depth charges to destroy submarines.
An S-3A Viking with a Magnetic Anomaly Detection boom extending from its tail in May 1983.
(US Navy photo)
“It can go fast and long. The radar, even though it’s old, there’s not many better. We still spot schools of dolphins and patches of seaweed” when patrolling off California, Rousseau said in 2016.
The Viking performed a variety of missions, including cargo transport, surveillance and electronic intelligence, search and rescue, and aerial refueling, but it was a mainstay of the carrier anti-submarine-warfare efforts.
Helicopters deployed on carriers typically perform close-in ASW, usually within about 90 miles of the ship. The S-3, with a longer range and the ability to linger, filled the midrange-ASW role, operating about 90 to 175 miles from the carrier.
Land-based aircraft, like the P-3 Orion and now the P-8 Poseidon, have flown the longest-range submarine patrols.
‘The leadership totally turned over’
As the sub threat lessened after the Cold War, the S-3 was reoriented toward anti-surface operations. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an S-3 attacked a ground target for the first time, firing a missile at Saddam Hussein’s yacht.
“Navy One,” a US Navy S-3B Viking carrying President George W. Bush, lands on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.
(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Gabriel Piper)
An S-3 designated “Navy One” even flew President George W. Bush to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. Some of the Navy’s last S-3s operated over Iraq in the late 2000s, looking for threats on the ground.
The S-3 was eventually able to deploy torpedoes, mines, depth charges, and missiles.
With the addition of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, the S-3’s designation in the carrier air wing shifted from “anti-submarine” to “sea control,” according to “Retreat from Range,” a 2015 report on carrier aviation by Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy officer who took part in force-structure planning and carrier-strike-group operations.
Amid shifts in Navy leadership and the rise of new threats after the Cold War, the S-3 lost favor. It officially left service in 2009. There was nothing to replace it.
“There was a slow transition in the makeup of the air wing, as well as a slow transition in the changeover in the leadership of the air-wing community,” Hendrix, now a vice president at Telemus Group, told Business Insider. As a naval aviator, Hendrix spent over a decade in P-3 patrol squadrons that routinely conducted maritime patrols looking for foreign submarines.
“By the time we got … to replace the S-3, essentially the leadership totally turned over to the short-range, light-attack community, led by the F/A-18 Hornet pilots, and also they’ve been operating for the better part of 20 years in permissive environments,” Hendrix said, referring to areas such as the Persian Gulf, where threats like enemy subs are almost nonexistent.
Because of the lack of other threats, the S-3 was relegated largely to a refueling role during its final years, mainly as a recovery tanker for aircraft returning to the carrier.
“When it came time to make a decision, they said, ‘Well, we really don’t need the recovery tanker. I can do recovery tanking with other Hornets, and this anti-submarine warfare doesn’t seem all that important to us because there’s not submarines around us,'” Hendrix said. “So they made a decision to get rid of the S-3.”
A US Navy S-3 Viking refuels another S-3 Viking over the Caribbean Sea in May 2006.
(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Christopher Stephens)
The S-3s that were retired had thousands of flying hours left in their airframes. Dozens are being held in reserve in the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.
“They actually got rid of the S-3 early in the sense that the community still had a viable population of aircraft,” Hendrix said.
Their departure left a hole in carrier defenses that remains unfilled, especially when carrier groups are far from the airfields where P-8 Poseidons are based.
More helicopters have been added to the carrier air wing, Hendrix said. “However, the helicopters don’t have either the sensors or the mobility to be able to really patrol the middle zone” in which the S-3 operated.
Sailors on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell load a MK-46 torpedo on an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter during an ASW exercise in the Pacific Ocean in March 2014.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro)
Nor does the arrival of the P-8 Poseidon — a vaunted maritime patrol aircraft introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 — make up for the Viking’s absence, according to Hendrix.
“We haven’t brought the P-8s in in a one-to-one replacement basis for the older P-3s, and so they’re not really in sufficient numbers to do the middle-zone and outer-zone anti-submarine-warfare mission for the carrier strike groups,” he said. “So we haven’t filled that requirement in force structure.”
‘The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability’
Amid the increasing focus on facing a sophisticated adversary, discussion has intensified about changing the composition of the carrier air wing to replace the capabilities — anti-submarine warfare in particular — shed after the Cold War.
“ASW will become an increasingly important [carrier air wing] mission as adversary submarine forces increase in their size, sophistication, and ability to attack targets ashore and at sea using highly survivable long-range weapons,” said a recent report on the carrier air wing by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
A Navy S-3B Viking from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on January 23, 1995. It carries a refueling pod under its left wing, and openings in the fuselage for dropping sonobuoys are visible in the rear.
(US Navy photo by PH1 (AW) Mahlon K. Miller)
Longer-range anti-ship missiles allow subs to be farther outside carrier helicopters’ operational range, the report argued. (Long-range land-based weapons may also hinder ASW by reducing the area in which the P-8 can operate.)
“The increasing range of submarine-launched cruise missiles may result in [carrier air wing] aircraft being the only platforms able to defend civilian and other military shipping as well as high-value US and allied targets ashore from submarine attack,” the report added.
Unmanned systems — sensors as well as unmanned underwater and surface vehicles — are seen as an option to extend the carrier’s reach. (The Navy has already awarded Boeing a contract for unmanned aerial refueling vehicles.)
“The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability using distributed unmanned sensors to find and track enemy submarines at long ranges and over wide areas,” the CSBA report said, adding that ships and aircraft in the carrier strike group could then use anti-submarine rockets to keep enemy subs at bay rather than trying to sink all of them.
Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck-handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri, in January 2018.
(US Navy/Boeing photo)
The need to operate at longer ranges with more endurance and higher survivability also makes unmanned aerial vehicles appealing additions to the carrier air wing, according to the CSBA report.
“There’s potential there,” Hendrix said, but he added that using the vehicles in the ASW role would be complicated.
“A lot of times doing anti-submarine warfare, there’s a lot of human intuition that comes into play, or human ability to look at a sensor, which is a very confused sensor, and pick out the information” that may indicate the presence of a submarine, he said.
Much of the midrange mission vacated by the S-3 Viking is done within line-of-sight communication, meaning a range in which sensors can communicate with one another, so, Hendrix said, “you could use an unmanned platform to go out and drop sonobuoys or other sensors … and then monitor them, or be the relay aircraft to send their information back to” the ASW station aboard the carrier, where humans would be watching.
“I could see an unmanned platform playing in that role in the future.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.