When America sends its super-secret warriors behind enemy lines, remaining camouflaged can mean the difference between nabbing the bad guy and causing a major international incident if discovered.
But staying in the shadows means more to those types of commandos than Ghillie suits and MultiCam combat uniforms. Instead, for special operators like SEAL Team 6 commandos and Delta Force soldiers, it’s cultural camouflage that keeps them alive and on mission. When they’re on a clandestine op, that means mingling with the population unseen.
While SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force can easily get their operators looking like the natives, it’s proven to be a lot harder to get them sounding like a local in the country they’re deployed to. Learning a language is very difficult skill, and the military has been at pains to get its operators up to speed quickly.
According to most experts, it takes at least six months for Special Forces soldiers to get proficient in one of the European languages like Spanish or French, and up to a year for proficiency in languages like Arabic and Chinese.
With smaller units like those in Joint Special Operations Command, taking operators off the line for that long makes it tough to keep units fully manned.
So SEAL Team 6 has been experimenting using sensory deprivation tanks to cut language learning to a fraction of the time used in traditional methods.
“They’re able to steer operators into a state of optimum physiological and neurological relaxation and then introducing new content. … And one of the examples is learning foreign languages,” says John Wheal, the Executive Director of the Flow Genome Project which works to increase the performance of top-end athletes and business executives.
“By combining these sensory deprivation tanks with next-generation biofeedback they’ve been able to reduce a six-month cycle time for learning foreign languages down to six weeks.”
Basically, sensory deprivation tanks are pod-shaped beds filled with lukewarm salt water that delivers neutral buoyancy. An operator will float in the chamber in pitch dark to remove any distractions and wear a set of specialized sensors that measure various physical readings like heart rate and brain wave activity.
Once the SEAL has gotten into the right state of mind, then the learning starts, Wheal says.
Previously the exclusive purview of rich show business types with money to burn, the nation’s top commandos are now using cutting-edge tools like sensory deprivation tanks to get better at their jobs quicker.
If you’ve ever wanted kick-off the Army-Navy rivalry by skydiving into the football stadium during one of their storied showdowns, you should have joined the Army Golden Knights or Navy Leap Frogs.
There’s no way around that.
For the rest of us, here’s an incredible 360-degree video captured by the jumpers during Saturday’s game while the Cadets and Midshipmen marched onto the field. Watch from your phone to pan around the flight path or use the video cursor if you’re watching from a desktop.
On the night of April 1, 1980, two CIA officers flew Major John T. Carney Jr., a U.S. Air Force Combat Controller, to a small strip of road in the South Khorasan Province, Iran.
This location would live in special operations infamy forever, by its code name – Desert One.
Maj. Carney installed infrared lights, a strobe for use as landing lights, and tested the ground, which was hard-packed sand. By this time, Iranian students had held 52 American diplomats and other embassy personnel hostage for 149 days.
The U.S. military was going to get them out.
This final, very complex mission was supposed to take two nights. Colonel James Kyle, commanding officer at Desert One and planner for Eagle Claw called it “the most colossal episode of hope, despair, and tragedy I had experienced in nearly three decades of military service.”
On the first night, three Air Force C-130s would bring 6000 gallons of fuel in bladders to Desert One. Then three EC-130Es would carry 120 Delta Force operators, 12 U.S. Army Rangers, and 15 Farsi-speaking Americans and Iranians. Three MC-130E Combat Talon aircraft would also carry supplies.
All would enter Iran from the Southern coast of the Gulf of Oman. Eight Navy Sea Stallion helicopters would fly in from the USS Nimitz, refuel, and carry the Deltas to Desert Two, a location 52 miles from Tehran. All would hide during the day.
The second night commenced the rescue operation.
The CIA was supposed to bring trucks to Desert Two and drive the operators into the capital. Other troops were to cut the power to the area around the embassy as the Rangers captured the abandoned Manzariyeh Air Base. This would give arriving USAF C-141 Starlifter aircraft a suitable place to land. Maj. Carney would command the Air Force combat-control team to provide ground control to the temporary airfield.
An Army Special Forces team would hit the foreign ministry to free the top three diplomats who were held separately. Meanwhile, Delta Force would storm the embassy, kill the guards, move the hostages to the stadium across the street where the helicopters would pick everyone up, and take them to the air base where the Starlifters would take them home.
U.S. forces, fuel, and supplies were delivered as planned. Everything else was a debacle. Ranger roadblock teams securing the deserted road blew up a tanker smuggling fuel and detained a civilian bus and its passengers.
On the way to Desert One, one of the Sea Stallions had to be abandoned on the ground because of a cracked rotor blade. Its crew was picked up by one of the other Sea Stallions.
The other six ran into an intense sandstorm known as a haboob – a windy mix of suspended sand and dust, moving at up to 60 mph. One of the remaining Sea Stallions had to return to base because of the storm while the rest took an extra 90 minutes getting to Desert One, one sustaining damage to its hydraulic system.
This left five total helicopters. The mission minimum was four – U.S. Army Col. Charles Beckwith, commander of the Delta Force, requested the okay to abort this mission, which President Carter granted.
Back at Desert One, the evacuation began in haste. The extra 90 minutes on the ground expended more fuel than planned.
When one of the Sea Stallion helicopters attempted to move into a position to refuel, it blew up a cloud of dust the road collected in the previous three weeks. Unable to see properly, the RH-53 crashed into the EC-130 carrying troops and fuel, killing eight, five of the 14 Airmen in the EC-130, and three of the five Marines in the RH-53.
All five remaining helicopters were left on the ground in the subsequent evacuation (two of them are still in active service with the Iranian Navy). The bodies of all eight Airmen and Marines were found by the Iranians the next day.
The failure of communications between branches during Eagle Claw is the reason each services’ special operations commands now fall under USSOCOM. Many further changes in structure resulted after intense scrutiny, research and a Congressional Committee.
Plans for a second rescue operation continued under the code name Project Honey Badger, but ended with the election of President Ronald Reagan and the hostages’ subsequent release.
Reagan sent Carter to greet the hostages as they arrived in Germany. When asked what he would do differently during his Presidency, Carter remarked “I would have sent one more helicopter, which would have meant that we could have brought out all the hostages and also the rescue team.”
Bruce Laingen, hostage and former charge d’affaires to the embassy in Iran on the operation:
“While no day hurts more — than today and always — than the day when these brave men lost their lives in an attempt to reach us, no day makes us more proud as well, because of the way in which they stood for that cause of human freedom. For that, all of us (former hostages) will be forever grateful.”
The men who died at Desert One:
Capt. Harold L. Lewis Jr., U.S. Air Force, Capt. Lyn D. McIntosh, U.S. Air Force, Capt. Richard L. Bakke, U.S. Air Force, Capt. Charles McMillian, U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Joel C. Mayo, U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Dewey Johnson, U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. John D. Harvey, U.S. Marine Corps, Cpl. George N. Homes, U.S. Marine Corps.
Their remains were not recovered, but a memorial dedicated to their memory stands in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Royal Australian Navy has long been a small force that’s able to punch above its weight. Now, they’re taking on another advanced vessel, one that could very well see service with the United State Navy in the next decade.
The vessel in question is the Hobart-class air warfare destroyer. This vessel is based on the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class guided missile frigate. If that Spanish vessel sounds familiar, that’s because it’s one of the contenders in the United States Navy’s FFG(X) program — a strong one, given its use of the Aegis combat system and the SPY-1 radar.
Australia’s Navy has added some Spanish flavor — their Canberra-class amphibious assault ships are based on the Spanish Navy’s sole amphibious assault vessel, the Juan Carlos I.
Modified Adelaide-class guided missile frigates, like HMAS Darwin (forward), held the line until HMAS Hobart (rear) was ready to enter service.
(Photo by Nick-D)
The Hobart-class destroyer is basically half of an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. Its armament suite consists of a single five-inch gun, one 48-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system, two quad Mk 141 mounts for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, a Mk 15 Phalanx, two 25mm Bushmaster chain guns, and two twin 324mm torpedo tube mounts. The vessels can also operate a MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission helicopter. The Mk 41 can fire RIM-66 SM-2 Standard missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROC, and BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The Australians have been waiting for these vessels for a while. They retired their Perth-class guided-missile destroyers in 2001. These modified Charles F. Adams-class vessels were also quite formidable. They packed two five-inch guns, a Mk 13 launcher that fired RIM-66 SM-1 Standard missiles and RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two Ikara launchers, and 324mm torpedo tubes.
Between the retiring of the Perth-class and the introduction of the Hobart-class, four of Australia’s Adelaide-class frigates (modified versions of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class) held the line. To do so, they were upgraded with Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and the SM-2.
HMAS Hobart, shortly after her commissioning in 2017.
(Photo by Nick-D)
The Australian Navy has operated closely with the United States for decades. All three Perth-class vessels saw service in Vietnam (one of which was on the receiving end of a friendly-fire incident). A Perth-class destroyer also took part in Operation Desert Storm.
The first of the Hobart-class vessels, HMAS Hobart, has been commissioned, with the second vessel, HMAS Brisbane, due this year and a third, HMAS Sydney, coming in 2019. The performance of HMAS Hobart could very well determine how the United States Navy decides to fulfill its current frigate needs.
On Nov. 21, 2010 while providing security on a rooftop in Afghanistan, then-Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter jumped on a grenade to save his best friend’s life, an action he later received the Medal of Honor for.
“I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me previously when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”
The scene was near Marjah, with Carpenter and his squad — supported by engineers, an interpreter, and Afghan National Army troops — moved south of their main base to establish a small outpost to wrestle control of the area from the Taliban. It was Nov. 19, 2010, and as Carpenter told me, they were guaranteed to take enemy fire.
That “contact” came one day later, when their small patrol base came under blistering attack from small arms, sniper fire, rockets, and grenades. Two Marines were injured and evacuated. “The rest of the day it was sporadic but still constant enemy [AK-47] fire on our post that was on top of the roof,” he said.
While the Marines took sporadic fire while setting up their new base over the next two days, it was on Nov. 21 that Carpenter would distinguish himself with his heroism.
“Enemy forces had maneuvered in close through the use of the walls of the compound across the street to the east,” according to Carpenter’s summary of action. The Taliban threw three grenades into the compound.
One landed in the center of the base, injuring an Afghan soldier. The second harmlessly detonated near the post that was destroyed the previous day. The last landed on the roof, dangerously close to him and his friend, Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio. He didn’t remember actually jumping on the grenade, but multiple eyewitnesses and forensics showed that was exactly what happened.
“The majority of the grenade blast was deflected down rather than up, causing a cone-shaped hole to be blown down through the ceiling of the command operations center,” the summary reads.
Carpenter was severely wounded, with injuries to his face, jaw, and upper and lower extremities. Eufrazio received shrapnel to the head. Both were immediately evacuated and survived. Eufrazio is still recovering from the attack, while Carpenter has bounced back from his devastating wounds in a fashion that’s nothing short of remarkable.
He received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, on Jun. 19, 2014.
“I mean I would grab that [grenade] and kick it right back,” Carpenter told me half-jokingly, when I asked if he had any regrets. “But besides that … I wouldn’t change anything. We’re both alive and we’re here and I’m fully appreciating my second chance.”
Here’s his full citation, courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps:
U.S. Army maneuver officials are testing a new sound suppressor that can quiet the M240 machine gun enough for gunners to easily hear fire commands.
The Maneuver Battle Lab at Fort Benning, Georgia has been live-fire testing the suppressor from Maxim Defense during Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) 2021, which began in late October.
“Suppressors have always had liability in the past,” said Ed Davis, director of the Battle Lab, who has seen suppressors cycle through the AEWE for the past decade.
“This is the first year that I would say most of the Maneuver Center [of Excellence] has gotten excited about a suppressor.”
The Battle Lab is only evaluating the Maxim Defense suppressor during this year’s AEWE. Other suppressors in past tests have not been able to stand up to the heat and roar produced by the 7.62mm M240.
“Some of them, they got way too hot and … would glow red hot,” Davis said. “Some of them wouldn’t last very long; most of them really didn’t dampen the noise of any significance that was worthwhile.”
Battle Lab officials and soldiers have fired “a fair amount of rounds” through M240s equipped with the Maxim Defense suppressor, enough to put it in the “sweet spot” to recommend it for further evaluation, Davis said.
“This may be one that we recommend that a unit buy and do some sort of evaluation long-term,” Davis said. “We do know thatm with the gun firing, it brings the noise down. … You can fire the M240 and have a conversation right next to it.”
Finding a durable, affordable suppressor that can dampen the sound signature of an M240 would make it more difficult for the enemy to locate and target machine gun teams from a distance, Davis said.
The M240 can engage targets as far as 1,100 meters away, “so if you can suppress the noise to that level, that means the position is relatively concealed during employment,” Davis said.
“It adds a great degree of protection to your machine gun teams, which are priority targets on the battlefield,” he added.
“It also helps you in command and control because now you can give fire commands and so forth without having hearing protection and the voice of the gun causing confusion and things like that.”
When the AEWE concludes in early March, Battle Lab officials will compile a report detailing the performance of equipment tested, which will include recommendations for further study.
“Our evaluations for AEWE are not complete by any means,” Davis said, adding that Maxim Defense suppressor could go to a unit for further evaluation.
“Or it could come back to the Battle Lab as a separate event for a more comprehensive evaluation,” Davis said. “You want to look at barrel wear, you want to look at how long the suppressor is going to last and you want to see how long it takes to gum these systems up.”
Isikoff, citing three “sources familiar with informal discussions of Snowden’s case,” writes that the chief counsel to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Robert Litt, “recently privately floated the idea that the government might be open to” the former NSA contractor returning to the US, pleading guilty to one felony count, and receiving a prison sentence of three to five years “in exchange for full cooperation with the government.”
Snowden, who has lived in Russia since June 23, 2013, is charged with three felonies: Theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.
ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner, one of Snowden’s legal advisers, told Yahoo that any deal involving a felony sentence and prison time would be rejected.
“Our position is he should not be reporting to prison as a felon and losing his civil rights as a result of his act of conscience,” Wizner said.
Snowden, 32, allegedly stole up to 1.77 million NSA documents while working at two consecutive jobs for US government contractors in Hawaii between March 2012 and May 2013.
The US government believes Snowden gave about 200,000 “tier 1 and 2” documents detailing the NSA’s global surveillance apparatus to American journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in early June 2013. Reports based on the disclosures have swayed courts in the US and influenced public opinion around the world.
Snowden also provided an unknown number of documents to the South China Morning Post, adding that he possessed more.
“If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country to make their own assessment, independent of my bias, as to whether or not the knowledge of US network operations against their people should be published,” Snowden told Lana Lam of SCMP on June 12, 2013, 11 days before flying to Moscow.
Snowden reportedly told James Risen of The New York Times over encrypted chat in October 2013 that the former CIA technician “gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong.” (Wizner subsequently told Business Insider that the report was inaccurate.)
Snowden would later tell NBC that he “destroyed” all documents in his possession before he spoke with the Russians in Hong Kong.
“The best way to make sure that for example the Russians can’t break my fingers and — and compromise information or — or hit me with a bag of money until I give them something was not to have it at all,” he told Brian Williams of NBC in Moscow in May 2014. “And the way to do that was by destroying the material that I was holding before I transited through Russia.”
In any case, some current and former officials are considering ways to bring the American home.
“I think there could be a basis for a resolution that everybody could ultimately be satisfied with,” Former Attorney General Eric Holder told Yahoo. “I think the possibility exists.”
The bullet can hit its intended target despite high winds, minimal visibility, or sniper experience. According to DARPA, the system works by combining a maneuverable bullet and a real-time guidance system to track and deliver the projectile to the target, allowing the bullet to change path during flight to compensate for any unexpected factors that may drive it off course.
In this video, a sniper rifle is intentionally aimed off target to demonstrate the ability of the EXACTO system. At 0:22, notice how it does more than a minor correction to hit the target.
As you walk out of a late movie with your date, a shady character steps into your path about ten feet in front of you. He produces a switchblade and demands your wallet. You know that in order to reach your wallet, your hand will swipe right past the concealed carry holster your trusty Glock 19 is nestled into, but could you level the weapon and fire before the assailant pokes you full of holes?
Chances are, you couldn’t.
There’s always room for debate within the tactical training community, as experienced (and often inexperienced) gunslingers develop their own unique approaches to engaging armed opponents. While many opinionated enthusiasts will subscribe to the idea that there’s only one right way to train or fight, the truth is that the right approach is often dictated by the user’s ability, training, and nerves.
Military and law enforcement train frequently to ensure they can act quickly in life-or-death situations.
(US Air Force)
Put simply, two different people could be put into the same set of circumstances and may use the same approach to try to get themselves back out of it, but because of the innumerable variables at play in any fight (whether we’re talking fists or nuclear missiles), placing bets on a winner can be a crapshoot. That’s why, when it comes to training to survive a fight for your life, it’s often better to operate within training guidelines rather than the rules you may see published by those who assume it’s their way or the highway (to hell).
One such rule that is really more of a guideline is the often-debated “21-foot rule.” This rule was first posited by Salt Lake City police officer Dennis Tueller in an article he wrote entitled, “How Close is too Close?” Put simply, Tueller determined that an assailant armed with a knife or club could cover 21 feet in about 1.5 seconds, which is faster than most police officers could draw, aim, and fire their weapons from their hip holsters. This assessment produced two important tactical norms in the minds of many: the first is that a person may be justified in shooting an opponent armed with a knife or club within that distance, because there may not be time to adequately react if they chose to attack. The second is that once you’re inside that 21-foot radius, your approach to survival will need to shift.
This dude probably should have drawn his pistol a while ago.
In the years since Tueller’s article was published back in 1983, this rule has been debated, “debunked,” re-debated, and incorporated into many training regimens… but it’s important not to get too caught up in the figures. That 21-foot figure was really meant to be a rule of thumb, rather than a hard-and-fast rule, because shooters of different skill levels respond at different rates of speed, opponents aren’t all the same speed either, and countless variables regarding the officer’s equipment and the environment the altercation takes place in can all affect how quickly and accurately a shooter can respond with deadly force.
Likewise, for those of us that aren’t members of law enforcement, relying on the idea that the rule is 21 feet can be pretty dangerous. Most casual shooters don’t have the same training and experience with their firearms as police officers tend to, and it often takes longer to draw a weapon from a concealed holster than it does from the open-carry hip holster position employed by most police officers.
So does that mean the rule is bunk? Absolutely not — it just means you need to use a bit of common sense in the way you employ it.
If you pride yourself on your Wild West quick-draw skills, your safe engagement distance might be notably shorter than 21 feet. If you do most of your shooting at a relaxed pace inside your local gun range with a stationary sheet of paper standing in as your opponent, your safe distance may actually be quite a bit greater than 21 feet.
Casual range shooters are rarely as quick on the draw as trained police officers.
The exact distance isn’t as important as the understanding that a gun isn’t a guarantee of victory against knife-wielding attackers. In fact, inside the distance it takes to get a first down playing football, a knife can often be the deadlier option.
That information can help inform your approach to dangerous situations — like just handing over your wallet to that mugger that was inside of ten feet of you and your date. It can also help you prioritize targets in a multiple assailant situation.
If you want to know what your own equivalent of the “21-foot rule” is, it’s simple: have a friend time you the next time you’re training for rapid deployment of your firearm from its holster (in a safe and controlled environment). Slower than 1.5 seconds? Then your rule is further than 21 feet.
A new innovation for the United States Military means an innovation for the entire world. Something as simple as the creation of the GPS, which started as a DoD project in the 70s, quickly became one of the most useful quality-of-life tools used in today’s society — and this isn’t the first (or last) time military tech landed in the hands of civilians.
A large portion of the government’s tech eventually trickles down to the people. Recently, the Army established an entire command unit dedicated to research and development, called the Army Futures Command (AFC). Everything about this newly-formed group of soldier-scientists seems like it can only mean great things for moving science — and society at large — forward.
And that’s not hyperbolic to say. It’s actually vastly underselling the mind-boggling capabilities of quantum computing.
(U.S. Army photo by Jhi Scott)
Of course, they’ll be developing new weapon systems (technology that will likely not trickle down) that will give America the fighting edge it needs on the battlefield, but it goes much further than that. The AFC will be working on projects that range from computer technologies to advanced medicine and beyond — anything that will aid future soldiers.
While integrating lasers into anti-missile defenses to detonate incoming projectiles from hundreds of miles away is going to be a game-changer for warfare, they’re also taking a serious crack at the Holy Grail of computer engineering: quantum computing. To put it at simply as possible, quantum computing is having a computer use atomic particles to compute instead of 1s and 0s and, theoretically, this technology will instantly increase the potential for computing power a thousandfold. If the ACR can figure it out, the U.S. government and, subsequently, the American civilian tech industry, will make unbelievable leaps forward.
“You say you can put a laser on an Apache? Shut up and take my money.”
(Department of Defense)
The primary focus of the AFC is and will always be increasing a soldier’s combat readiness. Based in Austin, Texas, it will employ both civilian and soldier innovators. The AFC and its Army Application Laboratory (AAL) are designed to be a place where inventors can create what hasn’t already been recognized as an official priority.
And even when an invention doesn’t revolutionize technology, the road that led them there is valuable. Adam Jay Harrison, the USAFC Innovation Officer, said at a conference for potential innovators that “at the end of the day, 90 percent of what we do ain’t going to work, but 100 percent of what we do should be informing somebody’s decision.“
This kind of open environment and ease of access to funding gives the inventive minds of the U.S. a chance to create anything they can imagine — as long as it helps Uncle Sam. That level of trust in its scientists is unheard of in the academic world and it’ll be the cornerstone of the Army Futures Command.
The AFC is on track to be fully operational by September 2019. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what kind of insane designs will come out of it.
The U.S. Army is hosting a fly-off starting a year from now, and some of the biggest names in defense manufacturing are working in earnest to win it.
The Army put out a “request for proposals,” better know in procurement circles as an “RFP,” last year as the first step in their Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD) program, and the competition is down to two efforts: The V-280 “Valor” by Bell Helicopter and the SB-1 “Defiant” by Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.
The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.
“We realize there’s still a pretty significant filter out there about the troubled history of the tiltrotor,” said Robert Hastings, Bell’s EVP for communications and government affairs . “But the Marines today would tell you it’s transformational. Younger pilots who never had to unlearn bad habits from other airplanes are flying the V-22 in ways we never imagined.”
Hastings, who flew Cobras and Blackhawks in the Army and also served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs during Robert Gates’ tenure at the Pentagon, related a conversation he had with a V-22 squadron commander during the most recent Singapore Air Show. The CO told him that at that moment he had Ospreys in Australia, Okinawa, and the Philippines as well as at the show.
“He was a lieutenant colonel with an operational sphere of influence as big as what an admiral had a generation ago,” Hastings said. “To quote Gen. Davis, the Marine Corps’ assistant commandant for aviation: ‘The V-22 has not only changed the way we operate; it changed the way the enemy worries about us.'”
But while Hastings readily lists the V-22’s successes in the nation’s most recent conflicts, including how the CV variant has been used by the Air Force Special Operations Command, he is quick to point out that the V-280 is what he called a “clean sheet design.”
“The V-22 is largely a 1980s product,” he said. “Manufacturing is different today.”
Hastings explained digital designs along with more precise machining allows parts “to slip into place very nicely” instead of having to be sanded down and otherwise manipulated by technicians along the assembly line as they had to while making the Osprey. With these sorts of improvements, Bell is striving to make the V-280 cost half of the V-22’s $71 million unit flyaway cost.
Bell has partnered with Lockheed-Martin to give the Valor a state-of-the-art cockpit suite, building on what engineers and test pilots have learned during the development of the F-35. While there’s no plan for helmet visor symbology (which has been a challenge to develop during F-35 testing), Hastings said the cockpit’s “open architecture” could afford V-280 pilots that capability in the future. The cockpit also accommodates a wide array of sensors and mission packages, which are designed to give the Valor a lot of combat agility.
Bell is calling their JMRTD candidate a “third generation” tiltrotor. (V-22 is second generation.) The V-280 differs from its predecessor in a number of ways: It’s much lighter because it’s constructed entirely of carbon-based materials. It has a straight wing instead of the Osprey’s forward-swept wing. It has a side door instead of an aft ramp.
Hastings also pointed out that — with an internal fuel cell added in the cabin area — the Valor can fly 2,100 miles, which will give the Army a self-deploy capability it’s never had before.
“Imagine a future where the 82nd Airborne is told to deploy, and the aviation division commander says to his aviation unit commander, ‘Meet me at the Horn of Africa in three days,'” Hastings said. “He doesn’t have to worry about a third of his strategic lift assets being tied up by those helicopters.”
The JMRTD fly off program will last two years, and at the end of it the Army will pick one of the two airplanes to replace its force of 2,000 Blackhawks and 800 Apaches. (And Hastings pointed out that the utility and attack variants of the Valor have 85 percent commonality beneath the prop-rotor — another cost-saving feature, he said.) The Army wants the new airplanes ready for war by 2029.
“We believe that helicopters will be around forever,” Hastings said, “but we think helicopters have reached as far as you can expand them. We think tiltrotors have a ton of growth in terms of what you can do with them.”
Clinicians who are, or becoming, experts in Point of Care Ultrasonography (POCUS) are in awe of a new ultra-portable ultrasound device, the Butterfly IQ.
The Butterfly’s first use in the United States was at VA NY Harbor Healthcare System and at NYU Langone. It is a very lightweight probe that looks like a sleek black electric razor. It plugs into an iPhone.
The user prompts the probe into action and gives it directions with a finger-flick of an app and a tap on individual links that are pre-programmed for screening of the heart, lungs, veins of the legs and other parts of the body.
Squeezing some gel onto the head of the probe, the physician then places the device on a patient’s body in the specific area of concern. For example, it might be placed on the side of the patient’s chest corresponding to the location of the lungs. The interior structure and movement of the lungs then is visualized in real time on the physician’s cell phone screen.
“Most of the time, you can figure out why a patient is having trouble breathing immediately at the bedside without sending the patient for any additional test,” said Dr. Harald Sauthoff.
Dr. Sauthoff considers the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) as his “home”, but he also sees patients on the general medicine wards, where he was using the Butterfly to examine LoRusso, a veteran with lung cancer. Fluid had been drawn and removed the previous day with a needle guided by ultrasound.
Dr. Sauthoff said, “I can still see a lot of fluid around the lung.” The patient was most concerned about not having another tissue biopsy that had been performed some weeks before. Dr. Sauthoff explained that use of the sonogram, unfortunately, might not eliminate the need for another biopsy.
He told the Korean War veteran that taking and testing more fluid might provide enough information to identify and then target the specific type of cancer cells that caused his disease.
Point-of-care ultrasonography (POCUS) is revolutionizing the way physicians examine their patients. Rather than just feeling and listening, physicians can now look into their patients’ bodies often supporting an immediate bedside diagnosis without delay and potentially harmful radiation.
Lightweight, portable, and simple to use, the Butterfly IQ is an enormously attractive clinical tool because it produces precise, high-quality results. The low cost will make it possible for more clinicians to examine their patients using ultrasound at the bedside, carrying an ultrasound probe in their coat next to the stethoscope.
The remaining hurdle for the widespread utilization of POCUS is lack of physician training in this powerful technology. Because most attending physicians are not trained in the use of POCUS, the traditional method of teaching students and residents is ineffective.
For this reason, Dr. Sauthoff has recently created a POCUS teaching course for hospitalist attending physicians across NYU, including VA NY Harbor Healthcare System’s Manhattan Campus. Carrying a Butterfly during their rounds, they are rapidly learning to use this powerful tool, and they will soon help to teach students and residents and change the culture of bedside diagnosis across VA and NYU.
Dr. Sauthoff using the Butterfly was recorded by BBC TV for an online program about innovation called The Disruptors.
The Air Force has begun early testing, software development, and weapons integration for its upcoming Block 4 variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an emerging model intended to give the multi-role fighter a new dimension of weapons and attack mission possibilities, service leaders said.
The new version, to emerge in the early 2020s, will add new long-range precision-tracking weapons such as the newly named StormBreaker weapon — previously called the Small Diameter Bomb II.
“StormBreaker™ successfully completed Developmental Testing and the Government Confidence Testing phase in early 2018. StormBreaker demonstrated all operating modes, the capability to send, receive, and process data-link messages via both link-16 and UHF, Tara Wood, an official with Raytheon’s weapons development unit, told Warrior Maven.
The Air Force and F-35 weapons integration office are also integrating a new upgraded AIM-9x air to air missile, which will enable pilots to attack enemy fighters “off-boresight,” a term which refers to an increased target envelope.
An “off-boresight” AIM-9s will give pilots an ability to target and destroy enemies behind and to the sides of the F-35, Joe Dellavedova, an official with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
US Navy F-35C.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King)
“The next step for F-35 weapons integration will be to address the weapon requirements within Block 4. Integration of the Small Diameter Bomb II has already begun, and flight test is scheduled to start as early as 2019,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a statement a short time ago.
StormBreaker – Small Diameter Bomb II
StormBreaker, described as a key element of Block 4, is 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.
Wood further explained that StormBreaker detects, classifies, and tracks a wide array of targets, both moving and stationary. It also has an ability to prosecute moving targets through adverse weather conditions. StormBreaker™ is currently in Operational Test, Wood said.
GPS and laser-guided weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions have been around for decades, however, they have primarily been designed for use against fixed or stationary targets. StormBreaker has already completed a series of wind tunnel tests.
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, Raytheon developers told Warrior Maven.
Operational Testing will utilize the weapon in real world conditions in operationally relevant scenarios, she explained.
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.
Raytheon weapons developers say the 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, Raytheon officials told Warrior.
One Raytheon SDB II developer told Warrior in a previous interview that “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.”
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.
If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.
About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.
The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could for example be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.s, this will no longer remain the case.
StormBreaker, which is also being integrated on the F-15E, is carried on the BRU-61, a 4 place miniature munitions rack that fits in the F-35’s internal weapons bays. The weapons will be integrated on the F/A-18E/F and F-35B for the Navy and Marine Corps before the F-35A and F-35C, developers explained.
“StormBreaker™ uses Universal Armament Interface protocol to make the weapon/aircraft interface compatible with a wide range of aircraft, including F-35,” Wood added.
Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, previous test-firings of the AIM-9X were intended to further the missile’s ability to demonstrate this “off-boresight,” attack technology. Previous test data and observers have confirmed the F-35 identified and targeted the drone with its mission systems sensors, passed the target ‘track’ information to the missile, enabled the pilot to verify targeting information using the high off-boresight capability of the helmet mounted display and launched the AIM-9X from the aircraft to engage the target drone, a statement from the F-35 JPO said.
F-35 to 2070
The current consensus among senior Pentagon weapons developers holds that, at the moment, the F-35 is the most capable 5th generation plane in the world. Maintaining this edge, however, is anticipated to quickly become more and more difficult now that both Russia and China are building 5th-gen stealth fighters.
“Block 4 is important with the national defense strategy to make sure we are modernizing the plane to keep it dominant on the battlefield. We are close to knowing the strategy for how to go after it,” Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told a group of reporters in early 2018.
While the applied impact of Block 4 will incorporate a range of mission-expanding technologies, much of the ongoing preparation work is in the realm of software development, Roper said.
“The physical pieces of the plane are moving in a good direction. Most of what we have left to do is software. The department (DoD) has not historically been good at software development. That will take a little longer. I cannot imagine building anything for the Air Force that is not software intensive,” Roper said.
The Block 4 initiative is part of a long range trajectory planned for the F-35 described by Pentagon developers as C2D2 – Continuous Capability Development and Delivery. The idea, officials say, is to position the multi-role fighter such that it can consistently accommodate new weapons, stealth materials, sensors, and guidance technology as it becomes available
“We own today’s fight,” said Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, F-35 Test Director, Edwards AFB, told reporters in early 2018. However, Tucker went on to say that, in the absence of aggressive modernization, sustainment and various improvement efforts.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.