Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

Skyborg is an autonomy-focused capability that will enable the Air Force to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft driven by artificial intelligence that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments. These unmanned aerial systems are meant to operate alongside manned fighters and will utilize machine learning technology to increase combat capability as they train alongside their piloted partner.

These wingman aircraft could fly ahead of manned planes to extend the pair’s sensor coverage to increase battlespace awareness. They can fire weapons at targets designated by their human wingmen, and a swarm of automated wingmen could protect piloted aircraft by absorbing missile shots from enemy forces.


SKYBORG

vimeo.com

Air Force policy stipulates that people are always responsible for lethal decision-making. Accordingly, Skyborg will not replace human pilots. Instead, it will provide them with key data to support rapid, informed decisions.

“Ever since “Star Wars” first debuted, this idea of being able to fly with autonomy to support you, and cute little beeps and squeaks right, it has just caught the imagination,” said Dr. Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “It’s time to make that real.”

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

Attendees watch a video about the Skyborg Vanguard Program during the Air Warfare Symposium, Feb. 28, 2020. Skyborg is an unmanned aircraft focused competency that will allow the Air Force to employ a team of artificially intelligent aircraft to quickly thwart adversaries in combat. Skyborg will not replace pilots but will provide crucial and prompt data to help the pilot make informed and accurate decisions. (PHOTO // KENNETH MCNULTY)

Roper said he’s excited for the R2-D2 program, a name he uses to refer to Skyborg.

Speaking to the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in June, Roper divulged that conversations with world-renowned experts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed that artificial intelligence, in its current form, is fragile.

“It’s (AI) fine when it’s helping you with entertainment related functions. If your app crashes and the AI gives you the wrong choice on what movie or song to play next, well no big deal,” Roper said. “But on the battlefield an adversary will be there trying to thwart and confound that AI and it’s very easy to do.”

Roper added that the Air Force is going to need a new form of AI that is hardened against an adversary, and research is underway. He expressed the need to accelerate and if done skillfully, the Air Force won’t just be accelerating for the Defense Department; this kind of hardened AI is also needed in the commercial sector for delivery drones and improving self-driving cars.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, discusses “The Future Air Force, Faster, Smarter: The Next Gear” during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 16, 2019. One innovative project the Air Force is employing is Skyborg, an unmanned aircraft focused competency that will allow the Air Force to employ a team of artificially intelligent aircraft to quickly thwart adversaries in combat. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. CHAD TRUJILLO)

“The roots of the Air Force are all about breaking boundaries and doing new things and I think we may have forgotten that a little bit,” Roper said. “In the wake of the Soviet Union collapse, we didn’t have that adversary pushing us. We ought to be doing new things all the time and everywhere and AI autopilot, or wingman or R2-D2 is something new. I can’t wait to get it out on the battlefield.”

Skyborg is one of three Vanguard programs identified in 2019 as part of the Air Force Science and Technology 2030 Strategy. The Air Force plans to channel more resources into the programs and speed up their development.

The Air Force Research Laboratory announced the new strategy last year. It prioritizes demands on time, space and complexity in future conflicts across all domains. The strategy aligns with the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy and lays out a path forward for the Air Force Science and Technology ecosystem to deliver warfighting capabilities at the speed of relevance and necessity.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

The Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie is an experimental stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle designed and built for the United States Air Force Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator program, under the USAF Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology project portfolio. (PHOTO // AFRL)

In July, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center awarded multiple indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts to The Boeing Co., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, Inc. and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. These initial awards will establish a vendor pool that will continue to compete for up to 0 million in subsequent delivery orders in support of the Skyborg Vanguard Program.

“Because autonomous systems can support missions that are too strenuous or dangerous for manned crews, Skyborg can increase capability significantly and be a force multiplier for the Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Dale White, program executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft, who, along with Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, serves as the leadership for the Skyborg program. “We have the opportunity to transform our warfighting capabilities and change the way we fight and the way we employ air power.”

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

An illustration depicting the future integration of the Air Force enabling fusion warfare, where huge sets of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data are collected, analyzed by artificial intelligence and utilized by Airmen, their autonomous wingmen and the joint force in a seamless process to stay many steps ahead of an adversary. (ILLUSTRATION // AFRL)

“Autonomy technologies in Skyborg’s portfolio will range from simple play-book algorithms to advanced team decision making and will include on-ramp opportunities for artificial intelligence technologies,” Pringle said. “This effort will provide a foundational government reference architecture for a family of layered, autonomous, and open-architecture unmanned aerial systems.”

The Vanguards are also introducing a novel early partnership between AFLCMC and AFRL due to the need to quickly identify cutting edge technology and transition it directly into the hands of the warfighter.

“The greatest technological edge is for naught if the warfighter can’t use it on the battlefield. That makes the partnership between AFRL and AFLCMC so vital to this program. We can’t allow bureaucratic speed bumps to interfere with our mandate to deliver,” White said.

Just as the last generation of pilots had the instincts for stealth, Roper believes, the next generation will have the instincts for this, previously nonexistent, type of algorithmic warfare on future battlefields.

“This next generation of pilot is not going to be ready to hand the reins over to R2-D2, but neither will they be willing to go into combat without R2-D2, if R2-D2 is available,” Roper said. “Our pilots are the best and they will continue to be the best if we give this technology, it will take their game into a completely different dimension.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

This mediocre Arisaka rifle was good enough in WWII

The average Japanese infantryman was a highly-trained soldier. That said, some of his weapons weren’t exactly the best in the world. While the United States gave its troops a classic rifle in the form of the M1 Garand, Japanese troops were left with a somewhat obsolete bolt-action rifle known as the Arisaka.


According to ModernFirearms.net, Japanese troops used two primary types of the Arisaka. The first was the Arisaka Type 38, which first entered service in 1906 after the Russo-Japanese War. The rifle was chambered for a 6.5x50SR cartridge and had an internal five-round magazine. According to MilitaryFactory.com, Japan bought about 3.4 million of these rifles over the years, an impressive production run. The British, Thais, Chinese, and Russians also used that rifle at one point or another.

 

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen
A Japanese soldier holds an Arisaka rifle as he storms a beach. (Imperial Japanese Army photo)

Japan had a good reason to pick the 6.5x50SR. The average Japanese Army infantryman stood five-foot-three, or about the height of Natalie Portman. Japan used this rifle right up to when the Sino-Japanese War began in 1937, when they realized that, while the Chinese military had its problems, they had a better rifle than the Arisaka Type 38. China had a version of the German Mauser that fired a cartridge almost eight millimeters wide.

So, with that combat experience in mind, Japan went to work getting a better rifle. What emerged was the Arisaka Type 99. This fired a 7.7×58 cartridge, and Japan began producing them to get them to the front. Over 3.5 million Type 99s were made, but late in the war, the quality dropped, big time.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen
Japanese troops in China, with Arisaka rifles. Experience in China prompted the replacement of the Type 38 Arisaka with the Type 99. (Imperial Japanese Army photo)

The Type 99 did put in an appearance during the Korean War. MilitaryFactory.com noted that these rifles were modified to fire the .30-06 round used by the M1 Garand. 133,000 of these rifles were pressed into service by South Korea. Not a bad swan song for a second-rate rifle.

Articles

This teenage genius created the best prosthetic ever

Easton LaChappelle, a 19-year-old from Cortez, Colorado, has created the most technologically advanced prosthetic the world has ever seen.


LaChappelle began experimenting with robotics when he was 17, creating a moveable robotic arm out of legos and other equipment found in his bedroom. Since then, he and his friends have created Unlimited Tomorrows, a robotics company that specializes in 3D printed prosthetics.

LaChapelle’s prototype possesses a range of motion that is nearly identical to that of a human hand, all controlled by the user’s thoughts. With more than 1,500 military service members having had major limb amputations since 2001, this device may be a game-changer for wounded troops.

And the best part? While most prosthetic limbs cost around $60,000, Chapelle’s prototype was created for only $350. This kid is going places.

To see more of Chapelle and his prosthetic, watch the video below:

DON’T MISS: Forget The Terminator Arm — DARPA Wants An Implantable Hard Drive For The Brain

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How US soldiers keep Black Hawk helicopters flying

Across the US military last year, there were 18 known crashes involving UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. That makes routine maintenance and inspection a vital part of ensuring the safety and security of our military’s soldiers and equipment.

Soldiers from Delta Company, 1-171st Aviation Regiment, the maintenance company for Task Force Aviation on Camp Bondsteel, began a phase maintenance inspection for one of their UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters on Nov. 18, 2019, in the aviation motor pool.

According to Army Techniques Publication 3-4.7, a phase maintenance inspection is a thorough and searching examination of the aircraft and associated equipment. The maintenance should be conducted every 320 flight hours in a UH-60’s lifespan. More recently updated literature has changed the requirement to 480 flight hours.


Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

US soldiers clean a partially deconstructed UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

“Every 480 hours we take a helicopter completely down and apart for safety inspections,” US Army Capt. Paul Strella, commander of Delta Company, TF AVN said.

“We’re inspecting each individual component to make sure it’s still air-worthy and meets the DoD standard. Then we put everything back on it and do a test flight, ensuring that the aircraft is safe for flight and release back to the unit to put back in service.”

Strella said that it is becoming rare for an Army unit to have a phase team to do the type of maintenance they are conducting, because those jobs are being outsourced to contractors.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

US soldiers from remove a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

“It’s a great opportunity for Delta Company, during the KFOR 26 rotation, to be able to get hands-on experience,” Strella said.

“A lot of research went into the training and classes to be able to perform this efficiently and safely. Most importantly it’s good training for the soldiers, to build their experience up for the continuity of the unit and to increase the soldiers’ skill level.”

The inspection should take 23 days by DoD standard, but Delta Company is extending the timeline to 10 weeks in order to move carefully through each step of the inspection.

Strella said this will allow meticulous execution of the processes and provide time for detailed training opportunities.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

US Army Sgt. Daniel Beanland and Spc. Marshall Cox, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairers, remove a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

US Army Spc. Daniel Strickland, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairer, removes a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

US Army Spc. Jared Turner, UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, TF AVN, said that it’s his job to make sure that the aircraft are in the proper condition to successfully complete missions, whether it’s carrying troops, sling-loading for air assault missions, or medical evacuations.

He said his favorite part is seeing the results of his unit’s labor.

“Out on the flight line you get to see them take off and fly all the time, and when you recognize an aircraft that you’ve worked on, it’s just a good feeling,” Turner said. “That’s one of the best parts of the job. You watch it fly away and you’re like — I put my hands on that.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

While Black Hawks, Apaches, and Chinooks usually get top billing when the Army comes out to play at air shows and sporting events (plus the occasional MH-6 Little Bird when special operation aviators come to play), the service does have another helicopter quietly working behind the scenes to plug crucial gaps: the UH-72 Lakota.


Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

(New Jersey National Guard Mark Olsen)

There are a few reasons why you may not know much about the Lakota. First, there aren’t very many of them. While the Army has over 2,000 Black Hawks, there are less than 500 UH-72 Lakotas. And a new purchase of less than a dozen UH-72 airframes can trigger news coverage. Meanwhile, even the expensive and relatively niche Apache fleet boasts over 650 birds.

But another reason the Lakota doesn’t usually get on the front page is that it doesn’t deploy. It wasn’t purchased to deploy, and then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress that it couldn’t go overseas as currently configured. It simply doesn’t have the necessary systems to protect itself from enemy fire and keep its pilots alive after crashes.

But the missions the Lakota can do are still important. It’s a workhorse that can fly in rough weather and provide assistance during disaster response. That’s a big part of why it’s primarily flown by National Guard units. It may not be expected to fight and win in the deserts of the Middle East, but it can hoist a family out of hell or high water during a wildfire or flood.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

(Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office Scott Sturkol)

And it can do so at a discount. It costs 30 to 50 percent less to fly per flight hour than a Black Hawk according to Sikorsky estimates, partially thanks to the lack of all those protective systems that a Black Hawk has.

It first flew in 2006, making it the youngest helicopter in the Army’s fleet. It has two engines that supply over 1,400 shaft horsepower to the main rotor over 36-feet in diameter. The main and tail rotors are intentionally set higher than normal above the ground so that, when the helicopter is on the ground, it’s still relatively safe to load patients, passengers, or cargo into the side or rear doors.

This is especially valuable when the UH-72 is used as an air ambulance, which it often is. Litter crews can load a patient in quickly and safely from multiple angles, and the helicopter can carry two litters and a medic per flight. In its utility role, it can carry eight troops instead of the two passengers.

It can reach a maximum altitude of 18,000 feet, pretty close to the Black Hawk’s 19,000 feet ceiling. Though, again, that’s largely thanks to all the gizmos the Lakota doesn’t need for its peacetime missions. The newest Black Hawk has way more power at over 3,600 shaft horsepower, more than 2.5X the Lakota’s.

All of this makes the Lakota great for homeland security and disaster response, and the Army has even made it the primary helicopter in its training fleet.

But don’t expect it to become the shiny crown jewel in the Army’s fleet. Modifying the Lakota to take on the Black Hawk’s mission or anything similar would drastically drive up costs and, without upgraded engines, adds little in terms of capability. And the Army is already shopping for more exotic designs like the tilt-rotor V-280 Valor and Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider with its compound rotor and push propeller.

Articles

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has unveiled a new unmanned combat air vehicle that has reportedly been based on the Lockheed Martin RQ-170. The report comes nearly five years after one of the secret drones went down in Iranian territory.


According to reports from Arutz Sheva, the UCAV is called “Saegheh” and has been modified from the RQ-170 to carry up to four smart bombs underneath its fuselage. Reports of an Iranian version of the American UAV have been controversial ever since Iran unveiled footage of a purported copy in 2014.

This is reportedly a photo of the Saegheh drone copied from a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel. (Photo from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps via AP) This is reportedly a photo of the Saegheh drone copied from a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel. (Photo from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps via AP)

Despite the skepticism, Iran has developed a formidable military industry to cope with sanctions and a cutoff of American support since the mullahs took over in 1979. Among the systems the regime has built on its own include the Bavar 373 surface-to-air missile system, based on the SA-10 Grumble, the Jamaran-class frigates, and Peykan-class missile boats. The regime has also copied numerous high-tech systems, including the C-802 anti-ship missile and SM-1 surface-to-air missile, and has managed to improve its force of M47 and Chieftain main battle tanks.

Iran has also been acting very aggressively towards American ships in the Persian Gulf, including threats to American maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft and incidents with American surface warships.

The RQ-170 is operated by the United States Air Force’s 30th Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing based out of Creech Air Force Base and the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

Very few performance details have been released, and the only hard data is an apparent operational ceiling of 50,000 feet. A released Iranian video of the UAV captured in 2011 indicated the plane had a wingspan of 85 feet. The RQ-170 first emerged in 2007, and was known as the “Beast of Kandahar” when it was spotted in photos of Kandahar Air Base.

According to a 2012 estimate, around 20 RQ-170s are in service with the United States military and it is rumored the RQ-170 was used to keep an eye on SEALs during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

MIGHTY TRENDING

To prevent Russian invasion, Ukraine might need NATO

Ukraine’s border service has said that it will only allow Ukrainian citizens to travel to Crimea following the imposition of martial law.

Kyiv imposed martial law in 10 of its 27 regions for 30 days on Nov. 28, 2018, after Russian forces fired on Ukrainian ships and seized 23 sailors in the Black Sea off the coast of the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula.

“In connection with the introduction of martial law, the administrative border with temporarily occupied Crimea can be crossed exclusively with Ukrainian documents,” a spokesman said on Nov. 29, 2018.


Citizens from all nations were previously allowed to enter Crimea through the administrative border via mainland Ukraine. But the process for doing so for non-Ukrainians was fraught with bureaucracy.

Crimea is accessible by plane from Russia or via Russia’s newly built bridge from the country’s mainland. But under Ukrainian law, those routes are illegal. Violators — and there have been many — are given official bans of three years or longer by Kyiv.

Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on NATO to send ships to the Sea of Azov to help protect Ukraine.

He claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin sees himself as a “Russian emperor” and Ukraine as a Russian “colony.”

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Ukrainian president later on Nov. 29, 2018, tweeted that Kyiv will impose “restrictions” on Russian citizens in Ukraine.

“No need to run to shops and buy matches and salt. There will be no restrictions on cash withdrawals, currency-exchange operations, travels abroad for Ukrainian citizens. For Russian citizens, these restrictions will be introduced. And I think that’s quite justified,” he wrote.

Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have deteriorated after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and shortly thereafter began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has left more than 10,300 dead since April 2014.

In an interview with the German tabloid Bild published early on Nov. 29, 2018, Poroshenko said he hoped European states will take active steps, including increasing sanctions and military protection against Russia, to help Ukraine after providing verbal support in the wake of Russia’s capture of 24 Ukrainian sailors.

“We hope that NATO states are prepared to send naval ships to the Sea of Azov to support Ukraine and provide security,” Poroshenko said.

“The only language he [Putin] understands is the solidarity of the Western world,” Poroshenko said. “We can’t accept Russia’s aggressive policies. First it was Crimea, then eastern Ukraine, now he wants the Sea of Azov.”

Opening a German-Ukrainian economic forum in Berlin later in the day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she planned to press Putin at a Group of 20 (G20) summit to urge the release of the ships and crews.

“We can only resolve this in talks with one another because there is no military solution to all of these conflicts,” she added.

Meanwhile, an unknown number of the captured Ukrainian sailors have since been transferred to a detention center in Moscow, according to one of their lawyers.

Dzhemil Temishev wrote on Facebook on November 29 that his “colleagues” in the Lefortovo detention center in Moscow had informed him that some of the Ukrainian sailors had been brought there.

Also on Nov. 29, 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov criticized Poroshenko’s request for NATO to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov, saying it was “aimed at provoking further tensions” and driven by Poroshenko’s “electoral and domestic policy motives.”

Putin has claimed that the naval confrontation was a ploy to boost his Ukrainian counterpart’s popularity ahead of an election in March 2019.

A NATO spokeswoman said the alliance already had a strong presence in the region, with vessels routinely patrolling and exercising in the Black Sea.

“There is already a lot of NATO in the Black Sea, and we will continue to assess our presence in the region,” Oana Lungescu said.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

The Sea of Azov is the body of water that separates the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, from the Ukrainian and Russian mainlands. Russia opened a bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea with Russia in May and has asserted control over the strait.

The Kerch Strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, and the Black Sea, which is the arena usually patrolled by NATO.

Ukraine is a partner of NATO but not a member of the military alliance. NATO has already said it “stands with Ukraine” and has called on Russia to release the captured ships and their crews.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also warned Russia on Nov. 26, 2018, that “its actions have consequences.”

Poroshenko, who on Nov. 28, 2018, instituted martial law in parts of Ukraine in response to the Russian actions, told Bild he had evidence suggesting Russia is planning a new ground offensive against Ukraine, and he said he had shown NATO partners satellite pictures supporting that allegation.

“Germany also has to ask itself: What will Putin do next if we don’t stop him?” Poroshenko told Bild.

Ukrainian parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy has joined Poroshenko in calling for increased protection from NATO, saying on Nov. 27, 2018, that “I urged [NATO] to increase [its presence] in the airspace above the Black Sea and the number of military ships in the Black Sea as a guarantee of security and a guarantee of stability in the Black Sea.”

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

EU: ‘Utmost Concern,’ But No New Sanctions

Poroshenko’s remarks came as the European Union failed to muster support for any immediate new steps to either impose new sanctions on Russia over the naval incident or increase enforcement of existing sanctions on Moscow.

Poland, Britain, and the EU’s Baltic states have called for more sanctions, but after three days of debate, the EU’s 28 states could agree only to issue a statement on Nov. 28, 2018, expressing “utmost concern about the dangerous increase of tensions” and the “unacceptable” use of force by Russia.

The statement issued by EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini did not mention sanctions, saying only that the bloc will “act appropriately” while continuing to monitor the situation.

The bloc’s top powers, Germany and France, have so far emphasized efforts to ease tensions. Other members, including Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, and Cyprus, have been calling for a softening of sanctions on Moscow.

The EU first imposed sanctions on Russia after it seized Crimea, and it has ratcheted up those sanctions from time to time. The United States on Nov. 27, 2018, called for stricter enforcement of the EU’s existing sanctions on Russian and Crimean officials and businesses.

While the EU failed to take any immediate action against Russia, in a gesture of solidarity with Ukraine, Estonia said on Nov. 28, 2018, that it had summoned its Russian ambassador and condemned Russia’s use of military force in the incident.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Indian Air Force is more powerful than you think

India hasn’t been given a lot of credit as a military power. Given that Mahatma Ghandi is highly revered for his advocacy of non-violence, it seems ironic that India has quietly become a significant military power in Asia. This is evidenced best by the Indian Air Force. When it comes to air-power, India is hard to beat.


Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen
An upgraded Indian MiG-27 Flogger. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Part of what makes India a formidable airborne combatant is that it operates such a wide variety of aircraft. FlightGlobal.com notes that seven multi-role fighters are in service with the Indian Air Force and at least two other systems are on order. These aircraft range from the venerable MiG-21 Fishbed (which India has modified into an effective fighter) to the ultra-modern Sukhoi Su-30MKI Flanker and the indigenously designed Tejas (formerly known as the Light Combat Aircraft). The force totals over 800 fighters.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

But there’s more to an air force than just fighters. India also sports a lot of transports, ranging from the relatively small An-32s to the powerful C-17 Globemasters — and these are just two of the six transport types in service. Additionally, India has a grand total of seven Il-78 Midas aerial refueling planes and two Airbus A330-based tankers on order.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen
An Il-78 refuels two Mirage 2000s. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Staffing such a force requires a talented crew, and you can’t have that without trainers. India has over 300 trainers, from British-designed Hawk 132s to India’s own HJT-16 Kiran. The country also has two-seat versions of the Jaguar and Mirage 2000 to help train pilots for the vast force of fighters.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen
An Indian Air Force (IAF) 14th Squadron SEPECAT (Breguet/BAC) Jaguar GR-1 Shamser (Sword of Justice) ground attack aircraft prepares to receive fuel from a IAF 78th Squadron Ilyushin IL-78 Midas aerial refueling aircraft. (Image from USAF)

The Indian Air Force also has a lot of helicopters. Many are Mi-8 or Mi-17 “Hip” transports, joined by home-built Dhruvs. A small force of Mi-24 Hinds are in service, and the country has ordered some of the latest AH-64 Apaches, but the bulk of the attack helicopters are from the country’s Light Combat Helicopter program.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen
Two BAe Hawks. (Image from Indian Navy)

In short, if a country wants to attack India, it’s got one heck of a fight coming.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to build the best bug-out bag, emergency kit, or go-bag for your family

We live in a world full of uncertainty. This has always been the case. But when you have kids, that uncertainty becomes less abstract and action is required. It needs to be met with the understanding that it’s on you to take the proper precautions to protect your family when shit hits the fan. There’s truth in that saying “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” There’s also truth in the saying “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The act of preparing helps you feel a bit less worried about hurricanes, floods, super viruses, and other such events. You can’t control anything; but you can control how ready you are.


One way to ensure you’re ready: prepare an emergency kits or go-bag. Companies like Uncharted Supply Co., Echo-Sigma, and Emergency Zone have made small fortunes in recent years selling premade emergency kits for this very reason. Affordable, portable, and packed with short-term survival essentials, their sole purpose is to arm people with the gear they need to get out of town should a life-or-death situation unfold right before your eyes.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

Emergency kits are also commonly known as bug-out bags. Borrowing military terminology, the moniker refers to when U.S. troops were directed to retreat (or “bug out”) with their vital survival gear during dire situations in the Korean War. Some other common nicknames used today include the battle box, 72-hour kit, go-bag, and INCH bag, the latter of which stands for “I’m Never Coming Home”.

Not necessarily intended for long-term survival, the modern-day bug-out bag emphasizes being ready to go with everything you would need should an unforeseen emergency evacuation arise. And while the concept of proactively preparing for a worst-case scenario can seem like a daunting task, it’s also incredibly important.

“Throw away the thought that it can’t happen to you, because it can,” says Les Stroud, famed Canadian survival expert from the hit TV series Survivorman and author of such books as Will to Live and Survive! – Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere–Alive.

“Natural disasters and society disasters such as a loss of power are not going to stop happening — we all know there will be something happening again sooner or later,” says Stroud. “It takes such little effort to prepare, yet the payoff can be very profound, and even save lives.”

Stroud, true to his reputation, doesn’t believe in taking the easy way out and is not a fan of the one-size-fits-all, ready-made bug-out bag. Why? For the simple reason that the hands-on nature of putting one together yourself makes you aware of its contents. “People must become comfortable making their own bug-out bags through research and learning,” he says.

“There is no shortcut here, and there is no company that is going to put together a grab-and-go kit that is going to work for your own family’s individual needs,” Stroud adds. “Most people will purchase such a kit and never open it or go through the contents to make sure they all work well.”

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

images.pexels.com

So what does the proper bug-out bag contain? While an emergency kit for single guy in his 50’s will vary significantly from the contents of one prepared by parents evacuating with a newborn, there are certain items both need to contain..

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that you aren’t planning for a glamping vacation or a weekend family escape to the woods. These evacuation essentials are geared toward survival purposes. They’re intended to keep you covered during the first 72 hours after an emergency strikes. You’ll want to source items that are easy to carry, durable in unpredictable conditions, and most importantly, useful in keeping you and your family safe.

Here, with Stroud’s help, are some of non-negotiables that need to be included in a bug-out bag

What to Pack in a Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag

There’s no shortage of online communities and websites completely dedicated to survivalism and preparedness. Popular digital destinations like The Ultimate Bug Out Bag Guide, The Prepared, and Ready To Go Survival are teeming with resources related to the topic, ranging from how-to-videos to in-depth gear reviews.

All of these sources keep updated master lists of everything you could possibly need in a bug-out bag. And a simple Google search for “bug-out bag essentials” will instantly return millions of results. But at the end of the day, only you can ultimately decide what needs to be included in your family’s survival kit. Personalization is paramount.

Stroud even brings it a step further, advising that every family member takes ownership of preparing for their specific needs.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

upload.wikimedia.org

“I recommend one bug-out bag per person,” he says. “Each family member, including all adults and any children capable of carrying, should have their own bug-out bag — personally designed — that they are familiar with.”

In addition to the general must-have survival elements, what should parents evacuating with kids in tow bring? Consider the below list a starting point. While there’s bound to be some crossover in the lists below, use your best judgement when curating each bag. Include any additional items that you feel would be absolutely necessary, and engage your kids in preparing their own bags so they’re familiar with the contents.

Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Babies

  • Diapers: Diapers are so lightweight, it’ll be easy to bring enough to last a 72-hour period. The absorbency of diapers also helps them come in handy as cold or hot packs when emergencies strikes.
  • Dry formula: Even if your baby is still breastfeeding, you’ll want to make sure to keep a healthy supply of dry formula packets on hand, just in case.
  • Bottle: Bring a bottle should you need to resort to using dry formula (plus, you can use the nipple as a pacifier, or store other items inside the bottle for extra protection).
  • Pacifier: Because a pacified baby beats a crying baby.
  • Antibacterial wipes While these can be used for the whole family, they’ll come in handy for a quick baby bath or other sanitation purposes.
  • Baby carrier You’ll want to be able to use your hands and carry your baby comfortably.

Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Essentials for Children Ages 3-6

  • Snacks: Food may be scarce, so be sure to bring some of your kid’s favorite snacks along. Bonus points if the snacks also pack a jolt of energy or nutrition.
  • Oral hygiene supplies: keeping to some routine habits, even in extreme situations, can help instill a sense of normalcy and independence―plus, healthy oral hygiene habits never hurt.
  • Multivitamins: your child’s diet can be severely challenged in an emergency, so stash a daily vitamin supplement in their bag.
  • Study walking shoes: terrain may be rough, so plan to pack a durable pair of walking shoes (that fit their ever-changing foot size) which can stand the conditions you may face.
  • Thermal blanket: A light, metal-coated space blanket is ultra-lightweight and designed to retain heat in colder temperatures. It can even be used as a make-shift shelter.
  • Ear plugs: depending on the scenario, ear plugs can help drown out frightening noises during the day and ensure a more sound sleep at night.

Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Children Ages 6+

  • Gum or hard candy: Whether they’re leveraged as an energy-booster or a pick-me-up when morale is low, you’ll be glad you brought a handful of sweets.
  • Pedialyte powder: Children aren’t the best at communicating when they’re thirsty, so avoid dehydration with a few packets of this electrolyte-infused powder.
  • Books: we’re not talking heavy, hard-cover books, but the mind can weaken faster than the body in times of stress―so keep a favorite paperback close by.
  • Other mind-occupiers: should boredom set in, it’s not a bad idea to have a deck of cards, coloring book, or other such extras on hand.
  • Emergency whistle: Kids six and older can let curiosity get the best of them, so arm them with an emergency whistle in case they get separated from the family.
  • Walkie-talkies: When whistles won’t cut it, or the family is planning to temporarily split up, a pair of walkie-talkies will definitely come in hand.

Additional Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Items to Keep in Mind

  • Power bank: pack a fully-charged power bank or two to keep cell phones and other necessary electronics charged. Ideally, you want a solar-powered bank that can be refueled via sunlight.
  • Document protection: during periods of uncertainty, it’s imperative to keep your family’s important documents (like birth certificates, social security cards, and passports) with you at all times, so invest in a waterproof document pouch for when you’re on the go.
  • Super Glue and duct tape: in an evacuation scenario, you never know when you’ll need to take a page from the MacGyver playbook (plus, Super Glue and duct tape can be used in a range of medical emergencies).
  • N99 masks: These face masks are effective at filtering out 99 percent of non-oil-based airborne particulate matter, including most pollution, bacteria, and viruses.
  • Extra money: In emergency situations, cash is king. Five-hundred dollars in small bills is a good amount.
  • Sunscreen: Because sun exposure is likely in emergency situations.

This covers the basics. The point here is to get you thinking about preparing and taking an active role in considering the worst. Luck, they say, is where preparation and opportunity meet. While it’s good to hope that the opportunity never arises in this case, you’ll be thankful to have prepared if it does.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Last survivor of group that killed foreign cyclists in Tajikistan dies in prison

DUSHANBE — The sole survivor of a group of attackers who killed four Western cyclists in Tajikistan in 2018 has died in a prison in the capital, Dushanbe.


Mansurjon Umarov, chief of the Main Directorate at the Tajik Justice Ministry’s Penitentiary Service, told RFE/RL on March 3 that prosecutors were investigating the cause of death of Hussein Abdusamadov, who was serving a life sentence for his role in the killing of the foreign cyclists on the Dushanbe-Danghara highway in July 2018.

“Abdusamadov’s body has been sent for an autopsy to exclude torture or violence as his cause of death,” Umarov said, stressing that Abdusamadov “was a dangerous terrorist.”

Abdusamadov’s relatives confirmed the report, telling RFE/RL that they received his body on March 2.

Four cyclists — an American woman and man, a Dutchman, and a Swiss man — were killed on July 29, 2018, when attackers plowed their vehicle into the group on a road and then stabbed some of them.

Two other foreign cyclists survived the attack, which occurred about 150 kilometers south of Dushanbe.

Four suspects in the attack, Zafarjon Safarov, Asomuddin Majidov, Jafariddin Yusupov, and Asliddin Yusupov, were killed by Tajik security forces.

Abdusamadov, who was named the group’s leader, survived, was found guilty of murder in November 2018.

The extremist group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after it occurred and released a video showing five men — at least some of whom appeared to resemble those identified by Tajik officials as suspects killed in a confrontation with security forces — pledging allegiance to the leader of IS.

The Tajik government, however, rejected the claim and instead blamed followers of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), a political party that was banned by authoritarian President Emomali Rahmon’s government in 2015.

The leadership of the IRPT — which served for several years in the Tajik government — has denied involvement and called the authorities’ claims “shameless and illogical slander.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This deadly little ship is how Russia plans to dominate shallow waters

The Russian navy has long been seen as a basket case, especially when it comes to major surface combatants and nuclear submarines. However, when it comes to smaller vessels, the Russians are making a very determined comeback.


The Russian navy, like the Soviet navy before it, had a large fleet of heavily armed corvettes, light frigates, and patrol boats. The Steregushchiy-class corvette — also called Project 2038.0 or Project 2038.1 — follows in this tradition. According to Naval-Technology.com, the lead ship is armed with eight SS-N-25 Switchblade anti-ship missiles, a Kashtan close-in weapon systems, a 100mm gun, two AK-630s, and two twin 324mm torpedo tube mounts.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen
The Steregushchiy-class corvette Sovershennyy. Note the Redut VLS forward.(Wikimedia Commons)

The second ship and follow-on vessels replace the Kashtan with a “Redut” vertical-launch system carrying 9M96E missiles, which have a range of 32 nautical miles. The Steregushchiy-class corvette is able to carry a single Kamov Ka-27 “Helix” helicopter. All of this is done on a hull that displaces 2,100 tons.

By comparison, the Littoral Combat Ships in service with the United States Navy feature a 57mm gun and a single launcher for RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles (either the Mk 31 with 21 missiles, or the SeaRAM with 11 missiles). The Littoral Combat Ships displace either 3,200 tons (Independence-class) or 3,450 tons (Freedom-class). They do carry two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, or can carry unmanned aerial vehicles.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen
The Steregushchiy-class corvette Stoikiy with its 100mm gun raised. (Wikimedia Commons)

Russia plans on building as many as 30 of these vessels, according to MilitaryFactory.com. These ships will be deployed to all four of the Russian navy’s fleets: the Northern Fleet, the Baltic Fleet, the Black Sea Fleet, and the Pacific Fleet. Russia has also developed two improved versions, the Gremyashchiy-class corvette and the Derzky-class corvette.

For more on these vessels, take a look at the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAuyUlRCIJo
MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force physician and mom tells her story of heartbreaking loss

Dr. Laura Sidari is speaking out because her family suffered a horrendous loss on Christmas Day 2017.

The Air Force psychiatrist at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and her husband, Dr. Anthony Sidari, a rheumatologist, lost their 4-year-old son, Leon, to complications of influenza. He passed away at a medical facility elsewhere from bacterial pneumonia following the flu, two days following onset of symptoms on Dec. 23, 2018.

Although the Sidari family had vaccinated for the flu in prior seasons, Leon died prior to receiving his flu shot that season, Sidari said. He had been scheduled to be vaccinated Jan. 3, 2018.


“Last year, if I had seen a story like my own, I would have prioritized the flu shot differently,” she said. “As a physician, even I was unaware of the significant risk that the flu posed to my healthy child. Through reaching out to others, including other physician parents, I have discovered that I am not alone in that misconception.”

“Leon’s story places a name and a face — a beautiful and loved and special human being — behind the numbers that are often buried in databases and scattered across headlines,” Sidari said. “As difficult as it is for me as a mother, I share Leon’s story so that someday other families may not have to. As I have devastatingly learned through Leon, flu-related complications are often aggressive and difficult to treat.”

Healthy children may be more at risk for suffering a flu-related death. Research of flu-related deaths provides evidence for the flu shot providing a 65 percent reduction in risk for flu-related mortality in healthy children, and a 41 percent reduction in mortality risk for children with pre-existing medical issues. Approximately 80 percent of children who pass away each season from flu-related complications did not have their flu shot that season.

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

Four-year-old Leon Sidari passed away from bacterial pneumonia following the flu two days after the onset of symptoms on Dec. 25, 2017.

“Being healthy is a risk factor for rapid death,” Sidari said. “I didn’t even know that as a physician. Compared to other pediatric populations, they die more quickly.”

As of Oct. 6, 2018, there have been more than 180 children lost to the 2017-2018 influenza season, according to online information published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of these children died before reaching the hospital.

Sidari is quick to point out that she is speaking only from her perspective as a mother — not a pediatric specialist — who made sure her children received every vaccination recommended. After Leon’s death, she tried to learn as much as she could about influenza in the hope that the Sidari family’s then 2-year-old son, Tristan, and 7-week-old son, Cameron, would not also pass away.

“I really wanted to understand the likelihood that we were going to lose our other children,” she said. “That’s how I found this information.”

The mother, with the full support of her husband, now wants to dispel the common misconception that good health affords protection against the flu, and the entire Sidari family received flu shots at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center immunization clinic the first week of October 2018.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend the flu shot for everyone older than the age of 6 months with few medical exceptions.

The Sidari family faces this holiday season without their first-born, who loved Christmas. His mother remembers him as good big brother who was kind and sensitive, loved cats and gave compliments. Small things are what mattered to him.

“Nothing prepares you as a parent for coming home and having to unwrap Christmas presents for a child who never can,” she said.

“As parents, there are many demands on our time and energy, particularly around the holidays,” Sidari said. “The flu shot can too easily and understandably slip through the cracks due to busy schedules.

“In my experience, it is worth prioritizing this time of the year. This is a necessary appointment. Bringing awareness to the flu shot will not bring Leon back. I do, however, believe in the healing power of connecting with others,” she said.

She also encourages people to explore multiple options if flu shots are unavailable through their usual source.

“It is my hope that Leon’s story can help save lives,” Sidari said. “Especially for children like Leon, I encourage other families to consider making the flu shot a priority, this season and every season. It’s the best way of reducing risk we have. #FluShotsForLeon.”

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

popular

How to bring down an AT-AT with an A-10

If the Empire ever makes it here from its galaxy far, far away, America is going to be in a tough pickle.


And the Empire has already had a long time to get here. So what would it look like if the Empire landed one of its most feared vehicles — the All Terrain Armored Transport — in the plains of the midwest?

Surely, the Air Force would be hard-pressed to take them out, but here are five strategies that the beloved A-10 should try first:

Strategy 1: Punch out the walker’s teeth

The AT-ATs armor is too thick for firing at it center mass, but aiming at the crew cabin in the “head” will give the A-10 pilots a good chance of hitting the laser turrets mounted around it. These weapons have only light armor and the barrels are largely exposed.

 

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen
(20th Century Fox)

This won’t take down the walker entirely, but it would turn it into a stomping reconnaissance tool instead of a lethal, anti-armor and anti-bunker monster.

Strategy 2: Low flying pass to hit the Imperial walker’s fuel slug

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen
An A-10 fires an AGM-65 Maverick missile in training. (Photo: Public Domain Jim Haseltine)

The walkers use a solid “slug” of fuel kept in a tank in the belly of the beast. This is the same type of fuel that powers starfighters, and everyone knows how spectacularly they blow up.

To hit this tank, the A-10s will need to conduct flights at near ground level and should approach from the walker’s 1, 5, 7, or 11 o’clock to avoid its limited skirt armor. Pilots should launch the TV-guided AGM-65 Maverick missile with its 300-pound, shaped-charge warhead and a delayed fuze.

Even if the missile doesn’t make it to the fuel tank before it explodes, the blast should cut through some of the drive mechanisms for the legs, granting a mobility kill and possibly causing the AT-AT to topple.

Strategy 3: Cripple its feet

Speaking of mobility kills, the AT-AT relies on ankle drive motors and terrain scanners in the “feet” to keep it balanced and moving forward. But the metal supports around these feet aren’t particularly strong.

In at least two occasions, Sith and Jedi have cut the feet off of a walker.

While A-10s don’t have a plasma saber to cut through the leg, the shaped charges in the AGM-65 with a contact fuse could slice deep enough for the remaining support to snap under the massive weight of the AT-AT.

Alternatively, the pilot could fire the Maverick missile against the foot itself in an attempt to cut through the armor to disable the sensors and motors inside, increasing the chances that the foot will trip on the terrain, similar to the effect in the GIF above.

Strategy 4: Wait for it to discharge troops and fill it with 30mm

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen
(Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

The AT-AT is a troop transport, and patient A-10 pilots could wait for it to attempt and discharge its stormtroopers and speeder bikes. When the walker opens to release its deadly cargo, pilots would have only a short window to attack through the open armor panels.

This is a job for the GAU-8 Avenger. Pilots should fire a sustained stream of 30mm through the opening. Don’t get shy, the crew compartment is connected to the transport area only through a thin tunnel. Even with high-explosive rounds, the A-10 needs to get a lot of ammo into the troop transport section to guarantee that at least a few bits of shrapnel bounce through the cabin.

Strategy 5: Cut its head off

In the Battle of Hoth, snow speeders managed to get a mobility kill on an AT-AT by wrapping its legs up in a tow cable. Before the walker crew could escape, a flight of snow speeders fired on the AT-AT’s flexible neck section, the tunnel between the crew cabin and the troop transport area.

Just two blasts to the neck section set off a massive explosion that destroyed the walker and rained debris for hundreds of meters. While it isn’t known what in the neck caused the massive, second detonation, there’s no reason to think that an A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger couldn’t punch through this vulnerable section.

To hit it, pilots should conduct nearly vertical attacks from high altitude, sending the 30mm rounds into the neck joint perpendicular to the armor.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information