The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is looking to upgrade its fleet of AH/MH-6 Little Bird helicopters.
Operated by the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR), also known as the “Night Stalkers,” the AH-6 (attack) and MH-6 (assault/transport) Little Bird helicopters have been a staple special operations rotary-winged platform since the 1980s. Working closely with the special mission units of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the Night Stalkers have flown Little Birds into combat in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen, among other places.
But the consecutive deployments of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) have taken a toll on the AH/MH-6 Little Bird fleet. And now SOCOM wants to polish it.
According to a government’s acquisition site, SOCOM is looking for offers to replace the special operations helicopters’ Light Weight Plank Systems (LWPS). The contract will fall under the indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity category—meaning that the number of LWPS is up in the air—and can last to up to eight years.
This is the latest update for the Little Bird fleet. A couple of years ago, SOCOM awarded a contract to Boeing for an indefinite number of Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB) kits for both versions of the Little Bird. The MELB kits include an improved six-blade main rotor and four-blade tail rotor, enhanced tail boom and rotor drive system, upgraded tail stinger, chambered vertical fin, landing gear, and doors.
The 160th SOAR is comprised of four battalions and operates three rotary-wing platforms, for a total of around 140 aircraft.
The AH/MH-6 Little Birds provide attack, assault, and transport options. These are the helicopters that will drop a Delta Force team on top of a target building or provide close air support on target to a SEAL Team 6 group.
The MH-60 Black Hawk offers medium-lift capabilities. These are the helicopters that will carry. An updated stealth version of the MH-60 Black Hawk participated in Operation Neptune’s Spear, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The Night Stalkers also fly the MH-60 Direct Attack Penetration (DAP) Black Hawk, a gun platform that packs some serious firepower and can take heavily fortified targets on its own.
Finally, the MH-47 Chinook presents heavy-life capabilities. This special operations version of the venerable Chinook is the workhorse of the Night Stalkers. It’s mainly used for long-range insertions of special operations elements, such as a Ranger platoon or a Special Forces operational detachment and its partner force.
The competition allowed Marines stationed in Japan to test and enhance their shooting abilities.
“The concept of every Marine a rifleman goes back to our basics,” said Sgt. Christian Lee Burdette, an ordinance maintenance chief with Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “We learn basic infantry skills before we learn our military occupational specialty. Every Marine in general has the capabilities to engage any threat with a weapon. With this training, it provides that confidence for a Marine to engage effectively.”
The first day of the competition included a brief morning class to brush the competitors up on their marksmanship knowledge followed by competitors zeroing their rifles. Zeroing is the process of calibrating the rifle combat optic, so the weapon is accurate to where the shooter is aiming. The shooters’ zero is essential, as a faulty zero can disrupt a shooters’ ability to hit their target.
The following week allowed the shooters to practice the various courses of fire. To complete certain courses, the shooters were forced to shoot with their off-hand and eye.
U.S. Marines competing in the Far East Marksmanship Competition engage targets at Range 18 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)
“It puts you into unknown situations, instead of just shooting on a flat range and known distances,” said Sgt. Shane Holum, an emergency service crew chief with MCIPAC. “You have multiple targets and you are shooting and moving. You have to work through problems and malfunctions.”
The final week was for score. All of the shooters’ shots were marked and recorded. Marines were able to compete as an individual, a team, or both. Each shooter had to complete the standard Marine Corps rifle and pistol qualification course along with other courses. The additional courses required shooters to fire and maneuver obstacles, and switch weapons while engaging targets at different distances.
Sixteen teams competed on Dec. 13, 2018, in a rifle and pistol competition. To enter and compete as a team, each team must include four shooters. A team must have an officer and a first time shooter. The first time shooter must be at least a noncommissioned officer.
A U.S. Marine shooter and spotters assess the target in the Team Pistol Match finals at Range 1 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)
“Any command that is stationed on Okinawa or mainland Japan can come out to the competition,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Ferguson, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “You can bring as large as a team as you want, or bring a single shooter. Either way, you can come out and compete.”
The Marine Corps Base Camp Butler’s team won the team rifle competition. The Communication Strategy and Operations Company on Camp Hansen won the team pistol competition, the same day the unit became officially activated. On Dec. 14, 2018, the MCB rifle team was presented with the Calvin A. Lloyd Memorial Trophy, and the CommStrat pistol team was presented with the Shively Trophy.
“Annual qualification is once a year,” said Sgt. Cameron Patrick, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “Shooting is a very perishable skill so we want you to not just do the qualification, but to try and get out and practice on your own time. Actually refine your skills by yourself. Don’t wait for that one year to come around.”
The top 10 percent of shooters are invited to participate in the United States Marine Corps Marksmanship Championship Competition in Quantico, Virginia, in April 2019. From there they will be evaluated to see if the individual has the qualities of becoming a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team, according to Patrick.
The Far East Competition is held annually on Okinawa. Marines that want to participate are encouraged to sign up early as slots fill up quickly.
James H. asks: How realistic is the idea presented in video games of shooting explosives to set them off?
Given that their main and really only purposes is violently exploding, you might be surprised to learn that most explosives utilized by the military are shockingly stable. So much so, in fact, that, contrary to what is often depicted in movies and video games, plastic explosives like C-4 won’t explode if you shoot them or set them on fire. In fact, C-4 won’t even explode if you shoot it while it is currently on fire.
Indeed, beyond the benefit of being able to shape the explosive in a variety of ways to accomplish a given destructive goal, one of the main reasons plastic explosives like C-4 are utilized so extensively by the military is precisely because they are largely inert and can be handled without specialized equipment.
Further, creating C-4 is noted as being a relatively simple process that involves mixing a plasticizer with a conventional explosive (in this case usually cyclotrimethylene-trinitramine, often referred to as “RDX” or “Royal Demolition Explosive”- or for the non-Brits “Research Department Explosive”). While exact ratios vary somewhat, for reference in its C-4 the U.S. military currently uses a mixture of 91% RDX, 5.3% of the plasticizer dioctyl sebacate, 2.1% of the synthetic rubber Polyisobutylene, and 1.6% mineral oil or, for civilian use, motor oil, giving such C4 its telltale odor of, well, motor oil.
Commonly likened to ordinary modeling clay in texture and consistency, C-4 and most other plastic explosives can be shaped, stored and molded just as easily. The key difference being that, unlike modeling clay, a mere half kilogram of C-4 can turn a typical vehicle into a pile of scrap metal. The key to making this happen, though, is attaching some form of blasting cap.
As the name suggests, these blasting caps rely on a smaller, controlled explosion which will in turn cause the explosive components within the C-4 to go off, resulting in the C-4 producing a wave of gasses, including nitrogen and carbon oxides, that rapidly expand out at upwards of 18,000 mph. So fast is this effect that it actually creates something of a temporary vacuum around the core blast area. This results in a second, much less violent, wave of air collapsing in on the vacuum after the initial blast.
Not keen to just rely on theory, the US Army has conducted countless sensitivity tests on C-4 and other plastic explosive compounds, shooting them with bullets of varying calibres and even putting them within feet of things like hand grenades to see if that explosion or subsequent shrapnel could set the C-4 off. The Army has even conducted tests to see if things like fire will cause C-4 to explode, all with little effect. In fact, it turns out C-4 not only remains stable while on fire but it actually burns quite slowly, making it a good fire starter if you don’t mind the poisonous fumes.
While you might think soldiers would be scared to use this compound in this way, both because of perhaps worrying about an accidental explosion or from the noxious gasses given off, amazingly, during the Vietnam war using small chunks of C-4 as tinder to light campfires, or even as the sole source of the fire itself, was indeed a thing many soldiers did, despite military brass advising against it owing to the poisonous gasses given off.
Further, beyond its use as an explosive, fire starter, and badass modeling clay, it turns out that when eaten in extremely small amounts, C-4 is known to produce a mild high likened to being drunk, something soldiers in Vietnam also took advantage of.
Inserting blasting caps into blocks of C-4 explosive.
Back to the extreme stability of C-4- as they often do, the show Mythbusters took the idea of testing this to its logical extreme, shooting a piece that was currently on fire with a high-explosive incendiary round. The C-4 stubbornly refused to explode even then, despite the incendiary round giving a nice little blast on impact.
There is one caveat to all this, however. It turns out there is a way to set off C-4 by shooting at it. How? While there are a variety of designs for blasting caps, some may be set off via being hit with a bullet, thus providing the needed energy to cause the C-4 itself to explode. Why this is an extremely unlikely scenario in the real world is because these blasting caps are typically very small (think a half used pencil) and anyone trying to shoot at them would presumably want to be a fair distance away just in case they were successful.
This all becomes an even less likely in real world scenarios given that you don’t put the blast cap in the C-4 until you yourself are preparing to actually make it go boom.
So, in the end, while there are certainly many unstable explosives that will happily release their destructive power if you were to shoot them, it turns out plastic explosives and pretty much the majority of explosives used by militaries and for industrial use the world over are almost always shockingly stable precisely because these organizations aren’t keen on deploying explosive devices that might go off unexpectedly.
Speaking of shooting at explosive devices, during WWI there are documented instances of soldiers using shotguns to destroy thrown hand grenades before they could reach their target. For example, in Leroy Thompson’s U.S. Combat Shotguns book, he notes the following account where a group of soldiers acted in concert in this way: “Their first warnings were German ‘potato masher’ hand grenades lobbing through the air. Few landed as most of them were exploded in the air by the experts in the outposts. Upon the failure of the grenade attack, the enemy launched a mortar attack. Again the trapshooters proved their worth, deflecting the slowly arching bombs. Finally, a vast grey wave of the Kaiser’s best surged forward.”
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Russia reportedly plans to arm its most advanced fighter jet with a powerful hypersonic air-to-air missile that can take aim at aircraft nearly two hundred miles away, making them a potential threat to critical US air assets.
The Su-57 multipurpose fighter jet, a fifth-generation stealth fighter built for air superiority and complex attack operations that is still in development, will be armed with the new R-37M, an upgraded version of an older long-range air-to-air missile, Russia Today reported Sept. 27, 2018, citing defense officials.
The Russian Ministry of Defense is reportedly close to completing testing for this weapon, the development of which began after the turn of the century.
With a reported operational range of 186 to 248 miles and a top speed of Mach 6 (4,500 mph), the R-37M is designed to eliminate rear support aircraft, critical force multipliers such as early warning and aerial refueling aircraft. Russia asserts that the missile possesses an active-seeker homing system that allows it to target fighter jets during the terminal phase of flight.
While Russia initially intended to see the weapon carried by the MiG-31 interceptors, these missiles are now expected to become the primary weapons of the fourth-generation Su-30s and Su-35s, as well as the next-generation Su-57s. The weapon’s specifications were modified to meet these demands.
The Russians are also apparently developing another very long-range air-to-air missile — the KS-172, a two-stage missile with a range said to be in excess of the R-37M’s capabilities, although the latter is reportedly much closer to deployment.
Mockup of the KS–172 in front of a Sukhoi Su-30.
China, another US competitor, is also reportedly developing advanced long-range air-to-air missiles that could be carried by the reportedly fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter. The China Daily reported in January 2017 that photos of a J-11B from the Red Sword 2016 combat drills appeared to show a new beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile.
“China has developed a new missile that can hit high-value targets such as early-warning planes and aerial refueling aircraft, which stay far from conflict zones,” the state-run media outlet reported, citing Fu Qianshao, an equipment researcher with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.
Slow, vulnerable rear-support aircraft improve the overall effectiveness of key front-line fighter units, such as America’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, which just conducted its first combat mission. The best strategy to deal with this kind of advanced system is to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very-long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are ‘eyes’ of enemy jets,” Fu told the China Daily, calling the suspected development of this type of weapon a “major breakthrough.”
The missiles being developed by US rivals reportedly have a greater range than the American AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), giving them a potential edge over US military aircraft.
The Russian Su-57 is expected to enter service in 2019, although the Russian military is currently investing more heavily in fourth-generation fighters like the MiG-29SMT Fulcrum and Su-35S Flanker E, which meet the country’s air combat needs for the time being. Russia canceled plans for the mass production of the Su-57 in July 2018 after a string of development problems.
There is some evidence the aircraft may have been active in Syria in early 2018, but the plane remains unready for combat at this time. Military analyst Michael Kofman previously told Business Insider that the Su-57 is “a poor man’s stealth aircraft,” adding that it doesn’t quite stack up to the F-35 or F-22.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The B-52 has been serving in America’s nuclear deterrent arsenal since 1952. But a lot has changed on the BUFF and its mission since it was on the front line against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The strategic bomber has gone from being designed to deliver huge nuclear bombs on Russia to dropping precision-guided conventional bombs on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Today, it is far more likely to deliver its nukes using air-launched cruise missiles than a gravity bomb.
But little did most people know that part of its post-World War II heritage equipped the lengthy bomber with tail guns.
The retirement of Chief Master Sgt. Rob Wellbaum is notable since he was the last of the B-52 tail gunners in the Air Force. Most versions of the BUFF had four .50-caliber M3 machine guns – fast-firing versions of the historic Ma Deuce (1,000 rounds per minute, according to GlobalSecurity.org) that were also used on the F-86 Sabre. Two B-52 versions went with different armament options, the B-52B (twin 20mm cannon in some planes) and the B-52H (an M61 Vulcan).
In the B-52G and H, the tail gunners were in the main cabin, using a remotely operated turret. Earlier models had the tail gunners sitting in a shooters seat in the rear of the plane, providing the BUFF an extra set of eyes to detect SAM launches.
Those tail guns even saw some action. During the Vietnam War, three B-52Ds used their tail guns to score kills. All three of the victims were North Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbeds, who found out the hard way that the BUFFs weren’t helpless targets on their six.
The B-52s up to the G model ultimately used the MD-9 fire-control system for the tail guns. The B-52G used the AN/ASG-15 for its remotely-operated quad .50 caliber turret while the B-52H used the AN/ASG-21 to guide its M61 Vulcan.
An incident during Operation Desert Storm, though, would soon change things for the BUFF. A friendly-fire incident occurred when a tailgunner thought an Iraqi plane was closing in. The plane was actually an Air Force F-4G Wild Weasel. The crew of the U.S. jet mistook the B-52G’s AN/ASG-15 for an enemy air-defense system. The Weasel crew fired an AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile, which damaged the BUFF. The BUFF returned to base, and was reportedly named “In HARM’s Way” as a result.
Shortly after the misunderstanding, the Air Force announced that the tail guns were going away.
So, for all intents and purposes, a generation has passed since the B-52 had a tail gunner. Gone are the days when a fighter had to watch its steps when trying to get behind the B-52. To get a glimpse at what was lost, check out the video below.
It’s the mission of all branches of the U.S. military to protect all citizens, defend liberty and uphold the Constitution. Being a good citizen entails giving back to each branch in every way we can.
The Green Berets, founded in 1952 by John F. Kennedy, are celebrating their 68th birthday today. Take a moment to honor some special members of the “warrior-diplomat” ranks as they continue to protect and honor our country.
Look to the heroic acts of Sergeant Matthew Williams, who took heroic action to save the lives of his fellow soldiers in the Battle of Shok Valley, which took place in Afghanistan in 2008.
According to other Berets who had been in Williams’ regimen, Williams helped to evacuate two soldiers who had been shot from the battle. Williams saved the soldiers’ lives and endured minimal casualties.
Williams had been deployed multiple times, serving in Afghanistan and in other areas of need. Trump upgraded Williams’ Silver Star, which he earned in 2008, to a Medal of Honor on October 3, 2019.
Regarding Williams’ actions, Trump noted that, “Matt’s incredible heroism helped ensure that not a single American soldier died in the battle of Shok Valley.” Further, he noted that,””Matt is without question and without reservation one of the bravest soldiers and people I have ever met. He’s a brave guy. And he’s a great guy.”
Williams added, “”I hope I can wear the Medal with honor and distinction and represent something that’s much bigger than myself, which is what it means to be on a team of brothers, and what it means to be an elite Special Forces soldier.”
Ronald J. Shurer
Additionally, another Special Forces Soldier who fought in the same battle was also awarded a Medal of Honor: Ronald J. Shurer. Shurer, a medic, ran through open fire to aid a soldier who had shrapnel stuck in his neck. In total, Shurer aided four wounded soldiers despite suffering gunshot wounds himself.
The deep moral dedication needed to selflessly aid others in the face of a surprise attack by 200 soldiers is astounding and something to be proud of.
Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace
The valor of the Green Berets stretches back to their inception. Humbert Roque Versace (nicknamed “Rocky” by his colleagues) joined the Armed Forces in Norfolk in 1937, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush for his heroic actions as a prisoner of War in Vietnam.
In addition to his prestigious Medal of Honor, Versace was honored in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes by Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki.
Like Versace, a number of Green Berets have been awarded a Medal of Honor for heroic action in Vietnam. However, soldier Melvin Morris was awarded a MOH not for heroic action as a prisoner of war, but for retrieving the body of a fallen sergeant after pushing back enemy lines single handedly with a bag of grenades. The Beret even was able to free his battalion from the enemy forces that oppressed it in this crusade.
Morris was shot three times in the endeavor but survived after being rushed to medical care. He was awarded a MOH by President Obama in 2014 and was later indicted into the Hall of Heroes.
The Green Berets are not only heroes – they are also innovators. 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels was tired of seeing the American Flag burned in times of trial, such as the ones we’re in now, and invented a flag that physically won’t burn. The Firebrand Flag Company now proudly boasts fireproof flags, a symbol of the America we know and love. Fire and oppression won’t bring us down.
Each member of the U.S. Armed Forces, before being indicted to the military, pledges to:
“Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [that I will] bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and [that I will] obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”
President Kennedy established the Green Berets with the promise that the elite unit of the military would be, “A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” The Green Berets are not just capable of their mission, they are excellent in upholding their duty to our country.
Honor any Green Berets you may know, today and any other day. It’s all too easy to forget that the life of an American soldier is dedicated to the well-being of our country, something which, in good conscience, should not be forgotten and honored in every way possible.
In the opening hours of the next Korean War, the North could kill upwards of 250,000 people using just conventional artillery, to say nothing of nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles, a January 2019 Rand Corporation report found. Those numbers are just from the South Korean capital alone.
And there is little the United States could do about it.
The North’s big gun is essentially a self-propelled coastal defense gun, the Koksan 170 mm, mounted on a tank and firing rocket-propelled shells up to 40 miles in any direction. Since the crews work outside of the weapon and North Korea’s air force could do little to protect them, the North had to devise a means of reloading the guns after firing, when they’re exposed and vulnerable.
Some 10 million people live within firing range of the Korean demilitarized zone, living and working every day with hundreds of guns pointed at their heads. This includes the population of Seoul as well as the tens of thousands of U.S. and South Korean military personnel stationed on the peninsula. Most of them live within the 25-mile range of Communist artillery pointed at the South, but North Korea has some pieces that can fire as far as 125 miles, affecting a further 22 million people. It’s not a good situation for defending South Korea or protecting our forces.
“Conservative predictions of a likely attack scenario anticipate an initial artillery barrage focused on military targets, which would result in significant casualties,” said U.S. Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, head of U.S. Forces Korea. “A larger attack targeting civilians would yield several thousand casualties with the potential to affect millions… within the first 24 hours.”
North Korea has thousands of artillery pieces that could fire tens of thousands of rounds during a 10-minute barrage. The big Koksan 170 carries 12 rounds of its own before it has to go re-arm itself. Since any ammunition depots would be as vulnerable to enemy aircraft as the artillery themselves, North Korea has constructed thousands of reinforced underground bunkers near the DMZ to hold ammo and house the guns.
As a result, in an opening salvo, North Korean artillery are likely to use what military planners call a “shoot n’ scoot” tactic. The guns will come out of the bunkers to fire off their rounds and then go right back into hiding to reload and prepare for another volley in rapid succession. This will make it difficult for allied airpower to track and kill the weapons.
The best scenario for Seoul is that the Koksan 170 requires a specialized round to hit Seoul, one the North may have in limited quantities. Even if they do fire at a high rate, it’s likely the barrels of the weapons will heat up to a degree that the ideal rate of fire U.S. military planners plan against won’t be the actual rate used in combat. Another potential advantage for the UN forces is the area covered by the guns. If North Korea wants to destroy Seoul in the first few minutes of a war, all of its weapons would need to be trained on Seoul, work perfectly, and have the maximum rate of fire for a skilled crew – while UN planes and artillery are shooting back.
US aircraft carriers are a “tremendous expression of US national power,” and that makes them a target for adversarial powers, the US Navy’s top admiral said Feb. 6, 2019.
“The big thing that is occupying our minds right now is the advent of long-range precision weapons, whether those are land-based ballistic missiles, coastal-defense cruise missiles, you name it,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said at the Atlantic Council, adding that the systems wielded by adversaries are “becoming more capable.”
Chinese media has recently been hyping its “carrier-killer” DF-26 ballistic missiles, which are reportedly able to hit targets as far as 3,500 miles away. China released footage of the Chinese military test-firing the missile in January 2019.
DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.
The purpose is to send “a clear message to the US about China’s growing missile capability, and that it can hold at risk US strategic assets, such as carriers and bases,” Adam Ni, who researches China at Macquarie University in Sydney, recently told the South China Morning Post.
“There’s two sides, an offensive part and a defensive part,” Richardson said Feb. 6, 2019, stressing that the Navy’s carriers are adapting to the new threats. “The advent of some of new technologies, particularly directed energy technologies coupled with the emerging power generation capabilities on carriers, is going to make them a much, much more difficult target to hit.”
Speaking with the crew of the new supercarrier USS Gerald R. Ford on Feb. 5, 2019, Richardson said, “You are going to be able to host a whole cadre of weapons that right now we can just start to dream about. We’re talking about electric weapons, high energy laser, high-powered microwave [and] very, very capable radars.”
Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)
The expensive billion carrier is expected to be deployed in the next few years.
“Rather than expressing the carrier as uniquely vulnerable, I would say it is the most survivable airfield within the field of fire,” Richardson said Feb. 6, 2019, in response to questions about carrier vulnerability. “This is an airfield that can move 720 miles a day that has tremendous self-defense capabilities.”
“If you think about the sequence of events that has to emerge to be able to target and hit something that can move that much, and each step in that chain of events can be disrupted from the sensing part all the way back to the homing part, it’s the most survivable airfield in the area,” he said.
Richardson said the carrier is less vulnerable now than at any time since World War II, when the US Navy was putting carriers in action, and those carriers were in combat taking hits. “The carrier is going to be a viable force element for the foreseeable future.”
US carriers are particularly hard, albeit not impossible, to kill.
“It wouldn’t be impossible to hit an aircraft carrier, but unless they hit it with a nuke, an aircraft carrier should be able to take on substantial damage,” retired Capt. Talbot Manvel, who served as an aircraft-carrier engineer and was involved in the design of the new Ford-class carriers, told Business Insider previously.
US carriers “can take a lick and keep on ticking,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Navy will launch formal flight testing in 2021 for a new, first-of-its kind carrier-launched drone engineered to double the attack range of F-18 fighters, F-35Cs, and other carrier aircraft.
The emerging Navy MQ-25 Stingray program, to enter service in the mid-2020s, will bring a new generation of technology by engineering a new unmanned re-fueler for the carrier air wing.
“The program expects to be in flight test by 2021 and achieve initial operational capability by 2024,” Jamie Cosgrove, spokeswoman for Naval Air Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.
The Navy recently awarded a development deal to Boeing to further engineer and test the MQ-25.
A central key question informs the core of this technology effort: What if the attack capability of carrier fighters, such as an F-18 or F-35C, could double the range at which they hold enemy targets at risk? Could such a prospect substantially extend the envelope of offensive attack operations, while allowing carriers themselves to operate at safer distances?
The Navy believes so; “the MQ-25 will provide a robust organic refueling capability, extending the range of the carrier air wing to make better use of Navy combat strike fighters,” Cosgrove said.
Perhaps enemy targets 1,000 miles away, at sea or deep inland, could successfully be destroyed by carrier-launched fighters operating with a vastly expanded combat radius. Wouldn’t this be of crucial importance in a world of quickly evolving high-tech missile and aircraft threats from potential adversaries such as near-peer rivals? Perhaps of equal or greater relevance, what if the re-fueler were a drone, able to operate in forward high-risk locations to support fighter jets – all while not placing a large manned tanker aircraft within range of enemy fire?
Boeing’s MQ-25 Stingray.
The emergence of a drone of this kind bears prominently upon ongoing questions about the future of aircraft carriers in light of today’s fast-changing threat environment. Chinese DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship guided missiles, for instance, are said to be able to destroy targets as far away as 900 nautical miles. While there is some question about these weapon’s ability to strike moving targets, and carriers of course are armed with a wide range of layered defenses, the Chinese weapon does bring a substantial risk potentially great enough to require carriers to operate much further from shore.
In this scenario, these Chinese so-called “carrier-killer” missiles could, quite possibly, push a carrier back to a point where its fighters no longer have range to strike inland enemy targets from the air. The new drone is being engineered, at least in large measure, as a specific way to address this problem. If the attack distance of an F-18, which might have a combat radius of 500 miles or so, can double – then carrier-based fighters can strike targets as far as 1000 miles away if they are refueled from the air.
Also, despite the emergence of weapons such as the DF-21D, senior Navy leaders and some analysts have questioned the ability of precision-guided long-range missile to actually hit and destroy carriers on the move at 30-knots from 1,000 miles away. Targeting, guidance on the move fire control, ISR and other assets are necessary for these kinds of weapons to function as advertised. GPS, inertial measurement units, advanced sensors and dual-mode seekers are part of a handful of fast-developing technologies able to address some of these challenges, yet it does not seem clear that long-range anti-ship missiles such as the DF-21D will actually be able to destroy carriers on the move at the described distances.
A U.S. Navy X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrator aircraft prepares to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Furthermore, the Navy is rapidly advancing ship-based defensive weapons, electronic warfare applications, lasers, and technologies able to identify and destroy approaching anti-ship cruise missile from ranges beyond the horizon. Carriers often travel in Carrier Strike Groups where they are surrounded by destroyers and cruisers able to provide additional protection. One such example of this includes the now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air system, or NIFC-CA. This technology combines ship-based radar and fire control systems with an aerial sensor and dual-mode SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching threats from beyond-the-horizon. Ship-based laser weapons and rail guns, in addition, could be among lower-cost ship defense weapons as well.
The MQ-25A Stingray is evolving out of a now-cancelled carrier-launched ISR and attack drone program called Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system, or UCLASS.
A Northrop demonstrator aircraft, called the X-47B, has already performed successful carrier drone take-offs and landings. Accordingly, the ability of the Navy to operate a drone on an aircraft carrier is already progressing and has been demonstrated.
An existing large fuselage tanker, such as the emerging Air Force KC-46A, might have too large a radar signature and therefore be far too vulnerable to enemy attack. This, quite naturally, then creates the need for a drone able to better elude enemy radar and refuel attack aircraft on its way to a mission.
The early engineering process thus far has been geared toward MQ-25A Stingray technical and task analysis efforts spanning air vehicle capabilities, carrier suitability and integration, missions systems and software — including cybersecurity.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
How do you keep a country hermetically sealed off from the news in a world where the internet exists?
That’s the fundamental challenge for North Korea, the hermit kingdom whose citizens have been kept in the dark both literally and figuratively. The internet, smartphones, laptops, TV, film, radio exist, but not as most people would be familiar with them. Radio and TV sets are configured so North Koreans can’t tune into anything other than the domestic broadcasts, and the internet isn’t widely accessible to the population.
But it’s increasingly hard for North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, to control the stream of illicit microSD cards and SIM cards flowing over the border from China, which contain illegal foreign media or allow people to access the internet unfettered.
A new report by journalist and North Korea tech expert Martyn Williams for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) sheds new light on the ways Kim and his regime use technology to continue keeping the population in the dark — from signal jamming radios to modifying Android to spy on people.
1. North Korea tightly controls the internet
North Korea isn’t totally cut off from the internet, as evidenced by the numerous hacks thought to be perpetrated by state hackers operating inside the country.
Man using smartphone in Pyongyang, North Korea.
But it is tightly controlled at the network level and historically hasn’t really been open to the general population. That is changing, with more citizens buying smartphones.
As Martyn Williams notes in his report: “The entire infrastructure is State-run and the security services are heavily integrated in the running of the telecommunications network.”
Everything is monitored by a state agency called Bureau 27, or the Transmission Surveillance Bureau.
2. North Korea imports cheap Chinese Android phones, then modifies the software to spy on people
North Korea isn’t totally cut off from everyday innovations like mobile data or smartphones. Citizens can buy smartphones that were manufactured in China, but are distributed under a North Korean brand name. The phones look a lot like the cheap Android phones you could buy in any shop — but these come pre-loaded with spyware and software tailored by the state.
Alternatively, citizens can buy their own unlocked devices smuggled across the Chinese border, but they face being tracked via North Korea’s mobile network.
It’s the same on PCs, with North Korea producing a Linux-based operating system called “Red Star” that can snoop on user activity.
3. The spyware can monitor what sites people are looking at
According to Williams, North Korean phones run on Android, the open source mobile software. Engineers have modified the software to include a background program called “Red Flag”, which spies on everything a user does and takes screenshots at random intervals to capture their activity. Those screenshots are recorded on a database called “Trace Viewer.”
Although North Korea probably doesn’t have the resources to check everyone’s screenshots, Williams noted that it’s a great mechanism to get people to self-censor out of pure fear.
4. If you open a foreign media file on a North Korean device, the regime will know about it
According to the report, North Korean engineers created file watermarking software that essentially tags and monitors any media file that’s opened on a device, whether that’s a PC or mobile.
Anyone watching a foreign film on their device would have that file tagged and tracked. The tag can track every device on which the file is viewed — so if one person in particular is distributing lots of foreign media with fellow citizens, the regime would probably find out.
5. The state operates a ‘split’ mobile network, where North Koreans can’t phone anyone outside the country
North Korea does have a telecommunications system, and the current version is a joint venture with an Egyptian firm called Orascom.
The network is split into two halves, according to Williams’ report, meaning both North Korean tourists and foreign citizens can make calls and send texts inside the country — but neither can communicate with the other.
Described as a “firewall”, Williams writes that this is set at the account level. He adds that domestic citizens have phone numbers prefixed with 191-260, while phones for foreigners have numbers that begin with 191-250.
Tourist SIM cards have found their way back into the country — so North Korea has begun deactivating them so there’s no risk citizens can get hold of SIM cards that let them access the broader internet or foreign calls.
6. It’s probably a death sentence for watching porn
Williams spoke to a number of North Korean defectors, people who fled the regime into China, Japan, or South Korea.
They reported that the regime will put people to death for watching foreign content, especially for anything as illicit as porn, or anything criticizing the Kim family.
“Watching pornography is strongly restricted. I’ve heard you can get executed for watching pornography,” according to one escapee.
An Amnesty International report also found that a man who watched porn with his wife and another woman was executed, with the entire city summoned to watch his death.
But porn smuggled in on discs remains highly valuable, costing as much as 0
Unsurprisingly, few escapees are willing to talk about their porn habits.
But citing a source who knows about illegal smuggling between North Korea and China, Williams states that SD cards containing porn can fetch up to 0. That price reflects both the high demand and the extreme risk of smuggling the material across.
7. All radios sold in North Korea are fixed to government frequencies
North Koreans buying a radio through official channels will find the device locked only onto government-approved frequencies. Listening to foreign radio, or watching foreign TV, is illegal and the government regularly carries out raids to make sure people aren’t consuming anything subversive. (Lots of North Koreans have a second radio or TV which can receive foreign broadcasts and which they keep hidden, and show their “official” device to any inspectors.)
(Photo by Rob Sarmiento)
According to Williams, North Korea jams foreign radio signals. This, he writes, involves “transmitting loud noise” on the same frequencies to overpower the broadcast. In particular, North Korea focuses on jamming two stations run by South Korea’s intelligence service, called Voice of the People and Echo of Hope.
8. The state distracts people with homegrown mobile games
In a cloistered world where entertainment is low-quality or scarce, food is hard to come by, and the work repetitive and unfulfilling, it’s little wonder that foreign films and international TV holds some allure to North Korean citizens.
The state has, according to Williams’ report, come up with a softball distraction method: offer homegrown smartphone games.
The report claims there are up to 125 mobile games available to play on North Korean mobile devices, such as “Volleyball 2016” and another title called “Future Cities.” The BBC in September reported that North Korea had created a Ronaldo-focused mobile game that was becoming popular.
The idea is this: if citizens spend their leisure time playing domestically produced games (and paying for them), they’re not spending their cash on illegally smuggled media.
9. Open WiFi networks are banned
North Korea has gone to extreme lengths to make sure its citizens can’t casually access the foreign internet (or any internet).
For a time, according to Williams’ report, foreign embassies in capital city Pyongyang ran open WiFi networks. Enterprising citizens with smartphones lingered nearby to browse the internet without being caught — until the state cottoned on and banned open networks.
Eventually, North Korea introduced its own public Mirae (Korean for “future”) public network. It requires an app to use and, according to state media, only offers people access to North Korea’s intranet and not the global internet.
10. Shifting to tightly controlled streaming TV tech
North Korea doesn’t have Netflix but, like much of the rest of the world, it is shifting to streaming TV.
According to Williams’ report, there are two homegrown IPTV services, but the more popular one is called Manbang. Just like phones, the set-top box is built cheaply in China, imported, then reskinned as a domestically branded device.
People who own a Manbang device can stream a huge amount of state output, but can’t tune into to foreign services. For now, people can also tune into traditional, over-the-air broadcasts (including foreign ones, if they have a hidden TV set). But, Williams concludes, North Korea could ban traditional broadcasts altogether and only put out content through IPTV.
This would make it even tougher for North Koreans to access foreign broadcasts.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Marines volunteering through the Single Marine Program aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico got a taste of World War II at the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles on Aug. 17, 2013. The volunteers, wearing World War II-era Marine uniforms, engaged a fixed position with period weapons including an M2 flamethrower.
One of the most decorated soldiers in American history had his big day on Jan. 26, 1945. For three hours, he fought off dozens of advancing Nazi troops, coming at him from three sides. He did it with a field phone, an M2 Browning .50-cal, and his trusty M1 Carbine. General MacArthur called the M1 carbine, “One of the strongest contribution factors in our victory in the Pacific.”
That carbine was a weapon designed just for Army paratroopers in World War II. It had its shortcomings, but its reliability would ensure it would see action in three American wars — and was even a preferred weapon of the enemy. But not many people know the steadfast weapon was designed by a self-taught gunsmith, one-time moonshiner, and convicted felon.
David Williams started making moonshine in North Carolina’s backcountry in 1919. The only problem was the Cumberland County native was good at it — really good. Soon, word spread about the quality of the young man’s whiskey. With the rise of Prohibition in 1920, his elevated status soon became unwanted attention. The very next year, his still was raided by local law enforcement, and a shootout ensued. Williams shot and killed a deputy sheriff.
He was captured, convicted of second-degree murder, and sentenced to 30 years in state prison.
The man who would later earn the nickname “carbine” spent a lot of time in both the prison blacksmith shop, as well as solitary confinement. An inventive tinkerer with no formal training, he spent his time in the box thinking of new ways to improve existing machines — including firearms. He began to make spare parts from scrap metal and wood, which, in turn, earned him more time in the shop. The more time he spent in the shop, the more good he did for himself and society.
It turns out the uneducated tinkerer was exceptionally adept with machine parts. He invented the floating chamber, a mechanism that allowed a larger caliber rifle to fire smaller .22 ammo. While other prisoners were known for building homemade knives, Williams was able to construct rifles from scraps.
He earned an early release in 1929 and returned to his farm, where he constructed a large workshop and began to refine his inventions. Eventually, he was employed by the Winchester Repeating Firearms Company. Just before World War II broke out for the United States, he was able to develop a carbine version of the M1 Garand Rifle.
A carbine is essentially a shorter version of an existing rifle. It’s often lighter in weight and uses a shorter barrel but doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of consistency or accuracy. The M1 carbine, however, was not just a carbine version of the M1 Garand. The two firearms used different ammunition, and the only features they shared were the buttplate and screw. But there was a need for lighter weapons among paratroopers and support crew.
Williams self-designed and built a short-stroke gas piston while in prison and incorporated it into his design for a lighter-weight infantry rifle. In trials, “Carbine” WIlliams’ design proved much more effective and consistent than other gun manufacturers, especially in sandy conditions — an environment that would prove very important to the Marine Corps.
By the end of World War II, the U.S. Military produced more than six million M1 Carbine rifles to use against the Nazis and the Japanese, making it America’s most-produced small arm of the war, edging out the iconic M1 Garand by more than a million units.
Imagine how long it takes to reprogram millions of years of evolution in the human brain, trying to snuff out the instincts that kept early humans alive. Forcibly changing those instincts to instead train an individual to put themselves in harm’s way. If you ask a Navy SEAL, he’ll tell it takes about about six months, give or take — the amount of time you need to get through BUD/S.
If it ever seemed like SEALs and SEAL veterans just tend to think differently than most other civilians and veterans, then you’re on to something. Their brains have actually been reprogrammed, specifically within the amygdala, to process fear differently from everyone else.
Fear is a primal instinct that kept a lot of early humans from becoming food for dire wolves and cave hyenas. These days, humans have fewer cave hyenas to worry about, but that instinct still keeps us from walking down a dark alley in a tough neighborhood at night. Fear helps us manage risk and book it out of a situation that overwhelms us. The part of the brain that processes fear is the amygdala, which actually processes all emotions.
With fear present, the amygdala alerts the brain stem, which causes you to sweat, causes your heart to race, and initiates your body’s “fight or flight” response. The amygdala’s emotional response process is twice as fast as the frontal lobe’s logical decision-making processes.
Humans, as it turns out, are emotional creatures. The Navy takes full advantage of that.
“We introduce our students, on day one, to absolute chaos,” Capt. Roger Herbert, then-commander of the SEAL training program at Coronado Island, told the History Channel. “When you look at historic mistakes on the battlefield, they’re almost always associated with fear and panic. So, the capacity to control these impulses is extremely important.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Zack Schaffer, U.S. Navy SEAL and an advanced training instructor, engages targets during a close quarters defense hooded-box drill at Naval Special Warfare Advanced Training Command. The drill tests operators’ ability to quickly react to lethal and non-lethal threats with the appropriate use of force. Individual augmentees are used as role players during each scenario.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michelle Kapica)
Navy SEAL recruits are put through special training to change how their brains react to fear. The Navy wanted to know why lifelong athletes could fail BUD/S training while some kids who never saw the ocean before the Navy could succeed.
One close-quarters combat exercise, the hooded box drill, involves putting a hood on a SEAL candidate that renders them blind and deaf, and then putting them in a combat situation. The hood is then ripped off and the candidate has to respond in seconds.
Sometimes, the response needs to be lethal and sometimes it needs to be nonviolent. Panic is not an option. Constant exposure to fear results in experiencing suppressed emotional responses and less lag time between the fear response and the frontal lobe logic process.
A gap between the two responses could leave a special operator standing frozen, unable to respond, not knowing what to do next. Navy SEALs do not have this problem.
Thirty years ago, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty, which called for the elimination of all ground launched-surface-to-surface missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,417 miles). This treaty held through the 1990s and most of the 2000s, but in recent years, there have been allegations of Russian non-compliance.
Details on the new missile are scarce, as the system’s development has begun. One likely option would be to try to bring back the ground-launched version of the Tomahawk. Another option could be to launch Tomahawks from an Aegis Ashore base. The Tomahawk can be launched from the same vertical-launch cells as the RIM-161 Standard Missile, or SM-3, used in Aegis Ashore. A 2016 release from Lockheed Martin noted that an Aegis Ashore base in Romania is active, and one in Poland is under construction.
The Wall Street Journal noted that the Pentagon’s intention is to hopefully force Russia to comply with the 1987 treaty. However, should Russia not go back into compliance, a source told the paper that the United States is determined to be ready if the Russians choose to “live in a post-INF world … if that is the world the Russians want,” as one official put it.
The Hill reported that during meetings with other NATO defense ministers at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Secretary of Defense James Mattis states that Russia’s violations raise “concern about Russia’s willingness to live up to the accords that it’s signed, the treaties it’s signed.”