Pentagon taps Elon Musk's SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons

SpaceX has won a $149 million Department of Defense contract to build satellites to track hypersonic missiles, marking the first government contract for building such equipment for Elon Musk‘s groundbreaking commercial spaceflight company.

As part of the Space Development Agency’s planned “mega-constellation” of weapons-tracking satellites, both SpaceX and L3 Harris Technologies Inc. will produce four satellites for the Pentagon to track hypersonic weapons. The L3 Harris contract to build its four satellites is reportedly valued at $193 million.


The eight commercially produced satellites will be equipped with wide field of view (WFOV) overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensors. Those satellites will form the first layer of a planned surveillance network to track hypersonic missiles.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons

The Air Force conducts latest hypersonic weapon flight test: Master Sgt. John Malloy and Staff Sgt. Jacob Puente, both from 912th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, secure the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon Instrumented Measurement Vehicle 2 as it is loaded under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Aug. 6. US Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem, courtesy of DVIDS.

Under the Space Development Agency’s National Defense Space Architecture, the US will put into orbit a constellation of hundreds of satellites, primarily in low Earth orbit, to track maneuverable hypersonic missiles — a weapons technology currently under development by both Russia and China.

In 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled new weapons that he touted would be able to defeat US missile defense systems. Among those new weapons was the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, supposedly capable of flying at Mach 27. The Avangard reportedly went operational in December.

Beijing, too, is developing new hypersonic weapons. In August, China tested a ballistic missile capable of carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle.

The flight paths of intercontinental ballistic missiles — which are essentially lobbed in an arc from their launch point — can be relatively easily predicted after launch. Hypersonic missiles, on the other hand, can be steered in flight, making them much harder to track and a more evasive mark for anti-missile defense systems.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons

On Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 7:29 a.m. EDT, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo courtesy of SpaceX via Twitter.

The US Missile Defense Agency and the Space Development Agency are developing the Hypersonic and Ballistic Missile Tracking Space Sensor, which will help track hypersonic threats. However, some experts warn the program doesn’t have enough funding and is plagued with challenges when it comes to integrating with other missile defense systems and linking to advanced interceptors and directed energy weapons.

The US Space Force already possesses missile-tracking satellites in high geosynchronous orbits. The new satellites to track hypersonic threats will operate from much lower orbits and will therefore have a comparatively limited field of view, requiring the creation of a constellation of satellites that can effectively hand off tracking responsibilities as they follow the flight path of a hypersonic weapon from horizon to horizon.

SpaceX and L3 Harris are expected to deliver their combined first batch of eight satellites by fall of 2022. The entire missile-tracking constellation is planned for completion by 2026. Initial operating capability is expected by 2024.

SpaceX has already scored several high-profile government spaceflight contracts. Notably, two NASA astronauts launched to the International Space Station in May aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule, which was powered into orbit by the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. It was the first-ever launch of a space crew aboard a commercial spacecraft, and it marked America’s return to active spaceflight operations after a nine-year hiatus following the last space shuttle flight in 2011.

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SpaceX was also recently selected by the Space Force to carry out national security space launch missions over the next five years.

On another front, SpaceX’s Starlink program is currently creating a mega-constellation of small satellites in low Earth orbit to provide global broadband coverage for high-speed internet access. SpaceX anticipates Starlink will achieve “near global coverage of the populated world by 2021.”

On Tuesday, SpaceX put 60 Starlink satellites into orbit aboard a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX has had 17 missions this year.

Under the new Pentagon contract, SpaceX will use its Starlink assembly plant in Redmond, Washington, to build its four missile-tracking satellites.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how an RPG works

The United States and the Soviets disagreed on almost everything; except the fact that anti-tank infantry capabilities are necessary for decisive offensive combat. The Soviets fear our tanks because of their armor, speed, and firepower and raced us in the manufacture of rocket propelled grenades, also known as RPGs. Due to the variety of RPGs in circulation, we will focus on the RPG-7, the most widely used of all Soviet-era anti-tank weaponry.


Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons

(TRADOC BULLETIN NO. 3 U.S. Army)

The RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher is cheap, simple, and effective. The RPG-7 is part of one of many evolutionary branches of rockets. It is a decedent of the German Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon from which all RPG series stem from. In 1961 the RPG-7 was adopted by Soviet Armed forces.

The RPG-7 is 37.8 inches in length and weighs 14.5 lbs unloaded and 19 lbs when loaded with the 85mm caliber round (the rocket). It has a rate of fire of 4-6 rounds per minute at an arming range of 5 meters. It has a sighting range of 500 meters and a maximum range of 900 meters, at which point it self destructs. This speed is more or less three football fields per second.

The initial velocity of the rocket is 117 meters per second that increases up to 294 meters per second when the rocket assist engages. At full speed, it can penetrate up to 13 inches of armor at zero degrees.

This weapon has seen a wide range of use throughout the world along with the communist favorite AK-47.

How an RPG 7 works

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The grenade is separated into two parts, the warhead and sustainer motor, and the booster charge. These two parts must be screwed together before the grenade is ready to fire.

When the projectile is first launched it is powered by a small strip powder charge to reduce the backblast area from harming the gunner. At approximately 11 meters the sustainer rocket kicks in, ignites, and boosts the rocket to maximum velocity.

The fins open after launch with canted surfaces that spin the rocket and stabilize the rocket in flight.

The rocket itself is 36.62 inches long and weighs 4.6 pounds. HEAT rounds are olive drab, and practice rounds are black. They use a point impact fuse with a base detonator.

The shape of the warhead is to penetrate tank armor by using the Munroe Effect:

The greatly increased penetration of an explosive into a surface (as of metal or concrete) that is caused by shaping a conical or hemispherical hollow in the forward end of an explosive cartridge – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

When the round detonates a small cone of metal forms and burns through the armor. There is no explosion after the core penetrates the armor, it is often the metal continuing out the other side of the target.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons

Soviets training.

(Larry Cook)

Since the RPG-7 is a direct fire weapon, it’s effectiveness on the battlefield is directly affected by the ability of the gunner. The weapon’s biggest weakness is crosswind when leading a target down range. In winds greater than 7 miles per hour, a gunner cannot expect to hit more than 50% of the time beyond 180 meters. They must calculate both wind direction and velocity, but even then results may vary.

There are two standard sights for this weapon: Iron sights and a telescopic sight.

Iron sights are permanently attached and can sight 200 to 500 meters with no wind or lead adjustment. In a conventional force, it is the backup sight system, but since most forces who use this weapon are unconventional, it is usually the primary.

The Soviet tactical doctrine regarding the RPG-7 states that it is most effective at 300 meters or at a point blank target with a height of two or more meters. The reasoning for 300 meters is that it will reduce the target reaction time to take evasive action or to counterattack. Even if it doesn’t kill the target, it’s still going to scare the sh*t out of it long enough to reload and strike again.

A U.S. Army test against a stationary M60 tank concluded that at 300 meters the probability of a gunner hitting his target is 30%. A second round has a 50% chance of hitting. The round was designed to penetrate 13 inches of armor but in practice penetrates 11 inches of steel instead.

During these tests, the U.S. Army also found that exposed tanks not in defilade are twice as vulnerable as one that is. A troop is to react immediately when fired at by an RPG-7. Because a second round is more likely to hit, it is imperative to suppress with machine guns, pop smoke, and move out of the kill zone.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons

(vietnamwarjournal)

Out of all the Soviet weapons, the deadliest is their propaganda infecting governments around the world.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Apparently this is what it takes to trust a robot

What does it take for a human to trust a robot? That is what Army researchers are uncovering in a new study into how humans and robots work together.

Research into human-agent teaming, or HAT, has examined how the transparency of agents — such as robots, unmanned vehicles or software agents — influences human trust, task performance, workload and perceptions of the agent. Agent transparency refers to its ability to convey to humans its intent, reasoning process and future plans.

New Army-led research finds that human confidence in robots decreases after the robot makes a mistake, even when it is transparent with its reasoning process. The paper, “Agent Transparency and Reliability in Human — Robot Interaction: The Influence on User Confidence and Perceived Reliability,” has been published in the August issue of IEEE-Transactions on Human-Machine Systems.


To date, research has largely focused on HAT with perfectly reliable intelligent agents — meaning the agents do not make mistakes — but this is one of the few studies that has explored how agent transparency interacts with agent reliability. In this latest study, humans witnessed a robot making a mistake, and researchers focused on whether the humans perceived the robot to be less reliable, even when the human was provided insight into the robot’s reasoning process.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons

ASM experimental interface: The left-side monitor displays the lead soldier’s point of view of the task environment.

(U.S. Army illustration)

“Understanding how the robot’s behavior influences their human teammates is crucial to the development of effective human-robot teams, as well as the design of interfaces and communication methods between team members,” said Dr. Julia Wright, principal investigator for this project and researcher at U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, also known as ARL. “This research contributes to the Army’s Multi-Domain Operations efforts to ensure overmatch in artificial intelligence-enabled capabilities. But it is also interdisciplinary, as its findings will inform the work of psychologists, roboticists, engineers, and system designers who are working toward facilitating better understanding between humans and autonomous agents in the effort to make autonomous teammates rather than simply tools.

This research was a joint effort between ARL and the University of Central Florida Institute for Simulations and Training, and is the third and final study in the Autonomous Squad Member project, sponsored by the Office of Secretary of Defense’s Autonomy Research Pilot Initiative. The ASM is a small ground robot that interacts with and communicates with an infantry squad.

Prior ASM studies investigated how a robot would communicate with a human teammate. Using the situation awareness-based Agent Transparency model as a guide, various visualization methods to convey the agent’s goals, intents, reasoning, constraints, and projected outcomes were explored and tested. An at-a-glance iconographic module was developed based on these early study findings, and then was used in subsequent studies to explore the efficacy of agent transparency in HAT.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons

Researchers conducted this study in a simulated environment, in which participants observed a human-agent soldier team, which included the ASM, traversing a training course. The participants’ task was to monitor the team and evaluate the robot. The soldier-robot team encountered various events along the course and responded accordingly. While the soldiers always responded correctly to the event, occasionally the robot misunderstood the situation, leading to incorrect actions. The amount of information the robot shared varied between trials. While the robot always explained its actions, the reasons behind its actions and the expected outcome of its actions, in some trials the robot also shared the reasoning behind its decisions, its underlying logic. Participants viewed multiple soldier-robot teams, and their assessments of the robots were compared.

The study found that regardless of the robot’s transparency in explaining its reasoning, the robot’s reliability was the ultimate determining factor in influencing the participants’ projections of the robot’s future reliability, trust in the robot and perceptions of the robot. That is, after participants witnessed an error, they continued to rate the robot’s reliability lower, even when the robot did not make any subsequent errors. While these evaluations slowly improved over time as long as the robot committed no further errors, participants’ confidence in their own assessments of the robot’s reliability remained lowered throughout the remainder of the trials, when compared to participants who never saw an error. Furthermore, participants who witnessed a robot error reported lower trust in the robot, when compared to those who never witnessed a robot error.

Increasing agent transparency was found to improve participants’ trust in the robot, but only when the robot was collecting or filtering information. This could indicate that sharing in-depth information may mitigate some of the effects of unreliable automation for specific tasks, Wright said. Additionally, participants rated the unreliable robot as less animate, likable, intelligent, and safe than the reliable robot.

“Earlier studies suggest that context matters in determining the usefulness of transparency information,” Wright said. “We need to better understand which tasks require more in-depth understanding of the agent’s reasoning, and how to discern what that depth would entail. Future research should explore ways to deliver transparency information based on the tasking requirements.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Wildcat helicopter was made to hunt enemy subs

Anti-submarine warfare is something that the Royal Navy takes very seriously. Historically, there’s good reason for it: German U-boats have twice tried to blockade Great Britain and each attempt brought about great peril.


Once upon a time, anti-submarine warfare involved ships deploying depth charges but, now, the most effective weapons come from the sky – dropped by helicopters. Choppers are versatile and can be deployed on a variety of sea-faring vessels, which, in essence, makes every destroyer, frigate, and cruiser currently serving into a capable anti-submarine system. Helicopters aboard these ships can fly a fair distance and carry a couple of anti-submarine torpedoes each.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons
A Wildcat HMA.2 of the Royal Navy and an MH-60 Seahawk on the deck of USS Wasp (LHD 1). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zhiwei Tan/Released)

To fill this role today, the Royal Navy relies on the AgustaWestland AW159, officially designated the Wildcat HMA.2. This chopper is a highly evolved version of the Westland Lynx that has served on the Royal Navy’s ships since 1971. But today’s Wildcat has come a long way.

The Wildcat HMA.2 entered service in 2014. It has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest helicopters in the world. It has a range of 483 miles and is armed with a pair of either 7.62mm or .50-caliber machine guns.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons
A Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter from 825 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) in flight over the UK. This helicopter can go 184 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest in the world. (Royal Navy photo)

In terms of anti-submarine armament, the Wildcat uses a pair of Stingray torpedoes. These torpedoes have been around since 1983. They travel at 45 nautical miles per hour and have a roughly five-mile range. It’s warhead packs nearly 100 pounds of high explosive, which is enough to punch a hole in most submarines.

The Wildcat, though, is not limited to carrying torpedoes. It can also carry anti-ship missiles, like the Sea Skua, which saw action in the Falklands and during Desert Storm, making it a formidable tool in nearly any naval scenario.

Learn more about this rotary-wing Wildcat that’s hotter than Sandra Bullock’s character in Speed in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCBedlUcjIU
MIGHTY SPORTS

Lightsaber fencing is now an international sport

If words like foil, epee, and sabre don’t excite you very much, now you can imagine the word “lightsaber” joining them on equal footing – at least that’s what the French Fencing Federation says. The primary governing body of a sport that appeared in every modern Olympic Game since 1904 recognizes the appeal of the glowing futuristic weapon. And so should you.


This means – in France at least – lightsaber dueling is now officially a sport, complete with rules, a governing body, and a growing number of combatants who will compete for its top prize, whatever that turns out to be. The lightsabers used in the tournaments are not (of course) real lightsabers. If this technology existed, it would be more than a news footnote, for sure. The fighters use polycarbonate weapons with different colors, shapes, and even sound effects.

Like its older cousin, the lightsaber duel’s fighters wear safety pads, follow a rigid time limit, and feature a scorekeeper. Points are awarded depending on where the fighters hit one another: five points for the head, three for the legs, and the first to 15 points wins the match.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons

There is a method to the madness. As one might have guessed by now, the recognition of the sport is partially a publicity stunt, but it’s a stunt for a good reason. The French Fencing Association wants to get kids away from video games and e-sports to compete in something more tangible. The real enemy is the life of a young video gamer, seldom moving from the couch. Instead, the body hopes kids will make it to the darkened room that really shows off the “blades” of the weapon while allowing the fighters to showcase their skills.

One former fencing fighter spent hundreds on his gear and has spent two years practicing the art of lightsaber swordplay. His lightsaber color is green because it’s the Jedi colors and “Yoda is my master.” But those interested in training in the lightsaber arts don’t need to wait for Master Yoda to give the okay – there’s plenty of time to train on your own before lightsaber dueling makes the Olympic Games.

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3 examples of how battlecruisers sucked in a fight

There are some battlecruisers that might have lasted for a bit, but all too often, battlecruisers had a very short combat career — usually ending in a spectacular fashion.


They had originally been designed to carry a set of big guns to blast apart enemy cruisers, but they also had a very high top speed, so they could outrun anything that could give them a fair fight.

The Royal Navy was familiar with battlecruisers blowing up when hit. They saw it happen at Jutland and the Denmark Strait. But Japan had its own bad experience with battlecruisers. Here are three case studies.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons
HIJMS Akagi (US Navy photo)

1. HIJMS Akagi

Okay, technically, this is an aircraft carrier, but she was converted from a battle cruiser. Akagi was impressive – ww2db.com notes she displaced 36,500 tons and was over 850 feet long. She carried as many as 90 planes.

She went down because of one bomb. Granted, it was a 1,000-pound bomb, but it was still just one conventional bomb.

According to the book “Shattered Sword” by Jon Parshall and Anthony Tully, that bomb (plus the presence of aircraft being armed and fueled) lead to catastrophic fires that eventually forced Isoroku Yamamoto to order his old command to be scuttled.

Akagi had packed a powerful punch in six months of combat – including credit for wrecking the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB 37) and damaging the USS West Virginia (BB 48). But she proved to have a glass jaw.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons
Battlecruiser HIJMS Hiei at Saesbo in 1926. She was sunk in 1942. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. HIJMS Hiei

On paper, the HIJMS Hiei (along with her sister ship HIJMS Kirishima) should have torn through Daniel Callaghan’s force at Guadalcanal like a kid through Christmas presents. They were two of the four Kongo-class battlecruisers, and brought the biggest guns to the fight.

But instead, it was Dan Callaghan who triumphed that night (at the cost of his life). As for Hiei? She took an 8-inch armor-piercing shell in the steering compartment, and was left a cripple. The next morning, planes from Henderson Field finished her off.

Crippled by a cruiser, then sunk by planes from the airfield she was supposed to bombard, makes Hiei a classic loser.

Her sister, Kirishima, didn’t fare much better. She went toe-to-toe with the USS Washington (BB 56) two nights later, and was reduced to a wreck before she was scuttled.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons
Two views of HIJMS Kongo as she looked in 1944, the year she was sunk by USS Sealion (SS 315). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. HIJMS Kongo

The lead Kongo-class battlecruiser lasted longer, mostly because during World War II, carriers were rightly seen as the more valuable targets. But when the USS Sealion (SS 315), commanded by Lt. Cdr. Eli Thomas Reich, got her in its sights, Kongo ended up as just another battlecruiser statistic.

Here sources disagree on how many hits she took. Anthony Tully notes at CombinedFleet.com that the Kongo took at least two hits, leading to an eventual capsizing and explosion.

Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison said in the “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II” that a single hit lead to the explosive end of Kongo.

So, there you have it. Three more reasons why battlecruisers are losers — provided by the Japanese Navy.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US doesn’t know what to do with Turkey’s undelivered F-35s

Congress is offering the Defense Department the option to purchase Turkey’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and giving the defense secretary discretion to spend up to $30 million to store the fifth-generation jets until a plan for their use is formalized, according to the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been given the green light to spend funds “to be appropriated for fiscal year 2020 for the Department of Defense to conduct activities associated with storage, preservation, and developing a plan for the final disposition of such F-35 aircraft and Turkish F-35 aircraft equipment, including full mission simulators, helmet-mounted display systems, air system maintenance trainers, and ancillary mission equipment,” the bill states.


That money would fund storage for up to six jets and associated materials. F-35 deliveries to Turkey had originally been slated to occur between late summer and the end of this year.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons

(photo by Tom Reynolds)

Lawmakers will not allow the F-35As once destined for Turkey to be transferred unless that country gets rid of its S-400 surface-to-air-missile systems and associated equipment and promises never to purchase or use the Russian-made weapon again, according to the bill.

“Turkey’s possession of the S-400 air and missile defense system adversely affects the national security of Turkey, the United States, and all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance,” lawmakers said.

In a joint statement provided with the bill Tuesday, Congress said it would “support” the U.S. purchase of all jets originally meant for Turkey. The aircraft have been stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where international pilot training is conducted.

“The conferees also encourage the Secretary of Defense to maximize the procurement quantity of Turkish F-35A aircraft associated with Lots 12, 13, or 14 during fiscal year 2020 using the additional funds authorized in section 4101 of this Act,” according to the statement.

Esper has 90 days from the bill’s passage to provide congressional defense committees a report outlining a long-term plan for Turkey’s F-35s, “which includes options for recovery of costs from Turkey and for unilateral use of such assets,” the bill states.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons

Hill Air Force Base F-35A Lightning IIs fly in formation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Despite months of efforts to sway the NATO ally from purchasing the S-400, known to Moscow as the “F-35 killer,” Pentagon officials have been steadily phasing Turkey out of the JSF program.

The Pentagon in July officially booted Turkey from participating in the program over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 and asked students — pilots and maintainers — attending F-35 training in the U.S. at Luke and at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to leave.

The DoD also began phasing out aircraft parts manufactured by Turkey. Turkish industries produce 937 parts for the F-35, including items for the landing gear and fuselage.

“We’re on the path to March 2020 to transition all of those parts out. … The U.S. absorbed about a 0 million bill for that,” Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said in October.

Lord at the time said top brass estimates that Turkey’s surface-to-air missile systems will be ready to track aircraft in the region by the end of 2019.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines will fly the Osprey until 2060

The Marine Corps is accelerating a massive modernization and readiness overhaul of its MV-22 Osprey to upgrade sensors, add weapons, sustain the fleet, and broaden the mission scope — as part of an effort to extend the life of the aircraft to 2060.

“We plan to have the MV-22B Osprey for at least the next 40 years,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.


While first emerging nearly two decades ago, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has seen an unprecedented uptick in deployments, mission scope, and operational tempo.

As a result, Corps developers explain that the aircraft has, to a large extent, had trouble keeping pace with needed modernization and readiness enhancements. This challenge has been greatly exacerbated by a major increase in Combatant Commander requests for Ospreys, particularly since 2007, Corps officials say.

“The quality of maintenance training curricula, maturation, and standardization has not kept pace with readiness requirements. Current maintenance manning levels are unable to support demands for labor The current V-22 sustainment system cannot realize improved and sustained aircraft readiness / availability without significant change,” the Corps writes in its recently published 2018 Marine Aviation Plan. “Depot-level maintenance cannot keep up with demand.”

Given this scenario, the Corps is implementing key provisions of its Common Configuration, Readiness and Modernization Plan which, according to Burns, is “designed to achieve a common configuration and improve readiness to a minimum of 75-percent mission capable rate across the fleet.”

Corps officials said the idea with Osprey modernization and sustainment is to build upon the lift, speed and versatility of the aircraft’s tiltrotor technology and give the platform more performance characteristics in the future. This includes arming the Osprey with rockets, missiles or some kind of new weapons capability to support its escort mission in hostile or high-threat environments.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons

Other elements of Osprey modernization include improved sensors, mapping and digital connectivity, greater speed and hover ability, better cargo and payload capacity, next-generation avionics and new survivability systems to defend against incoming missiles and small arms fire.

The 2018 Marine Aviation Plan specifies that the CC-RAM program includes more than 75 V-22 aircraft configurations, identified in part by a now completed Mv-22 Operational Independent Readiness Review. CC-RAM calls for improvements to the Osprey’s Multi-Spectral Sensor, computer system, infra-red suppressor technology, generators and landing gear control units, the aviation plan specifies.

As part of this long-term Osprey modernization trajectory, the Marines are now integrating a Command and Control system called Digital Interoperability. This uses data links, radio connectivity and an Iridium Antenna to provide combat-relevant intelligence data and C4ISR information in real-time to Marines — while in-flight on a mission.

In addition, the Osprey is being developed as a tanker aircraft able to perform aerial refueling missions; the idea is to transport fuel and use a probe technology to deliver fuel to key aircraft such as an F/A-18 or F-35C. The V-22 Aerial Refueling System will also be able to refuel other aircraft such as the CH-53E/K, AV-8B Harrier jet and other V-22s, Corps officials said.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons
An F-18
(Photo by Carlos Menendez San Juan)

“Fielding of the full capable system will be in 2019. This system will be able to refuel all MAGTF (Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force) aerial refuel capable aircraft with approximately 10,000 pounds of fuel per each VARS-equipped V-22,” the 2018 Marine Aviation Plan states.

Due to its tiltrotor configuration, the Osprey can hover in helicopter mode for close-in surveillance and vertical landings for things like delivering forces, equipment and supplies — all while being able to transition into airplane mode and hit fixed-wing aircraft speeds. This gives the aircraft an ability to travel up 450 nautical miles to and from a location on a single tank of fuel, Corps officials said. The Osprey can hit maximum speeds of 280 Knots, and can transport a crew of Marines or a few Marines with an Internally Transportable Vehicle.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons
Internally Transportable Vehicle can fly on the Osprey.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Pfc. Alvin Pujols)

Corps developers also emphasize that the V-22 modernization effort will incorporate new technologies emerging from the fast-moving Future Vertical Lift program; this could likely include the integration of newer lightweight composite materials, next-generation sensors, and various kinds of weapons, C4ISR systems and targeting technologies.

Fast-moving iterations of Artificial Intelligence are also likely to figure prominently in future V-22 upgrades. This could include advanced algorithms able to organize and present sensor data, targeting information or navigational details for Marines in-flight.

While the modernization and sustainment overhaul bring the promise of continued relevance and combat effectiveness for the Opsrey, the effort is of course not without challenges. The Corps plan cites concerns about an ability to properly maintain the depot supply chain ability to service the platform in a timely manner, and many over the years have raised the question of just how much a legacy platform can be upgraded before a new model is needed.

Interestingly, as is the case with the Air Force B-52 and Army Chinook, a wide ranging host of upgrades have kept the platforms functional and relevant to a modern threat environment for decades. The Air Force plans to fly its Vietnam era B-52 bomber weill into the 2050s, and the Army’s Chinook is slated to fly for 100 years — from 1960 to 2060 — according to service modernization experts and program managers.

The common thread here is that airframes themselves, while often in need of enhancements and reinforcements, often remain viable if not highly effective for decades. The Osprey therefore, by comparison, is much newer than the B-52 or Chinook, to be sure. This is a key reason why Burns emphasized the “common” aspect of CC-RAM, as the idea is to lay the technical foundation such that the existing platform can quickly embrace new technologies as they emerge. This approach, widely mirrored these days throughout the DoD acquisition community, seeks to architect systems according to a set of common, non-proprietary standards such that it helps establish a new, more efficient paradigm for modernization.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons
A B-52

At the same time, there is also broad consensus that there are limits to how much existing platforms can be modernized before a new aircraft is needed; this is a key reason why the Army is now vigorously immersed in its Future Vertical Lift program which, among other things, is currently advancing a new generation of tiltrotor technology. Furthermore, new airframe designs could, in many ways, be better suited to accommodate new weapons, C4ISR technologies, sensors, protection systems, and avionics. The contours and structure of a new airframe itself could also bring new radar signature reducing properties as well as new mission and crew options.

Navy Osprey

In a concurrent and related development, the Navy is working on its own CVM-22B Osprey variant to emerge in coming years. The project has gained considerable traction ever since the service decided to replace the C-2 for the important Carrier Onboard Delivery mission with the Osprey.

Pentagon taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build satellites to track hypersonic weapons
V-22 Osprey
(Photo by D. Miller)

The Navy Osprey is designed to enable 1,150 miles of flight to the ship with extended fuel tanks. Alongside a needed range increase, the new aircraft will also include a new radio for over-the-horizon communications and a built-in public address system, service officials said.

The new Osprey, slated to first be operational by the early 2020s, will perform the full range of missions currently executed by the C-2s. This includes VIP transport, humanitarian relief mission and regular efforts to deliver food, spare parts and equipment for sailors aboard carriers.

The Navy Osprey variant will take on a wider set of missions than those performed by a C-2. Helicopter or tilt-rotor carrier landings do not require the same amount of preparation as that needed for a C-2 landing; there is no need for a catapult and a tilt-rotor naturally has a much wider envelope with which to maneuver.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Helmets just got new technology to protect your brains

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, has been a major issue in the War on Terror. These injuries are severe and can have a lasting impact. Current helmets, while effective against some combat hazards, such as fragments and, in some cases, bullets, aren’t so great at preventing TBI.


A Swedish company, MIPS, has developed a helmet technology called the Brain Protection System. This technology, which is part of their MIPS:F2 solution, helps protect the wearer from TBI and concussions by mitigating the effects of rotational motion.

The company claims that one reason helmets haven’t protected troops from concussions or TBI is because they’re tested all wrong.

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Most helmets have been tested for falls like the one on the left. (Photo from mipsprotection.com)

Most companies test their helmets by dropping them on a flat surface in a perfectly vertical fashion, but when people fall, how often does it happen like that? We’re willing to bet it’s not very often. In fact, falls are anything but predictable, and those odd angles and impacts are what cause rotational motion, which is conducive to TBI.

To prevent that motion, the Brain Protection System uses a low-friction layer between the liner and the outer shell that permits the helmet to slide, allowing it to absorb more rotational force.

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TBI effects. (Photo from mipsprotection.com)

MIPS doesn’t normally make helmets for the military. Instead, their specialty is helmets for snow sports, where TBI and concussions are common. However, the applications for both law enforcement officers and military personnel are evident.

“With the MIPS:F2 system, we can not only expand that technology into more sports helmet models, but also we can help keep safe those who put their lives on the line to protect our communities every day,” Jordan Thiel, CEO of MIPS said in a release.

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Just how long it will take for this technology to be fully fielded is a matter of budgets, but anything that lowers the number of TBI and concussions is a good thing.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The candy man who revolutionized tank design

The most-produced tank in World War II was fast, powerful, and well protected by sloped armor, and it was made by a candy maker who got tired of confections and decided to make a revolutionary tank instead.

Willy Wonka, eat your heart out.


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The Christie tank designs were ultimately a failure in the U.S., but elements of the company’s designs would become part of dozens of tank designs across Western and Russian militaries.

(Harris Ewing)

Mikhail Koshkin was working in a candy factory until he decided that he wanted to study engineering. Thanks to a series of Josef Stalin’s purges, Koshkin quickly found himself at the top of a program to improve the BT tank. The BT tank series was based on the U.S. Christie design and patents that were sold overseas after the Army turned the Christie down.

Stalin, wanting to see whether his armored forces were worth the price tag, wanted to test the new tanks in combat and got his chance in the Spanish Civil War. The BT tanks proved themselves useful but far, far from perfect. Despite thick armor, anti-tank infantry still often held an advantage against them, and the vehicle engines would burst into flame from light hits or, sometimes, simply from the strain of propelling the tank.

The BT tanks were sent back to Russia by rail for analysis and Koshkin and his team quickly found the flaws in design. The improvements program quickly became a replacement program, and Koshkin started working on a new design in 1934 which he would name for that year, the T-34.

It incorporated a number of design changes being flirted with around the world. It wasn’t the first tank with sloped armor or the first with a diesel engine or the first with a large cannon in a rotating turret, but it was a solid design that incorporated all of these evolutions in design. At the same time that he was working on the T-34, Koshkin had to work on a new BT tank design: the A20.

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Mikhail Koshkin worked in a candy factory but then decided to become an engineer before World War II. His inspired T-34 tank design would become the most-produced tank of World War II.

(Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau)

The A20 would later become the BT-20. It, too, sported a number of improvements, including sloped armor and an improved engine, but it still had relatively little armor for the crew or engine — as little as 20mm in some places.

Both designs, the T-34 and the BT-20, reached Soviet leaders in 1939. There, the officers sidelined the T-34 in favor of the BT-20, partially because the proposed T-34 design would’ve required much more steel for manufacture and much more fuel to run. A prototype BT-20 was created.

But instead of accepting the defeat of his design, Koshkin wrote a letter to Stalin and continued making tweaks before creating a full prototype. Stalin requested to see the tank, and Koshkin drove it 800 miles to Moscow to show it off. The tank proved itself fast, effective, and well-protected, and so Stalin sent it into production instead of the BT-20.

Koshkin died of pneumonia soon after, but his tank design would go on to become the most-produced tank of World War II. Russia took part in the invasion of Poland, but later found itself attacked by Nazi Germany in June, 1941.

As history shows, the Soviet Union soon found itself in a fight for its very survival during World War II. Tanks and other weapons would be imported from America, but the best homegrown option the Soviet Union had was still, easily, the T-34.

The final design pressed into production featured a 76mm gun capable of taking out anything Germany had to offer, its thick and sloped armor could survive hits from most German tanks at the time, and it was easy to maintain in the field, meaning the T-34s were nearly all available for the fight.

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A T-34 tank during battle re-enactments.

(Cezary Piwowarski CC BY-SA 4.0)

When a clash first came between German tanks and the T-34, the Soviet crew surprised the Germans by piercing the German tank in a single shot. German tank crews had convinced themselves that they were nearly invincible until they faced the T-34.

But the Germans had prepared well for the invasion, and they charged east, deep into Russia, overrunning the original T-34 factory and nearly breaching Moscow’s defenses before they were stopped at the final defensive line as the true Russian winter set in.

The relocated T-34 production lines were able to crank out hundreds of copies before the spring thaw, and those tanks were key parts of battles for the coming years. But German tank designs were evolving as well, and the arms race necessitated upgrades to the T-34.

Over 35,000 T-34s were built during the war, with later models featuring upgraded 85mm guns as space for an additional crew member, allowing the tank commander to give up their gunner duties to keep a better eye on what was happening around the vehicle.

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A German soldier inspects a Russian T-34 knocked out during combat. T-34s were super powerful upon their debut, but German bombers and artillery were always a threat to them, and later German tank designs like the Tiger could shred the T-34.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

The Soviet Union was, eventually, successful in driving the Germans out of Russia and back into Berlin. This success was partially due to America sending so much equipment east as part of lend-lease, partially thanks to the U.S., Britain, and Canada opening a new front with the D-Day invasions, and partially thanks to a candy man who decided to make a world-class weapon of war instead of sweets.

Admit it: You’d watch a Willy Wonka sequel like that.

(Some of the information in this article came from the second episode of Age of Tanks on Netflix. If you have a subscription, you can watch the episode here.)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force has already flown a secret plane that could be its next fighter

The U.S. Air Force has quietly built and flown a brand-new aircraft prototype that could become its next-generation fighter, the service’s top acquisition official announced Tuesday.

Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, revealed during the virtual 2020 Air, Space and Cyber conference that the new aircraft is part of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, which defies the traditional categorization of a single platform, featuring a network of advanced fighter aircraft, sensors and weapons in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.


“NGAD right now is designing, assembling, testing in the digital world — exploring things that would have cost time and money to wait for physical world results,” he said. “NGAD has come so far that the full-scale flight demonstrator has already flown in the physical world.”

During a roundtable with reporters, Roper declined to give specifics on the project, except that the craft was created using digital engineering, which allows the service to bypass the regular manufacturing process for parts and gives developers more flexibility to design and change blueprints. The service announced Monday that any weapon made using digital concepts will have an “e-” prefix in an effort to showcase these innovative processes.

The new aircraft has “broken a lot of records and is showing digital engineering isn’t a fluke,” Roper said. He declined to comment on whether the defense industry has taken part in the endeavor.

While he touted the expedited process of digital methods, “we don’t want our adversaries to know what they are,” Roper added.

The news comes four years after the Air Force laid out initial plans for what its future fighter jets might look like.

During the 2019 Paris Air Show, Roper said discussions were ongoing within the service about the need for a proposed sixth-gen fighter concept, which could be the successor to the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, or something more elaborate. That October, the service cut the ribbon on the “Program Executive Office for Advanced Aircraft” during a ceremony at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The Air Force hopes to move fast on its futuristic projects. Roper last year debuted the Digital Century Series acquisition model, with the goal of using interconnectable, agile software and competitive technology prototyping to put together a combat-ready fighter jet in an estimated five years’ time. The service recently finished a business case analysis on the model’s validity, according to Defense News.

The Navy last month revealed that it has established its own NGAD program office in an effort to speed up the fielding of a new fighter prior to the 2030s, according to USNI News. But plans and discussions with industry are in the very early stages, USNI said.

The Air Force has proven it can accelerate and manufacture aircraft: The first “Century Series” aircraft initiative debuted in the 1950s and produced fighter-bomber variants such as the F-100 Super Sabre, which took roughly two and a half years to develop.

While many envision a futuristic manned fighter as a successor to today’s fifth-generation platforms, Roper has said the NGAD program could include fighters and autonomous drones fighting side-by-side.

For example, the autonomous Skyborg — which aims to pair artificial intelligence with a human piloting a fighter jet — is intended for reusable unmanned aerial vehicles in a manned-unmanned teaming mission; the drones are considered “attritable,” or cheap enough that they can be destroyed without significant cost.

In July, the service chose Boeing Co., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems Inc. and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. to move forward on the Skyborg program.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ship is so lethal because of its primary weapon – US Marines

One look at the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), and you know you are looking at a powerful vessel. Just the size alone – about 40,000 tons – makes it a significant asset. But much of what makes the Wasp such a lethal ship isn’t so easy to see when you just look at her from the outside. In this case, what’s on the inside matters more.

One of the biggest changes between the Wasp-class vessels and their predecessors, the Tarawa-class amphibious assault ships, is the fact that they can operate three air-cushion landing craft, known as LCACs. Tarawas can only operate one. This is because when the Tarawa-class was being designed, the LCAC wasn’t even in the fleet.


The Wasp, of course, was able to be designed to operate more LCACs. As such, while these ships are the same size, the Wasp is able to unload the Marines on board with much more speed. Since Marines and their gear are her primary weapons, this makes her much more lethal. It doesn’t stop there.

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Despite both displacing about 40,000 tons, USS Wasp (LHD 1), the fatter ship on the left, is far more capable than USS Saipan (LHA 2).

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

The Wasp is surprisingly versatile. In Tom Clancy’s non-fiction book Marine, he noted that the Wasp-class ships in the Atlantic Fleet that are not at sea are part of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s emergency planning. The reason? These vessels can be configured as hospitals with six operating rooms and as many as 578 hospital beds.

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Yeah, she has helos, but she can also haul a couple dozen Harriers. So, pick the method of your ass-kicking: Air strikes, or 2,000 ticked-off Marines.

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

These ships can also carry MH-53E Super Stallion and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters configured for the aerial minesweeping role. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, two of the Wasp’s sister ships operated a couple of dozen AV-8B Harriers each as “Harrier carriers.”

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In a pinch, the Wasp can even refuel her escorts. Why risk a tanker when the amphibious assault ship can top off a tank?

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

The eight ships in the Wasp class will be around for a while. According to the Federation of American Scientists USS Wasp is slated to be in service until as late as 2039! Learn more about this versatile and lethal ship in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPzNLPSkIUg

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

The IRA created a massive propane tank cannon to fight the British

For almost 40 years, the Irish people endured a constant state of fear stemming from a low-level war that killed thousands of Irish civilians, British troops, and Irish fighters – all in a stunningly understated conflict called “The Troubles.” While British and U.K. loyalist forces were well-equipped and armed for the task, the Irish Republican Army, fighting for a united Ireland, had to improvise a little.


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This is why “Irish Car Bombs” are a thing.

The Irish Republican Army was a homegrown paramilitary organization that was at best outlawed, and at worst, designated a terrorist organization. They were committed to a fully united Ireland by any means necessary and resisted the United Kingdom’s occupation of Northern Ireland, also by any means necessary. This usually meant improvised guns, bombs, and even mortars. That’s how they created what British troops called the Mark 15. The IRA called it the “Barrack Buster.”

Barrack Busters first started to appear in the IRA arsenal in the 1990s and was an improvised 36-centimeter mortar capable of firing three-foot-long propane tanks filled with high explosives. The Mark 15 was usually made of a cooking gas container created for use in rural areas of Ireland. It was capable of launching one of these powerful explosive containers nearly a thousand feet.

The IRA improvised mortars of various sizes and power, and hit not only military barracks, but bases and even 10 Downing Street.

The Mark 15 was described as having the effect of a flying car bomb, that has taken down barracks, helicopters, and even Royal Air Force planes. It was the fifteenth in a line of development that stretched as far back as the early 1970s. It was the largest homemade mortar developed by the Irish Republican Army. The development does stretch to a Mark-16, but that weapon was more of a recoilless rifle than it was a traditional mortar.

Introduction of the giant mortar did have an impact on British forces. The United Kingdom was forced to pull its checkpoints away from the Irish border after the introduction of the Mark 15 mortar. It was so effective as a weapon it was adapted for use by paramilitary forces in other countries and conflicts, including the FARC in Colombia and the Free Syrian Army in Syria.

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