Step aside, Apache - this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter was retired in early 2017 — ending four dozen years of service that started in 1969. Over 2,200 of these helicopters were built and they served as scouts. With their retirement, that role has been passed on to the AH-64 Apache.


Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
An OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter from the 1st Infantry Division takes off on a mission from Forward Operation Base MacKenzie, Iraq. It is armed with an AGM-114 Hellfire and 7 Hydra 70 rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Don’t get us wrong, the Apache is an awesome helicopter, with excellent sensors that can handle the mission. The “problem” is that the Apache also has a lot of payload, notably the M230 cannon with 1,200 rounds of ammo and the ability to carry 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles or four 19-round pods for the Hydra 70mm rockets, or a mix of Hellfires and Hydra rockets.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
An Apache Longbow attack helicopter assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st AD Combat Aviation Brigade also known as ‘Task Force Apocalypse’, fires a Hellfire missile. Enemy troops on the receiving end of this missile will be unavailable for comment. (US Army photo by: Sgt. Aaron R. Braddy/Released)

Now, let’s face it, if the Apache comes across some enemy troops while scouting, such firepower means that the Apache crew will likely be the only ones telling tales of the encounter. But firefights and explosions tend to attract unwanted attention. Or, if you’re out of weapons, you need to go back to base and re-arm.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
A UH-72 Lakota Helicopter of the National Training Center’s Aviation Company provides air superiority cover for the opposition forces engaged with 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division’s ground forces during an encounter in the Siberian Flats at the National Training Center, June 15, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Austin Anyzeski, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment)

Ironically, the solution to the “problem” of using the Apache as a scout helicopter may be here, and it’s from Airbus in the form of the H145M. Think of the H145M as a more potent version of the EC145 that formed the basis for the Army’s UH-72 Lakota helicopter.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
Airbus H145M, showing a gun pod on the left and a 12-round rocket pod on the right. (Photo from Airbus Helicopters)

According to a handout provided by Airbus at the AirSpaceCyber expo in National Harbor, Maryland, the H145M has two pylons that can carry rocket pods, gun pods, air-to-ground missiles like the Hellfire, or air-to-air missiles like the FM-92 Stinger. The H145M also retains a lot of the capabilities of the EC145, including the ability to medevac troops, to carry up to 10 troops, or to carry out search-and-rescue missions.

The H145M has a top speed of 143 nautical miles per hour and a range of 345 nautical miles, It also can carry up to 3,900 pounds of cargo.

Articles

6 ways the US could beef up its short-range air defense

According to DefenseNews.com, the Army is desperate to re-build its short-range air-defense capabilities. One big reason is the fact that Russia has become much more aggressive, making the need to deal with planes like the Su-25 Frogfoot close air support plane a distinct possibility.


So, here are some ideas on how America’s military can get some more surface-to-air punch.

Right now, the main system used by the Army for short-range air defense is the FIM-92 Stinger – used on the Avenger air-defense system and by grunts who carry it by hand.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
The Air Defense Anti-Tank System (ADATS) is a dual-purpose short range surface-to-air and anti-tank missile system based on the M113A2 vehicle. The ADATS missile is a laser-guided supersonic missile with a range of 10 kilometres, with an electro-optical sensor with TV and Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR). The carrying vehicle also has a conventional two-dimensional radar with an effective range of over 25 kilometres. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

1. The MIM-146 ADATS

This system was looked at by the Army in the 1980s, but at the end of the Cold War it got cancelled. Designation-Systems.net notes that Canada did buy 34 systems.

With a speed of Mach 3, and a range of six miles, ADATS has more reach than the Stinger. Canada deployed it on a M113 chassis – the U.S. Army has lots of those – and also tested a new version on the LAV III, their version of the Stryker, according to the Rheinmetall Defense web site.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
AMRAAMs mounted on a Humvee. Versions of this have been called HUMRAAM, CLAWS, or SLAMRAAM. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. NASAM and 3. HUMRAAM/CLAWS/SLAMRAAM

The AIM-120 AMRAAM has been a bedrock of American air-to-air capability for the last 25 years. However, Designation-Systems.net notes that Norway lead the way in developing a version used as a surface-to-air weapon.

The Marines tried out a Humvee-mounted version many called HUMRAAM, but was known as CLAWS, for Complimentary Low-Altitude Weapon System. Army-Technology.com reported that the United States Army was looking at a system, of its own called SLAMRAAM. It would seem to be a quick way to get systems in service.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4PXou0aGiE

4. C-RAM

While originally purchased to defense bases in Iraq and Afghanistan against mortars and rockets, C-RAM is based on the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, or “CIWS,” that was intended to kill missiles like the Russian AS-4 Kitchen. Aircraft and helicopters might not be a problem for the system to track, either.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) conducts a live-fire exercise with the ship’s RIM 116 Rolling Airframe Missile weapon system. Bataan is underway conducting composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group in preparation for an upcoming deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Petty Officer Nicholas Frank Cottone)

5. RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile

Also a Navy point-defense missile system, the RIM-116 is another option for short-range air defense. According to a Navy fact sheet, it weighs about seven tons, has a 7.9-pound warhead, and is supersonic. Designation-Systems.net notes that it has a range of five nautical miles and infra-red guidance. This would be an excellent complement to the SLAMRAAM or CLAWS.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
A MIM-115 Roland fired from Launch Complex 32. (DOD photo)

6. MIM-115 Roland

This is a missile that was widely used by adversaries and allies alike, including France and Germany and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Designation-Systems.net reported that the U.S. tried it out in the 1980s, but never really deployed it. Army-Technology.com adds that the latest version, the VT1, has what amounts to a range of just under seven miles and a speed of almost 2,800 mph. This is probably the most “off-the-shelf” system to purchase — and it would help our allies by lowering the per-unit cost.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How a Marine tore up targets while lying on his back and shooting backwards

The US Army is preparing to field new night vision goggles and an integrated weapons sight that will change the way US ground forces go to war.

The new Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular (ENVG-B) and the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual (FWS-I) will make US soldiers and Marines deadlier in the dark by offering improved depth perception for better mobility and increased situational awareness at night, as well as the ability to accurately shoot around corners and from the hip.

The Army will begin fielding this capability late September 2019 at Fort Riley in Kansas, where this new technology will be delivered to the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.


The night vision goggles offer higher-resolution imagery, as well as improved thermal capabilities, giving ground troops the ability to see through dust, fog, smoke, and other battlefield obscurants.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular.

(US Army photo)

The goggles wirelessly connect to the weapon sight, delivering Rapid Target Acquisition capability. With a picture-in-picture setup, soldiers can see not only what is in front of them, but also whatever their weapon is aimed at, allowing them to shoot from the hip or point their weapon around a corner.

“This capability “enables soldiers to detect, recognize and engage targets accurately from any carry position and with significantly reduced exposure to enemy fire,” according to the Army.

This system was tested with US soldiers, special operators, Marines, and National Guard personnel.

Sgt. First Class Will Roth, a member of the Army Futures Command Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, was skeptical when he first learned about this technology, he told the Army in a statement. “I couldn’t envision a time when soldiers would accept this product and trust it in the field,” he said.

His mind changed after he saw a Marine lie down on his back and fire over his shoulder at targets 50 to 100 meters away, relying solely on the goggles paired wirelessly to the optics on the Marine’s rifle. “He hit five out of seven. It gave me chill bumps,” Roth said.


ENVG-B Final Touchpoint

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“I decided this was an insane game changer,” he added. “I’m a believer, one hundred percent. Nothing else offers these kinds of capabilities.”

Senior Army officials are optimistic about the capabilities of this new technology.

“It is better than anything I’ve experienced in my Army career,” Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, told Congress earlier this year, adding that Rangers had “gone from marksman to expert” with the help of the new optics.

Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, told reporters in October 2018 that he “can’t imagine, right now, any future sighting system that will not have that kind of capability.”

The ENVG-B and FWS-I mark the first deliverables of the US Army’s one-year-old four-star command, Army Futures Command, which is dedicated to the development of next-generation weapons and warfighting systems.

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

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China just tested a new weapon that could blind the US military

China has tested a new anti-satellite weapon, marking a new threat to American space assets like reconnaissance satellites and the Global Positioning System. The Dong Neng 3 missile was previously tested on two occasions, including this past December.


According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the test took place late last month, and was not successful due to a problem with an upper stage of the missile. The test was broadcast on the Internet by a number of users in China near the launch facility. This has been part of a long process as China has pushed to acquire the means to carry out warfare in space.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
Satellite image showing a Kiev-class carrier under construction. (NRO photo)

“Since the early 1990s China has developed four, possibly five, attack-capable space-combat systems,” Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center said. “China may be the only country developing such variety of space weapons to include: ground-based and air-launched counter-space weapons; unmanned space combat and Earth-attack platforms; and dual-use manned platforms.”

Harsh Vasani from Manpaul University in India, noted that the purpose of those systems would be to “counter the United States’ conventional strength and gain strategic parity, Chinese strategists believe, Beijing will need to strike at the U.S. Achilles heel—Washington’s over-reliance on satellites for [command, control, communications, computer, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance]. Beijing plans to exploit the vulnerable space infrastructure of the United States in the case of a war.”

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
Maj. Wilbert ‘Doug’ Pearson successfully launched an anti-satellite, or ASAT, missile from a highly modified F-15A on Sept. 13, 1985 in the Pacific Missile Test Range. He scored a direct hit on the Solwind P78-1 satellite orbiting 340 miles above.(U.S. Air Force photo by Paul E. Reynolds)

The United States has carried out a number of its own anti-satellite tests in the past. Most notable was the 1980s-vintage ASM-135 ASAT missile, capable of being launched by F-15 Eagle air-superiority fighters. After a 1985 test, though, Congress prohibited further tests against satellites, and the program was ended in 1988. The ASM-135 could destroy satellites anywhere from 350 to 620 miles above the Earth.

In 2008, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) used a RIM-161 Standard Missile SM-3 to destroy a failed satellite. Operation Burnt Frost was a success, with the failed satellite being destroyed 133 nautical miles above sea level. China and Russia protested the operation.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
This image shows the interception of a satellite by a SM-3 missile fired by the cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) in 2008. (US Navy photo)

American defense officials claim that the United States has “very robust” capabilities in space. But Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten says that China and Russia have been developing space-warfare capabilities.

Hyten noted that Chinese and Russian threats to American space systems will be “a much nearer-term issue for the commander after me, and for the commander after that person, it will be more significant because the gap is narrowing quickly” between American capabilities and those of China and Russia. A 2013 test of an earlier missile in the Dong Neng series reached up to 18,600 miles over the earth.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
Gen. John E. Hyten, USAF, commander of United States Strategic Command. (DOD photo)

“It’s not very complicated. You treat it as a war-fighting domain. And when you do that, the answers are not that complicated. You have to have increased maneuver capabilities on our satellites. We have to have defensive capabilities to defend ourselves. These are just war fighting problems,” he said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Unit cartoonist’s perspective: Accessorizing the M4 carbine

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

The M4 carbine completely slicked down is already a mighty-fine assault weapon, but nothing is above improvement. With the rise of a hypersensitive world, where one picture can change the game, the great members and I of the unit put out a request for some serious target acquisition and fire control hardware. What we didn’t expect was the flood of equipment some good… some less than helpful.


I’ve seen how the evolution of weapons and kit works among pipe-hitters. It roughly follows this sequence: the newest brothers readily slap every new gadget onto their ARs and love and swear by them all. Soon their ARs become an unruly sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that resembles a deep space cruiser out of Star Wars. Inevitably SHOOTING… becomes a secondary or tertiary function of the… the thing!

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

There finally comes the time when the brother is tired of weeds, branches, socks, and whatever snagged up and caught on his “weapon,” and the fact that he can no longer fire it from the prone or even hold it up steady firing off-hand… he starts to get wiser about his configuration; he resolutely removes from his M4 Carbine:

• the Hubble star finder scope he thought would be great for navigation
• the AM radio receiver dialed into the 24-hour continuous weather variables reporting station he thought would be great for fine aiming adjustments
• the Enterprise Photon Torpedo launch tube and rails are the next to go
• the 22 LR rim-fire spotting sub-rifle comes off; he would just have to learn to zero better
• (approximately) 19 linear feet of Picatinny rail segments
• (finally) the coffee press

But there are some pieces of gear that actually do make the M4 much more lethal than what those Neanderthal iron blade and peep sights have to offer. A red-dot scope will replace those nicely, perhaps even one with a couple of times (X) magnification power thrown in.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

(An example red dot stop superimposes an adjustable red dot where your bullet will

impact)

A forward pistol grip is always a plus, lending stability to the weapon when firing, as it assists with recoil management and site-picture recovery. In the struggle between ‘yes’ forward pistol grip and ‘no’ forward pistol grip, a folding or collapsible pistol grip feature could quell the struggle.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

(A decent representative folding forward pistol grip)

Chamfered, flared, or beveled magazine wells are a real plus for combat shooters who require speed during reloads as well as accuracy. The simple fact is trying to align a rectangular-shaped magazine into a rectangular-shaped magazine well quickly requires a relatively precision alignment, one that takes a split-second more time than you might have.

The flared magazine well attachment provides a gentle sloping angle to the bottom of the well to allow for subtle errors in alignment of the magazine to be accepted foregoing the loss of time due to poor alignment. This feature is just as effective for pistols as well as rifle combat shooters.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

(An after-market flared magazine well attachment. Note the extended bolt release that allows the shooter to seat the magazine and release the bolt in almost the same movement)

Perhaps you may feel the need for a LASER aim point for your AR. That can be a visible red dot that is aligned with your rifle sight and allows you to hit whatever the light dot is on. It allows you to hit a target even without a sight picture such as firing from the hip. This advantage comes heavily into play when the shooter is restricted from his sight picture by the requirement to wear a protective (gas) mask. Carrying out the tactical scenario even farther, you may want your light dot to be infrared and only visible by Night Observation Devices (NODs).

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

(An odd off-brand, small and very inexpensive visible red dot LASER mounted to a 2.5″ Picatinny segment. A device such as this costs less than .00 w/o rail segment.)

We still need illumination. A strong white light source can always be capped by a snap-on/snap-off filter that renders the light to the Infrared spectrum, so no need for two separate devices. Technology affords us the luxury of going from attaching clumsy flashlights to ARs with pipe clamps, to small LED light devices of very high lumens and elegant mountings.

Subject to the accessories dance is the “need” to not only have all of these target acquisition and fire and control devices, but to also have them located in such a configuration that you can activate them all quickly while firing your weapon. After a while, it might seem like trying to play a piano concerto with one hand. Perhaps some of us would be better off playing the one-handed concerto…

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

(Not the lowest profile solution today, but a workable illumination choice nonetheless. This lamp uses a high-lumen Halogen bulb for a flood)

It is an observation of mine that the older guys on the assault team seemed to have the slickest ARs; that is, the ones with the fewest gadgets on them. The reason for that is readily debatable, lending itself never to be fully defined. I think my own Delta Team leader summed it up the best I ever heard during yet another “kit argument.” When he was asked to inject his two cents into the debate, he replied, “Let me tell you something, homes… 50 years ago the American Army assaulted Omaha Beach wearing f*cking WOOL!”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is issuing a Marine Corps sniper rifle to squads

The Marines have often had to follow the Army’s lead on procurement. When the Army wants a rifle, the Marines have to get it as well. Part of this is due to logistics — it’s easier to keep a single set of spare parts. When a unit needs more magazines, it’s simpler to make sure they’re sent the right part when choices are limited. Now, however, the script has been flipped.


Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
Australian Army Pvt. Levi Mooney, right, bumps fists with a child during a patrol in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, July 26, 2013. Mooney carries a HK417 rifle, similar to the M110A1 that will be the new squad-level designated marksman rifle. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Jessi Ann McCormick)

The Army is now following the lead of the Marine Corps and buying a rifle that is based off a Marine project. The new Army weapon system, designated the M110A1, is a scaled-up version of the Marine’s M38 that’s able to fire the 7.62x51mm NATO round.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment fire the M38 Squad Designated Marksmanship Rifle during a live-fire weapons exercise at range F-18 on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 8, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory)

The baseline M110 is a Semi-Automatic Sniper System and is based on a rifle built by Knight Armaments System. The M110 features a 20-shot magazine and a 20-inch Chrome Plated 5R Cut barrel. The system has been used by the Army and Marines for over a decade and was considered one of the Army’s best inventions of 2007.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
U.S. Soldiers with 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team prepare to engage enemy combatants in Chak district, Wardak province, Afghanistan. The kneeling soldier has an M14 Enhanced Battle Rifle, which is being replaced by the M110A1. (DoD photo by Pfc. Donald Watkins, U.S. Army)

The M110A1 is also designated the Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System and is based on the Heckler and Koch G28/HK417 rifle. It is slated to replace modified M14 rifles currently in use by the Army. This is not the first time the Army has used a semi-automatic sniper system. The M21 sniper rifle was used by Army snipers in the Vietnam WarAdelbert Waldron was the top American sniper in that war with 109 confirmed kills. He was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus
A rifle similar to the M110A1, the MR762A1, is available on the civilian market. (Heckler and Koch photo)

The M110A1 will be fielded among Army units later this year. Heckler and Koch, which makes this rifle, also sells a civilian version, the MR762A1.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Since the mid-1950s, the US Air Force’s U-2 Dragon Lady has been cruising the upper reaches of the atmosphere, snooping almost totally unnoticed.

While the mission is pretty much the same, the aircraft doing it are much different.

“The ‘U’ in U-2 stands for ‘utility,’ so a lot of people are like, ‘OK, 1955, what are we doing in 2019, when we’re flying F-35s and F-22s … why are we flying the U-2 that was built in 1955?'” Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, a U-2 pilot, said during an event hosted by the Air Force in May at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.

“Much like the Corvette, which has been around for a long time, there’s been a lot of different versions of [the U-2],” Patterson said. “The U-2s that we fly now, they were all built in about the mid-’80s.”

“The jets are actually pretty new,” U-2 pilot Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman said at the event. “They’re a lot newer than people anticipate, even though it’s been flying for more than 60 years.”


Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

The last of the original batch of U-2A aircraft at the US Air Force Museum.

(US Air Force)

‘It’s just the name is old’

The U-2A was the first to fly, when its massive wings accidentally turned a high-speed taxi test into a flight test in August 1955. It was followed by the U-2C, which had a new engine.

To overcome range limitations, the Air Force and the CIA outfitted U-2As and U-2Cs for aerial refueling; they became U-2Es and U-2Fs, according to The Drive.

In the early 1960s, the desire for more range led to the development of carrier-capable variants. Landing on a carrier, proved challenging, though, and several U-2As were modified with stronger landing gear, an arresting hook, and wing spoilers to decrease lift. These became the U-2G and U-2H.

The U-2R, which first flew in 1967, was 40% larger than the original and had wing pods to carry more sensors and fuel, allowing for high-altitude stand-off surveillance. (The U-2R was tested for carrier operations, but a naval variant of the U-2 never entered service.)

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

A U-2 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS America.

(US Navy)

The last U-2R arrived in 1989, and since 1994 the US has spent id=”listicle-2638876726″.7 billion to modernize the airframe and sensors. After the GE F118-101 engine was added in the late 1990s, all U-2s were redesignated as U-2S, the current variant.

Between 2002 and 2007, Lockheed upgraded the U-2’s 1960s-era cockpit avionics with the Reconnaissance Avionics Maintainability Program, or RAMP, replacing dials and gauges with multifunction displays, an up-front control and display unit, and a secondary flight-display system, according to Military Aerospace Electronics.

The new displays were more user-friendly and offered a better view of the ground to the pilot, who previously had to look into a large tube in the center of the cockpit. RAMP also made the radio controls easier to reach.

The most recent cockpit upgrades were completed in 2013, Lockheed said last year. Other modifications have been floated in the years since, aimed at keeping the U-2’s sensors robust and resilient.

The Air Force currently has about 30 of the single-seat U-2 for missions and four of the two-seat TU-2, which is used for training, based at Beale Air Force Base.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

Lt. Col. Lars Hoffman in a new Block 20 U-2S, with a redesigned cockpit, at Osan Air Base in South Korea, June 20, 2006.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Andrea Knudson)

Each U-2 gets a full overhaul every 4,800 flight hours, or about every six to eight years. Because the airframe doesn’t spend a lot of time under high stress, the current lifespan for a U-2 is into the 2040s and 2050s.

The Air Force still has a few of the U-2s built the late 1960s, but those have been converted, Patterson said.

“Everything’s modern — just the airframe itself came out in ’69. The engine, the cockpit’s all new,” he added. “But most of the aircraft that we have, they’re all built in the mid-’80s, about the same time as the B-2 stealth bomber.”

The newer models, Patterson said, “are about 40% larger [and] significantly more powerful than the original lot of U-2s that you saw when Gary Powers was flying over the Soviet Union, when the Cuban missile crisis is occurring, so it’s a totally different aircraft — modern glass cockpit, so we have screens. We have extremely advanced sensors.”

“So it’s not an old aircraft. It’s just the name is old.”

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

A U-2, with a satellite communications system on its back and antennas on its belly, over California, March 23, 2016.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)

‘Mr. Potato Head’

By the mid-1960s, US officials were already talking about retiring the U-2, but it survived and has outlasted other reconnaissance aircraft, like the SR-71, which were more expensive to operate.

Unlike satellites, a U-2 can be sent to peer at an area of interest on relatively short notice. It also has advantages over unmanned aerial vehicles, like the RQ-4 Global Hawk, Patterson said.

“When you think about some of the capabilities that our adversaries are able to put into the field pretty quickly and pretty cheaply — GPS jamming and things like that — it definitely pays dividends to have a human being that’s able to react real-time to developing situations.”

A human pilot is also better with unfamiliar surroundings, he said. “I can deploy anywhere in the world because I don’t need to program a new airfield. I can just take my airplane and land it … and I can take off within hours.”

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

U-2 pilot Maj. Ryan before a sortie in Southwest Asia, Feb. 2, 2017.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward)

Nauman and Patterson both touted the U-2s versatility.

“The ability for this platform to adapt to the newest imaging technology is a key piece of” its continued relevance, Nauman said. “With the size, weight, and power … we’re talking about 5,000 pounds of payload.”

That’s 2,000 pounds more than the RQ-4’s payload. The U-2’s ceiling is also above 70,000 feet — more than 10,000 feet above the ceiling of the RQ-4.

The U-2 can also test technology at high altitudes before it makes the leap to space. “The ability to actually get the most modern technology before it gets to space is kind of what makes us relevant,” Nauman said.

Other technology and payloads can be swapped onto the U-2, helping “to keep the cost down, accelerate development timelines, get these things in the air, and make sure that we run through all the issues,” Patterson said. “Then we can proliferate those [things] throughout the Air Force.”

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

US Air Force Senior Airman Charlie Lorenzo loads test film into a camera in preparation for a U-2 mission in Southwest Asia, April 17, 2008.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Levi Riendeau)

“The U-2’s almost like Mr. Potato Head,” Patterson said, describing its adaptability.

“So you can take a pod off here and a nose off here and put a new thing on pretty quickly, just because it’s got big wings, it’s got a big engine, so we’ve got a lot of size, weight, and power advantage over a lot of other high-altitude aircraft.”

The most well-known U-2 sensor is probably its optical bar camera.

“It’s effectively a giant wet-film camera. … It fits up in the belly of the aircraft. It’s got about 10,500 feet of film” that used to be made by Kodak, Patterson said. “In about eight hours, we can take off and we can map the entire state of California.”

The U-2 no longer does overflights of unfriendly territory, Nauman said. But its suite of cameras and sensors allow it to pick up details whether it’s looking straight down or looking hundreds of miles into the distance.

“Let’s say we don’t want to fly that camera in the belly. We can take the nose off, and we can put a giant radar on the nose,” Patterson said.

“With a big radar up in there in the front,” you can gather imagery out to the horizon, he added. “If you think about how far you can see if you’re parked off somebody’s coast with a 300-mile looking glass, it’s pretty phenomenal.”

The U-2 can also be outfitted with what Patterson described as “like a big digital camera” with a lens “about the size of a pizza platter.” With multiple spectral capabilities, “it’s imaging across different pieces of the light spectrum at any given time, so you can actually pull specific data that these intel analysts need to actually identify” the composition of particular materials.

Signals payloads also allow the U-2 to pick up different radars and other communications.

“We have a number of antennas all across the aircraft that we’re able to just pick up what other people are doing,” Patterson said. “We bring all that on board the aircraft, and we pipe it over a data link to a satellite and then down to the ground somewhere else in the world.”

“While we’re sitting by ourselves over a weird part of the world doing that [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] mission, all the information we’re collecting is going back down to multiple teams around the globe.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy secretary bets his job that he can fix USS Ford

Like most first-in-class warships, the USS Gerald R. Ford has had problems during its construction and testing, especially because of the array of new technology it carries.

But the $13 billion aircraft carrier has attracted special attention, and now Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer is putting his job on the line to guarantee one big problem will be resolved.


The Ford’s new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System has been a particular focus for President Donald Trump. He expressed dismay with the system in May 2017 and has mentioned it several times since, bringing it up at random on several occasions.

Other officials, including the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sen. James Inhofe, have objected to protracted issues with the carrier’s Advanced Weapons Elevators, which use magnets rather than cables to lift munitions to the flight deck.

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President Donald Trump speaking with Navy and shipyard personnel aboard the Gerald R. Ford in Newport News, Virginia, in 2017.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Joshua Sheppard)

None of the carrier’s 11 elevators were installed when it was delivered in May 2017 — 32 months late. But the Navy accepted and commissioned the carrier, and after a year of testing at sea, in July 2018 it entered its post-shakedown period.

The start of the post-shakedown period was delayed by another defect, and it was extended from eight months to a year to take care of normal work and work that had been put off, like the installation of the elevators and upgrades to the Advanced Arresting Gear, which has also faced technical problems.

The Navy has said the elevators will be installed and tested by the end of the post-shakedown period in 2019. Six will be certified for use at that time, but five won’t be completed until after July 2019.

Spencer said Jan. 8, 2019, that during a discussion at the Army-Navy football game in December 2018 he gave Trump a high-stakes promise.

“I asked him to stick his hand out — he stuck his hand out. I said, ‘Let’s do this like corporate America.’ I shook his hand and said the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me,” Spencer said at an event at the Center for a New American Security, according to USNI News.

“We’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done,” he added. “I haven’t been fired yet by anyone — being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

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Tugboats maneuvering the Gerald R. Ford into the James River.

(US Navy photo)

Spencer also said Trump asked him about EMALS. He told the president that the Navy had “got the bugs out” and that the system and its capabilities were “all to our advantage.”

Inhofe is also raising the stakes.

“The fleet needed and expected this ship to be delivered in 2015,” he told Bloomberg on Jan. 7, 2019. “Until all of the advanced weapons elevators work, we only have 10 operational aircraft carriers, despite a requirement for 12.”

Inhofe has told the Navy he wants monthly status reports on the carrier until its elevators are working.

The Ford is the first of its class, and the next Ford-class carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, is under construction by Huntington Ingalls at Newport News, Virginia, where it reached the halfway point in 2018.

The Navy told legislators early January 2019 that it would go ahead with a plan to buy the next Ford-class carriers, CVN 80 and CVN 81, on a single contract, known as a “block buy.”

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A crane moving the lower stern into place on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy at Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding in Newport News, making the second Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier 50% structurally complete, on June 22, 2017.

(US Navy photo)

The Navy has said it will spend about billion on the first three Ford-class carriers, and it has touted the block buy as a way to save as much as billion over single contracts for the third and fourth ships. The program as a whole is expected to cost billion.

“This smart move will save taxpayer dollars and help ensure the shipyards can maintain a skilled workforce to get the job done,” Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said after the Navy informed lawmakers of the decision.

Inhofe, however, remains wary.

He told Bloomberg that he looked forward to “the greater predictability and stability” provided by the block buy but called the purchase “a significant commitment” requiring “sustained investments for more than a decade” to get the billion in savings estimated by the Navy.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Drone Dogfight: Air Force plans to pit manned fighter against a drone next year

The United States Air Force says they intend to pit an artificial intelligence-enabled drone against a manned fighter jet in a dogfight as soon as next year.

Although drones have become an essential part of America’s air power apparatus, these platforms have long had their combat capabilities hampered by both the limitations of existing technology and our own concerns about allowing a computer to make the decision to fire ordnance that will likely result in a loss of life. In theory, a drone equipped with artificial intelligence could alleviate both of those limiting factors significantly, without allowing that life or death decisions to be made by a machine.


As any gamer will tell you, lag can get you killed. In this context, lag refers to the delay in action created by the time it takes for the machine to relay the situation to a human operator, followed the the time it takes for the operator to make a decision, transmit the command, where it must then be received once again by the computer, where those orders translate into action. Even with the most advanced secure data transmission systems on the planet, lag is an ever-present threat to the survivability of a drone in a fast paced engagement.

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Unmanned aerial vehicle operators in training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman BreeAnn Sachs)

Because of that lag limitation, drones are primarily used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and air strikes, but have never been used to enforce no-fly zones or to posture in the face of enemy fighters. In 2017, a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone successfully shot down another, smaller drone using an air-to-air missile. That success was the first of its kind, but even those responsible for it were quick to point out that such a success was in no way indicative of that or any other drone platform now having real dogfighting capabilities.

“We develop those tactics, techniques and procedures to make us survivable in those types of environments and, if we do this correctly, we can survive against some serious threats against normal air players out there,” Col. Julian Cheater, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, said at the time.

Artificial intelligence, however, could very feasibly change this. By using some level of artificial intelligence in a combat drone, operators could give the platform orders, rather than specific step-by-step instructions. In effect, the drone operator wouldn’t need to physically control the drone to dogfight, but could rather command the drone to engage an air asset and allow it to make rapid decisions locally to respond to the evolving threat and properly engage. Put simply, the operator could tell the drone to dogfight, but then allow the drone to somewhat autonomously decide how best to proceed.

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A hawk for hunters

The challenges here are significant, but as experts have pointed out, the implications of such technology would be far reaching. U.S. military pilots receive more training and flight time than any other nation on the planet, but even so, the most qualified aviators can only call on the breadth of their own experiences in a fight.

Drones enabled with some degree of artificial intelligence aren’t limited to their own experiences, and could rather pull from the collective experiences of millions of flight hours conducted by multiple drone platforms. To give you a (perhaps inappropriately threatening) analogy, you could think of these drones as the Borg from Star Trek. Each drone represents the collected sum of all experiences had by others within its network. This technology could be leveraged not just in drones, but also in manned aircraft to provide a highly capable pilot support or auto-pilot system.

“Our human pilots, the really good ones, have a couple thousand hours of experience,” explains Steve Rogers, the Team Leader for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Autonomy Capability Team 3 (ACT3).
“What happens if I can augment their ability with a system that can have literally millions of hours of training time? … How can I make myself a tactical autopilot so in an air-to-air fight, this system could help make decisions on a timeline that humans can’t even begin to think about?”

As Rogers points out, such a system could assess a dangerous situation and respond faster than the reaction time of even highly trained pilots, deploying countermeasures or even redirecting the aircraft out of harm’s way. Of course, even the most capable autopilot would still need the thinking, reasoning, and directing of human beings–either in the cockpit or far away. So, even with this technology in mind, it appears that the days of manned fighters are still far from over. Instead, AI enabled drones and autopilot systems within jets could both serve as direct support for manned aircraft in the area.

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

By incorporating multiple developing drone technologies into such an initiative, such as the drone wingman program called Skyborg, drone swarm initiatives aimed at using a large volume of cooperatively operating drones, and low-cost, high capability drones like the XQ-58A Valkyrie, such a system could fundamentally change the way America engages in warfare.

Ultimately, it may not be this specific drone program that ushers in an era of semi-autonomous dogfighting, but it’s not alone. From the aforementioned Skyborg program to the DARPA’s artificial intelligence driven Air Combat Evolution program, the race is on to expand the role of drones in air combat until they’re seen as nearly comparable to manned platforms.

Of course, that likely won’t happen by next year. The first training engagement between a drone and a human pilot will likely end in the pilot’s favor… but artificial intelligence can learn from its mistakes, and those failures may not be all that long lived.

“[Steve Rogers] is probably going to have a hard time getting to that flight next year … when the machine beats the human,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said during a June 4 Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event. “If he does it, great.”

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

This C-130 has the power to get into the enemy’s mind

The C-130 is a very valuable transport – and a legend. It’s hauled cargo and troops since December, 1956. That gives it almost 61 years of service — a most impressive run.


And the plane is still rolling off the Lockheed Martin assembly line today.

That description of this amazing plane’s longevity still sells the Hercules short. It’s not only been in the air a long time, it’s been modified for a crazy amount of different missions, including as a gunship.

But one of the less-well known versions is the EC-130J Commando Solo II. This Hercules doesn’t haul stuff or blow stuff up. Instead, like the 1930s-era comic book detective The Shadow, it has the power to cloud the mind of the enemy.

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Flying over the Pennsylvania countryside in a training mission, the EC-130E/J Commando Solo is a specially-modified four-engine Hercules transport that conducts information operations, psychological operations and broadcasts information in various frequencies. The 193rd Special Operations Wing, Harrisburg International Airport, Pa., has total responsibility for the Commando Solo missions. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Commando Solo is a very rare version of the Hercules. According to an Air Force fact sheet, only three airframes are in service, all with the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. It is equipped as a flying radio and TV station, capable of broadcasting AM radio, FM radio, and color television.

The plane has seen action a number of times, including during the liberation of Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury), Operation Just Cause, Desert Storm, the 1994 intervention in Haiti, the Balkans, and in the War on Terror. The planes usually operate at night, so as to not be detected. Even then, they carry what the Air Force calls “self-protection equipment.”

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The EC-130J has been in service since 2004. It has a crew of nine (pilot, copilot, combat systems officer, mission crew supervisor, three electronic communications systems operators and two loadmasters), a range of 2,300 nautical miles (without aerial refueling), and usually cruises at a speed of 335 miles per hour.

You can see a video of a training mission on the Commando Solo below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Teddy Roosevelt’s gun was as awesome as he was

In April 1990, the FBI was called to Teddy Roosevelt’s house. No one would dare steal from TR while he was alive, but since he had been dead for 70-plus years and his house was long ago turned into a museum, the thief was able to rob the place and make off with an important piece of Americana: Teddy Roosevelt’s piece. They stole the pistol he used at the Battle of San Juan Hill.

To this day, no one knows who took it, and only the FBI knows who turned it in, but now it’s back where it belongs. Its history is America’s history, and the history of Teddy Roosevelt’s sidearm matches the legacy of the man who wielded it. It started with a sinking ship.


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In 1976, the Navy discovered the USS Maine was actually sunk by a fire that hit its ammunition stores, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

In 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor, a port owned by Spain at the time. Since anti-Spanish sentiment and pro-Cuban Independence was at a fever pitch among Americans at the time, the incident was blamed on a Spanish mine. Even an official Navy inquiry supported the mine theory. With more than 250 American sailors dead, the United States had to respond, and they did so by declaring war on Spain.

Teddy Roosevelt was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time. Incensed by the Spanish provocation, it wasn’t enough for TR to just dispatch American warships to distant Spanish colonies. The man felt he had to go kill some Spaniards personally – and he did. He helped raise the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry and deployed to Spain with an insane, ragtag group of cowboys, journalists, and athletes, the likes of which the world will never see again.

Also: 7 cool facts about the Battle of San Juan Hill

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Someone should have told Spain that white was a bad choice of uniform color.

Roosevelt earned a Medal of Honor for leading what was supposed to be an overmatched support column on a daring charge up the hill that totally routed the defending Spanish, and he did it wielding a Colt Model 1892 Army and Navy double-action, six-shot revolver, one special to Roosevelt for many reasons.

First and foremost (maybe?), it was a gift to him from his brother-in-law, U.S. Navy Capt. William Sheffield Cowles. Where Cowles acquired it makes it really special: the weapon was salvaged from the wreckage of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor just a few months prior to the battle.

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You can’t spell “counterattack” without the letters ‘T’ and ‘R.’

The weapon is valued at over id=”listicle-2628915902″ million and has an inscription above the grips: “From the sunken battle ship Maine” and “July 1st, 1898. San Juan. Carried and used by Col. Theodore Roosevelt.”

The April 1990 theft was actually the second time the pistol had been taken from Sagamore Hill. The first time was in 1936 when it was removed from the case, but the thief panicked and threw the weapon into the woods nearby. Roosevelt’s sidearm and 1st Volunteers uniform are considered the most priceless artifacts on display at the museum.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Valkyrie drone suffers damage during Air Force flight test

An XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned aerial vehicle undergoing testing with the U.S. Air Force was damaged during its third flight test, forcing its next test to be delayed until an investigation is complete, officials announced Oct. 10, 2019.

The Valkyrie drone was hit by “high surface winds” and also suffered “a malfunction of the vehicle’s provisional flight test recovery system” and landed in a damaged state at the testing ranges in Yuma, Arizona, on Oct. 9, 2019, the Air Force said.

The drone is part of the Air Force’s Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program, an effort to develop unmanned attack aircraft that are intended to be reusable, but cheap enough that they can be destroyed without significant loss.


“We continue to learn about this aircraft and the potential … technology [it] can offer to the warfighter,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, in a released statement.

“This third flight successfully completed its objectives and expanded the envelope from the first two flights,” Cooley added. The flight lasted 90 minutes, officials said.

XQ-58A Valkyrie Demonstrator Inaugural Flight

www.youtube.com

“We have gathered a great deal of valuable data from the flight and will even learn from this mishap,” Cooley said. “Ultimately, that is the objective of any experiment and we’re pleased with the progress of the Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program.”

The Air Force did not say how long it will take to investigate the setback, nor when officials can anticipate its fourth flight.

In partnership with Kratos Defense, the drone’s manufacturer, officials previously completed a second test in Yuma on June 11, 2019.

The Air Force has been working to expedite the prototype program, which in the near future could incorporate artificial intelligence. AFRL in recent months has also been working on the “Skyborg” program, aimed at pairing AI with a human in the cockpit.

The goal is to incorporate the Skyborg network into Valkyrie. The drone’s purpose would be to operate alongside manned fighters, so the machine can learn how to fly and even train with its pilot.

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The XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned aerial vehicle.

(YouTube)

Valkyrie, a long-range, high-subsonic UAV, has incorporated a lot of lessons from Kratos’ other subsonic drone, the Mako, according to Kratos Defense CEO and President Eric DeMarco.

“Mako continues to fly for various customers with all types of payloads,” he said during an interview at the Paris air show in June. It was designed to carry electronic warfare or jamming equipment, infrared search and track sensors and offensive and defensive weapons, he said.

“Mako [is] a test bed, running a parallel path with the Valkyrie, so when the Valkyrie is ready, those payloads can more easily be ported over and integrated into Valkyrie because they’ve already been demonstrated in an unmanned platform,” DeMarco said.

Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said during the show that there’s potential to field some Valkyrie UAVs quickly — roughly 20 to 30 — for experimentation before the service pairs manned fighters with the drone by 2023.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The CIA secretly created an undetectable ‘heart attack gun’

The Cold War must have been an amazing time to be a weapons manufacturer for the U.S. government. Like some kind of early Tony Stark (I guess that would be Howard Stark), if you could dream it, you could build it, and chances were very good the CIA would fund it. From funding LSD tests using prostitutes and their johns to a secret underground ice base in Greenland to trying to build an actual flying saucer, there was literally no end to what the CIA would try.

What they ended up actually building and then using was much less fun and much more terrifying. We only found out about it because Senator Frank Church decided to do a little investigating.


Among other things, he found a gun that caused heart attacks, a weapon that had been used against the U.S. political enemies and beyond.

Spurred by the publication of Seymour Hersh’s article in The New York Times in December 1974, the United States Congress decided to look into just what its internal and external intelligence agencies were doing in the name of the American people using their tax dollars. What they found was a trove of legal and illegal methods used by the CIA, NSA, FBI, and even the IRS. Among the abuses of power discovered by the Church Commission was the opening of domestic mail without a warrant and without the Postal Service’s knowledge, the widespread access intelligence had to domestic telecommunications providers and adding Americans to watch lists.

Even the Army was spying on American civilians.

The most shocking of the Church Commission’s findings was the targeted assassination operations the CIA used against foreign leaders. Allegedly, Fidel Castro wasn’t the only name on the CIA hit list. Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem, and Gen. René Schneider of Chile were all targets for CIA-sanctioned killings.

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Castro alone survived 600 assassination attempts.

The clandestine service had its people researching all sorts of various ways to kill its targets. The CIA soon latched on to poisons, ones that were undetectable and appeared to mimic a heart attack. They found it in a specially-designed poison, engineered for the CIA. Only a skilled pathologist who knew what to look for would ever discover the victim’s heart attack wasn’t from natural causes. To deliver the poison, the injection was frozen and packed into a dart.

Darts from the new secret assassination gun would penetrate clothing but leave only a small red dot on the skin’s surface. Once inside the body, the dart disintegrated and the frozen poison inside would begin to melt, entering the bloodstream and causing the cardiac episode. Shortly after, the deadly agent denatured quickly and became virtually undetectable. They even brought the gun to show Congress.

The Church Commission and its findings caused a massive frenzy in the United States. People became hungry for more and began to get hysterical in the wake of any news about the CIA. In the aftermath of the Church Commission, President Ford (and later, Reagan) had to issue executive orders banning the tactics of targeted assassinations by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

What became of the poison dart gun is anyone’s guess.

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