This is what it's like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit

Anything close to the maximum structural speed for a jet is usually just for the glossy brochure—99.9% of the time we don’t come close to reaching it. There was one time, though, that I pushed the F-16 as fast as it could go.

I was stationed in Korea and there was a jet coming out of maintenance; the engine had been swapped out and they needed a pilot to make sure it was airworthy. It was a clean jet—none of the typical missiles, bombs, targeting pod, external fuel tanks were loaded. It was a stripped down hot-rod capable of it’s theoretical maximum speed.

When we fly, we usually go out as a formation to work on tactics; every drop of fuel is used to get ready for combat. This mission, however, called for me to launch as a single-ship and test the engine at multiple altitudes and power settings. The final check called for a max speed run.


This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit

Justin “Hasard” Lee in the cockpit of an F-16 (Sandboxx)

I took off, entered the airspace, and quickly started the profile. Topped off, I could only carry 7,000 pounds of internal fuel; never enough with the monster engine behind me burning up to 50,000 pounds of fuel per hour. I knocked out the various tasks in about 15 minutes and then was ready for the max speed run.

I was at 25,000 feet when I pushed the throttle forward, rotated it past the detent and engaged full afterburner—I would have 5 minutes of useable fuel at this setting. I could feel each of the 5-stages lighting off, pushing me forward. I accelerated to Mach 1—the speed of sound that Chuck Yeager famously broke in his Bell X-1—and started a climb. A few seconds later 35,000 feet went by as I maintained my speed. Soon I was at 45,000 feet and started to shallow my climb to arrive at the 50,000 foot service ceiling. This was as high as I could go, not because the jet couldn’t go higher, but because if the cockpit depressurized, I would black out within seconds.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit

(U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt. Don Taggart)

Looking out at 50,000 feet, the sky was now a few shades darker. I could start to see the curvature of the earth. To my right was the entire Korean peninsula—green with a thin layer of haze over it. To my left, a few clouds over the Yellow Sea separating me from mainland China.

As I maintained my altitude, the jet started to accelerate. At 1.4 Mach, with only about 2 minutes of fuel left, I bunted over and started a dive to help with the acceleration. In my heads-up-display 1.5 Mach ticked by, backed up by an old mach indicator slowly spinning in my instrument console.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit

Justin “Hasard” Lee (Sandboxx)

At 1.6 Mach, the jet started to shake. I was expecting it—the F-16 has a flight region around that airspeed that causes the wings to flutter. Still, this jet had a lot of hours on the airframe, and if anything were to fail, the breakup would be catastrophic. Similarly, ejecting at that speed would be well outside the design envelop—the air resistance at Mach 1.6 is about 300 times what a car experiences at highway speeds. A few pilots have tried, only to break nearly every bone in their body.

So now, the option was slow down until the vibration stopped, or push though until it smoothed out on the other side. I was running low on fuel, so I elected to increase my dive so I could accelerate faster. Slowly 1.7 Mach ticked by, next 1.8, and then at 1.9, everything smoothed out. I was now traveling 1,500 mph over the Yellow Sea. The cockpit started feeling warm so I took my hand off the throttle and put it about a foot away from the canopy and could feel the heat radiating through my glove, similar to sticking your hand in an oven.

At this point I was entering the thicker air at 35,000 feet which was preventing the Mach from going any higher. I was also nearly out of fuel, so I pulled the throttle out of afterburner and into military-powerthe highest non-afterburner power setting. Despite a significant amount of thrust still coming from the engine, the drag at 1.9 Mach caused the jet to rapidly decelerate, pushing me forward until my shoulder-harness straps locked. It took over 50 miles for the jet to slow down below the mach.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit

Justin “Hasard” Lee (Sandboxx)

Taking a jet to 1.9 mach isn’t any sort of record; in fact, some aircraft have gone twice as fast. It is an interesting feeling, though, to be at the limit of what an iconic aircraft like the F-16 can give you. Thousands of incredible engineers, who I never had the chance to meet, designed the plane and you are now realizing the potential of what they built. The heat and vibration, coupled with being outside the ejection envelope, let you know the margin of safety is less than it normally is.

I’ve since moved on to the F-35 which correctly prioritizes stealth, sensor fusion, and networking over top speed, so that’s likely as fast as I’ll ever go. It was a visceral experience that was a throwback to the 50’s and 60’s—where the primary metrics a plane was judged by how high and fast it could go.

Make sure to check out Justin Lee’s podcast, The Professionals Playbook!

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


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5 of the biggest Mafia names also served in the US military

Believe it or not, members of Cosa Nostra had a lot to offer the United States during wartime, and most of it had nothing to do with violence. While most members of the mob, from street soldiers to capos, managed to avoid military service, others saw their way to using their special skills to advance the military aims, both in peace and in war. 

Even some of the mafia’s biggest names have put on the uniform of the armed forces of the United States. 

  1. Albert Anastasia

Anastasia’s main boss was none other than Charlie “Lucky” Luciano, the man who did more to create the Italian mafia in the U.S. than any other figure. Luciano founded what would one day become the Genovese crime family and helped form the National Crime Syndicate that would one day be governed by the body of the heads of the five families, known as “The Commission.”

mafia member
Anastasia’s 1936 mugshot

To implement the Commission’s power over organized crime, they used a gang of killers that came to be called Murder, Inc. and the head of the Murder, Inc. hist squad was a loyal Luciano enforcer and former longshoreman named Albert Anastasia. 

After the start of World War II, Murder Inc. had begun to crumble under dozens of investigations by law enforcement. Hoping to escape those investigations, Anastasia joined the Army to train U.S. troops how to work ports and unload ships as longshoremen. 

Anastasia himself was killed in a New York City barbershop after the war by members of the Profaci crime family.

2. Gennaro Angiulo

Angiulo was one of the most notable figures of Boston’s Patriarca crime family. For 20 years, Angiulo dominated Boston’s criminal underworld. But before any of that, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor, eventually piloting landing craft to islands in the Pacific Theater of the war. 

Angiulo eventually earned the rate of Chief Bosun’s Mate before the war’s end. His criminal empire would be brought down by FBI informants and fellow Boston gangsters James “Whitey” Bulger and Stephen Flemmi, who aided the FBI in planting the bugs used to gather evidence against him. After his 2007 death, he was given a Navy funeral, complete with honor guard.

Flemmi himself was a veteran of the Korean War, who learned his stock in trade as a hitman in the U.S. Army’s 187th Infantry Regiment. 

3. John “Johnny Green” Faraci 

Before “Johnny Green” became one of New York City’s biggest loan sharks and a capo in the Bonanno family, he was landing on the beaches of Normandy, where he was awarded a Bronze Star. It was his wartime service that earned the immediate respect of fellow mobsters but it was Faraci they turned to when other members of the mafia ran up gambling debts. 

Faraci, too, eventually found himself in court as an aging mobster. In a 2002 arraignment, Faraci’s lawyer pointed out to the judge that his client was a World War II veteran who landed at Normandy, the 78-year-old judge simply replied, “So did I.”

4. Matty “The Horse” Ianniello

When Genovese boss Vincent Gigante went to federal prison in 1997, his underboss Matthew Ianniello became acting boss of the entire crime family. He was a big earner for the Genovese family in his mafia career, first serving as an enforcer, then as an owner of Manhattan topless bars, then racketeering garbage removal services in Connecticut. 

Before all of that, he worked the docks in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard when World War II broke out, and later joined the Army, fighting in the Philippines as an artilleryman, earning a Bronze Star for valor and receiving a Purple Heart for being wounded there. The Horse was an underboss until the very end, convicted for racketeering in 2006 at age 86. 

5. Sammy “The Bull” Gravano

mafia member
Arrest photo of Sammy Gravano taken by the FBI.

John Gotti’s right hand man turned FBI informant was also a veteran of the US Army. The Bull is better known as the highest ranking mobster ever to turn state’s evidence, but long before that, he enlisted in the Army in 1964, just as the Vietnam War was starting to heat up. 

Initially, it was Gravano’s lawyer that told a judge his client would join the Army rather than see a prison cell for a burglary arrest. The Bull told his lawyer there was no way he was going into the Army, but his lawyer just told the judge that so he wouldn’t serve time. The Bull was drafted anyway.

Gravano never made it to Vietnam. He spent a lot of his basic training time on KP duty at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, then to Indiana and Fort Meade, Maryland, where he used his mafia skills to run illegal gambling and loansharking operations. He received an honorable discharge after two years. 

As for Vietnam, Sammy the Bull once said, “I wouldn’t have minded going to Vietnam. You get medals for killing people there.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army doubling electronic warfare with massive drone fleet

The US Army is prototyping drones and soldier devices armed with new cyberwar and electronic attack technology as an essential element of a massive, service-wide push to double its EW force and integrate EW and cyber.

“We are standing up a cyber-electromagnetic activity staff, doubling the force, doubling the amount of training and increasing our tactical ability,” Brig. Gen Jennifer Buckner, head of Army Cyber Command, said recently at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.

The plan is multi-faceted, consisting of simultaneous efforts to provide an EW platoon in every Military-Intelligence company and connect integrated EW and cyber-warfare technologies with existing SIGINT (signals intelligence) ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) technology, such as small drones.


One senior Army official stressed the operational importance of further combining EW and cyber.

“You have to have globally integrated joint operations, because cyberspace is pervasive. I believe cyber is a subset of the electromagnetic spectrum,” he told Warrior.

Warrior talked to the Army’s Program Manager for Electronic Warfare, Col. Kevin Finch, who said the service plans to start building and testing prototypes of new EW-Cyber equipped drones and attack technology by 2019 — following an extensive analysis.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

“The idea is to leverage the technology we are using today and put cyber and SIGINT on the same platforms,” Finch told Warrior in an interview.

Merging cyber, EW and SIGINT brings a new generation of warfare advantages by, among other things, enabling forces armed with EW weapons to produce a narrower, much more targeted signal.

This changes the equation, as most current EW weapons emit a larger single across the desired area and use so much power that it overwhelms an enemy receiver, Jerry Parker, EW developer with CACI, told Warrior in an interview.

This phenomenon creates several extremely significant tactical implications; by emitting a broad signal with large amounts of power, attackers using EW typically give up their own combat positions, as larger signals are usually noticed by enemy forces.

“When you light up the spectrum, you become a target,” Parker explained.

Of equal significance, emitting a large signal can also knock out signals for one’s own force, in some respects.

“The traditional way is if you are transmitting 901 MegaHertz, you put out a ton of power and wipe out everything in the spectrum, to include Blue Forces (friendly forces),” Parker said.

The emerging method, Parker said, is to establish a much more “surgical” way of using EW-cyber attacks, which do not emit a large, area-wide signal.

This can be done by using narrower, more targeting signals emitted from a drone or small device which is able to locate enemy communication networks, radar, radios, and other key targets.

“You look at where an adversarial radio is and pinpoint that one. You use a specific frequency and use a lot of different techniques to analyze the enemy signal, analyze the protocol and narrow a target,” Parker explained. “If you can keep an enemy from communicating, it adds an element of disarray to the battle space where we can achieve overmatch,” Parker said.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit

Sgt. Jason E. Gerst, a Virginia Beach, Va., native, now a squad leader with 2nd Platoon, A Company, 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, launches the RQ-11B Raven unmanned aerial vehicle during Raven training.

CACI is now equipping a small drone with this technology, as part of an effort to support the Army’s initiative.

As cyber and EW become increasingly integrated, with software-defined radios, new jamming techniques and smaller form factors, Army developers can pursue more targeted methods of attack, as enemy cyber and EW threats become increasingly sophisticated.

“We spend a lot of time on the sensing part of the spectrum. We analyze what is out there and ID what various threat signals are. We look at its modulation scheme and protocol and then build techniques to destroy it,” Parker added.

Developers explain that EW innovations are drawing from some existing systems which emerged during the last 15-years of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan. EW technology evolved considerably in recent years as the Army learned new jamming techniques, expanded frequencies and found new applications. The vehicle-mounted DUKE and soldier mobile THOR EW systems were successful jamming IED signals in Iraq and Afghanistan, often averting a potentially deadly explosion.

Here is how Brig. Gen. Buckner explained this massive Army push for new combined cyber, EW weapons, and technology.

“We are focused on growth and acceleration — bringing cyber to the tactical edge. The Chief of Staff of the Army recognizes the operational imperative to do that,” Buckner said.

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

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Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

It’s no secret that Hollywood has a knack for getting the military wrong in war movies. Whether it’s diverging from reality in movies that are “based on a true story” or it’s pretending grenades create massive fireballs when they explode, the movie industry will always favor drama and spectacular visuals over realism… and to be totally honest, I’m cool with that.

Over the years, I’ve devoted a great deal of my professional life to analyzing the way narratives take shape in the public consciousness. I’ve dug into how different nations leverage media to affect public perceptions (I even wrote a book about it). I’ve explored the ways cultural touchstones like exchanging engagement rings manifested inorganically in corporate board rooms. I’ve even pointed out the ways World War II propaganda still shapes our dietary choices. That’s a long-winded way of saying that my professional interests have long been tied to exploring the undercurrent in mass communications, and further analyzing the ways that undercurrent can shape our perspectives of the world.


With the understanding that I’ve devoted so much of my time to exploring the narrative behind messaging, you can probably imagine that I can be a real party pooper when it comes to watching war movies. Like most vets, I get frustrated when I see uniforms worn incorrectly or when dialogue between service members feels forced or clunky… but unlike many vets, I also can’t help but look past the surface level messaging to try to figure out what filmmakers are trying to say with their choices in presentation.

Film, like any art form, is really an exercise in evoking emotion. When we really love a movie, it’s almost always because we loved the way the movie made us feel as we watched it. Whether we were excited by incredible action sequences or we were enraptured by a budding romance, it’s the experience, our experience, that we actually cherish. Good filmmakers know that, so they often choose to place a larger emphasis on creating an experience than they do on recreating a realistic event. Good movies aren’t good because they’re real–in other words–they’re good because the feelings they create are.

When a movie sucks, however, it’s usually because the director fails to evoke real emotions in the viewer. Bad filmmaking can be just as realistic or unrealistic as good filmmaking. Warner Brother’s famously bad “Green Lantern” movie, as a good example, is often made fun of for its use of an entirely CGI costume on Ryan Reynolds. You might think that’s because CGI costumes are just too unrealistic to be taken seriously… until you realize that most of the costumes you see in the wildly successful Marvel movies are entirely CGI as well. The difference isn’t that one is realistic while the other isn’t–the difference is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is better at making you care about its characters. Iron Man’s CGI suit simply becomes set-dressing for the character that you’re emotionally invested in.

Marvel isn’t the only studio to get the feeling right, even when it gets facts or realism wrong. In fact, there are a number of war movies that manage the same feat.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
(Warner Brothers)

 

Full Metal Jacket (the first half)

Marines, in particular, tend to hold the first half of Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” in high esteem, and we tend to disregard the second half of the movie as an auteur opining about Vietnam (in a way that doesn’t leave the audience nearly as invested in the characters). Depending on who you ask, they’ll tell you that Marine recruit training is exactly like the movie or not like it at all–and that likely has a lot to do with individual experiences and feelings from one’s own time at the depots.

But whether you ever had to choke yourself with a drill instructor’s hand or not, most Marines feel a distinct kinship with J.T. “Joker” Davis’ platoon. It’s safe to say that most of us didn’t see a fellow recruit shoot our drill instructor in the bathroom (or head, as we call it), but that scene does capture something about recruit training that’s not easy to articulate. For many of us, Marine Recruit Training is the first place we’d ever been where violence is a commodity. We’re learning to fight, to kill, and when you begin broaching the subject in your mind, the experience can be jarring. I recall distinctly the first time I ever truly thought about taking another person’s life and what it would entail, and it was inside a squad bay just like the one you see in “Full Metal Jacket.”

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
(Paramount Pictures)

 

The Hunt for Red October

If we’re grading war movies on realism, it would be tough to gloss over the fact that Sean Connery’s Marko Ramius is a Russian submarine captain that talks with a thick Scottish accent. But in terms of capturing the reality of the Cold War as a feeling, “Red October” hits the nail right on the head.

In real life, would we pull a CIA analyst out of his cubicle and drop him into the ocean to climb aboard a nuclear submarine hot on the tail of a rogue Russian captain? Probably not–but by doing so in the film, “The Hunt for Red October” effectively captured the sense of urgency, confusion, and distrust that characterized so much of the Cold War for both American and Soviet officials. Many defense initiatives in the U.S. were driven by concerns that the Soviet’s had developed a technological or strategic advantage, and in a real way, intelligent men and women like Jack Ryan devoted their entire lives to both offsetting those perceived capability gaps, and of course, to preventing nuclear war amid an international, nuclear-fueled, staring contest.

“The Hunt for Red October” may not be the most realistic exploration of Cold War tensions, but it expertly crafts the feeling that permeated the defense community throughout the conflict.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
(Universal Pictures)

 

Jarhead

I won’t lie to you, I still take great issue with certain elements of “Jarhead” — specifically its depiction of Marines as singularly driven by the desire to take lives. However, as an exploration into the emotional ride that is Marine training and service, the desire to get a confirmed kill in “Jarhead’s” second act that I find so abrasive actually perfectly captures the feelings so many service members and veterans have about not seeing combat.

The vast majority of people in the military never take that “kill shot” “Jarhead’s” Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is so focused on, and to be honest, lots of service members wouldn’t want to–but therein lies the point. “Jarhead” is a war movie that tells the story of training extensively for a job that you never get to do, and then returning to a world full of other people’s expectations that you know, inside your head, you’ll never amount to.

Lots of veterans find that they don’t feel “veteran enough” after their time in uniform is up. Maybe they didn’t see combat, or they didn’t see as much combat as others. Maybe their job had them mopping floors in Japan instead of kicking in doors in Iraq, or maybe they never left the wire during their time in the sandbox. Whatever the reason, many veterans (and even active service members) carry a chip on their shoulder created by society’s expectation that we all return home like John Rambo. The truth is, every veteran is veteran enough–but “Jarhead” does an excellent job of sharing that insecurity on film.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
(Sony Pictures)

Tears of the Sun

This nearly forgotten 2003 action drama starred Bruce Willis as Lieutenant Waters, a U.S. Navy SEAL charged with leading his team into Nigeria to evacuate a U.S. citizen and medical doctor amid a bloody coup d’etat. When Waters and his SEAL team arrive, however, the doctor refuses to leave without the rest of the members of her small community who will likely be wiped out by rebel soldiers in the area.

What follows is a fairly unrealistic depiction of how military operations are carried out, complete with bloody last stand on the nation’s border in which many of the SEALs ultimately give their lives to protect the fleeing civilians. The movie is, to be honest, some pretty heavy handed American military propaganda (honestly, some of the best war movies are), but it’s precisely because of that arguably jingoistic idealism that this movie so effectively captures the feeling that drives so many of us to sign our enlistment papers.

Most folks in the military chose to join because of a combination of personal interest and idealism. We could use a good job, some help with college, and benefits for our families–but we also want to make a difference in the world. We want to help protect not just our nation’s people, but the ideals our nation represents. “Tears of the Sun” is a story about American service members giving up their lives to do what’s right, and because of that, it strikes the patriotic chord in many of us in a way that resonates deeply, even if the movie itself isn’t a masterclass in filmmaking.

This article by Alex Hollings originally appeared on Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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Was George H.W. Bush almost eaten by cannibals?

The 41st President of the U.S., George H.W. Bush, served as Commander in Chief from 1989 until 1993. He also served as Ronald Reagan’s VP from 1981 until 1989. But before his stint in the White House, he had a prolific political career, working in the Texas House of Representatives, as a UN Ambassador, on the Republican National Committee and director of the CIA. 

However, Bush got his start in the Navy, where he was almost captured by cannibals after a crash landing.

At just 18 years old, he joined the service, becoming one of their youngest pilots to date. During WWII, he served in the Pacific Theater, flying a Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber. His first combat mission took place in May of 1944 and under the callsign/nickname Skin, Bush went on to fly a total of 58 missions with 128 completed landings. 

It was during one of these missions over Japan that our former president had a run-in with a crew of Japanese torturers, an experience which he narrowly escaped. 

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
Chichi Jima (V5planet, Wikipedia)

A downed plane and hungry captors

After an attack on Chichijima, a Japanese base, Bush was able to attack several of his intended targets. Along the way, however, his plane was hit by enemy fire and went down. Others on the plane died in the crash, but he was able to bail out, landing in water. Those in other planes who survived the fall were captured by the Japanese. Meanwhile, Bush found a raft and paddled away from land as an attempt to get away. He was eventually rescued and taken aboard the USS Finback, a submarine. He was spotted by the watchman and pulled aboard, before the vessel went back underwater. 

The other survivors were tortured, beheaded or killed by other means, and were partially eaten their captors. It’s reported at of the nine Americans who landed alive, eight were killed, and four had parts of their livers and thighs eaten. The future President Bush was the ninth. 

As for the cannibalism, there are a few explanations to this in the 2003 book by James Bradley, Flyboys: A True Story of Courage. In the book, Bradley aligns that consuming the liver is a Japanese tradition, citing the cultural belief of health benefits from consuming human flesh. However, in WWII, cannibalism also became a necessity when food was sparse, with other parts of the body also being consumed. Because only portions of bodies consumed in this case, it’s believed it was ritualistic, but that theory has not been proven. 

This event sparked many trials after the end of the war. Thirty Japanese soldiers were sentenced; punishments ranged from prison time to death by hanging. Members were tried for murder and “prevention of honorable burial,” as wartime laws are not worded for instances of cannibalism. 

George H.W. after the war

After this near-death experience, the future president is said to have had a type of awakening. He believed something was to come of his life, having been spared from a terrible death. 

He later told the press: “Why had I been spared and what did God have in store for me? In my own view, there’s got to be some kind of destiny and I was being spared for something on Earth,” Bush later said. “I think about those guys all the time.”

The 41st President of the United States, Bush passed away November 30, 2018 at 94 years old.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army will fire artillery and missiles from Navy ships

The Army and Navy are operating together in the Pacific to fire Army artillery from Navy ships, send targeting data to land weapons from Navy sensors, and use coastal land rockets to destroy enemy ships at sea, service leaders said.

“The Army is looking at shooting artillery off of Navy ships. Innovation is taking existing things and modifying them to do something new,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.


Ongoing explorations of the now heavily emphasized Pentagon “cross-domain fires” strategy are currently taking on new applications through combined combat experiments in the Pacific theater. Ferrari explained that these experimental “teams” are combining air defense units, ground combat units, cyber units, and artillery units, and putting them together in operations.

“Part of what we do is integrate with the Navy. The Naval threat for the Pacific is one of the major threats, so the Army is doing multi-domain battle. The Pacific is inherently Joint. There is very little that we do that is not done with other services,” Ferrari said.

Much of the ongoing work involves integrating combat units which have historically operated in a more separated or “single-focused” fashion. Combing field artillery, a brigade headquarters, air defense, Navy assets, and ISR units into a single operation, for instance, represents the kind of experiments now underway.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Woody Paschall)

“Instead of having three battalions of artillery, you will have pieces of these things – then go out and use it,” Ferrari said.

Tactically speaking, firing precision artillery from surface ships could possibly introduce some interesting advantages. The Navy is now exploring weapons such as long-range precision-guided ammunition for its deck-mounted 5-inch guns, ship-fired offensive weapons such as the advanced Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), Maritime Tomahawk, and an over-the-horizon weapon for the Littoral Combat Ship and Frigate.

Something like an Army Tactical Missile Systems rocket, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or GPS-guided Excalibur 155m artillery does bring the possibility to supplement existing ship-fired Navy weapons systems. Tomahawk and LRASM, for instance, can fly lower and somewhat parallel to the surface to elude enemy defensive systems.

One senior US military official explained that bringing Army artillery to surface ships to compliment existing Navy weapons could bring new dimensions to the surface attack options available to commanders.

Artillery could also lend combat support to extensive layered defensive weapons on Navy ships such as SeaRAM, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, and Rolling Airframe Missile, among others. These interceptors, it seems, could be strengthened by the potential use of land-fired weapons on Navy ships.

“Mixing all presents multiple dilemmas for the enemy,” a senior official told Warrior.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
(Raytheon)

Much of this kind of experimentation will take the next step this coming summer at the upcoming Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, a joint, multi-national combat and interoperability exploration.

Navy commanders have been “all in” on this as well, previously using F-18s to identify targets for land weapons in exercises in recent years such as Noble Eagle in Alaska, senior military officials have described.

Along these lines, US Pacific Commander Adm. Harry Harris has consistently emphasized multi-domain operations in public speeches.

“I’d like to see the Army’s land forces sink a ship, shoot down a missile, and shoot down the aircraft that fired that missile – near simultaneously – in a complex environment where our joint, and combined forces are operating in each other’s domains,” Commander, US Pacific Command, said in 2017 at the Association of the United States Army LANPAC Symposium and Exposition.

During this same speech, Harris also said the Army will fire a Naval Strike Missile from land as part of the upcoming RIMPAC exercise.

Harris underscored the urgency of the US need for stronger multi-domain battle technology and tactics by telling the House Armed Services Committee early 2018 “China will surpass Russia as the world’s second largest Navy by 2020, when measured in terms of submarines and frigate-class ships.

As part of the cross-domain effort, the Army and Navy are looking at improving ways to connect their respective networks; Adm. Harris said “joint effects” in combat can be challenged by a lack of integration between different services’ “tactical ISR, target acquisition and fire control systems.”

For example the Navy’s integrated sensor network known as Cooperative Engagement Capability connects targeting and ISR nodes across the force. The emphasis now is to connect these kinds of systems with, for instance, Army weapons such as ground-fired Patriot missiles and Theater High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense weapons.

In addition, the Army’s Integrated Battle Command Systems is itself a comparable combat theater sensor network where various radar, command and control and weapons “nodes” are networked to expedite real-time data sharing. Part of the maturation of this system, according to Army and Northrop Grumman developers, is to further extend IBCS to cue Air Force, and Navy assets operating in a given theater of operations.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Fidel C. Hart)

One senior Army weapons developer told Warrior – “it’s about target acquisition and ranges. Maybe target acquisition comes from a ship and I do surface fires on land. We need to experiment with sensors.”

The advent of long-range sensors and precision fires on the part of potential near-peer adversaries has reinforced the need for the US military to operate in real time across air, sea and land domains. Furthermore, the emergence of converging newer domains, such as cyber, space and the electromagnetic sphere are naturally an indispensable element of cross-domain fires.

In an Army paper titled “Multi-Domain Battle: Evolution of Combined Arms for the 21st Century 2025-2040,” former TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins writes:

“It (Multi-Domain Battle) expands the targeting landscape based on the extended ranges and lethality delivered at range by integrated air defenses, cross-domain fire support, and cyber/electronic warfare systems. We must solve the physics of this expanded battle space, and understand the capabilities that each domain can provide in terms of echelon, speed, and reach.”

Perkins and other senior Pentagon strategists have explained Multi-Domain Battle as a modern extension of the Cold War AirLand Battle Strategy which sought to integrate air and ground attacks to counter a Soviet attack in Europe.

“AirLand Battle started developing the concept of ‘extended battlefield.’ Multi-Domain battle endeavors to integrate capabilities in such a way that to counteract one, the enemy must become more vulnerable to another, creating and exploiting temporary windows of advantage,’ Perkins writes in Multi-Domain Battle: Joint Combined Arms Concept for the 21st Century.

Army – Air Force

The Army and the Air Force are also launching a new, collaborative war-gaming operation to assess future combat scenarios and, ultimately, co-author a new inter-service cross-domain combat doctrine.

Operating within this concept, Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes are launching a new series of tabletop exercises to replicate and explore future warfare scenarios – the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.

In a Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”

“The F-35 is doing ISR and could possibly deliver a weapon on the same flight. We can then use what they can generate on the ground, fusing sensors, and target acquisition with things that can deliver effects,” a senior defense official told Warrior.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US seizes North Korean cargo ship for violating sanctions

The US seized a North Korean ship and sailed it thousands of miles to check whether it has been used to violate international sanctions.

The US alleges that the “Wise Honest,” North Korea’s second-largest cargo ship, was making illicit shipments of coal and heavy machinery — in violation of US and UN sanctions on North Korea.

The Department of Justice announced May 9, 2019, that it had seized the 17,000-ton ship, the first time a North Korean ship has been commandeered over sanctions violations.

The announcement came after North Korea appeared to launch two short-range missiles in a test, adding further tensions to its relations with the US.


The Wise Honest arrived in the port of Pago Pago in the US territory of American Samoa on May 11, 2019, after a three-week journey, The Associated Press reported.

Assistant Attorney General Demers called the “Wise Honest” a “sanctions-busting ship” and said the US would ensure that North Korea complies with the international sanctions.

“This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service,” Demers said on May 9, 2019.

US seizes massive North Korean cargo vessel for violating sanctions

www.youtube.com

“North Korea, and the companies that help it evade US and UN sanctions, should know that we will use all tools at our disposal — including a civil forfeiture action such as this one, or criminal charges — to enforce the sanctions enacted by the U.S. and the global community.”

“We are deeply committed to the role the Justice Department plays in applying maximum pressure to the North Korean regime to cease its belligerence.”

The UN Security Council has banned North Korea from exporting commodities like coal, lead, and iron, in a bid to prevent it from funding its nuclear and weapons programs.

The Department of Justice accused North Korea of “concealing the origin of their ship” and accused Korea Songi Shipping Company, which was using the ship, of violating US law by paying US dollars for improvements and purchases for the ship through oblivious US financial institutions.

“This seizure should serve as a clear signal that we will not allow foreign adversaries to use our financial systems to fund weapons programs which will be used to threaten our nation,” Demers said.

US Coast Guard public affairs officer Amanda Wyrick told the AP that the US would investigate the ship in American Samoa. She did not say where the ship would be brought after the investigation was complete.

The ship was first detained by Indonesia in April 2018, because it was not broadcasting a signal required to give information to other ships and authorities, the Department of Justice said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army tests its first-ever tactical vehicle for electronic warfare

The 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Greywolf” soldiers fielded the Army’s new electronic warfare tactical vehicle recently.

The new vehicle was developed to give Army electronic warfare teams the ability to sense and jam enemy communications and networks from an operationally relevant range at the brigade combat team level.

“This effort will allow the ability for EW soldiers to influence future vehicle improvements and grow their knowledge,” Army Lt. Col. Scott Schumacher, chief of the Rapid Equipping Force solutions team, said in a release. “This is an advanced EW technology that can provide the Army new offensive and defensive capabilities.”


The Greywolf team attended two weeks of training on the vehicle in Yuma, Arizona. The electronic warfare kit is installed on a four-wheel drive MaxxPro Dash, one of the multiple types of mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicles.

“It has never been used at the brigade level, so we have to really put it through its paces and see what its capabilities and limitations are,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Alexander Torres, the brigade’s electronic warfare technician. “We have to develop best-practices and [tactics, techniques and procedures] that will help future units as well as continue the development of a dedicated EW platform.”

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit

Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team stand in front of an Electronic Warfare Tactical Vehicle at Yuma Proving Ground.

(US Army photo)

Highly programmable

Since the inception of brigade-level electronic warfare, electronic jamming had not been available. The new system is highly programmable, which allows the EW team to develop a program targeting the enemy’s frequencies.

“This is a huge benefit, because now we have it on our time instead of relying on our sister services to provide us with jamming capabilities and hoping it is available when we need it,” Torres said.

The new vehicle was developed as part of the Army’s Rapid Equipment Fielding program, which identifies gaps that need to be filled and cannot wait on the traditional contracting route. This is just the first step in building a platform that will benefit the brigade, Torres said.

“We had nothing, and now we have something, and I hope we continue to keep building on it,” he added. “We need to make sure it is effective. If we go out there and just let it sit and collect dust and don’t use it — and [if we don’t] make sure that it also enables the commander to maneuver his forces and gain the advantage in the electronic spectrum — then really it is wasting a valuable resource.”

The Greywolf team will integrate the vehicle during its upcoming brigade evaluation.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

How effective a chainsaw bayonet would actually be

Bayonets epitomize the warrior mentality. Although it’s been a good while since the last official call was made to “fix bayonets” in an actual combat mission, the ancillary CQC weapon retains a special place in many warfighters’ hearts. Of course, if troops like to attach a sharp, pointy knife to their rifle’s end, then they’d surely love to affix a chainsaw. What could be better?


Chainsaw bayonets have become a trope in popular sci-fi, but there is none more iconic, overly-gratuitous, and awesome than those attached to the Mark 2 Lancer Assault Rifle in the Gears of War series. This futuristic weapon is a massive, fully-automatic rifle outfitted with a roaring chainsaw bayonet. It works well in the game, but it wouldn’t stand a chance in the real world.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
The key difference between the protagonists in ‘Gears of War’ and real life troops sums up why they wouldn’t work. Not all of us are nearlyu00a0as massive as they are.
(Microsoft Studios)

There aren’t any official technical specs available for the Lancer, so it’s impossible for us to accurately judge its effectiveness, but we’ve seen a few people try to recreate the chainsaw bayonet themselves. Still, this technique is nowhere near as common as pop sci-fi would have you believe — for good reason.

In real life, the chainsaw bayonet is extremely flawed for a number of reasons. Firstly, there isn’t really any way to store the gasoline needed to power the chainsaw, so it won’t run for long. The workaround here would be to add a larger fuel source, but by doing so, you’d add to the already-bulky weight of the saw.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
As is, they’re barely able to be used as a chainsaw, let alone a chainsaw bayonet.
(Aaron Thiel)

Then there’s the weight-distribution problem. It’s never an issue for the hulking heroes of Gears of War, but real-world troops aren’t so massive. Adding weight to a rifle will likely throw off its center of balance. When the front of a gun is far heavier than the back, it simply won’t fire accurately.

The center of balance is almost always closer to the butt-stock so the user has more control over control the weapon. Firearms without butt-stocks are also balanced in a way so that the recoil doesn’t shift the sight picture. Attachments to the front of a weapon, like suppressors, can help regulate weight distribution, but these are very specialized tools. The bulk of a functioning chainsaw would be incredibly difficult to offset.

Finally, we have a hard time seeing a situation in which a chainsaw bayonet would be more effective — not just more enjoyable — than a standard bayonet.

For a quick rundown on why this weapon would also be a complete safety hazard, check out this video.

Articles

Army test fires 3-D printed grenade launcher called RAMBO

Researchers at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center successfully fired the first 3-D printed grenade launcher. This demonstration shows that additive manufacturing (commonly known as 3-D printing) has a potential future in weapon prototype development, which could allow engineers to provide munitions to Soldiers more quickly.


This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
Designed with soldier input, this modified M203 grenade launcher was made mostly from 3D printed parts. (Photo: US Army)

The printed grenade launcher, named RAMBO (Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance), was the culmination of six months of collaborative effort by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, the U.S. Army Manufacturing Technology Program and America Makes, the national accelerator for additive manufacturing and 3-D printing.

RAMBO is a tangible testament to the utility and maturation of additive manufacturing. It epitomizes a new era of rapidly developed, testable prototypes that will accelerate the rate at which researchers’ advancements are incorporated into fieldable weapons that further enable our warfighters. Additive manufacturing is an enabling technology that builds successive layers of materials to create a three-dimensional object.

Every component in the M203A1 grenade launcher, except springs and fasteners, was produced using AM techniques and processes. The barrel and receiver were fabricated in aluminum using a direct metal laser sintering process. This process uses high-powered precision lasers to heat the particles of powder below their melting point, essentially welding the fine metal powder layer by layer until a finished object is formed. Other components, like the trigger and firing pin, were printed in 4340 alloy steel, which matches the material of the traditional production parts.

The purpose of this project was to demonstrate the utility of AM for the design and production of armament systems. A 40 mm grenade launcher (M203A1) and munitions (M781) were selected as candidate systems. The technology demonstrator did not aim to illustrate whether the grenade launcher and munition could be made cheaper, lighter or better than traditional mass-production methods. Instead, researchers sought to determine whether AM technologies were mature enough to build an entire weapon system and the materials’ properties robust enough to create a properly functioning armament.

To be able to additively manufacture a one-off working testable prototype of something as complex as an armament system would radically accelerate the speed and efficiency with which modifications and fixes are delivered to the warfighter. AM doesn’t require expensive and time-intensive tooling. Researchers would be able to manufacture multiple variations of a design during a single printing build in a matter of hours or days. This would expedite researchers’ advancements and system improvements: Instead of waiting months for a prototype, researchers would be able to print a multitude of different prototypes that could be tested in a matter of days.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
Parts for an M203 grenade launcher printed on a 3D printing machine. (Photo: US Army)

Depending on a part’s complexity, there can be numerous steps involved before it is ready for use. For instance, in the case of RAMBO, the printed aluminum receiver and barrel required some machining and tumbling. After printing, the components were cut from the build plate, and then support material was removed from the receiver.

The barrel was printed vertically with the rifling. After it was removed from the build plate, two tangs were broken off and the barrel was tumbled in an abrasive rock bath to polish the surface. The receiver required more post-process machining to meet the tighter dimensional requirements. Once post-processing was complete, the barrel and receiver underwent Type III hard-coat anodizing, a coating process that’s also used for conventionally manufactured components of the M203A1. Anodizing creates an extremely hard, abrasion-resistant outer layer on the exposed surface of the aluminum.

The barrel and receiver took about 70 hours to print and required around five hours of post-process machining. The cost for powdered metals varies but is in the realm of $100 a pound. This may sound like a lot of time and expensive material costs, but given that the machine prints unmanned and there is no scrap material, the time and cost savings that can be gained through AM are staggering. The tooling and set-up needed to make such intricate parts through conventional methods would take months and tens of thousands of dollars, and would require a machinist who has the esoteric machining expertise to manufacture things like the rifling on the barrel.

Beyond AM fabrication of the weapon system, ManTech also requested that a munition be printed. Two RDECOM research and development centers, the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center (ECBC) and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), participated in this phase of the project to demonstrate RDECOM’s cross-organizational capabilities and teaming. An integrated product team selected the M781 40 mm training round because it is simple and does not involve any energetics—explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics are still awaiting approval for use in 3-D printing.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
A comparison of a 3D printed grenade launcher and one made with standard manufacturing processes. (Photo: US Army)

The M781 consists of four main parts: the windshield, the projectile body, the cartridge case and a .38-caliber cartridge case. The windshield and cartridge case are traditionally made by injection molding glass-filled nylon. Using multiple AM systems at multiple locations helped emphasize manufacturing readiness and the Army’s capability to design, fabricate, integrate and test components while meeting tolerances, requirements and design rules. ARL and ECBC used selective laser sintering and other AM processes to print glass-filled nylon cartridge cases and windshields for the rounds.

The .38-caliber cartridge case was the only component of the M781 that was not printed. The .38-caliber cartridge case was purchased and pressed into the additively manufactured cartridge case. Research and development is underway at ARDEC to print energetics and propellants.

In current production, the M781 projectile body is made of zinc. Zinc is used because it’s easy to mass-produce through die-casting, it’s a dense material and it’s relatively soft. The hardness of the projectile body is critical, because the rifling of the barrel has to cut into the softer obturating ring of the projectile body. The rifling imparts spin on the round as it travels down the barrel, which improves the round’s aerodynamic stability and accuracy once it exits the barrel. Currently, 3-D printing of zinc is not feasible within the Army. Part of the beauty of AM is that changes can be made quickly and there is no need for retooling, so four alternative approaches were taken to overcome this capability gap:

  • The first approach was to print the projectile body in aluminum as an alternative material. The problem with that approach is that aluminum is less dense than zinc; therefore, when fired, the projectile achieves higher speeds than system design specifications call for. Interestingly, even though the barrel and projectile body were printed from the same aluminum material, because the printed barrel was hard-coat anodized, it allowed for proper rifling engagement with the softer untreated printed aluminum projectile body.
  • The second approach was to print the projectile body in steel, which better meets the weight requirements, and then mold a urethane obdurating ring onto it. The obturating ring is required to ensure proper engagement and rifling in the aluminum barrel. We couldn’t keep the obturating ring as steel, like we did with the first approach, because steel is a lot harder than aluminum, and even with the hard-coat anodization it would have destroyed the grenade launcher’s barrel. So for this approach, the projectile body’s design was modified to take advantage of design for AM. The original projectile body designs did not consider AM fabrication and processing. For this AM technology demonstrator, the design was modified to take advantage of AM design rules to reduce the amount of post-machining required. This approach also used 3-D printing to fabricate a “negative” mold and then create a silicone positive mold to produce an obturating ring onto the printed munition bodies.
  • The third approach also utilized a groove and obturating ring, but instead of overmolding, the plastic was printed directly onto the steel projectile body using a printer with a rotary axis.
  • The fourth approach used a wax printer to 3D-print projectile bodies. Using the lost-wax casting process, plaster was poured around the wax bodies and allowed to set. Once set, the hardened plaster mold was heated and the wax melted away. Molten zinc was then poured into the plaster mold to cast the zinc projectile bodies.

ARDEC researchers used modeling and simulation throughout the project to verify whether the printed materials would have sufficient structural integrity to function properly. Live-fire testing was used to further validate the designs and fabrication. The printed grenade launcher and printed training rounds were live-fire tested for the first time on Oct. 12, 2016, at the Armament Technology Facility at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

Testing included live firing at indoor ranges and outdoor test facilities. The system was remotely fired for safety reasons, and the tests were filmed on high-speed video. The testing included 15 test shots with no signs of degradation. All the printed rounds were successfully fired, and the printed launcher performed as expected. There was no wear from the barrel, all the systems held together and the rounds met muzzle velocities within 5 percent of a production M781 fired from a production-grade grenade launcher.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
Grenade launcher practice rounds made using a variety of non-standard manufacturing techniques. (Photo: US Army)

The variation in velocities were a result of the cartridge case cracking, and the issue was quickly rectified with a slight design change and additional 3-D printing. This demonstrates a major advantage using AM, since the design was modified and quickly fabricated without the need for new tooling and manufacturing modifications that conventional production would require. More in-depth analysis of material properties and certification is underway. The RAMBO system and associated components and rounds are undergoing further testing to evaluate reliability, survivability, failure rates and mechanisms.

Before the live-fire testing, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center gathered warfighter input from the 2-504 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. The regiment was consulted on features and capabilities it would like to have available on the M203A1 grenade launcher. Using that feedback, NSRDEC created the standalone kit for RAMBO. The M203 grenade launcher is typically mounted under other soldier weapons.

NSRDEC researchers took advantage of AM and rapidly created prototypes and kits that included custom handgrips based on warfighter requests and specifications—customization made possible because of the design freedoms and rapid turnaround afforded by AM.

The concept and funding for this project initially came from ManTech and ARDEC. ARDEC managed and executed the project with collaboration from other RDECOM AM community of practice and associated member organizations. Some of that collaboration was ad hoc and need-based—the need to find certain printing capabilities that ARDEC lacked, for example—and other collaborative efforts represented a concerted effort to leverage the experience and expertise of the community of practice.

Key organizations included ARDEC, Army ManTech, ARL, ECBC, ­NSRDEC, America Makes, DOD laboratories and several small businesses. ARL worked with ECBC for development of printed glass-filled nylon cartridge cases, and with NSRDEC for designs and fabrication of the printed standalone kits with Soldier-requested variations.

The Army Special Services Division at Fort Meade, Maryland, expeditiously printed aluminum barrels and receivers to complement ARDEC’s capabilities for additive manufacturing of metals. America Makes developed and printed finely tuned AM barrels and receivers. The project also included services from several small businesses and service houses for AM. The cross-organization teaming between government and industry illustrated the current state of the art for AM and the robustness and manufacturing readiness of AM as an enabling technology for current and future U.S. production.

The 40 mm AM-produced grenade launcher and components were a highlighted project at the 2016 Defense Manufacturing Conference. Although there are still many challenges to be addressed before Armywide adoption of AM, demonstrations like this one show the technology’s advances. Successfully firing an AM-produced weapon system validates AM maturation and applicability in armament production.

By using AM, researchers and developers will be able to build and test their prototypes in a matter of days rather than months. Designs and parts previously unachievable can now be realized. Complex designs that lighten, simplify and optimize armaments are now feasible and manufacturable. These advancements will improve products and facilitate faster and more efficient transition from the labs to the field, further enabling our warfighters.

Articles

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

A Marine Corps F-35B used its on-board sensors to function for the first time as a broad-area aerial relay node in an integrated fire-control weapons system designed to identify, track and destroy approaching enemy cruise missiles from distances beyond-the-horizon, service officials announced.


A Navy “desert ship” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. designed to replicate maritime conditions, used ship-based radar to connect the F-35B sensors to detect enemy missiles at long ranges and fire an SM-6 interceptor to destroy the approaching threat.

Also read: This is how the F-35 is being tested against Russian and Chinese air defenses

The emerging fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA, was deployed last year on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf, Navy officials told Scout Warrior, last year.

NIFC-CA has previously operated using an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane as an aerial sensor node; the use of an F-35B improves the sensor technology, reach, processing speed and air maneuverability of the system; the test also assessed the ability of the system to identify and destroy air-to-air and air-to-surface targets.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
An F-35 Lightning II flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016. USS Zumwalt, the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced surface ship. | U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe

“This test was a great opportunity to assess the Navy’s ability to take unrelated technologies and successfully close the fire control loop as well as merge anti-surface and anti-air weapons into a single kill web that shares common sensors, links and weapons,” Anant Patel, major program manager for future combat systems in the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems, said in a written statement.

The test was a collaborative effort across the Navy and Marine Corps, White Sands Missile Range and industry partners leveraging a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B and the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Weapon System

“This test represents the start of our exploration into the interoperability of the F-35B with other naval assets,” said Lt. Col. Richard Rusnok, VMX-1 F-35B detachment officer in charge.

A multi-target ability requires some adjustments to fire-control technology, sensors and dual-missile firings; the SM-6 is somewhat unique in its ability to fire multiple weapons in rapid succession. An SM-6 is engineered with an “active seeker,” meaning it can send an electromagnetic targeting “ping” forward from the missile itself – decreasing reliance on a ship-based illuminator and improving the ability to fire multiple interceptor missiles simultaneously.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
The F-35B conducts a vertical landing on the USS Wasp. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Natasha R. Chalk

Unlike an SM-3 which can be used for “terminal phase” ballistic missile defense at much farther ranges, the SM-6 can launch nearer-in offensive and defensive attacks against closer threats such as approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles. With an aerial sensor networked into the radar and fire control technology such as an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane, the system can track approaching enemy cruise missile attacks much farther away. This provide a unique, surface-warfare closer-in defensive and offensive weapons technology to complement longer range ship-based ballistic missile defense technologies.

Once operational, this expanded intercept ability will better defend surface ships operating in the proximity or range of enemy missiles by giving integrating an ability to destroy multiple-approaching attacks at one time.

“NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of your missile and extend the reach of your sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system,” Capt. Mark Vandroff, DDG 51 program manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.

NIFC-CA Upgrade

NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships called Aegis Baseline 9, Vandroff said.

The system hinges upon an upgraded ship-based radar and computer system referred to as Aegis Radar –- designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles, he explained.

“Integrated air and missile defense provides the ability to defend against ballistic missiles in space while at the same time defending against air threats to naval and joint forces close to the sea,” he said.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer launches a Tomahawk missile. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman

The NIFC-CA system successfully intercepted a missile target from beyond the horizon during testing last year aboard a Navy destroyer, the USS John Paul Jones. The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said. Having this capability could impact discussion about a Pentagon term referred to as Anti-Acces/Area-Denial, wherein potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline. Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles. In particular, NIFC-CA is the kind of technology which, in tandem with other sensors and ship-based weapons, could enable a larger carrier to defend against the much-discussed Chinese DF-21D “carrier-killer” missile. The emerging DF-21D is reportedly able to strike targets as far as 900 nautical miles off shore.

Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could.  The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.

The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.

During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.

More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.

The current upgrades to the Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers can be seen as a part of this broader strategic equation.

The first new DDG 51 to receive Baseline 9 technology, the USS John Finn or DDG 113, recently went through what’s called “light off” combat testing in preparation for operational use and deployment.

At the same time, the very first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke or DDG 51, is now being retrofitted with these technological upgrades, as well, Vandroff explained.

“This same capability is being back-fitted onto earlier ships that were built with the core Aegis capability. This involves an extensive upgrade to combat systems with new equipment being delivered. New consoles, new computers, new cabling, new data distribution are being back-fitted onto DDG 51 at the same time it is being installed and outfitted on DDG 113,” Vandroff said.

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit
The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katrina Parker

There are seven Flight IIA DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently under construction. DDG 113, DDG 114, DDG 117 and DDG 119 are underway at a Huntington Ingalls Industries shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi and DDG 115, DDG 116 and DDG 118 are being built at a Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine.

Existing destroyers the new USS John Finn and all follow-on destroyers will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies.  For example, Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.

In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which, among other things, controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, Vandroff said.

The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a new, massively more powerful radar system, he added.

Vandroff said the new radar, called the SPY-6, is 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.

Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023, Vandroff said.

Humor

11 hand salutes that are just plain bad

We greet superior officers, pay homage to the American flag, and show respect to fallen comrades by rendering the powerful, non-verbal gesture known as the hand salute.


Though there’s no real written record of how or where the worldwide tradition started, saluting dates back in history to a time when troops would raise their right hand (their weapon hand) as a signal of friendship.

Today, recruits learn how to properly hand salute in boot camp and demonstrate the act countless times before heading out to active service. After a while, muscle memory kicks in and the gesture becomes second nature. But many civilians use the salute as a form of celebration — and they get it so, so wrong.

Related: 5 awful military haircuts that would fail inspection

1. When Michael Cutler, son of a truck-driving arm wrestler, returns home from military school. (Over the Top)

2. That time Cousin Eddie felt super patriotic during Christmas. (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)

3. Some dude watching wrestling and drinking a beer. (USA Network)

4. After that former TV president gave a motivational speech. (House of Cards)

5. No clue where this is from, but it’s funny as hell.

Also read: 7 ways you know you’re an officer

6. When that little kid who turned out to be Darth Vader found out his dad was into superhero cosplay. (Jingle All the Way)

7. An unsat salute from a guy who once played a Marine in a movie. (Some award show on MTV)

8. So, we’re not exactly sure what she was trying to accomplish with her initial type of salute… but at least she ended it with a solid pointing performance.

9. At least Ms. Kaushtupper correctly mounted the American flag on the wall… (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

Don’t forget: 5 common movie mistakes veterans can spot right away

10. Even though his salute is off, it’s still pretty funny. (M*A*S*H)

11. There’s nothing wrong with this troop’s salute, but Dmitry Medvedev epically failed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why these engineers burn their battalion colors every year

A unit’s colors are held in near-sacred regard by the chain of command. The seemingly simple piece of cloth is steeped in rich symbolism and represents nearly every award and conflict that the unit has ever seen.

Even simply brushing against the unit colors while it’s hoisted at the battalion building could result in a younger soldier doing push-ups until sergeant major gets tired. And if it’s dropped while the battalion is out for a run, you might as well send that poor soul to the guillotine — at least that’d be quicker.

While the symbol of a unit’s legacy is held in extreme esteem by the troops it represents, the soldiers of the 2nd Engineer Battalion (which is now a part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division), has a tradition of their own that involves setting fire to their beloved colors.

As odd as it sounds, there’s actually a very valid reason for it, even if it means the battalion needs to get a new one made every 12 months.


This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit

This was the turning point in the war and the engineers found themselves at the worst place at the worst time.

(U.S. National Archives)

This tradition has its roots back in the Korean War’s Battle of Kunu-Ri. The 2nd Infantry Division and UN allies had pushed the North Koreans back to the Yalu River, which separates China and North Korea. The moment China came to North Korea’s aid with a massive army, however, the Americans needed to retreat back south.

The unfortunate duty of pulling rear guard fell solely on the shoulders of the 2nd Engineer soldiers in the little town of Kunu-Ri. It was a lopsided battle that the troops knew they had no chance of winning — let alone surviving. It was a single battalion versus three entire, well-armed, well-trained, and completely fresh divisions.

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This ultimate act of defiance towards an overwhelming enemy still lives on.

It was in the early morning of November 30th, 1950. The remainder of the 8th Army had successfully gotten to safety and the 2nd Infantry Division was slowly making its way out. As each battalion was fighting out, the 2nd Engineers stood their ground to save their brothers.

In this regard, their mission was a success. But by nighttime, their window of opportunity to safely escape had closed. The Chinese had flanked their escape route and their numbers had dwindled. They were down to just 266 out of the 977 men they had at the beginning of the war.

Lt. Col. Alarich Zacherle had to face the grim reality that every commander fears — the complete and utter destruction of his entire unit. The men regrouped for one last time and Zacherle gave the orders. Everything would be destroyed so that it would never fall into the hands of the enemy — nothing was spared.

The last thing to go was the colors. Zacherle made sure that even if they were all defeated and all of their men were lost, the Chinese would never be able to take their battalion colors as a war trophy. They set it ablaze and whoever was left ran like hell.

Their heroic deeds that night saved the lives of many 2nd ID soldiers and held the Chinese off long enough for the Americans to stage a proper defense. Very few men made it out of that battle — it’s been said that just a single officer made it out without being killed or captured.

To honor the men who gave their lives for their brothers, every year on November 30th, the 2nd Engineer Battalion recreates that heart-stopping moment with a solemn ceremony. The memory of the men who fought at Kunu-Li lives on as the names of each and every one of those 977 men are called off in formation by the current 2nd Engineers.

And, just as it happened in 1950, they set fire to their battalion colors in memorium.

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