Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter

Last week, the Royal Air Force Capabilities Office and the branch’s Team Tempest held a virtual briefing to provide updates regarding their forthcoming 6th generation fighter dubbed “Tempest.” Along with industry updates and discussion about the program’s progress, the UK’s Ministry of Defence also revealed a new artist’s rendering of the new fighter (shown above).

Team Tempest includes a laundry list of defense contractors who are currently working on facets of the forthcoming aircraft, and they’ve made some lofy claims about what this new fighter will be able to do. Industry partners involved in the program include BAE Systems (the aircraft lead), Rolls-Royce, Leonardo, and MBDA.

“We have been a world leader in the combat air sector for a century, with an enviable array of skills and technology, and this Strategy makes clear that we are determined to make sure it stays that way. It shows our allies that we are open to working together to protect the skies in an increasingly threatening future – and this concept model is just a glimpse into what the future could look like,” UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

Like the U.S. Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance program (NGAD), the Tempest aims to leapfrog the capabilities offered by the world’s most advanced fighter jets in operation today–5th generation fighters like the F-35, F-22, J-20, and Su-57. However, the leap from the 5th to 6th generation is more about marketing than it is about function. Generational designations are effectively just industry shorthand to describe the design and production process that went into a platform.

While there are no formal requirements for the informal title of “6th generation” fighter, there are a number of assumptions defense experts have made regarding the capabilities such a jet would need to bring to the table. You can read a more thorough breakdown of those capabilities in our analysis of the 6th generation of fighters here. In the interest of brevity, some anticipated capabilities include the use of artificial intelligence to assist the pilot, the ability to manage drones in support of the fighter, and all the advancements that came along in the 5th generation, including stealth and data fusion.

According to this graphic created by BAE Systems, the Tempest promises to meet each of those requirements.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter

“Tempest is one of the UK’s most ambitious technological endeavours and designed to deliver a highly advanced, adaptable combat air system to come into service from the mid-2030s. This next generation combat aircraft, which forms part of a wider combat air system, will exploit new technologies as they evolve to respond to the changing nature of the battlespace, addressing increasingly high-tech and complex threats and conflict.”

-UK Ministry of Defence statement

In order to build upon the data fusion success of flying supercomputers like the F-35, Tempest’s project lead for electronics and avionics Leonardo has been developing a new Multi-Function Radar Frequency System specifically for the new fighter.

This system will leverage massive amounts of computing power to collect and process a claimed 10,000 times the data of existing radar systems. As Leonardo puts it, the Tempest will be able to gather and process the “equivalent to the internet traffic of a large city every second,” offering its pilot a positively unmatched degree of situational awareness. If the F-35 is considered a “quarterback in the sky,” Leonardo hopes to make the Tempest into an offensive coordinator.

In keeping with that breadth of awareness, BAE aims to create what would effectively be a virtual cockpit pilots will use in conjunction with a similar augmented reality interface to that of the F-35. Pilots would be able to customize every facet of the cockpit around them, using digital switches that can be rapidly re-mapped to serve different roles. The helmet interface and heads up display would allow the pilot to place the information they need where they can use it most.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
(BAE Systems)

Not to be outdone, Rolls Royce is working on a new propulsion system that will burn hotter than previous engines. These new engines are expected to be more efficient and powerful that past iterations, creating the significant power spurless Tempest will need to leverage directed energy weapons that are likely to come. The aircraft’s heat dissipation will also be manageable, according to BAE, so pilots can prioritize capability over stealth, or vice versa.

And like the U.S. Air Force’s Skyborg program, Australia and Boeing’s Loyal Wingman, or Russia’s recent efforts to pair their Su-57 with the Hunter UCAV, the Tempest will be designed to operate with its own flock of drones. These drones will extend the Tempest’s sensor reach, engage targets on the pilot’s behalf, and potentially even sacrifice themselves to save the crewed aircraft from inbound attack.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
(Royal Air Force)

All that is to say that the Tempest has made some big promises, though arguably no bigger than those of the U.S., China, or Russia’s 6th generation fight programs. The question will really be, who will be able to deliver these new capabilities first, and ultimately, who will do it best?

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

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SecNav Ray Mabus takes a parting swing at a major Pentagon rival

During a meeting Wednesday with a number of defense reporters and experts, outgoing Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus defended the Littoral Combat Ship against criticism.


The LCS has been noted for a series of engineering problems that has laid up a number of the early ships. The problems have called the program into question even though the USS Freedom (LCS 1) had a very successful 2010 deployment to Southern Command’s area of operations, while the USS Coronado (LCS 4) successfully defeated a simulated attack by a swarm of speedboats in a 2015 test of the surface warfare package.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
The future USS Detroit (LCS 7) conducts acceptance trials. Acceptance trials are the last significant milestone before delivery of the ship to the Navy. (U.S. Navy Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin-Michael Rote)

Mabus particularly aimed his ire at the Pentagon’s Office of Test and Evaluation, or DOTE, which has been part of an ongoing verbal fight between Pentagon testers and the Navy.

“My reaction is that I’ve been there almost eight years,” Mabus, who was confirmed in 2009, groused to the gathered reporters. “And I’m pretty sure that [DOTE director] Michael Gilmore has never found a weapon system that’s effective, ever.”

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter

“I know what this ship can do. I know what the fleet thinks of it,” Mabus added, citing how the office was also highly critical of the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, claiming it didn’t work or do what the Navy said it would do. The DOTE criticism came even though the plane had already entered the fleet and was drawing rave reviews from operators.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
P-8A Poseidon aircraft No. 760 takes off from a Boeing facility in Seattle, Wash., for delivery to fleet operators in Jacksonville, Fla., marking the 20th overall production P-8A aircraft for the U.S. Navy. This 20th overall delivery will help the U.S. Navy prepare the next squadron transition to the P-8A from the P-3C Orion. The second fully operational P-8A squadron is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Boeing Defense)

The Littoral Combat Ship covered 20 pages in the DOTE FY2016 Annual Report, which claimed the Navy “has not yet demonstrated effective capability for LCS equipped with the MCM [mine counter-measures], SUW [surface warfare], or ASW [anti-submarine warfare] mission packages.”

The report also cited the 2015 cancellation of the Remote Minehunting System, and even claimed that the USS Coronado had flunked the 2015 test.

“The final thing I’ll say is, it does what we want it to do, not what you think it ought to do which is one of the things [Gilmore] does,” Mabus concluded.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Recently, the Afghan Air Force grabbed headlines by dropping its first laser-guided bomb. From here, that might not seem so impressive — the U.S. dropped laser-guided Paveways in Vietnam as early as 1968. But, considering the fact that their military force was decimated by a civil war that began after the Soviets left in 1989, Afghanistan’s military modernization is quite the shock.


Today, as World Air Forces 2018 notes, the Afghan Air Force has 12 A-29 Super Tucanos (with six more on order) as well as 28 MD530Fs (with 154 on order) and ten UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters. The Afghan Air Force is also acquiring almost 160 UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters, four of which have already been delivered. These aircraft are set to replace a fleet of Russian-designed Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters and Mi-25 Hind attack helicopters.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter

Afghan Air Force MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopter fires its two FN M3P .50 cal machine guns

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

The Super Tucano is currently a finalist in the OA-X competition (alongside the Beechcraft AT-6B). The UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters are second-hand, but will be upgraded with a newer engine and rocket pods before delivery. Afghanistan is also going to acquire Cessna 208 Caravan light transport aircraft armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

But did you know that, thirty years ago, the Afghan Air Force packed a lot of punch? An inventory of older equipment shows a lengthy list of Soviet designs were once in service, ranging from the Il-28 Beagle and MiG-17 Fresco to the MiG-23 Flogger. But 12 years of civil war wore that force down substantially. By the time Operation Enduring Freedom began, less than 20 planes were flyable. After Operation Enduring Freedom, there simply wasn’t an Afghan Air Force.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter

One of what will be up to 160 UH-60A Blackhawks for the Afghan Air Force.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jared J. Duhon)

We’ve got a long way to go before the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS are defeated in Afghanistan, but the new Afghan Air Force should help speed that process along.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why US allies want the world’s most advanced sub hunter

South Korea and New Zealand are moving closer to buying the Boeing-made P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, joining India and Australia as the only countries in the region to field the advanced aircraft.

The purchases come as the region grows more interested in submarine and anti-submarine warfare — a trend driven in large part by China’s undersea technological advances — and in boosting their abilities to coordinate with the US and other partners in the region.

June 2018, New Zealand Defense Minister Ron Mark is set to make a proposal to purchase four P-8As to the country’s Administration and Expenditure Review Committee. If approved, the proposal would move to Cabinet for a final decision.


There’s no set date for the proposal to go to the Cabinet, though Mark expects it to get there before the end of July 2018. The acquisition process was started by the previous government, and the US State Department signed off on it in spring 2017, but Mark paused it when the new government took office at the end of 2017 to review it.

“I am confident now that the recommendation I will take to Cabinet committee stacks up. That it is robust. It’s justifiable, and I’m in the stage where I am consulting with people,” Mark said, according to local media. “So my closing comment, not being able to pre-judge what the Cabinet committee or Cabinet might decide … I would simply say, put your cellphones in flight mode, put your tray up, buckle in, hold on, it’s coming.”

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
Malaysian Chief of Defense Forces Gen. Zulkifeli Mohd Zin watches crew members demonstrate advanced features of a P-8A Poseidon during a familiarization flight, April 21, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu)

New Zealand’s Defense Ministry said in 2016 that the Orions needed to be replaced by the mid-2020s, and maintenance costs for the planes have spiked over the past decade.

The State Department approved a sale worth $1.46 billion to replace New Zealand’s aging fleet of P-3 Orion patrol aircraft, though the New Zealand Defense Force has said the purchase would likely cost less.

South Korean officials also said that Seoul would make a $1.71 billion purchase of Poseidons on a “sole-source” basis, forgoing a tender process, according to Reuters. A South Korean official said an “open contest” would have likely pushed up the price of the Poseidon.

The number of Poseidons that South Korea plans to buy was not specified, though Defense News has reported Seoul wants six.

South Korea said in February 2018 it would replace its P-3 Orions with maritime-patrol aircraft from a foreign firm in order to counter the threat posed by North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The Poseidon’s large payload capacity and flight range made it a prime candidate.

Tensions with North Korea have eased in the months since Seoul announced its intention to buy new planes, but the purchase still makes sense, according to Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defense and Security Forum.

“Even if South Korea and US decided not to hold military drills in 2018, we have to maintain security until North Korea fully denuclearizes, and we also needed to replace our old maritime patrol aircraft,” Yang told Reuters.

‘One of the best maritime … assets in the world’

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
One of India’s P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft, dedicated on Nov.u00a013, 2015.
(Indian Navy photo)

India first purchased its Poseidon variant, the P-8I, in 2009, deploying eight of them in 2013. Delhi bought four additional aircraft in 2016, and naval officials have said the country is looking to buy more.

India has its own designs on a role in the global maritime order, but it is also concerned about increasing Chinese submarine activity in the Indian Ocean. The planes are but one element of the country’s shifting security focus, away from its northern boundary with China toward the Indian Ocean.

Australia is currently in the process of acquiring 15 P-8A Poseidons to replace its own aging P-3s. The Royal Australian air force declared initial operating capability for the aircraft in March 2018, five months ahead of schedule. At that time, six of the 12 Poseidons under contract had been delivered, and three more were going through the approval process.

Australia’s P-8As will work with the country’s Triton remotely piloted aircraft, of which Canberra plans to buy six, with the first arriving in mid-2023 and the last by late 2025.

Tritons taking off from Australia’s Northern Territory will be able to do a lap around the South China Sea, covering an area the size of Switzerland in one flight.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
An Australian P-8 Poseidon in 2018.

Australia plans to cooperate with the US on Triton operations, and Canberra and Wellington are likely to coordinate maritime patrols as well.

New Zealand officials have already been in contact with their Australian counterparts about maximizing the advantages of both countries operating the Poseidon, according to Defense News.

The Poseidon’s range, armaments, and capabilities make it an ideal platform for the Indian and Pacific regions, where militaries are increasingly focused on their ability to project power at sea.

“The P-8 is the best ASW localize/track platform in the fleet, one of the best maritime [Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] assets in the world, with the ability to identify and track hundreds of contacts, and complete the kill chain for both surface and subsurface contacts if necessary,” a pilot told The War Zone in early 2017.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 5 MOPP levels that could save you from a chemical attack

For hundreds of years, humans have developed technologies that yield the maximum amount of enemy fatalities in efforts to protect the home front. As time progresses, so, too, do the methods military leaders use to strike fear into the hearts of their deadly opponents.

One such threat that dates back hundreds of years is that of a chemical attack that can strike in an instant and indiscriminately kill.


Chemical attacks were deployed on the battlefields of World War I and, although they’re looked down on by much of today’s international community, they can still be deployed at any time. Now more than ever, U.S. troops are trained to protect themselves from potential hazards using specialized gear. This gear is ranked by Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) levels, which ensure that troops have proper protection against any amount of chemical threat.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
Marines and sailors with the 11th MEU’s command element put their MOPP gear on during the 11th MEU’s gas chamber training.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Demetrius Morgan)

MOPP levels range from zero to four. They’re based on current chemical and biological threats and can elevate in minutes, so troops must always be prepared. Over garments, gas masks and hoods, boot covers, and gloves round out the gear necessary to protect troops.

Level 0

MOPP level zero is simply having all the gear stated above on-hand and ready to don. Though chemical threats are unlikely, they do exist and service members need to be ready.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
MOPP level zero

Level 1

MOPP level one requires the troop to don over garments. This means a chemical threat is present, so troops must remain alert, as the hazard could escalate at any time.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
MOPP level one.

Level 2

As the threat increases, so do MOPP levels. MOPP level two mandates that ground pounders quickly put on the both over garments and boot covers.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
MOPP level two

Level 3

Moving on to MOPP level three. Service members must don over garments, a gas mask and hood, and boot covers. At this level, the threat of coming in contact with hazardous vapors is high.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
MOPP level three

Level 4

Lastly, MOPP level four — which is, by far, the scariest of them all. This level requires over garments, gas masks and hoods, gloves, and boot covers to be worn as a chemical or biological threat is present in the area.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
MOPP level four

To determine threat levels, troops use M9 paper, which can detect the presence of liquid chemical agents, like nerve agents. When this paper comes in contact with a harmful agent, it turns a reddish brown color. This tape is usually placed in well-occupied, highly visible areas for constant monitoring.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the lasers that will knock out terrorist drone swarms

The laser weapons of the future will stop swarms of land, air, and sea targets with pinpoint precision and the speed-of-light.


“We have all the core pieces now to be able to put together laser weapons systems,” said Rob Afzal, a senior fellow with Lockheed Martin’s Laser and Sensor Systems division in the video below. “Now we can envision complete laser weapons systems that can engage multiple targets at the speed of light, with very deep magazines that can be small enough, powerful enough and capable of being carried on tactical platforms.”

Related: US Air Force fighters drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

Lockheed Martin has demonstrated the effectiveness of its lasers with 10 and 30-kilowatt prototypes, stopping small-caliber rockets, UAVs, boats and speeding trucks. Now into its 40 years developing laser weapons, Lockheed Martin is looking to challenge the growing threat of cheap, fast and small drone swarms with its systems.

“Terrorists and other militants can operate small, inexpensive drones loaded with weapons to threaten U.S. and allied forces on the ground,” reported Daniel Miller, chief engineer for High Energy Laser Integration at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works on its website. “Because of their size, these drones are difficult to see, hard to catch on radar, and hard to shoot at with conventional weapons, particularly in swarms.”

These lasers will have the ability to destroy entire terrorist drone swarms instead of one at a time. This video shows the future of Lockheed Martin’s laser weapons program.

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E18uhfTB9lY
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This is why it was perfectly legal for a Russian plane to buzz DC

By now, you’ve heard a Russian plane recently flew around DC and the Trump golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.


And while you might think it was cause to spool up the THAAD and drop that plane in its tracks, believe it or not, they were allowed to by a 25-year-old treaty based on an idea that was nearly four decades old at the time.

The Treaty on Open Skies was first proposed by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955. Cold War paranoia meant it went nowhere for 37 years. After the coup that proved the end of the Soviet Union, the treaty was eventually signed by President George H. W. Bush and ratified in 1992. But it didn’t enter into force until 2002.

The treaty allows the U.S. and Russia — as well as a number of other NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries — to make surveillance flights over each other’s territory.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
An OC-135B Open Skies aircraft goes through pre-flight checks Jan. 16, 2010, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. The OC-135 is with the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and is used to conduct observation flights in support of the Open Skies Treaty. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Perry Aston)

According to a letter to the Senate included with the treaty, this is to “promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.” Certain planes are equipped with four types of sensors, optical panoramic and framing cameras, video cameras with real-time display, infra-red line-scanning devices, and sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar. These suites are used to monitor military forces, and are certified by observers.

Which aircraft is used can vary. The United States uses the OC-135B Open Skies aircraft for this mission. Canada uses a modified C-130. Russia has a version of the Tu-154 airliner. The United Kingdom has used a mix of planes.

The exact number of flights a country may have varies, but the United States and Russia each get 42 such flights a year.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
The Tu-214 will be Russia’s new Open Skis aircraft. (Wikimedia Commons)

They can fly any sort of flight plan – as long as they give 72 hours notice prior to the arrival. The flight must be completed in 96 hours from the time that the plane arrives. The plane on the Open Skies mission also must embark observers from the host nation on board.

So that’s why a lot of people in the Virginia, Maryland, and DC area got a good look at a Russian Tu-154 — and may still see more if Putin wants another closer look.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Boeing Co. will make the wings on the remaining A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft that are slated to receive an upgrade, the Defense Department announced August 2019.

The company on Aug. 21, 2019, received an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract worth a maximum of $999 million for A-10 wing replacements.

“This contract provides for up to 112 new A-10 wing assemblies and up to 15 wing kits,” the award stipulates.

Boeing, which is teaming up with Korean Aerospace Industries for the effort, said the service has ordered an initial 27 wing sets and will manage the production of up to 112 sets and spare kits.


Only 109 A-10s still need to be re-winged, and the contract will include up to three spares, according to service spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter

Three A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft from the 74th and 75th Fighter Squadrons fly in formation during a flight training session.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Wiseman)

“Our established supply base, experience with the A-10 structures, and our in-depth knowledge of the U.S. Air Force’s requirements will help us deliver high-quality wings to meet the customer’s critical need,” Pam Valdez, vice president of Air Force services for Boeing Global Services, said in a statement.

The wing replacement work will be performed at multiple U.S. subcontractor locations as well as one subcontractor location in South Korea; the work is scheduled to be completed in August 2030, according to the contract announcement.

The Air Force will allocate 9.6 million in procurement funds from past fiscal budgets for the effort, known as the “A-10-Thunderbolt II Advanced-Wing Continuation Kit,” or “ATTACK” program, the DoD said.

The Air Force had initially set aside 7 million for the effort, but the DoD has re-evaluated that estimate, Stefanek told Military.com on Aug. 21, 2019.

The news comes after the recent completion of Boeing’s first re-winging contract, awarded to the aerospace company in 2007.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter

An A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to the 74th Fighter Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, GA, returns to mission after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker, 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, over the skies of Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, May 8, 2011.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. William Greer)

As part of the id=”listicle-2639994851″.1 billion “Enhanced Wing Assembly” contract, the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, earlier this month completed work on the last A-10 slated to receive the upgrade. The project began in 2011.

The Air Force in 2018 said it had begun searching for a new company to rebuild wings for the A-10, affectionately known as the Warthog, after the service ended its arrangement with Boeing. Nevertheless, the company has received the second contract.

Officials have not committed to re-winging the entire fleet.

“We re-evaluate every year depending on how many aircraft we will need; the length of the contract goes through 2030 so it gives us options as we go forward,” Stefanek said.

The service has 281 Warthogs in its inventory. Two A-10s were destroyed in a collision in 2017. One of them had received the upgrade.

The planes, which entered service in 1976 and have deployed to the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific, have played an outsized role in the air campaign that began in 2014 against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, helping provide close-air support for Iraqi and U.S. partner forces on the ground.

The A-10 has also been instrumental in air operations in Afghanistan.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

The Marine Corps is nearing the end of testing for a new heavy-lift helicopter expected to be a game-changer for the service.

The CH-53K King Stallion is on track to enter service in 2019, replacing aging and worn CH-53 Echo heavy-lift helicopters.


While the aircrafts look similar, and have comparable footprints, program managers said April 9, 2018, at the annual Sea-Air-Space exposition that the new aircraft represents a leap forward in capability and intelligence.

“[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded,” said Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght, the Corps’ H-53 program manager. “Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest.”

The King Stallion recently lifted an external load of 36,000 pounds into a hover and hoisted a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle into the air, expanding a capability envelope that is ultimately expected to see the new helicopter carrying three times the load that its predecessor could handle.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
A CH-53K King Stallion aircraft prepares to land at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Jupiter, Fla., March 8, 2016.
(US Marine Corps photo)

With flight tests ongoing since October 2015, the King Stallion has logged more than 800 flight hours and is headed into the final stages of testing before initial operational capability sometime in 2019

Smart controls and a fly-by-wire system make the aircraft safer to fly and decrease the workload for the pilot, Vanderborght said.

“A month ago, I got to fly the 53K for the first time,” said Vanderborght, a CH-53E pilot by trade. “It is absolutely night and day between Echo and the Kilo. I could have pretty much flown the entire flight without touching my controls.”

That matters, he said, because in “99-plus percent” of aviation mishaps, a major cause is human error.

“In degraded visual environments, we lose sight of the ground and crash the aircraft. If you’re able to take the human out of the loop, you’re going to increase that safety factor by multiple Xs,” he said. “That’s what the 53K is going to do for the Marines.”

The CH-53K is equipped to fly so the pilot “pretty much could be sipping on a martini while the aircraft does its thing,” Vanderborght said.

All that capability comes with a price tag, but it’s not as high as some feared it would be.

In 2017, Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., raised concerns that the per unit cost for the King Stallion was climbing, to $122 million apiece in development. Program officials said the aircraft was never set to cost that much in production.

Vanderborght said the unit cost of the aircraft is now set to come in at $87 million. While that means the King Stallion will still be the most expensive helo the Marine Corps has ever bought, it’s below the service’s initial cost estimate of $89 million in production.

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This is how long NATO tanks would last against Russian attack helicopters

Russia has two advanced helicopter gunships in service – the Kamov Ka-50/Ka-52 Hokum, and the Mi-28 Havoc. The obvious question – one thankfully never answered in real life – is how well they’d take out American (or Western) tanks and fighting vehicles?


The two helicopters competed against each other near the end of the Cold War — just as the Soviet Union was teetering but was still desperate to find something to match the tank-killing AH-64 Apache.

Related: This deadly Russian attack helicopter is known as ‘the flying tank’

The Mi-24 Hind, which had earned a fearsome reputation as a “flying tank” in Afghanistan, was quickly becoming out-classed.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
A left front view of a Soviet Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter being towed on the flight line. (DOD photo)

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Mi-28 has a top speed of about 162 knots, and a range of 130 nautical miles. It is armed with the same 30mm cannon as the BMP-2, and carries about 250 rounds of ammunition. RussianHelicopters.aero notes that the Havoc can carry a wide variety of rockets and missiles.

The Kamov Ka-50 and Ka-52 are two versions of the Hokum attack helicopter. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Hokum was officially named the winner of the competition with the Havoc in 1995, but in post-Cold War Russia, the production was slow.

Like the Mi-28, it has the same 30mm cannon used on the BMP-2 and can carry rockets and anti-tank missiles.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
The Ka-52 Hokum B. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to World Air Forces 2016 by FlightGlobal.com, Russia has a grand total of 81 Mi-28s and 74 Ka-50/52s on hand. Another 14 Havocs and 82 Hokums are on order.

That is a total of 251 attack helicopters. This creates a problem for the Russians.

Having so few chopper means that they have two options: To either disperse the Havocs and Hokums, and let them be taken out piecemeal, or to concentrate them, and accept that the presence of Havocs and Hokums will be a big indication of where a Russian attack would take place for NATO intelligence.

Related: That time the US Army stole a Russian helicopter for the CIA

So, how well would the Hokum and Havoc do in combat? One big problem is that the Russians will likely not have air superiority, largely due to the fact that many NATO planes are better.

While American and NATO F-22s, F-35s, Rafales, and Typhoons take air superiority from Russian Flankers and Fulcrums, a lot of F-16s and A-10s will be carrying out air support missions. The F-16s will feast on the Russian choppers when they aren’t dropping bombs themselves.

While those that reach the front will kill some Abrams, Leopard, Challenger, or LeClerc tanks, they will likely be wiped out as NATO takes advantage of air superiority.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has gone silent, ending a historic mission that studied time capsules from the solar system’s earliest chapter.

Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA’s Deep Space Network on Oct. 31, 2018, and Nov. 1, 2018. After the flight team eliminated other possible causes for the missed communications, mission managers concluded that the spacecraft finally ran out of hydrazine, the fuel that enables the spacecraft to control its pointing. Dawn can no longer keep its antennas trained on Earth to communicate with mission control or turn its solar panels to the Sun to recharge.


The Dawn spacecraft launched 11 years ago to visit the two largest objects in the main asteroid belt. Currently, it’s in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, where it will remain for decades.

“Today, we celebrate the end of our Dawn mission – its incredible technical achievements, the vital science it gave us, and the entire team who enabled the spacecraft to make these discoveries,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The astounding images and data that Dawn collected from Vesta and Ceres are critical to understanding the history and evolution of our solar system.”

Dusk for Dawn: NASA Mission to the Asteroid Belt

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Dawn launched in 2007 on a journey that put about 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion kilometers) on its odometer. Propelled by ion engines, the spacecraft achieved many firsts along the way. In 2011, when Dawn arrived at Vesta, the second largest world in the main asteroid belt, the spacecraft became the first to orbit a body in the region between Mars and Jupiter. In 2015, when Dawn went into orbit around Ceres, a dwarf planet that is also the largest world in the asteroid belt, the mission became the first to visit a dwarf planet and go into orbit around two destinations beyond Earth.

“The fact that my car’s license plate frame proclaims, ‘My other vehicle is in the main asteroid belt,’ shows how much pride I take in Dawn,” said Mission Director and Chief Engineer Marc Rayman at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “The demands we put on Dawn were tremendous, but it met the challenge every time. It’s hard to say goodbye to this amazing spaceship, but it’s time.”

The data Dawn beamed back to Earth from its four science experiments enabled scientists to compare two planet-like worlds that evolved very differently. Among its accomplishments, Dawn showed how important location was to the way objects in the early solar system formed and evolved. Dawn also reinforced the idea that dwarf planets could have hosted oceans over a significant part of their history – and potentially still do.

“In many ways, Dawn’s legacy i­s just beginning,” said Princ­­ipal Investigator Carol Raymond at JPL. “Dawn’s data sets will be deeply mined by scientists working on how planets grow and differentiate, and when and where life could have formed in our solar system. Ceres and Vesta are important to the study of distant planetary systems, too, as they provide a glimpse of the conditions that may exist around young stars.”

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter

This photo of Ceres and one of its key landmarks, Ahuna Mons, was one of the last views Dawn transmitted before it completed its mission. This view, which faces south, was captured on Sept. 1, 2018, at an altitude of 2220 miles (3570 kilometers) as the spacecraft was ascending in its elliptical orbit.

Because Ceres has conditions of interest to scientists who study chemistry that leads to the development of life, NASA follows strict planetary protection protocols for the disposal of the Dawn spacecraft. Dawn will remain in orbit for at least 20 years, and engineers have more than 99 percent confidence the orbit will last for at least 50 years.

So, while the mission plan doesn’t provide the closure of a final, fiery plunge — the way NASA’s Cassini spacecraft ended in 2017, for example — at least this is certain: Dawn spent every last drop of hydrazine making science observations of Ceres and radioing them back so we could learn more about the solar system we call home.

The Dawn mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. JPL is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Northrop Grumman in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.

Check out the Dawn media toolkit, with a mission timeline, images, video and quick facts, at:

https://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/toolkit

Watch the video “Dawn: Mission to Small Worlds,” with NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green, at:

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

More information about Dawn is available at:

https://www.nasa.gov/dawn

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China’s massive flying boat just took off for the first time

While the United States Navy has not used the flying boat in a long time, other countries have kept these planes around. After all, they do have some advantages in a military setting. You can’t exactly ground them by bombing a runway, it’s easy to re-deploy them to a new forward base, and flying boats are versatile assets – just look at the PBY Catalina.


One of the countries that is keeping the flying boat alive is China. This country operated the Harbin SH-5 flying boat as a maritime patrol and search-and-rescue asset. It has a top speed of 345 miles per hour and a range of just under 3,000 miles, according to MilitaryFactory.com. It can carry 13,000 pounds of bombs, missiles, or torpedoes. The Chinese only built seven of these planes, and FlightGlobal.com notes that three are still in service.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
Harbin SH-5 seaplane. (Wikimedia Commons)

China has not stopped with the SH-5. According to a report by CNBC.com, the AG600, a four-engine flying boat roughly the size of the 737 has just made its first flight. Officially, the aircraft is intended to carry out firefighting and search-and-rescue missions. MilitaryFactory.com reports that has a top speed of 311 miles per hour and a range of just over 2,700 miles. So far, at least 17 airframes have been ordered.

Some Chinese media outlets are reporting the AG600 – or a variant – could be useful for military operations in the South China Sea. China has been building “unsinkable aircraft carriers” in the maritime flashpoint, enabling the People’s Liberation Army Navy and People’s Liberation Army Air Force to operate fighters in the area. This sort of development prompted the United States military to retire its flying boats.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
Two artists’s impressions of the AG-600. (AVIC graphic)

China’s continued pursuit of flying boats could be seen as a hedge against the United States being able to disable the island bases in the South China Sea. The AG600 does have the capability to haul cargo and specialists to either repair a base, or to maintain a presence until a base can be fixed.

Articles

The hero of 73 Easting explains why the US needs new tanks

Twenty-five years ago, H.R. McMaster lead Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment into battle at 73 Easting in Iraq, and kicked some Republican Guard butt.


Now, he is sounding some alarm bells.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter
M1 Abrams tanks conduct live fire training. (Photo from U.S. Army)

According to an Army release, McMaster — now a lieutenant general and Army Training and Doctrine Command’s deputy commanding general for futures — gave the keynote address at a function held by the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare where he urged the development of new armored vehicles. The Silver Star recipient noted that Germany’s Puma, the Swedish CV90, and the British Ajax all featured more advanced technology than that on the M2/M3 Bradley.

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That could put American troops at a disadvantage if the long-range precision firepower (systems like the Excalibur GPS-guided artillery round and the Joint Direct Attack Munition) is taken off the table. How might that happen? An enemy force could hide among civilians, or avoid the wide open spaces that make for easy target location.

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McMaster noted that new armored vehicles might seem expensive, but in reality, they are cheap compared to big-ticket items in the Defense budget. The $362 million price tag of a Freedom-class littoral combat ship, for example, is enough to buy about 40 M1A2 Abrams tanks. This is important since in an environment where air power and naval power won’t be factors, an armored vehicle will be needed to get in close to decide the battle.

That said, it should be noted that the M1A2SEP Abrams of today is not like the tank that first entered service. The armor is even tougher than that on the tanks that served in Desert Storm (one famous incident involved main gun rounds from a T-72 bouncing off, even though they’d been fired from less than 400 yards away). The radios are better. A planned M1A3 will be about two tons lighter than current M1A2SEPs, and will feature no loss in lethality or protection.

The Bradley, though, has outlasted two efforts to replace it. First, the Future Combat Systems’ M1206 proposal got the chop for budget reasons. Then, the Ground Combat Vehicle didn’t even get a number in the M series.

McMaster notes that if nothing is done, “the Bradley and Abrams will remain in the inventory for 50 to 70 more years.”

“We are gravely underinvested in close-combat overmatch, gravely underinvested in land systems broadly, gravely underinvested in combat vehicles in particular,” he said.

Tempest: Everything we know about the UK’s 6th-gen fighter