The 11 best air forces in the world - We Are The Mighty
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The 11 best air forces in the world

What makes an air force good? Is it combat capability? Is it their track record? Much of that can stir up debates and cause one heck of a…disagreement among patrons at any watering hole or establishment.


Then again…life gets boring without such things.

The 11 best air forces in the world
F-35C Lightning IIs, attached to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, and an F/A-18E/F Super Hornets attached to the Naval Aviation Warfighter Development Center (NAWDC) fly over Naval Air Station Fallon’s (NASF) Range Training Complex. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell)

So, here’s a look at the eleven best air forces in the world:

11. Russian Air Force

The Russians have been working on some new planes, but most of their very large force is old. Still, quantity can have a quality all on its own.

Russia also has long-range bombers and some tankers and airborne early warning planes. It’s just they are old, and maintenance levels have fallen off since the Cold War ended.

The 11 best air forces in the world
Russian Su-30 fighter (Wikimedia photo)

10. Republic of Korea Air Force

South Korea’s air force has come a long way in the same timeframe as China. F-5s and F-4s have been replaced by F-16s, and they developed the T-50 Golden Eagle, which is a very capable advanced trainer — so much so it has also been turned into a multi-role fighter as well.

The 11 best air forces in the world
A ROKAF T-50 at the Singapore Air Show. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

9. People’s Liberation Army Air Force (includes People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force)

Twenty years ago, the bulk of China’s planes were copies of the MiG-21 Fishbed. Today, many of the planes are from the “Flanker family,” including home-grown versions like the J-11, J-11B, J-15, and J-16.

China also has the indigenous J-10 and JH-7, while also flying two fifth-generation designs.

The 11 best air forces in the world
Photo: Xinhuanet

8. Indian Air Force (including Indian Navy)

This country has won a few wars, and also has developed some of their own planes in the past and present. The only reason they are behind the Saudis is their reliance on Russian airframes, while the Saudis and Japanese have F-15s.

Having the second-best carrier aviation arm doesn’t hurt.

The 11 best air forces in the world
An Indian MiG-29K purchased from Russia. (Photo: Indian Navy CC BY 2.5 IN)

7. Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (including Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Japan could rank higher, but they have limited themselves due to Article 9 of their post-World War II constitution.

While they are stretching the boundaries, the lack of real ground-attack capabilities is very telling. But they have very good air-to-air, anti-surface ship, and anti-submarine capabilities.

With four “helicopter destroyers” that are really small carriers, Japan could vault up very quickly.

The 11 best air forces in the world
A Mitsubishi F-2A taxis during a 2009 exercise. Note the dumb bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

6. Royal Saudi Air Force

In 1990, the Royal Saudi Air Force had nice gear, but there was an open question of how well they could use them. Today, they’ve been upgrading the gear, and they have combat experience. This 1-2 combination is enough to vault them into the top air forces.

The 11 best air forces in the world
A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S in its hangar. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

5. United States Marine Corps

The Marines really do close-air support well. Not that they haven’t had aces in their history, but the last air-to-air kill a Marine scored was during the Vietnam War.

Then there are the issues with their F/A-18s, and the need to pull airframes from the boneyard.

The 11 best air forces in the world
Capt. Jonathan Lewenthal and Capt. Eric Scheibe, AV-8B Harrier pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), fly over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gregory Moore)

4. Royal Air Force (including the Fleet Air Arm)

This is a very capable, albeit small, force. The problem is “the Few” are becoming “fewer” — and there have been some uncomfortable gaps, including the early retirement of their Harrier force, which was a poor way to repay the airframe that won the Falklands War.

The fact that the Royal Navy’s new carrier will have to deploy with United States Marines says a lot.

The 11 best air forces in the world
A Royal Air Force Typhoon in 2012. (Peter Gronemann/Flickr photo)

3. Israeli Defense Force 

The Israelis have had a good air force — much of it based on need. Yes, the airframes are American designs, but the Israelis have installed their own electronics on the F-15I and F-16I planes that are now the backbone of their military.

Plus, their pilots are very, very good.

The 11 best air forces in the world
F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

1. United States Air Force and United States Navy (tie)

The Air Force and Navy have long been rivals – always trying to one-up each other. But in this case, the two are in a virtual tie. While the United States Air Force has strategic bombers the Navy doesn’t, the Navy, by virtue of its carrier fleet, is much more responsive.

The two services are complimentary and each are very good at what they do.

The 11 best air forces in the world
An F-15E Strike eagle conducts a mission over Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2008. The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

MIGHTY TRENDING

US warships ignore China, sail through Taiwan Strait

Two US Navy warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Feb. 25, 2019, sending a message to Beijing, which has warned the US to “tread lightly” in the closely watched waterway.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem and the supply ship USNS Cesar Chavez navigated a “routine” Taiwan Strait transit Feb. 25, 2019, the US Pacific Fleet told Business Insider in an emailed statement.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” the Pacific Fleet said.


The two US Navy vessels that passed through the Taiwan Strait were apparently shadowed by People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships.

The passage is the fourth since October 2018 and the fifth since the US Navy restarted the practice of sending surface combatants through the strait July 2018.

The 11 best air forces in the world

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Marcus D. Mince)

The Taiwan Strait is a roughly 80-mile international waterway that separates the democratic island from the communist mainland, and China regularly bristles when US Navy vessels sail through. When a US destroyer and a fleet oiler transited the strait in January 2019, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the passage “provocative behavior,” accusing the US of “threatening the safety” of those nearby.

Beijing considers Taiwan, a self-ruled territory, to be a renegade province, and it firmly opposes US military support for the island, be that arms sales, protection assurances, or even just the US military operating in the area. China fears that US actions will embolden pro-independence forces in Taiwan that want to declare it a sovereign state separate from China.

China has repeatedly urged the US to keep its distance from Taiwan, but the US Navy has continued its “routine” trips through the strait. “We see the Taiwan Strait as another (stretch of) international waters, so that’s why we do the transits,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in January 2019.

The rhetoric used by the Navy to characterize the Taiwan Strait transits is almost identical to that used to describe US freedom-of-navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea.

The Navy has already conducted two FONOPs this year, angering Beijing both times.

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

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This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam

Long before the first bombs fell on Baghdad Jan. 16, 1991, the man who would be in charge of one of the most effective air campaigns in history was hearing whispers from another war.


Then-Lt. Gen. Charles A. Horner, who, as a young captain, flew Wild Weasel missions attacking radar sites during two tours in the Vietnam War, was determined to avoid the same strategic mistakes in the Persian Gulf that plagued the U.S. military in Southeast Asia. Fortunately, his boss – Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf – and other military leaders executing Operation Desert Storm had Vietnam, and the hard lessons learned there, in their memories, as well.

An oil storage tank at a refinery that was attacked by coalition aircraft during Operation Desert Storm continues to burn days after the air strike. The refinery is located approximately seven miles west of the Kuwaiti border. An oil storage tank at a refinery that was attacked by coalition aircraft during Operation Desert Storm continues to burn days after the air strike. The refinery is located approximately seven miles west of the Kuwaiti border.

Twenty-five years later, Horner, now a retired four-star general residing in northwest Florida, looks back on the Air Force that struck Saddam Hussein’s forces in Kuwait and Iraq during Desert Storm as perhaps the best-trained force to date. Five days after Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, 1990, a U.S.-led coalition of about 30 nations placed more than 900,000 troops in the Arabian Peninsula in what became known as Operation Desert Shield, the campaign to prevent Iraqi incursions into Saudi Arabia, and build up forces to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait should diplomacy fail to secure a peaceful solution. When the United Nations Security Council for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait came and went the following January, Desert Storm kicked off with an air campaign that would become the largest employment of U.S. airpower since the war in Vietnam.

Related: “How the bravery of the Wild Weasels cleared enemy skies”

“When I think back on the past 25 years after Desert Storm, I see the immense impact that particular war had on how we planned to fight in the future and the kind of equipment we would need,” Horner said. “But most of all, I think about the spirit and attitude of our young warriors who were going to be faced with the next battle.

“I’m so proud of the way we performed in Desert Storm because of the leadership we had from Schwarzkopf and (Gen. Wilbur L. “Bill” Creech, former Tactical Air Command commander), and the way we had equipment that worked. We had all of the advantages the world had not seen before Desert Storm.”

A framed photo on a bookshelf, of then Colonel, and now retired Gen. Charles A. Horner and his wife Mary Jo, A framed photo on a bookshelf, of then Colonel, and now retired Gen. Charles A. Horner and his wife Mary Jo, in front of his F-15 at Luke AFB, where he was wing commander in March of 1981. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Lessons learned

One of Horner’s first priorities, while planning the air strategy as Schwarzkopf’s joint force air component commander, was to avoid making what he considered the main mistake from Vietnam. He didn’t want bombing target selection to come from the president or defense secretary. As the architect of the air campaign against Iraq, Horner wanted targeting decisions to be made by commanders directly involved in the area of operations. “Washington was not the place to plan a war,” he had said. “If people there wanted to fight, let them come to the theater (of combat).

“That is the lesson of Vietnam,” Horner said in “Airpower Advantage: Planning the Gulf War Campaign 1989-1991,” a book by Diane Putney for the Air Force History and Museums Program. “Remember our great president (Lyndon B. Johnson) saying, ‘They don’t bomb a shit house in North Vietnam if I don’t approve it.’

“Well, I was the guy bombing the shit houses, and I was never going to let that happen if I ever got in charge because it is not right. If you want to know whether war is going to be successful or not, just ask where the targets are being picked. If they say, ‘We picked them in Washington,’ get out of the country. Go to Canada until the war is over because it is a loser.”

The 11 best air forces in the world
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Horner commanded U.S. and Allied airpower during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He had previously served as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam where he was awarded a Silver Star. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

The day Horner, then the commander of 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, received the call that eventually launched Desert Storm, he was flying his F-16 Fighting Falcon on an air-to-air training mission near the North Carolina coast with two F-15 Eagles from Langley AFB, Virginia.

He’d expected the call from Schwarzkopf since the invasion of Kuwait. But once the call came from the Federal Aviation Administration to notify him to return to Shaw AFB, he instantly knew what it meant. He and his staff had to prepare the air portion of a CENTCOM briefing for President George H.W. Bush at Camp David, Maryland, the next morning.

Kuwait invasion

After the invasion of Kuwait, the coalition’s first priority was protecting Saudi Arabia. Horner developed friendships with the Saudis earlier in his career during Operation Earnest Will in 1987-88 and other exercises and remained in Saudi Arabia after he and Schwarzkopf went there a few days after the invasion of Kuwait. The coalition organized for Desert Shield and Storm gave the U.S. military an opportunity to work closely with each other, as well as with forces from other nations, as they would later do during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

A massive prepositioning of equipment, supplies, munitions and fuels around the Persian Gulf, begun by the Joint Rapid Deployment Force in the 1980s, expedited preparations to conduct military operations in the area of responsibility, Horner said.

The 11 best air forces in the world
Military trucks are unloaded from the nose ramp of a C-5A Galaxy transport aircraft of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Military Airlift Command, in support of Operation Desert Shield.

“When our aircraft landed in the Gulf airfields, they were met with spares, fuel, munitions, living facilities and all the other things they would need to survive and fight,” he wrote in “Desert Storm: A View From the Front.” “This material had been stored on ships anchored in theater and in leased warehouses throughout the AOR.”

Well before the crisis in the Gulf began, the military had trained for an eventual showdown with Iraq. A month before the invasion, a CENTCOM war game used a scenario of a “Country Orange” attacking Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from the north. When Schwarzkopf, who died in 2012, accepted command of CENTCOM in November 1989, he told his military leaders that since a war with Russia wasn’t likely to happen, “we have to find a new enemy or go out of business,” Horner said.

At the time Iraq invaded Kuwait, it fielded the world’s fifth-largest army at a million soldiers; larger than the U.S. Army and Marine Corps combined, according to a Los Angeles Times article on Aug. 13, 1990. The weaknesses coalition military planners hoped to exploit included an incompetent senior staff chosen for their devotion to Hussein rather than their military prowess, and only about one-third of its soldiers were experienced combat troops, according to U.S. officials quoted in the article.

After its eight-year war with Iran, Iraq owed a huge debt to Kuwait and many other Arab nations, which funded Iraq’s purchase of high-tech weapons, according to an American Patriot Friends Network article published in 2004. Kuwait’s oil made it one of the richest countries in the world and cash-strapped Iraq wanted it.

Courtesy Photo Pilot gazes out into the wild blue yonder.

“When General Schwarzkopf took command of (CENTCOM), he said we have to plan for an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia because Iraq came out of the Iran-Iraq War very powerful militarily,” Horner said. “So, of course, they were sitting right next to the Fort Knox in the Middle East. So when it happened, I wasn’t surprised. We’d anticipated it was going to happen, but the speed with which we had to react was surprising.”

A United Nations Security Council deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait passed on Jan. 15, 1991, with no action from Iraq, so at 2 a.m. Jan. 17 (Baghdad time), coalition forces began a five-week bombardment of Iraqi command and control targets, beginning with eight Army AH-64 Apache helicopters led by two Air Force MH-53 Pave Hawks that destroyed radar sites near the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border, according to Putney. About an hour later, 10 Air Force F-117 Nighthawk stealth bombers, protected by three EF-111 Aardvarks, and Navy BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck targets in Baghdad. The initial attacks allowed the coalition to gain control of the air for its fighter aircraft.

At the cessation of hostilities, coalition forces had destroyed 3,700 of Iraq’s 4,280 tanks and 2,400 of its 2,870 armored vehicles. The bomb tonnage dropped by U.S. planes per day equaled the average tonnage dropped on Germany and Japan during the entirety of World War II, according to the “White Paper – Air Force Performance in Desert Storm, Department of the Air Force,” published in April 1991.”

“The things that guided our strategy was to be unrelenting and to bring such a powerful force, so quickly and so thoroughly on the enemy, that they would be forced to leave Kuwait,” Horner said. “It was not going to be piecemeal. It was not going to be to play Mr. Nice Guy. It was going to be as vicious as possible, and that drove the strategy. The second part of our strategy was to get control of the air first and foremost, which we did not do in Vietnam.”

Civilian and military officials pose for a group photograph prior to discussing U.S. military intervention in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield. Dignitaries include, from left: P. D. Wolfowitz, under sec. of defense for policy; Gen. C. Powell, chrm., Joint Chiefs of Staff; R. Cheney, sec. of defense; Gen. N. Schwarzkopf, cmdr-in-chief, USCENTCOM; Lt. Gen. C. Waller, dep. chief of staff, USCENTCOM; and Maj. Gen. R. Johnston. Back row: Lt. Gen. C. Horner, cmdr., 9th AF, TAC; Lt. Gen. J. Yeosock, cmdr., 3rd Army; Vice-Adm. S. Arthur, cmdr., Seventh Flt. and Col. Johnson. Civilian and military officials pose for a group photograph prior to discussing U.S. military intervention in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield. Dignitaries include, from left: P. D. Wolfowitz, under sec. of defense for policy; Gen. C. Powell, chrm., Joint Chiefs of Staff; R. Cheney, sec. of defense; Gen. N. Schwarzkopf, cmdr-in-chief, USCENTCOM; Lt. Gen. C. Waller, dep. chief of staff, USCENTCOM; and Maj. Gen. R. Johnston. Back row: Lt. Gen. C. Horner, cmdr., 9th AF, TAC; Lt. Gen. J. Yeosock, cmdr., 3rd Army; Vice-Adm. S. Arthur, cmdr., Seventh Flt. and Col. Johnson.

The result was a prolonged air campaign that set up a short but decisive ground campaign. As the air war kicked off the first night of Desert Storm, Horner watched from the tactical air control center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as coalition aircraft flew north. At first, he wasn’t completely confident about how successful the attack would be or the cost it would take in aircraft and personnel.

However, Horner knew it was going well when he saw CNN’s live feed from Baghdad disappear. As CNN’s television satellite transmission equipment was not allowed entry into the highly controlled, secretive, authoritarian state, they had to transmit through antennas atop the ATT building in downtown Baghdad. It was the same building that housed Iraq’s air defense operations and from which communications emanated from Iraq’s air command control system. It was the target of one of the first bombs dropped from U.S. planes. When CNN reporter Peter Arnett went off the air at the precise moment the strike was scheduled, cheers went through the air operations center, Horner said. If CNN was off the air, so was Iraq’s air defense system.

Also read: “How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare”

“So as the sun came up the next morning and all of our airplanes were coming home except one, we became aware that this was going to go a lot better than even the best critics thought it might,” Horner said.

The 11 best air forces in the world
The remains of an Iraqi air base, May 12, 2003. After Desert Storm the base was not used for flight operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dave Buttner) (Released)

Ground war

By Feb. 23, the air campaign was mostly complete and coalition ground forces swiftly drove the Republican Guard from Kuwait and advanced into Iraq, forcing a ceasefire within 100 hours. Desert Storm was won at a much lower cost than even in the most optimistic prognostications, with 148 Americans killed in action and another 145 non-battle deaths. The Defense Intelligence Agency numbered the Iraqi casualties at about 100,000, although later the figure was disputed to be more in the 20,000 to 40,000 range.

Horner said bombing campaign proved most productive attacking Republican Guard and armor units because Hussein depended on them to retain power. The attacks to gain control of the air, coupled with medium-altitude operations, air-to-air excellence and defense suppression attacks were also effective, he said.

The 11 best air forces in the world
1,400 soldiers of the 440th Iraqi Brigade surrender to the U. S. Marines of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable on Failaka Island, Kuwait Mar 03, 1991. (Official U. S. Marine Corp photograph by SSgt Angel Arroyo 13th MEU SOC Combat Camera/Released)

“When the ground war started, I expected rapid gains given the fact that we had reduced the Iraqi ground units to a level of ‘not combat ready,’ using our Army’s definition,” Horner said. “What surprised most of us was the surrender rate. That was beyond our expectations. Once I became certain, early in the war, that our losses were manageable, I knew the ground war would go well, but I underestimated how well.”

Horner, who co-wrote his account of the air war with the late Tom Clancy in “Every Man a Tiger,” gives much of the credit for the training of the force he led during Desert Storm to Creech and Marine Corps Gen. George B. Crist, Schwarzkopf’s predecessor as CENTCOM commander-in-chief, who both placed great importance on making training as close to real world as possible. They led the push for more realistic exercises, an emphasis on aircraft maintenance, bomb scores, and the right tactics, which all came together during Desert Storm.

A close-up view of M-117 750-pound bombs loaded onto the pylon of a B-52G Stratofortress aircraft prior to a bombing mission against Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm. A close-up view of M-117 750-pound bombs loaded onto the pylon of a B-52G Stratofortress aircraft prior to a bombing mission against Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm.

Another lesson from Crist that played into Horner’s strategy was to force decisions down to the lowest level and hold those people responsible. Horner saw the benefits of that policy during a meeting with a munitions technical sergeant. Horner was visiting the bomb dock where munitions were built and saw the NCO sitting on a dust-covered wooden crate, and he asked him how things were going and if he was running into any problems.

“He said, ‘Well, those dumb guys in Riyadh, (Saudi Arabia), meaning me, told me one day to load 2,000-pound bombs on each F-16,” Horner said, smiling. “Those dummies didn’t know that I didn’t have any 2,000-pound bombs, so I went ahead and put four 1,000-pound bombs on each of the airplanes, and the mission flew. If he had not been empowered, all he had to do was say I don’t have two 2,000-pound bombs, and we would have never gotten those two planes off. It was empowerment that made the difference, and that was one of the secrets we saw in Desert Storm.”

F-16A, F-15C and F-15E flying during Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo) F-16A, F-15C and F-15E flying during Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Iraq’s air force was almost non-existent during Desert Storm. Hussein hoped to wait out the coalition bombardment, which he didn’t expect would last more than four or five days. As a result, gaining control of the air almost immediately allowed the coalition forces to interdict supply lines and degrade command and control links, according to a GlobalSecurity.org article. Air supremacy also drastically destroyed the will of the Iraqi army; they surrendered in droves when the ground war began 38 days later.

Photo gallery: Airman Magazine — Whispers of Another War

Aside from the superior training that was on display during Desert Shield and Storm, Horner believes another legacy of the first war in the Gulf was the technological advances it put on display for the Air Force.

Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Horner commanded U.S. and Allied airpower during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He had previously served as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam where he was awarded a Silver Star. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee) Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Horner commanded U.S. and Allied airpower during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He had previously served as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam where he was awarded a Silver Star. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

“I think the American public and the world were amazed at the technology that was exposed by Desert Storm,” he said. “The stealth of the F-117 and its ability to go anywhere in heavily defended areas of the world and carry out its mission with absolute precision, the training of our air-to-air combat people and the ability to defeat a very sophisticated surface-to-air missile threat all came into play, and they weren’t appreciated because of our experiences in previous wars such as Vietnam. It served us very well and created an illusion that we were more successful than we really were. But I’ll accept that.”

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The Air Force just revealed this secret Middle East air base for the first time

For the first time in over a decade, the US Air Force is publicly acknowledging it runs an air war out of Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.


The US embassy in country recently worked with Emirati counterparts to make the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing — an Air Combat Command-run unit at the base — known, officials told Military.com.

Military.com first spoke with members of the 380th on a trip to the Middle East earlier this summer on condition the name and location of the base not be disclosed, and that full names of personnel not be used due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

While the 380th was established at the base on Jan. 25, 2002, the US military has had a presence on the base for approximately 25 years. The base is home to a variety of combat operations.

The 11 best air forces in the world
Senior Airman Deandre Barnes, 1st Fighter Wing crew chief, awaits orders from Capt. Blaine Jones, First Fighter Wing F-22 Raptor pilot. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Larkin Sr.

In addition to housing one of the largest fuel farms in the world, the wing houses such aircraft as the KC-10 tanker; the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude drone; the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS, aircraft; the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane; and the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet.

Together, these aircraft carry out missions such as air refueling, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, ground attack, air support, and others.

The 380th also runs its own intel analysis and air battle-management command and control center known as “The Kingpin.”

Like moving chess pieces, “Kingpin has the [air tasking order] — they’re talking to people on the ground, they’re making sure these airplanes are provisionally controlled, getting them back and forth to tankers … they’re talking to the [Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar], they minimize the fog and friction for the entire [area of responsibility]” in US Central Command, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th AEW and an F-22 pilot.

The 11 best air forces in the world
Airmen from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Honor Guard participate in a special Memorial Day retreat ceremony. Photo by Master Sgt. Jenifer Calhoun.

Meanwhile, the general was candid about what the US mission could be after ISIS is defeated in Iraq and Syria.

Corcoran said, “We’re fighting an enemy — ISIS — in another country — Syria — where there’s also an insurgency going on, but we’re not really invited to be” a part of that, he said. “But we can’t leave it to the Syrians to get rid of ISIS, because that wasn’t working, right? So it’s really an odd place to be.”

He added, “We know … we’re going to defeat ISIS. Their days are numbered. What next?”

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The 5 most heavily-mined countries in the world

Landmines are a great tool during a war. They are easy to emplace, hard to defeat, and limit an enemy’s ability to maneuver.


But nations have signed treaties banning their use for a good reason. They present a near-permanent hazard for civilians who have to live and work near former conflict zones. Here are 5 countries where minefields are a deadly fact of life:

1. Afghanistan

The 11 best air forces in the world
Photo: International Security Assistance Forces

After decades of war, Afghanistan faces some of the largest concentrations of mines and IEDs in the world. It also is home to the highest casualty rates from these weapons with 383 people killed and 665 injured in 2013. It’s estimated that there are up to 10 million landmines in the country.

2. Iraq

The 11 best air forces in the world
Photo: US Army Pfc. Elizabeth Erste

Iraq was suspected to be one of the most heavily mined countries in the world in 2014, and the situation has only gotten worse since. Demining efforts are limited because of the continuing conflicts and ISIS uses mines to slow armies that are pushing them back.

3. Bosnia and Herzegovina

The 11 best air forces in the world
Photo: Wikipedia/Werner Anderson of Norsk Folkehjelp Norwegian Peoples Aid

At the end of 2013, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a reported 1,216 square kilometers contaminated with mines, mostly from the 1992-1995 breakup of Yugoslavia. Removal efforts there have been hampered by a 2014 flood that shifted many mines to areas that had already been cleared.

4. Cambodia

The 11 best air forces in the world
Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Neil Rickards

Cambodia contains what may still be the densest concentration of mines in the world, the K5 mine belt on the border with Thailand. The nation saw 22 people killed and 89 injured by mines and unexploded ordnance in 2013 despite improvements in their demining operations.

5. Turkey

The 11 best air forces in the world
Turkish soldiers assigned to NATO’s Kosovo Force in 2010. Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hagburg

Turkish forces laid a number of mines during conflicts from the 1970s to 1990s. Today, most of Turkey’s estimated one million mines are on the border with Syria and the government has suspended demining operations because of ISIS militants operating on the border.

WATCH: ‘Kilo Two Bravo’ tells the harrowing true story of soldiers trapped in an Afghan minefield

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Air Force advances new A-10 requirements

The 11 best air forces in the world
An A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft sits on the flight line at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey | U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cory W. Bush


The Air Force is beginning to work on how fast, lethal, durable and capable a new “A-10”-like aircraft would need to be in order to provide U.S. military ground troops with effective close-air support for decades to come.

Senior service officials are now exploring “draft requirements” concepts – and evaluating the kind of avionics, engineering, weapons, armor and technical redundancy the aircraft would need, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.

Many of the core technical attributes and combat advantages of the A-10 will be preserved and expanded upon with the new effort, officials said.

The performance of the A-10 Warthog in the ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS, coupled with the Air Forces’ subsequent decision to delay the aircraft’s planned retirement – has led the service to begin the process of developing a new, longer-term A-10 type platform.

Following an announcement earlier this year from Pentagon leaders that the A-10 will not begin retiring but rather will serve until at least 2022, Air Force and DoD officials are now hoping to keep a close-air-support aircraft for many years beyond the previously projected timeframe.

Given the emerging global threat environment, it would make sense that the Air Force would seek to preserve an aircraft such as the A-10. While the aircraft has been extremely successful attacking ISIS targets such as fuel convoys and other assets, the A-10 is also the kind of plane that can carry and deliver a wide-ranging arsenal of bombs to include larger laser-guided and precision weapons.

This kind of firepower, coupled with its 30mm cannon, titantium armor plates and built-in redundancy for close-air-support, makes the A-10 a valuable platform for potential larger-scale mechanized, force-on-force type warfare as well. The A-10 has a unique and valuable niche role to perform in the widest possible range of combat scenarios to include counterinsurgency, supporting troops on the ground in close proximity and bringing firepower, protection and infantry support to a large-scale war.

Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior that the current approach involves a three-pronged effort; the Air Force may consider simply upgrading the existing fleet of A-10s in a substantial way in order to extend its service life, acquire an off-the-shelf existing aircraft or develop a new close air support platform through a developmental effort.

“We are developing that draft requirements document.  We are staffing it around the Air Force now.  When it’s ready, then we will compare that to what we have available, compare it to keeping the A-10, compare it to what it would take to replace it with another airplane, and we will work through that process,” Lt. Gen. James Holmes, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, recently told reporters.

Holmes went on to explain that the service was, broadly speaking, exploring ways to achieve, preserve and sustain “air superiority” in potential long-term, high-end combat engagements. He added that considerations about a close-air-support replacement aircraft figured prominently in the strategic calculus surrounding these issues.

As a result, the Air Force will be looking for the “optimal” type of close-air-support platform by weighing various considerations such as what the differences might be between existing aircraft and future developmental platforms.

Cost and affordability will also be a very large part of the equation when it comes to making determinations about an A-10 replacement, Holmes explained.

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A-10C aircraft from the Maryland Air National Guard stationed at Warfield Air National Guard base in Baltimore, Maryland flying in formation during a training exercise. | U.S. Air Force photo

“The question is exactly where is the sweet spot as we talked about between what’s available now and what the optimum CAS replacement would be.  We are working along that continuum to see exactly what the requirement is that we can afford and the numbers that we need to be able to do the mission,” Holmes added.

Several industry platforms, such as Raytheon’s T-X plane and the A-29 Embraer EMB Super Tucano aircraft, are among options being looked at as things which could potentially be configured for a close-air-support plane.

Holmes added that Congress expects the Air Force to operate about 1,900 A-10s or A-10-like close-air-support aircraft.

Having the requisite funds to support this would be of great value to the Air Force; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh recently told lawmakers that, despite the prior plan, the service did not want to retire the A-10.

Prior plans to retire the fleet of A-10s were purely budget driven, senior Air Force leaders have consistently said.

“I don’t want to retire it,” Welsh told a Congressional Committee in early March.

Air Force leaders had previously said that the emerging multi-role F-35 would be able to pick up the close-air-support mission. With its sensor technology, 25mm gun and maneuverability, there is little question about whether the F-35 could succeed with these kinds of missions. At the same time, there is also consensus that the A-10 provides an extremely unique set of battlefield attributes which need to be preserved for decades.

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The 5 craziest ideas the British had for battling German subs

Whenever a new weapon sees widespread deployment, all the rules get rewritten. The draft version of the new rules can be a bit strange though. Here are five crazy ways Britain thought it might get a handle on Germany’s U-Boats in World War I.


1. Training seagulls to sh-t on the periscopes

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Photo: Wikipedia/Sanchezn

There is no explanation of how the seagulls would be trained to do this. Admiral Sir Frederick Inglefield, head of all “motor-boat patrols” (discussed below), believed seagulls would defecate on submarine periscopes if properly trained. The blinded submarines would then be forced to surface or attempt to escape the harbor.

2. Hammers and bags

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Photo: Wikipedia

The British tried to stop the submarine menace with a “motor-boat patrol.” There were hundreds of these boats, each with at least two crew members. The boats would patrol designated areas near the coast looking for periscopes. But only 1 in 10 was armed.

So, if the crew spotted a periscope, they were supposed to sneak as close to it as they could in the boat and then swim the rest of the way. One man would take a canvas bag and pop it over the periscope while the other would swing a hammer as hard as he could to break the periscope.

3. Meeting submarines under the surface with top notch swimmers and sharp hammers

There’s no record of the British ever attempting this method, but someone proposed the Royal Navy select some especially strong swimmers. When a submarine was spotted these swimmers could swim to the hull and attempt to hit it with a pointed hammer, piercing its hull and sending it down.

4. Training birds and sea lions to watch for periscopes

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Tony Hisgett

In an effort to more quickly identify submarines working near British and Allied shipping, the British Navy attempted to train seagulls and sea lions to chase periscopes. The training was done by creating dummy periscopes that dispensed food.

Seagulls were trained in the open ocean while sea lions from British music-halls and circuses were trained in tanks.

5. Covering the ocean in paint

This was supposed to work in two ways. First, any submarine that raised its periscope while the ocean was covered in paint would be blinded as the paint covered the periscope glass. Second, the paint was generally green which may confuse the submarine captain as to what depth he was cruising at, possibly causing him to move higher in the water which would expose his hull.

Artillery on the shore or motor boat patrols could then target the blind, exposed U-boat. While this tactic was proposed to the Royal Navy, it’s not clear that they ever attempted it. This could be because they didn’t have enough green paint to cover the surface Great Britain’s 19,491 miles of coastline.

 (h/t David A. H. Wilson, Cumbria Institute of the Arts, United Kingdom)

NOW: Military working bees and other animals you didn’t know serve in the US military

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘The Mandalorian’ episode 1 is everything you hoped it would be

Happy Disney+ Day, everyone. After all the hype, The Mandalorian has finally been released and it’s the perfect Star War for anyone who has ever Star Wars’d.

It’s clear right from the start that creator Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Swingers) gets it. He gets what makes Star Wars so special. From the mythos to the humor and even down to the silly-ass wipe transitions, The Mandalorian just feels right.

So let’s get right into Chapter One. SPOILERS AHEAD:


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“He’s young, his musk will be sweet.” Thank you for that line, Jon Favreau.

The Mandalorian, Disney+

The Mandalorian quickly sets the stage for our hero, a bounty hunter who is good at his job and who doesn’t take any (forgive me) poodoo. The tone is light with moments of comedic release while still building the new world we’re entering. Remember, this series takes place seven years after Return of the Jedi and the fall of the Empire.

Exclusive: @Jon_Favreau confirms that his live action #StarWars series takes place 7 years after Battle of Endor, between #ReturnOfTheJedi and #TheForceAwakens. Will feature all new characters, using cutting edge tech a la THE JUNGLE BOOK. Story coming to @nerdist…pic.twitter.com/iRyPS8hPDR

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There are other hints peppered in to keep us intrigued, such as when The Bounty, played by Saturday Night Live’s Horatio Sanz, asks “Is it true you guys never take off your helmets?” and then is quickly frozen in carbonite. The helmet thing will apparently be important because it’s brought up again later in the episode. I predict we’ll see Pedro Pascal’s debonair face eventually, but it sounds like it will be later rather than sooner.

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The Mandalorian, Disney+

The Mandalorian delivers his bounties and accepts a curious new target from The Client, played by Werner Herzog (Rick Morty, The Simpsons). The target is wanted alive — and The Client will pay well, but he will accept “proof of termination” at a lower rate.

He hands over a block of beskar steel stamped with the Imperial insignia as a sort of down payment. We know from The Mandalorian’s first mission (or from Star Wars Rebels) that beskar steel is significant, and Favreau politely informs us why in the next scene.

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The Mandalorian, Disney+

The Mandalorian heads to a fellow Mandalorian armorer (played by The Mindhunter’s Emily Swallow), who melts down the block of steel to forge a new pauldron for our hero, saying the excess will be used to sponsor “foundlings.” Here we get the only heavy-handed backstory in the episodes: a series of flashbacks to a family fleeing during an attack and, I assume, the death of The Mandalorian’s parents, which will eventually lead to him being found by his tribe.

“Has your signet been revealed?” she asked him. It hasn’t, and I don’t know what this means, but dammit Jon, you’ve got me for life and I trust that you’ll let me know when you feel it’s necessary.

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“I have spoken.” — my new catch phrase

The Mandalorian, Disney+

With that, our bounty hunter is off to a new planet to track down his bounty and learn to ride some blurrg (30 Rock, anyone?). He meet’s Nick Nolte’s Kuill, who drops some nice backstory for us (he wants to help The Mandalorian so he can restore peace to his planet) and some nice easter eggs (riding blurrg won’t be a problem because the Mandalorians rode the legendary mythosaurs, don’t you know).

Shout out to female blurrgs, who eat the males during mating. ?

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This is the buddy comedy I want to see.

The Mandalorian, Disney+

With a nice clock wipe transition, it’s time for some action, but before he can muster up a plan, The Mandalorian spies a bounty droid who we learn is IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi). The droid attacks the settlement and a blaster fight ensues. The Mandalorian joins in, suggests an alliance with the droid, and together they take out their many attackers.

This is the best sequence in Chapter One, not necessarily because the action was anything new (although IG-11’s circular design is very clever) but because the banter between the two was very amusing. IG-11’s programming won’t allow for surrender, so, in the face of overwhelming odds, he continually tries to initiate a self-destruct sequence, which would kill them both. Lolz.

But of course our hero does some quick thinking, seizes his enemy’s laser cannon, and defeats all of his attackers. Finally, we get to see who this important and secretive bounty is.

And guys? The reveal is…perfect.

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OHMYGODILOVEYOULITTLEBABYYYYYY

The Mandalorian, Disney+

This little angel will never not be known as “Baby Yoda,” am I right?

Of course, it’s not actually Yoda, but here’s what we know so far: the baby is fifty years old (this species, while remaining unknown, ages differently than humans; Yoda was over 900 years old when he died) and is probably Force sensitive (Yoda was a powerful Jedi Master and Yaddle, the only other member of the species we’ve seen so far, was also on the Jedi Council).

The Mandalorian kills IG-11 after the droid tried to terminate Baby Yoda the baby and then shares a nice little Adam-and-God moment with the child.

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The Mandalorian, Disney+

Precious, huh?

Altogether, I have to say that this show promises to be one of the best creations in Star Wars canon. It feels nostalgic and new at the same time. It impressed me more than any of the recent films.

What did you think of it? Leave a comment on Facebook and let me know.

https://twitter.com/PrequelMemesBot/statuses/1196245176340996096
The Mandalorian IS a prequel to the sequels https://redd.it/dxvg8f pic.twitter.com/cd2AJbZW8X

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Chief of US Naval Operations explains why he’s not afraid of China’s ‘carrier killer’ missile

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Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, the 31st CNO. | Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird


Speaking at a Center for a New American Security conference on Monday, the US Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, explained why China’s DF-21D “carrier killer” antiship ballistic missile isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The DF-21D, an indigenously created, precision-guided missile capable of sinking a US aircraft carrier with a single shot, has a phenomenal range of up to 810 nautical miles, while US carriers’ longest-range missiles can travel only about 550 miles away.

Therefore, on paper, the Chinese can deny aircraft carriers the luxury of wading off of their shores and forcing them to operate outside of their effective range.

But Richardson contested that notion.

“I think there is this long-range precision-strike capability, certainly,” Richardson acknowledged. But “A2/AD [anti-access/area-denial] is sort of an aspiration. In actual execution, it’s much more difficult.”

China’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities (ISR), bolstered by a massive modernization push and advanced radar installations on the reclaimed islands in the South China Sea, have theoretically given them the ability to project power for hundreds of miles.

“The combination of ubiquitous ISR, long-range precision-strike weapons takes that to another level and demands a response,” said Richardson, adding that China’s extension into the Pacific created a “suite of capabilities” that were of “pressing concern.”

But the US Navy won’t be defeated or deterred by figures on paper.

Richardson said:

“In the cleanest form, the uninterrupted, frictionless plane, you have the ability to sense a target much more capably and quickly around the world, you’ve got the ability, then, to transmit that information back to a weapon system that can reach out at a fairly long range and it is precision-guided … You’re talking about hundreds of miles now, so that raises a challenge.”

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Two carriers in the South China Sea. | US Navy photo

“Our response would be to inject a lot of friction into that system at every step of the way [and] look to make that much more difficult,” he continued.

Richardson was clear that China’s purported capabilities were only speculations.

“What you see often is a display of ‘Here’s this launcher, here’s a circle with a radius of 700 miles, and it’s solid-color black inside’ … And that’s just not the reality of the situation,” he said.

“You’ve got this highly maneuverable force that has a suite of capabilities that the force can bring to bear to inject uncertainty,” Richardson continued.

Richardson also went on to address the dual aircraft carrier deployments in the Pacific and the Mediterranean, saying that the deployments afforded a rare opportunity for “high-end war fighting and training,” as carrier groups rarely get to train with each other in realistic, not just theoretical, situations.

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America’s most beloved military veterans

While all of our veterans should be beloved and respected, many have stuck in the public consciousness. Some became famous veterans because of their incredible accomplishments in war, and others because of their accomplishments in entertainment or business after their service. While some of the names on this list of famous US veterans are decorated heroes, and others were malcontents who couldn’t stay out of military prison (looking at you, George Carlin), all are veterans that are now loved and respected by the public.


Veterans like bomber pilot and movie star Jimmy Stewart, are obviously iconic. Others, like former Marine Corps driver turned icon Bea Arthur, might be people you had no idea served in the military. Their accomplishments in uniform run the gamut, from the heroism of Audie Murphy to personally having a bounty put on them by Hitler (Clark Gable) to undistinguished stints that ended quickly. A few fought in World War II and became highly anti-authoritarian. There are even some baseball players who gave up years of their careers to put themselves in harms way in combat in both World Wars.

Vote up the American veterans you respect and revere the most, and vote down the ones who don’t deserve the admiration they get from the public. From US Army veterans to World War 2 veterans, any famous and beloved veteran of the US armed forcesdeserves a spot on this list!

Vote up the famous veterans that you love and respect the most.

The Most Beloved US Veterans

 

More from Ranker:

The Coolest US Presidential Firsts

These Fantastic Films Just Feel Like Summer

The Best U.S. Presidents in the Past 50 Years

This article originally appeared at Ranker. Copyright 2015. Like Ranker on Facebook.

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‘Squad’ drops you right back into anti-terror combat (in a good way)

“Squad” is a super-realistic modern shooter that pits large teams of players, up to 50 on each side, in combat using modern weapons, vehicles, and battlefields. Most importantly, the game features such realism that modern tactics are necessary to win.


Players in the game are broken down by squad and can opt to fill roles from squad leader to medic to rifleman.

These squads move forward under the command of their leader in what quickly becomes a tense, suspense-filled match. Every player can die from just a round or two hitting them center mass, making it super important that players spot their enemy first.

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This makes the long movements over the sprawling maps stressful in the best way. The point man needs to stay super alert while the squad moves in a wedge behind him. Crossing linear danger areas like roads and rivers in a tactical manner can save the team from detection and destruction.

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In short, If you learned it in basic training, it’s probably important in “Squad.”

All this realism makes every decision feel important and heavy. Selfish glory hogs are quickly outed in the game as leaving a blocking position or moving away from overwatch can doom the rest of the team, no matter how many kills the hero gets.

This makes it easy to tell a veteran from a newb despite how simple the controls are. Veterans carefully position themselves in areas of cover or concealment and assault through dead space to hide their approach while new or unskilled players quickly die because they’re trying to defend a point on the map from an exposed position.

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Vets make sure to work as a team, frequently talking to each other in the in-game voice chat that actually works similar to a radio network. There are separate channels for speaking within the squad or within the platoon as a whole. Hot keys allow players to quickly choose whether they’re speaking on the squad or platoon net.

The game is still in Alpha mode, so there are a lot of tweaks and new features being added. But, it’s already a fun and tense experience that players can buy on Steam today.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW

The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon is a Marine Corps favorite because it can suppress the enemies of freedom at the max rate of 800 rounds of democracy per minute. The max range of 3,600 meters is enough to reach out and touch the enemy – and for the Corps to forgive the heresy that the Army had her first. The M249 SAW served as the light machine gun of choice for the Marine fire teams since the 1980s. The commanders of today want to put this ol’ gal out to pasture but the Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW.

1. She’s a millennial

For the sake of brevity let’s disregard the weapon was designed in the 1970s but implanted in the 1980s. Anyone who has fired the weapon can attest to the euphoria of holding down the trigger of this belt-fed beauty at the cyclic rate. She saw action in the Gulf War, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo. She was the queen bee in Iraq and Afghanistan. The millennial generation of war fighters patrolled the mountains of the Korengal valley with her. Troops cleared the streets of Fallujah and dominated the sands of Helmand province with this piece of American engineering. When the M249 SAW sings, she retakes the initiative from the insurgency with overwhelming fire power. The SAW is to OIF/OEF era Marines what the M60 is to Vietnam era devil dogs.

2. A reliable weapon

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The weapon system comes with an additional barrel to provide a sustainable rate of fire without melting the barrel. Barrels of other SAWs should not be interchanged due to head spacing of each individual weapon system. A machine gunner can carry a combat load of 600 rounds of ammunition and, the Assistant Gunner, who can carry an additional combat load as well. It is considered light weight at 18 lbs, yet the weight adds up on patrol. If the Gunner and A Gunner run out of linked ammunition the M249 SAW can use M16 magazines. The versatility of this weapon provides an adequate base of fire for fire teams to maneuver, close with, and destroy the enemy. With proper maintenance and a well-trained trigger puller, officers can rest assured that they can employ a fireteam with this weapon to lethal effect.

3. It’s just plain fun to use

Why put a suppressor on it? Because, that’s why. Many moons ago, when I was young boot PFC, my unit held a machine gunner competition. The final event was to saw a 2×4 in half with…the SAW. That’s the best thing about this weapon, there is so much ammo for it. In 2012, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines received the M27 or the Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) as part of the Marine Corps’ wide survey. It was up in the air at the time whether the IAR would replace the M249 SAW or replace M16 series all together. While the IAR was less prone to jams and easier to maintain, it did not provide the same level of suppression as it’s predecessor. The Squad Automatic Weapon will be phased out eventually by newer technology but the Marine Corps infantry will always love it anyway. Flaws and all.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines’ drone-killing lasers get even more powerful after upgrades

The Marine Corps‘ ground-based laser systems, which can be mounted to the tops of vehicles to take down drones, now have stronger beams to combat airborne threats.

The Corps has a new $2.5 million agreement with Boeing to service its Compact Laser Weapon System for the next five years. The system, which can be attached to combat vehicles, can be used on land or at sea.

Boeing just completed a round of updates to the service’s Compact Laser Weapon Systems, giving Marines the ability to take out bigger drones. The updates also made the laser weapon more reliable and faster, and they allow Marines to target more aircraft from greater distances, according to Boeing.

The changes come as the top U.S. general in the Middle East warned last month that cheap, off-the-shelf drones pose the most concerning tactical development in that region since terrorists began using improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.Advertisement

“These systems are inexpensive, easy to modify and weaponize, and easy to proliferate,” Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the head of U.S. Central Command, said last month.

The Islamic State group has used drones to fly IEDs. One such attack killed two Kurdish fighters in 2016.

Militaries are also using drones to target and surveil troops. Marines using another vehicle-mounted system in 2019 jammed at least one Iranian drone that flew within 1,000 yards of their Navy warship in the Strait of Hormuz, sending it plummeting into the sea.

The Compact Laser Weapon System doesn’t just jam drones but destroys them. Josh Roth, a spokesman for Boeing’s missile and weapon systems, said the lasers can take out what the Defense Department refers to as Group 1 and 2 unmanned aircraft, which weigh as much as 55 pounds and can operate below 3,500 feet.

Boeing’s system also has a counter-sensor capability at longer ranges for larger targets, Roth said. The system uses software to spot and track a threat. Once a drone is spotted, the weapon system focuses a high-energy laser beam on the threat until it’s disabled and defeated, he added.

Marines began testing the system, the first ground-based laser approved for military use, in 2019. The laser gives Marines a lightweight option to target drones, Roth said, since it can be carried and operated by just one person.

“It … affords the warfighter the opportunity to save more expensive air defense missiles for other threats and reduces the logistics footprint by eliminating resupply needs for conventional ammunition,” he said.

Roth declined to say how many of the laser systems have gone to the Marine Corps and what units received them, citing operational security. Marine Corps photos and videos show low-altitude air defense battalions on the East and West coasts testing the systems.

Last year, Marines tested the upgraded laser weapon in Yuma, Arizona, where they were able to take down 12 out of 12 drone threats, according to Boeing. Now, those upgraded systems have been delivered to Marine units, Roth said.

The system has also been used in real-world missions, though Roth declined to say where.

The Air Force tested it at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base in September.

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

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