The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

The US Air Force plans to declare its newest gunship, the AC-130J Ghostrider, ready for combat — or initial operating capability in acquisition parlance — this month, but the aircraft won’t actually deploy to a war zone for a couple more years, a general said.


“We are declaring IOC, Initial Operating Capability, this month on the AC-J,” Lt. Gen. Marshall “Brad” Webb, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, said Sept. 19 during a briefing with reporters at the Air Force Association’s annual conference outside Washington, DC.

However, the general added, “That doesn’t mean anything with respect to putting it in combat — we’re still just shy of two years away from wanting to put those in combat.”

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship
USAF Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. USAF photo by Capt. Jessica Tait.

The reason for the delay is because the high pace of operations in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria makes it difficult to train special operators on the new weapon system, Webb said.

“We’re not waiting around,” he said. “This is a fully configured gunship … The challenge that we have, it’s my problem, is how do we fight the current fight — we have gunships deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria — and use those same people to convert into a new weapon system?

“We’re not going to have the luxury of doing what most normal units do,” he added, referring to the typical transition period for returning troops.

“So, how do I navigate having some capability in the fight, transition those same guys in those same squadrons to a new weapon system, and then build them up at the same time?” Webb said. “So, that draws out the timeline from IOC of airframes to train the guys who come back from combat into a new weapon system, have them have a deployed-dwell time to make sure that they’re going to have families at the end of their 20-year career, then bring them back on the battlefield in the Js.”

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship
AC-130J Ghostrider. Photo courtesy of USAF.

A heavily modified C-130, the AC-130J features fully integrated digital avionics, as well as a “Precision Strike Package.”

The latter includes a mission management console, robust communications suite, two electro-optical/infrared sensors, advanced fire control equipment, precision guided munitions delivery capability, as well as trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons, according to the Air Force.

The cannons can be mounted on both sides of the aircraft.

The Air Force currently has 10 of the Ghostriders and plans to buy a total of 37 from manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp., the general said.

The service recently retired the AC-130H and, as of last fiscal year, had a total of 31 AC-130s in the fleet, including three Ghostriders, 16 Spookys, and 12 Stinger IIs, according to information compiled by the Air Force Association.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch: Marines rain fire on ISIS in dazzling drone footage

“One of the coolest, most creative videos I’ve ever seen produced by a military journalist.”

That comment from a Vimeo user is a pretty spot-on assessment of Steel Rain — a brief but beautiful video of a Marine artillery unit mercilessly raining fire on ISIS in Syria.

In the spring of 2017, then-Sgt. Matthew Callahan deployed to an undisclosed location in Syria with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit to tell the story of artillery Marines deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The Marines conducted 24-hour all-weather fire support for the Syrian Democratic Forces as they fought the Battle of Raqqa.


drone footage captures U.S. artillery Marines conducting strikes against ISIS”

vimeo.com

After the SDF recaptured the city in the fall of 2017, Army Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell told Business Insider that US-led coalition forces were firing on ISIS in Raqqa “every minute of every hour” in order to keep pressure on the terrorist group, and the Marine fire supporting them was so intense that the barrels on two of the howitzers burned out.

Armed with a camera and drone, Callahan was there to capture all the steel-raining glory of the M777-A2 Howitzers and their crews. Now a civilian video producer for the Navy’s All Hands Magazine, Callahan was the first service member ever named Department of Defense’s military videographer of the year and military photographer of the year simultaneously.

In this roughly two-minute piece of cinematic wizardry, the award-winning filmmaker and photographer captures some of the sexiest footage you’ll ever see of the King of Battle raining righteous hellfire on America’s enemies. Watch Steel Rain above; then check out the four-minute extended cut that’s just as beautiful and more detailed here. You’ll be glad you did.

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


MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the USS Jimmy Carter isn’t an aircraft carrier

The Navy’s tradition of honoring past American Presidents by naming aircraft carrier after them is alive and well. The USS Ronald Reagan, the Abraham Lincoln, and the Gerald Ford are all symbols of the projection of American naval power all over the world. There’s just one exception, one that goes unnoticed by many, mainly because it’s supposed to.

The USS Jimmy Carter is named after the 39th President of the United States, but it’s a nuclear submarine. And there’s a great reason for it.


The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

Carter dreamed of attending the U.S. Naval Academy even as a three-year-old.

Like many 20th Century Presidents before him, Carter was a Navy veteran. Unlike Nixon, Bush 41, or President Ford, Carter’s contributions to the Navy didn’t happen primarily in wartime, however, it happened after the Second World War. Carter, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was immediately appointed as an officer aboard a Navy submarine, the USS Pomfret. He served aboard a number of submarines, mostly electric-diesel submarines, until it was time to upgrade them. All of them.

While the United States was embroiled in the Korean War, Carter the engineering officer, was sent to work with the Atomic Energy Commission and later Union College in Upstate New York, where he became well-versed in the physics of nuclear energy and nuclear power plants. He would use that knowledge to serve under Admiral Hyman Rickover, helping develop the nuclear Navy. Carter would have to leave the active Navy in 1953 when his father died and left the family peanut farm without an owner. In less than a year after Carter’s departure, Rickover’s team would launch the USS Nautilus, the world’s first-ever nuclear-powered submarine and the first ship in a long line of nuclear ships.

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

The USS Nautilus

According to President Carter, Rickover was of the biggest influences on the young peanut farmer’s life. Carter’s 1976 campaign biography was even called Why Not The Best? – after a question Rickover asked the young naval officer while interviewing to join the nuclear submarine program.

Rickover asked Carter what his standing was in his graduating class at Annapolis and when Carter replied, Rickover asked him if he did his best.

“I started to say, ‘Yes sir,’ but I remembered who this was and recalled several times I could have learned more about our allies, our enemies, weapons, strategy and so forth. I was just human. I finally gulped and said, ‘No sir, I didn’t always do my best.”

“Why not?” asked Rickover. It was the last thing the Admiral said during the interview.

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

Rickover (far right) with then-President Carter and his wife Rosalyn, touring a U.S. nuclear submarine.

Later, of course, Carter would become Hyman Rickover’s Commander-in-Chief, having taken in everything he learned from Rickover about nuclear energy and the U.S. Navy. The nuclear sub would become one of the pillars of American national security.

As President, Carter would restrict the building of supercarriers due to their massive costs, instead favoring medium-sized aircraft carriers, much to the consternation of the Navy and defense contractors. It would make little sense to have Carter’s name on a weapons program he discouraged as President – kind of like having Andrew Jackson’s face on American currency even though the 12th President was opposed to central banking.

But the Navy had to do something for the only Annapolis graduate to ascend to the nation’s highest office and serve as the Leader of the Free World. So naming the third Seawolf-class submarine after the former submarine officer and onetime nuclear engineer made perfect sense. The USS Jimmy Carter is the most secret nuclear submarine on the planet, moving alone and silently on missions that are never disclosed to the greater American public.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 rye whiskies you should sip on this summer

What’s old is new again. So it is with rye whiskey. In the 17-and-1800s, Bourbon’s spicier, dryer sibling was once the pre-eminent whiskey on this continent. But after prohibition, American’s taste for the stuff waned. Thankfully for the whiskey drinkers of today, times have changed. Our golden age of whiskey has turned back the clock and rye is resurgent. Whiskey, drinkers of all stripes cant seem to get enough of the brown stuff and as their pallets are becoming increasingly adventurous, rye’s spice is becoming more and more a called shot. Not only is it great on the rocks but, rye is killer in a summer cocktail. Whether you like your whiskey neat, on the rocks or in a mixed drink, here are five rye whiskeys to try.


1. Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

New for this year, Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye was recently named the best in class at the San Fransisco World Spirits Competition. Bottled at 119.6 proof, Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye is quite capable of kicking you in the teeth if you’re not careful, but all that undiluted flavor will also waltz beautifully along your tastebuds. It’s a thick, rich mouthful with spicy, peppery notes playing off a deeply satisfying caramel sweetness.

Best Enjoyed: With a couple of cubes.

2. Willet Family Estate Single Barrel Rye

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

Well-balanced and richly complex, Willet rye never fails to impress. It’s peppery spice is enhanced with deep rich dark fruit flavors. It can be a bit tough to find, so if you come across it a retail, stock up… and give us a shout, so we can replenish our bar.

Best Enjoyed: In a Manhattan. While great on the rocks, the Willet’s thick, cherry richness can elevate an ordinary Manhattan to the level of craft cocktail.

3. Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

If you’re totally unfamiliar with rye, Rittenhouse is the place to start. Long a bartender favorite, Rittenhouse is not quite a spicy as some but still has tons of flavors to discover, citrus, vanilla and chocolate to name a few.Bottled at 100 proof, Rittenhouse easily stands out in a substantially iced cocktail.

Best Enjoyed: You can sip this one, but where it really shines is in a cocktail like an Old Pal. At under $30, this is a great rye for experimenting.

4. High West Double Rye

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

For the last several years, High West has been concocting some of the tastiest and most creative blends on the market. But until recently, they weren’t making their own spirit to formulate their creations. Finally the first batch from their new distillery is ready and High West has incorporated it into the latest release of their Double Rye. It’s a spice-forward whiskey with notes of honey, mint a cinnamon.

Best Enjoyed: We love the Double Rye in cocktails. It makes a great Old Fashioned but if you’re feeling a little more adventurous and up for pounding a few ice into pellets, try it in a rye mint julep.

5. Lock Stock and Barrel 16 Year Rye

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

Made from a mash of 100% rye, Lock Stock and Barrel 16 Year Rye is big, bold and intense. A glass of this rye is so chalked full of flavor, you can get lost in it’s amber waves and before your know it you’re three drinks deep. It’s a pricey indulgence, but it’s one of the best bottles you’re likely to try, if you can find it.

Best Enjoyed: Sip it… Slowly.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Intel

North Korea May Have Equipped Two Submarines With Ballistic Missile Launch Tubes

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship
Photo: Wikimedia


Evidence in recent commercial imagery suggests that a new North Korean submarine has up to two vertical launch missile submarines.

The website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies called 38 North, posted the imagery with tags showing how the conning tower of a new North Korean submarine can house 1–2 ballistic or cruise missile tubes.

Also Read: 27 Incredible Photos Of Life On A US Navy Submarine

The submarine was spotted at the Sinpo South Shipyard in North Korea, which has seen significant infrastructural improvement recently.

Officials at the U.S. Korea Institute at SAIS speculate that a “shorter naval version of the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile, a Nodong medium-range ballistic missile, or naval versions of the solid-fuelled KN-02 short-range ballistic missile” could be the missile used aboard the submarine.

Of course, a ballistic missile submarine would pose a new risk to South Korea. However, the analysts at Johns Hopkins pointed out that the imagery doesn’t mean the North Koreans are necessarily close to completing the project.

Much like North Koreas ICBM program, experts believe this sort of technology is still lacking north of the 38th parallel.

This article originally appeared at Military.com. Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

Articles

How the U.S. smuggled weapons-grade uranium out of the former Soviet Union

The United States isn’t big on bipartisanship in Congress these days, but if any single event testifies to what America can do when we unite, it would have to be Project Sapphire – the secret removal of nuclear material from the former Soviet Union.

Long before the USSR fell at the end of 1991, it was clear to many in the U.S. that the “Evil Empire” was on its way out. The Cold War ending was a good thing, but it opened up a host of all new problems. For Congress, that problem was the potential for weapons-grade uranium ending up in the hands of Pakistan or North Korea, who didn’t yet have nuclear weapons. Even worse, it could end up in the hands of terrorists. 

Terrorists hadn’t yet committed some of the most egregious terror attacks against American assets in recent memory, such as the Khobar Towers attack, the World Trade Center Bombing or the attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Islamic Jihad had claimed responsibility for the 1983 Beirut barracks attack that killed 299 Americans and the U.S. now had a large presence in Saudi Arabia.

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship
Map of Kazakhstan within the USSR (Wikimedia Commons)

There was 24 nuclear bombs’ worth of weapons-grade uranium sitting in the Kazakh SSR – modern-day Kazakhstan. The Soviet government was powerless to secure it and Iran and Iraq were motivated to secure it on the black market. 

That’s how Project Sapphire, a clandestine mission to secure and repackage 90% enriched, weapons-grade uranium in Kazakhstan for shipment to the United States. With state and non-state actors around the world looking to build nuclear weapons, the material had to be secured, packed, and shipped in total secrecy.

Seeing the writing on the wall for the USSR, Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn and Republican Sen. Richard Lugar created the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program in 1986. The idea was to dismantle Soviet weapons and secure the fissile materials used to build them – the weapons-grade uranium. 

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship
Senators Nunn (left) and Lugar (center) with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (right) at the Nunn-Lugar Conference Room at the Pentagon following a ceremony commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program held at the Pentagon May 9, 2016.(DoD photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)(Released)

They also wrote and introduced the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991, which provided money for former Soviet states like Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan to decommission old Soviet weapons and ship them to Russia for destruction. Nunn and Lugar wanted to keep track of that material because they believed Russia could not. 

By 1994, the Soviet Union was long gone and Kazakhstan was an independent country. Its relations with Russia were still vital to its economy and its interests, though. It did not want to risk its relationship with its benefactor but still wanted to rid itself of its excess nuclear material. 

Its biggest concern came from a former Soviet submarine plant in the country that had been abandoned. The fissile material was sitting in the remote facility and the workers hadn’t been paid in months. 

On Oct. 14, 1994, a 31-person team slipped unnoticed into Kazakhstan and secured the submarine production facility with the help of a few of the workers. For nearly a month, the team worked 12-hour shifts six days a week to remove and repack the highly enriched uranium. When they finally finished in late November, it took two Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft to move all the material from the former USSR to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. 

Upon their return, the mission was not only declassified, it was celebrated when announced to the press by the Clinton Administration and members of Congress who were instrumental in creating the means for its success.   

When American political parties are united, there’s nothing we can’t do, even if that means smuggling nuclear material out of a foreign country.


Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube.

Articles

ISIS has come up with a new, more diabolical way to use drones in Mosul fight

The man in charge of waging war on ISIS explained during a teleconference with reporters Oct. 26 that Islamic State militants “make extensive use” of unmanned aircraft in their fight to keep territory in Iraq and the key city of Mosul.


The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship
Behold the dawn on Trojan Horse drones. (Photo from Friends of YPG YPJ)

The head of Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said the terrorists use the drones to video suicide strikes on Peshmerga and Iraqi forces, fly in unmanned planes to help target coalition positions and even use the drones to direct fires from mortars and rockets.

ISIS use of drones is “not episodic or sporadic, it’s relatively constant,” Townsend said. “We’ve seen them using drones to control and adjust indirect fires.”

Townsend added that the bad guys are also getting into the armed drone game, with ISIS dropping “small explosive devices” from the UAVs over coalition bases and other targets.

“Those fortunately haven’t had great effect,” he said.

But what’s really bugging him is a new more dastardly way ISIS is using drones.

“Recently we have seen what we think is a Trojan Horse kind of UAV or drone,” Townsend said.

He went on to explain that Islamic State militants landed a UAV inside coalition lines. Thinking they’d gotten an intelligence boon. When the allied forces went out to recover the drone it was detonated remotely, injuring the troops.

“We expect to see more of this, and we’ve put out procedures for our forces to be on guard for this,” Townsend said, adding that U.S. troops and others have downed many drones harassing coalition troops with small arms fire and electronic means, “with varying levels of success.”

“We’re working to try to find better solutions to this pretty thorny problem,” he said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s weapon designers are the best science-fiction authors

Russia has the world’s best tanks, top-tier fifth-generation aircraft, and weapons that can zap enemy munitions from the sky or burn out their guidance systems.

Or at least, that’s what Russia wants you to think, despite a horrible track record of actually creating and manufacturing top-tier weapons for actual deployment.


The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

Russia’s Su-57 isn’t a bad plane, but it is far from what was promised on paper.

(Dmitry Terekhov, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Take, for instance, Russia’s new-ish plans for a sixth-generation fighter. It’s supposed to destroy the guidance systems of missiles chasing it, take photo-quality radar images of enemy planes, and be nearly impervious to many forms of jamming. It would even have an advanced “multi-spectral optical system” that can take photos using visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light.

Sounds awesome, right? Before you start practicing the Russian anthem to welcome our technological overlords, remind yourself that this is coming from a country that has a fifth-generation stealth fighter which is likely not very stealthy and doesn’t feature supercruise, so, you know, not really a fifth-generation fighter.

And Russia can’t even afford this underwhelming aircraft, declining to put it into serial production under the flimsy excuse that it’s too good of a plane to bother buying en masse. India was part of a deal to develop its own version of the fighter, but India declined to follow through in the face of weak performance.

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

The T-14 Armata tank might be awesome, but few outside of Russia know for sure, and Russia can’t buy enough of them for it to matter anyway.

(Vitaly V. Kuzmin, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The T-14 Armata tank is the Su-57 of land forces, just not in a good way. It’s also supposed to be full of game-changing technology like active protection from missiles, but most of the tech remains unproven, and Russia can’t afford to buy it in sufficient quantities, either.

Meanwhile, the Shtorm is going to be Russia’s new supercarrier. It’ll be the same size as the Ford-class supercarrier and have four launching positions and electromagnetic catapults. But while they say it will begin construction sometime soon after 2025, Russia lost most of its experts in carrier design and construction after the fall of the Soviet Union. They haven’t launched a carrier since 1985. So going straight out the gate with a massive, futuristic design is optimistic.

Also, the flashy Peresvet Combat Laser System hasn’t been fired publicly, the KH-35U anti-ship missile has a woefully short range, and the nuclear-powered missile with an unlimited range actually flew about 22 miles before breaking down.

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

The Peresvet Combat Laser System has made a few splashes online, but almost none of its supposed capabilities have actually been publicly demonstrated.

(Presidential Press and Information Office, CC BY-SA 4.0)

So when Russia starts making big claims about its sixth-generation fighter, don’t worry too hard. Sure, they say it will fly in swarms with 20-30 drones accompanying it. And they say it will carry directed energy weapons. And they say the swarms will be capable of electronic warfare, carrying microwave weapons, and suppressing enemy radar and electronics.

But they use propaganda to fill in the gaps in their actual defenses. And this new fighter, like the carrier, tank, laser, missiles, and prior fighters, is likely a dud.

But let’s clap our hands for the propaganda masters who’ve been making all this stuff up. They’re churning out futuristic novel ideas faster than most prolific authors.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Vietnam’s modern frigate is ready for Chinese aggression

As tensions grow in the South China Sea due to Communist China’s aggressive posture, other countries are trying to build up their military forces. One such country is Vietnam, which has a bit of history with China that includes a naval battle fought nearly 45 years ago.


In 1974, Chinese Communist and South Vietnamese naval forces fought a battle off the Paracel Islands. The South Vietnamese lost both the battle and a corvette while China took the Paracels. At the time, the major surface combatants for the Vietnam People’s Navy were five Petya-class light corvettes, World War II-era destroyer escorts, and eight Osa II-class missile boats armed with the SS-N-2c Styx anti-ship missile. These were older designs and the Chinese simply had more capable vessels.

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship
A starboard quarter view of a Soviet Petya-class light frigate underway. (DOD photo)

Today, the situation has changed. Vietnam took advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union to get big upgrades at bargain prices, including the acquisition of six diesel-electric subs. But the big buy was the purchase of a half-dozen Gepard-class frigates from Russia, two of which are now in service.

The Soviets designed the Gepard in the last years of the Cold War to replace older Mirka and Petya-class light frigates. The basic weapons suite includes a SAN-4 launcher, two quad SS-N-25 launchers, a 76mm gun, two AK-630 close-in weapon systems, and two twin 21-inch torpedo tube mounts.

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship
One of two Gepard-class frigates in the Russian Navy. Vietnam has six vessels, either in service or on order. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Vissarion)

The Russians planned to use a single hull type for five different designs. Gepard 1 would have a helicopter deck. Gepard 2 replaced the SA-N-4 with a hangar for a Ka-27 type chopper. Gepard 3 was larger and packed a CADS-N-1. Gepard 4 was an unarmed rescue ship that still could be fitted with some weapons and, finally, Gepard 5 was a long-range patrol ship that was slower, but still carried a heavier gun armament than a littoral combat ship.

These six frigates join at least a dozen Vietnamese Tarantul-class corvettes (eight armed with SS-N-25, four with SS-N-2) and at least two BPS 500 corvettes.

If Vietnam and China fight over the Paracels again, the Vietnamese will likely put up one heck of a fight.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Canada built this trainer just to tutor its jet pilots

Over their long history of aviation, Canadian engineers have designed a number of highly performant planes and have built other greats under license. Canada has long operated advanced aircraft, notably the CF-18, a modified version of the F/A-18 Hornet. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of Canada’s capabilities when it comes to aircraft.


Outside of a few failed projects, like the Avro Arrow, Canadair has produced versions of the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, North American F-86 Sabre, and Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter for the Canadian military. But some of its other planes, like the CP-107 Argus maritime patrol aircraft, proved to be as good, if not better, than contemporaries.

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

The CT-114 Tutor gave Canada nearly four decades of service as a jet trainer.

(Photo by Ahunt)

One such plane is the CT-114 Tutor, a jet trainer that still hangs around Canada as part of a demonstration team. While it looks a little like the T-37 Tweet and A-37 Dragonfly, there is a big difference: The CT-114 uses a single, license-built J85 engine as opposed to the two of the T-37. It also outperformed the Tweet, posting a top speed of 488 miles per hour (63 mph faster) and a 944-mile range (a dozen miles further).

The CT-114 served with Canada for nearly four decades, receiving upgrades along the way to remain modern and effective. Not only was this airframe used to train jet pilots, it was also used by the Snowbirds aerial demonstration team. The Canadians replaced the Tutor with versions of the T-6 Texan II and the British Aerospace Hawk trainer, but the Snowbirds plan to stick with the Tutor until as late as 2035.

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

A CT-114 was modified as a test jet to support Canada’s production of the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.

(Rene Francillon Photo Archive)

Like the T-37, a ground-attack version of the CT-114 was designed. Malaysia bought 20 of these planes, which served for 18 years within two squadrons. Those planes were eventually replaced by A-4 Skyhawks.

Learn more about this trainer from our northern neighbor in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvho5w5F5e0

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This was the plan for a 747 aircraft carrier

Longtime readers of WATM know that the U.S. Navy had flying carriers in the 1930s that eventually failed as zeppelins began crashing and fighters increased in size and weight. But the Air Force wanted their own aircraft carriers in the 1970s, and they thought the new Boeing 747s were just the ticket.


The Air Force’s Crazy 747 Aircraft Carrier Concept

www.youtube.com

It can be easy to forget now, over 40 years after the 747 first launched, just how big the plane is. The fact is that some cargo variants of the plane still out-lift the C-5 Galaxy and C-5M Super Galaxy, and even the original 747s were massive for their time.

So the Air Force figured, “What if we made jet fighters small enough to fit in the fuselage?”

The Air Force had already experimented with different methods of pairing bombers and fighters through the late 1940s to 1960s. But the only flying carrier was tested on the B-36 Convair. The Gremlin fighters that could fit in the bomber were too tiny and susceptible to turbulence, and pilots couldn’t make the linkups work.

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

A mock-up of how planes could fit inside the 747 on a conveyor belt along the plane’s spine.

So when the Air Force asked Boeing to take a look at an airborne-carrier variant of the 747, Boeing imagined its own tiny “microfighters.” Ten of these could be teamed with a single 747 equipped with a conveyor belt that could hold them in the plane and shift them to the open bays for launching.

The concept even called for a crew that could re-arm microfighters while the carrier was in flight. And the fighters could be refueled without fully re-entering the plane.

But the Air Force never pursued the idea beyond the 60-page proposal from Boeing, which might be best since a lot of important questions were left unanswered. Could the 747s really carry enough fuel to keep themselves and the microfighters going in a battle? Would the microfighters struggle with the same turbulence problems as the B-36s Gremlins?

What would be the combat radius for a microfighter after leaving its 747? Would it be large enough for the 747 to stay out of range of air defenses while remaining on station to pick up the fighters after the mission?

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

Boeing experimented with different microfighter designs, but none of them ever went into a prototype phase.

Most importantly, Boeing believed that microfighters could go toe-to-toe with many full-sized fighters at the time, but was there any real chance that Boeing could keep iterating new microfighters that could out-fly and fight full-sized fighters from Russia as the years ticked by?

It seems like it would’ve been a big lift for the aircraft designers and military planners to make the whole program militarily useful.

A new concept that uses drones instead of piloted fighters has popped up multiple times in recent years, and it features a number of key improvements over the 1970s 747 concept. Most importantly, drones don’t have pilots that need to be recovered. So if they face a range shortfall, have to fight Russian fighters on disadvantaged terms, or need to be left behind to save the carrier crew, it’s no big deal.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US could lose to China on AI if it doesn’t make some big changes

Major powers are rushing to strengthen their militaries through artificial intelligence, but the US is hamstrung by certain challenges that rivals like China may not face, giving them an advantage in this strategic competition.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are enabling cutting-edge technological capabilities that have any number of possibilities, both in the civilian and military space. AI can mean complex data analysis and accelerated decision-making — a big advantage that could potentially be the decisive difference in a high-end fight.

For China, one of its most significant advantages — outside of its disregard for privacy concerns and civil liberties that allow it to gather data and develop capabilities faster — is the fusion of military aims with civilian commercial industry. In contrast, leading US tech companies like Google are not working with the US military on AI.


“If we do not find a way to strengthen the bonds between the United States government and industry and academia, then I would say we do have the real risk of not moving as fast as China when it comes to” artificial intelligence, Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan said, responding to Insider’s queries at a Pentagon press briefing Aug. 30, 2019.

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan.

(U. S. Air Force photo by William Belcher)

Shanahan, the director of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said that China’s civil-military integration “does give them a leg up,” adding that the the Department of Defense will “have to work hard on strengthening the relationships we have with commercial industry.”

China’s pursuit of artificial intelligence, while imperfect, is a national strategy that enjoys military, government, academic, and industry support. “The idea of that civil-military integration does give strength in terms of their ability to take commercial and make it military as fast as they can,” Shanahan explained.

The Pentagon has been dealt several serious blows by commercial industry partners. For instance, Google recently decided it is no longer interested in working with the US military on artificial intelligence projects. “I asked somebody who spends time in China working on AI could there be a Google/Project Maven scenario,” Shanahan said Aug. 30, 2019. “He laughed and said, ‘Not for very long.'”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford sharply criticized Google earlier this year, accusing the company of aiding the Chinese military.

Shanahan acknowledged that the relationships between the military and industry and academia that helped fuel the rise of Silicon Valley have “splintered” due to various reasons, including a number of incidents that have shaken public trust in the government. “That is a limitation for us,” he admitted.

“China’s strategy of military-civil fusion does present a competitive challenge that should be taken seriously,” Elsa Kania, a Center for New American Security expert on Chinese military innovation, wrote recently.

“Looking forward, US policy should concentrate on recognizing and redoubling our own initiatives to promote public-private partnership in critical technologies, while sustaining and increasing investments in American research and innovation.”

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

US soldier provides security during a short halt in Iraq.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall)

The US is not without its own advantages.

One important advantage for the US as it looks at not only what AI is but the art of the possible for use in the military is US warfighting experience, something China doesn’t really have.

Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon that China has “advantage over the US in speed of adoption and data,” but explained that not all data is created equal. “Just the fact that they have data does not tell me they have an inherent strength in fielding this in their military organizations,” he said.

China can pull tons of data from society, but that, Shanahan explained, is a very “different kind of data than full-motion video from Afghanistan and Iraq,” which can be carefully analyzed and used to develop AI capabilities for the battlefield.

The Department of Defense is looking closely at using AI for things like predictive maintenance, event detection, network mapping, and so on, but the next big project is maneuvering and fire.

Shanahan said “2020 will be a breakout year for the department when it comes to fielding AI-enabled technologies,” but what exactly that big breakout will look like remains to be seen.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This airborne weapon makes the A-10’s gun look like a cute little pop gun

While we love the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger on the A-10 for the BRRRRRT it brings, we also know that it’s not exactly the biggest gun to ever take to the skies. In fact, several planes have packed bigger guns, like the XA-38 Grizzly armed with 75mm firepower or some versions of the B-25 Mitchell, which pack .50-caliber machine guns.


One of the biggest guns to ever be attached to a plane is the 105mm howitzer on the AC-130 Spectre gunship. Yeah, Warthog fans, I’ll say it: the AC-130’s biggest gun makes the GAU-8 look like a cute little pop gun. Here’s the scoop on this cannon that can really make life a living hell for bad guys on the ground.

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

The AC-130U packs two guns bigger than the A-10’s GAU-8 30mm Gatling gun, including a M102 howitzer!

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

This gun is officially known as the M102 howitzer. It’s been around since 1964, when it was acquired by the Army for airborne and light infantry units, replacing the World War II-era M101 howitzer. The M102 has a top range of roughly nine and a third miles and can fire ten rounds per minute in a rapid-fire mode before settling down to a tamer three rounds per minute.

While the lightweight M119 has replaced the M102 in many of America’s light units since it entered service in 1989, the M102 is still active aboard the AC-130. The howitzer has been on AC-130s since 1971.

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

The M102 saw action in the Vietnam War, but has hung long enough to server during Operation Iraqi Freedom!

(US Army)

The M102 has seen action on the ground in Vietnam, Grenada, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. While many of these howitzers will never see active service on the ground again, many have a long life ahead on AC-130 gunships, both the AC-130U and the AC-130J. You can see a video of the M102 being tested in its ground-based mode by the Army in the video below!

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

www.youtube.com

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