Helmets worn by troops in the U.S. military are getting lighter and stronger every year. Since the 1980s when the Pentagon ditched the old steel pot designs in favor of hardened Kevlar laminate lids, service members have been getting a major boost to the protection of their noggin’.
In the last few years, armor makers have been working with new materials that are even lighter and stronger and can be shaped in a variety of ways to fit certain missions. The technology has evolved enough that now the Army is set to field an entirely new head protection system that’s a lot more than just a helmet.
Dubbed the Integrated Head Protection System, the new helmet has a variety of components that can be tailored for different operations. Whether you’re a door-kicker or a tank driver, the new IHPS has armor that can keep the frags at bay.
“It’s about giving commanders on the battlefield the ability to use the modularity capability of the equipment to fit their particular mission profile or protective posture level,” said Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, the product manager for Personal Protective Equipment at PEO Soldier, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
From face-protecting “mandibles” to integrated radio headset attachments to NVG bases, the IHPS is way higher tech than the K-pots of old.
The helmet system even has additional “applique” armor for when the sht really hits the fan.
Recently the Army has been testing the IHPS in a variety of operations, including infantry maneuver and airborne drops.
The new IHPS is due to be deployed with Army troops starting in 2018.
According to a report by the Daily Caller, the $8.5 billion deal saved taxpayers almost $740 million in costs — a cost of $94 million per aircraft.
The F-35A is arguably the simplest of the three variants, taking off and landing from conventional runways on land. The F-35B, being purchased by the Marine Corps, is a V/STOL (for Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing) aircraft that required a lift fan and vectored nozzle. The F-35C is designed to handle catapult takeoffs and arrested landings on the aircraft carriers of the United States Navy.
The increased production of the F-35 has helped knock the production cost down. An October 2015 article by the Daily Caller noted that per-unit costs of the Zumwalt-class destroyers skyrocketed after the production run was cut from an initial buy of 32 to the eventual total of three.
Earlier this year, the F-35A took part in a Red Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, Nev., and posted a 15 to 1 kill ratio, according to reports by Aviation Week and Space Technology. BreakingDefense.com reported that the F-35A had a 90 percent mission capable rate, and that in every sortie, the key systems were up.
So, with these details in mind, take a look at this video Vox released on Jan. 26 of this year, before the announcement of the contract, and before the F-35s did some ass-kicking at Red Flag.
The new PD-100 black hornet nano-drone has made its way into the Australian Army in a very big way. It is mainly utilized as a small range, inconspicuous recon drone. However, it is essentially the first of its kind, and the possibilities are endless.
Not too shabby for a drone the size of a matchbox
(reddit user /u/harriharris)
These little dudes have been assisting in recon training with the Australian Army. Apparently, they are much quieter than their larger drone counterparts. This, coupled with the tiny size, makes them a perfect match for covert recon. They can also snap some really crisp pictures for a micro-drone.
This makes them a logical improvement from the already tremendously effective “instanteye” being used by forces today. The instanteye has a lackluster battery and picture resolution, but can still be advantageous for getting an idea of the enemy’s position from a safe distance. The PD-100 black hornet improves on this with a much smaller, quieter, design.
A previous generation of the “instanteye”
The thought of spawning hundreds of these little dudes all over a battlefield, essentially giving commanders a fully comprehensive and detailed view of the battlefield, could change the way battle tactics evolve alongside nano-technology.
This brings to mind sci-fi visions of Ed Harris in “The Truman Show” overseeing every single detail in a massive landscape, pulling every tiny string perfectly. Now couple that with tactical genius in a real-world setting, and it’s not too far of a logical jump to consider the combat effects.
Another interesting implication to consider with these little marvels is their offensive capabilities. What if one of these was armed with high explosives and controlled remotely to be deadly accurate? Now consider that possibility, but with a swarm of dozens of them — or hundreds.
US Military Released Micro Drone Swarm From FA 18 Super Hornet Jet…
Here is a video of a micro-drone 9 (albeit, larger than the PD-100 black hornets) swarm being released by some F-18s.
Imagine those, but smaller, strapped and readied with high explosives, each controlled remotely by some military equivalent to a professional gamer. The quiet PD-100 black hornet certainly poses some interesting implications.
As of now, the biggest limitation of this technology is its battery life. It is estimated at somewhere between 30-60 minutes. This is somewhat of a far cry from its larger drone counterpart, the RQ-11b Raven (which is estimated at about 60-90 minutes).
Still, even with its limited battery life and the obvious problems that could arise for a small drone in heavy winds — the PD-100 seems to be dipping its tiny little toes into the water of the world of evolved combat. Time will tell if military tech will continue to go bigger, by getting smaller.
The M1126 and M1127 Strykers have provided good service to the Army in the wars since 9/11, where they provided an excellent balance of mobility, protection, and firepower for troops.
However, when you’re potentially facing a fight with Russia, you need a bigger gun. They now will have one.
The United States Army rolled out the “Dragoon” in response to feedback from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, currently based in Europe, and likely to be on the front lines if the Russian hordes come. According to an Army release, the Dragoon is officially the XM1296 Infantry Combat Vehicle, and features a Mk 44 Bushmaster II, a 30mm version of the M242 25mm chain gun used on the M2/M3 Bradley, the LAV-25, and a number of United States Navy and Coast Guard vessels.
The baseline M1126 Stryker usually had either a M2 .50-caliber machine gun or a 40mm Mark 19 automatic grenade launcher. Both systems are great for dealing with light enemy forces whose best vehicles may be the “technical” — a pickup truck with a heavy machine gun mounted on it. Against a BMP or BTR – never mind a T-80 main battle tank — the firepower comes up short, placing the nine Joes in the back and the Stryker’s two-man crew in more danger.
Some Strykers have more firepower, like the M1128 Mobile Gun System (which uses a 105mm gun) and the M1134 Anti-Tank Vehicle (armed with the BGM-71 TOW missile). The grunts inside the Stryker can also carry and use the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile.
The Army plans to give the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment 81 of the XM1296s. Other purchases may likely follow, as there are potential conflicts across the globe. While those units could face long odds in some of those conflicts, those odds won’t be so long with the XM1296 backing the troops up.
There’s nothing like a trial-by-combat to see if a new weapon is really worth its salt, so Russia has been using the Syrian Civil War to test out a lot of its new military technology.
In 2015, Russia’s Klub cruise missile made its combat debut, and Moscow has sent some of its most advanced planes to the war — including the Su-34 Fullback, the Su-35 Flanker, and the Tu-160 Blackjack — to carry out missions in support of Bashir al-Assad’s regime.
Now, it looks like the Russians are including the R-77 air-to-air missile among the systems being used in what has become an operational testing ground. The missiles have been seen on Syrian Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrums, a fighter that the Soviets and Russians have exported to a number of countries in the region.
The R-77 — also known as the AA-12 “Adder,” or “AMRAAMski” — is an active-homing radar-guided missile. It’s comparable to the earlier versions of the U.S.-made AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile. The Adder has a range of roughly 70 miles, and a top speed in excess of Mach 4. The Adder can be carried by just about any Russian aircraft, from the Su-35 Flanker to the Mig-21 Fishbed. It entered service in 1994.
The AIM-120 AMRAAM has a top speed of Mach 4, and entered service in 1991, although it was being delivered as early as 1988. Early versions of the missile had a range of 45 miles, but the latest variant has a range of over 100 miles. The AMRAAM has been mounted on a wide variety of combat aircraft, including upgraded F-5s for the Singaporean Air Force; the F-22; the F-35; the Tornado F.3; the JAS.39 Gripen; F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets; and even the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Russia’s move to improve its air-to-air capability is certainly intended to stymie any U.S.-led contingency plan of creating a no-fly zone over the war-torn region.
When the U.S. military entered World War II, American businesses geared their entrepreneurial efforts toward supporting the war effort as a means of survival. This meant the majority of raw materials were used to produce weapons, ammunition, armor, aircraft, and other necessary equipment. Zippo Manufacturing Company had a decade of experience selling their flip-open lighters to the consumer market, but during the war they exclusively produced Zippo lighters for American service members.
The classic Zippo design garnered respect among the millions of Americans serving overseas. These steel-cased lighters had a black crackle finish and no customization, engravings, or art work on them but were durable and could function no matter what elements troops found themselves in. An ad in 1942 wrote, “Zippo Windproof LIGHTERS have acted as rescue beacons for men in open boats, as a guide through dense dark jungles and as a means for lighting fires for food and warmth.”
Ernie Pyle, a famous war correspondent and newspaperman, developed a special relationship with George Blaisdell and personally received a shipment of 50 Zippos prior to the D-Day invasion. “And another 100 will be sent to Ernie every month for the duration,” Blaisdell added.
Pyle famously penned a letter to Blaisdell on Oct. 29, 1944: “If I tried to tell you how much these Zippos are coveted at the front and the gratitude and delight with which the boys receive them, you would probably accuse me of exaggeration,” he wrote. “There is truly nothing the average soldier would rather have.”
Following Pyle’s tragic death in the Pacific in 1945, Blaisdell immediately sent 600 Zippo lighters engraved with “In memory of Ernie Pyle” to the captain of the USS Cabot to hand out to the crew who counted Pyle as one of their own.
Post-World War II, the increasingly popular Zippo lighters became available to the general public once again. The connection between Zippo and the U.S. military didn’t stop there, and during the Vietnam War Zippo emerged as the most popular item carried in the pockets of American service members. Unlike the cigarette lighters from previous wars, these Zippos were personal mementos specifically customized with unit logos, maps of Vietnam, and both humorous and crude slogans.
“You had people who were discontent people who wanted to express heartfelt emotions,” said Bradford Edwards, a Vietnam-era Zippo collector and artist. “And here was a small canvas that may be the last thing some of these guys had to say.”
One soldier’s Zippo had the logo for the United States Army Air Defense Center in Fort Bliss, Texas, on the front, while the lid reads, “When I die bury me face down so the whole world can kiss my ass.” On the back, the case reads, “5th Special Forces Group – 1st Special Forces Viet Nam 69-70” with an engraving of a U.S. Army Special Forces green beret. The lid reads, “Nha-Trang Viet Nam.”
During the Vietnam War, Zippos were sold at the PX or by locals operating the street side black markets. Their popularity in wartime culture surged with “Zippo Tracks” being adopted as a nickname for flame throwing tanks, and “Zippo Raids” used to describe the actions of soldiers burning down hooches or villages.
Although Zippo remained a treasured collector’s item, during the 1980s a surge of fake lighters saturated the market. Zippo continues to produce military-themed lighters to commemorate their storied legacy, although the artwork is more general. The Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford, Pennsylvania, is home to Zippo and Case Knives flagship stores, where collectors and tourists alike can take a deeper dive into the history of Zippo and their involvement with American service members.
The H-60 “Jayhawk” is an incredible airframe, to say the least. Today, it’s one of the most-produced helicopters in the world and it’s in service with a vast number of countries. The United States Army alone has almost 3,000 either in service or on order. But there’s one user of the H-60 that doesn’t get much attention: The United States Coast Guard.
Currently, according to a Coast Guard representative, the USCG has 45 MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters in service. Originally, the Coast Guard got 42 HH-60Js from Sikorsky, but in the years since, three Jayhawks were operational losses and six were re-manufactured from former U.S. Navy SH-60F helicopters.
Just as the Navy replaced their SH-3 Sea Kings with SH-60/MH-60s, the Coast Guard is turning to the HH-60J to replace HH-3 Pelican search-and-rescue helicopters. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the first 42 HH-60Js were delivered between 1990 and 1996, making this one of the youngest versions of the H-60 in service.
U.S. Coast Guardsmen with Coast Guard Station San Diego participate in a search and rescue exercise (SAREX) in an HH-60J Jayhawk helicopter near Naval Auxiliary Landing Field San Clemente Island, Calif.
(DoD photo by Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo, U.S. Marine Corps)
The original HH-60J was an unarmed helicopter, optimized for the search-and-rescue mission. It was equipped with a radar for locating ships and could also accept a forward-looking infrared camera. In 2007, the fleet was rebuilt to the MH-60T standard. This new and improved helicopter has a top speed of 204 miles per hour, a maximum range of 808 miles, and a crew of four.
The crew of an Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter work together to carry an injured woman to emergency medical personnel at the Kodiak Municipal Airport in Kodiak, Alaska
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Tracey Mertens)
This new Jayhawk packs heat two ways: it has a M240 7.62mm machine gun and a Barrett M82A1 .50-caliber sniper rifle. This is known as the Airborne Use of Force package, and it was first installed on MH-68 Stingray helicopters used by the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiciton Tactical Squadron, or HITRON.
A Coast Guard Air Station MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter crew deployed in Cold Bay diverted from a training flight near Dutch Harbor to medevac a 26-year-old male who reportedly suffered head injuries aboard the 58-foot fishing vessel Cape Reliant.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley)
The Coast Guard is planning to keep the Jayhawk in service until 2035. By then, this helicopter will have enjoyed a 45-year-long service career.
Learn more about this long-lasting bird in the video below!
The US Air Force set out to return to Cold War numbers by growing nearly 25% and taking on hundreds more planes to form an additional 74 squadrons, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced on Sept. 17, 2018.
The US Air Force, which typically acquires aircraft only after long vetting and bidding processes, will attempt the radical change in short order to fulfill President Donald Trump’s vision of a bigger military to take on Russia and China.
In the US’s new National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration redefined the US’s foremost enemies not as rogue groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda, but China and Russia.
While the US has fought counter insurgencies against small terror groups and non-state actors nonstop since Sept. 11, 2001, the resurgence of an aggressive Russia now at war in Ukraine and Syria, and the emergence of China now unilaterally attempting to dominate the South China Sea, has renewed the US military’s focus on winning massive wars.
This chart shows how many new squadrons the Air Force wants and how they’ll be distributed. The Air Force announced a goal of 386 squadrons, up from 312. Depending on the airframe, a squadron can have 8-24 planes.
For the bomber squadrons, which include nuclear capable bombers like the B-52 and B-2, that number will grow only slightly and likely include the mysterious new B-21 Raider bomber, which no one has ever seen outside classified circles.
In the fighter jet department, it’s likely F-35s will comprise most of this growth. Aerial tankers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, likely drones, will also see a big bump.
The Air Force hopes to build the force up to 386 squadrons by 2030, but has not provided any information on how it plans to fund the venture. The US Air Force has requested 6 billion for next fiscal year, already a six percent bump over the previous year. While Wilson promised to streamline acquisition, which famously can take years and cost billions, there’s real doubts about how fast the organization can move. The US Air Force started working on the F-22 in 1981. It first flew in 1997 and first went into combat in 2014. The F-35 started in 2001 and just last year experienced its first combat in Israel’s service.
“We are not naive about the budget realities,” Wilson said at the Air Force’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference. “At the same time, we think we owe our countrymen an honest answer on what is required to protect the vital, national interests of this country under the strategy we have been given, and so we believe this is, if not the perfect answer, it is an honest answer to that question: What is the Air Force we need?”
Currently, China’s military is in the midst of building up a tremendous air force and navy while also threatening some of the US’s core interests and most promising technologies.
The biggest US Air Force defense projects involve stealth aircraft, like the B-21 and F-35. As of yet unpublished research on China’s military reviewed by Business Insider found Chinese fighter aircraft now number around 1,610 compared to about 1,960 US fighters.
China has made strides towards quantum radars designed to negate the US stealth advantage as well as a stealth fighter of its own, the J-20.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A U.S. Army project took a new approach to developing robots — researchers built robots entirely from smaller robots known as “smarticles,” unlocking the principles of a potentially new locomotion technique.
Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and Northwestern University published their findings in the journal Science Robotics.
The research could lead to robotic systems capable of changing their shapes, modalities and functions, said Sam Stanton, program manager, complex dynamics and systems at the Army Research Office, an element of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory.
“For example, as envisioned by the Army Functional Concept for Maneuver, a robotic swarm may someday be capable of moving to a river and then autonomously forming a structure to span the gap,” he said.
Five identical “smarticles” — smart active particles — interact with one another in an enclosure. By nudging each other, the group — dubbed a “supersmarticle” — can move in random ways. The research could lead to robotic systems capable of changing their shapes, modalities and functions.
The 3D-printed smarticles — short for smart active particles — can do just one thing: flap their two arms. But when five of these smarticles are confined in a circle, they begin to nudge one another, forming a robophysical system known as a “supersmarticle” that can move by itself. Adding a light or sound sensor allows the supersmarticle to move in response to the stimulus — and even be controlled well enough to navigate a maze.
The notion of making robots from smaller robots — and taking advantage of the group capabilities that arise by combining individuals — could provide mechanically based control over very small robots. Ultimately, the emergent behavior of the group could provide a new locomotion and control approach for small robots that could potentially change shapes.
“These are very rudimentary robots whose behavior is dominated by mechanics and the laws of physics,” said Dan Goldman, a Dunn Family Professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the project’s principal investigator. “We are not looking to put sophisticated control, sensing and computation on them all. As robots become smaller and smaller, we’ll have to use mechanics and physics principles to control them because they won’t have the level of computation and sensing we would need for conventional control.”
The foundation for the research came from an unlikely source: a study of construction staples. By pouring these heavy-duty staples into a container with removable sides, former doctoral student Nick Gravish — now a faculty member at the University of California San Diego — created structures that would stand by themselves after the container’s walls were removed.
Light hits a smarticle (smart active particle) causing it to stop moving, while the other smarticles continue to flap their arms. The resulting interactions produce movement toward the stopped smarticle, providing control that doesn’t depend on computer algorithms.
Shaking the staple towers eventually caused them to collapse, but the observations led to a realization that simple entangling of mechanical objects could create structures with capabilities well beyond those of the individual components.
“Dan Goldman’s research is identifying physical principles that may prove essential for engineering emergent behavior in future robot collectives as well as new understanding of fundamental tradeoffs in system performance, responsiveness, uncertainty, resiliency and adaptivity,” Stanton said.
The researchers used a 3D printer to create battery-powered smarticles, which have motors, simple sensors and limited computing power. The devices can change their location only when they interact with other devices while enclosed by a ring.
“Even though no individual robot could move on its own, the cloud composed of multiple robots could move as it pushed itself apart and shrink as it pulled itself together,” Goldman said. “If you put a ring around the cloud of little robots, they start kicking each other around and the larger ring — what we call a supersmarticle — moves around randomly.”
The researchers noticed that if one small robot stopped moving, perhaps because its battery died, the group of smarticles would begin moving in the direction of that stalled robot. The researchers learned to control the movement by adding photo sensors to the robots that halt the arm flapping when a strong beam of light hits one of them.
Smarticles: Robots built from smaller robots work together
“If you angle the flashlight just right, you can highlight the robot you want to be inactive, and that causes the ring to lurch toward or away from it, even though no robots are programmed to move toward the light,” Goldman said. “That allowed steering of the ensemble in a very rudimentary, stochastic way.”
In future work, Goldman envisions more complex interactions that use the simple sensing and movement capabilities of the smarticles. “People have been interested in making a certain kind of swarm robots that are composed of other robots,” he said. “These structures could be reconfigured on demand to meet specific needs by tweaking their geometry.”
Swarming formations of robotic systems could be used to enhance situational awareness and mission-command capabilities for small Army units in difficult-to-maneuver environments like cities, forests, caves or other rugged terrain.
The research project also received funding from National Science Foundation.
The Littoral Combat Ship has been nothing short of problematic for the US Navy. Engineering and mechanical issues have repeatedly sidelined a number of active LCS warships, sometimes in foreign ports for months at a time. Oddly enough, as much as the LCS has been a pain in the figurative neck, it’s far from the worst frigate-type vessel afloat in today’s modern navies.
In fact, that dubious distinction goes to the yet-to-be-accepted F125 series of “super frigates” commissioned by the German Navy.
Though the first of the F125 ships, the Baden-Württemberg, has already been built and has sailed under its own power, it was returned to its builder by the German government — which isn’t a very good sign.
The German military originally sought a replacement for its Bremen-class frigates in the early 2000s. While the Bremen boats were still fairly young at the time, they were rapidly walking down the path toward obsolescence. With operational costs steadily climbing at a time when the German military planned to make deeps cut in spending, a plan formed in the minds of the country’s highest-ranking civilian and uniformed defense officials.
Instead of ordering frigates that could fulfill just one or two types of missions, they would order and commission the largest frigates in the world to serve as multi-mission platforms. They would, hypothetically, be able to operate away from their German home ports for up to 24 months at a time, function using a smaller crew, and serve on humanitarian and peacekeeping operations around the world as needed.
Additionally, similar to the LCS frigates, these new surface combatants would be able to field modules for various missions, quickly swapped out in port as varying objectives demanded. Special operations forces could also use the new ships as floating staging areas, with the ability to carry four smaller boats and two medium-lift NH90 helicopters.
In 2007, the first contracts for the new frigates — dubbed the F125 class — were inked, outlining an order for a batch of four ships with the potential for more in the future. The deal tallied up to nearly $3 billion USD with an expected delivery date of 2015-2016.
During the construction program, problems began to manifest, and with them came delays and cost overruns. By the time of the lead ship’s christening in 2013, German officials anticipated a commissioning date in 2016 or 2017 at the latest. However, by 2017, the situation had worsened when scores of defects were discovered during testing and evaluation.
The F125 class is far closer in size and constitution to a destroyer than a frigate. Coming in at around 7200 tons, the weight of the vessel (which includes its mission systems, propulsion, machinery, etc.) makes for a major speed disadvantage. The Baden-Württemberg can’t go faster than 26 knots (30 miles per hour) while underway. By comparison, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which are just 15 feet longer than the F125s and are in a similar weight class, has been known to achieve speeds in excess of 30 knots (+35 miles per hour) with its engines are cranked up.
Not only does this have an impact on the F125’s performance, it also makes the ship considerably more expensive to operate in the long term.
Hardware and software woes are among the most damning issues plaguing the F125s. Defective mission-critical systems means that the ship is unreliable when at sea and probably completely unusable in combat situations. At this point, the F125s are more like extremely expensive military yachts than they are warships.
To top it off, the Baden-Württemberg has a consistent list to starboard, meaning that the ship is on a permanent lean to the right side.
In late December, 2017, the German military refused to accept the Baden-Württemberg for active service, citing the above flaws and defects. This is the very first time in German history where a warship was actually returned to its builder because it didn’t meet minimum operating standards and requirements.
There is no timeline on when the German Navy will finally accept the F125s into its surface fleet. That won’t happen until all four ships have been refitted and repaired to the satisfaction of German defense officials. Before that, millions of dollars will have to be reinvested into the already highly-expensive program.
F-35B Lightning II aircraft, attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced), are currently in the Indo-Pacific region deployed aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1).
Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is operating in the region “to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.”
F-35B flying in “Third Day of War” configuration.
(US Marine Corps photo)
Images being released these days show the Marines STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft in VMFA-121 markings carrying external weapons during blue water ops, a configuration being tested for quite some time and known as CAS (Close Air Support) “Beast Mode” (or “Bomb Truck”).
In particular, the aircraft are loaded with 2x AIM-9X (on the outer pylons) and 4x GBU-12 500-lb LGB (Laser Guided Bombs).
Marines load a Guided Bomb Unit (GBU) 12 onto an F-35B Lightning II aircraft attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean Galbreath)
This configuration involving external loads is also referred to as a “Third Day of War” configuration as opposed to a “First Day of War” one in which the F-35 would carry weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors.
As we explained in a previous story: “as a conflict evolves and enemy air defense assets including sensors, air defense missile and gun systems and enemy aircraft are degraded by airstrikes (conducted also by F-35s in “Stealth Mode”) the environment becomes more permissive: in such a scenario the F-35 no longer relies on low-observable capabilities for survivability so it can shift to carrying large external loads.”
LO (Low Observability) is required for penetrating defended airspaces and knocking out defenses at the beginning of a conflict, but after the careful work of surface-to-air missile hunting is done (two, three days, who really knows?), the F-35 is expected to “go beast”.
An F-35B Lightning II aircraft, attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced), lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
In “Beast Mode“, exploiting the internal weapon bays, the F-35A can carry 2x AIM-9X (external pylons), 2x AIM-120 AMRAAM (internal bomb bay) and 4x GBU-31 2,000-lb (pylons) and 2x GBU-31 PGMs (internal bay). It’s not clear whether the F-35B can launch from a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship in this configuration.
On Sept. 27, 2018, U.S. Marine Corps F-35B jets made their combat debut. U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, the “Wake Island Avengers”, of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, used their F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters to hit insurgent targets in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province launching from U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on station in the Persian Gulf. The aircraft used in the strike were loaded with GBU-32 1000-lb JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) but were also equipped with the externally mounted GAU-22 25mm gun pod in addition to the weapons in the internal bays. And sported the radar reflectors too.
An F-35B takes off with 2x AIM-9x and 2x GBU-12 LGBs.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sarah Myers)
Back to the “Beast Mode”, F-35B have launched from the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) with inert 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided test bombs during operational testing and the third phase of developmental testing for the STOVL stealth aircraft conducted by Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) in 2016. Still, the ones just released are probably the very first images of the aircraft launching in “Beast Mode” operationally.
Flight deck crew members guide an F-35B Lightning II aircraft, attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced), in preparation for flight operations aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
According to a Pentagon test office document recently obtained by Bloomberg, “Durability testing data indicates service-life of initial F-35B short-takeoff-vertical landing jets bought by Marine Corps “is well under” expected service life of 8,000 fleet hours; “may be as low as 2,100″ hours.”
This would mean that some of the early F-35B jets would start hitting service life limit in 2026.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Every Air Force and Navy feels the need for speed. It’s just a fact. When trying to scramble your defending aircraft, time is of the essence and speed is a critical element of that. Aircraft developers have come a very long way since the development of the first jet engine in the mid-20th Century. These days, an airframe that can’t cruise at supersonic speeds might as well be a diesel-powered propeller plane.
It was a long and winding road human engineering took to get to the point where fighter aircraft have the radar cross section of bumblebee. Here are the fastest examples currently in service.
The Boeing X-37 is an unmanned space drone operated by the U.S. Air Force and boosted into space by NASA. Its mission is to test reusable space technologies, then come back to Earth. On the way down, the X-37 re-enters Earth’s atmosphere at an average speed of 16 times the speed of sound, but has come back as fast as Mach 25.
The fastest fighter still in service today is the Soviet-built MiG-25. Mikoyan designed this fighter to be a pure interceptor aircraft. As a result, the Foxbat can sustain a cruising speed of Mach 2.8 and kick it into overdrive with a top speed of 3.2 – not a bad technology for an aircraft that first took off in 1964.
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F-15E Strike Eagle
The F-15 has been flying for more than 30 years and is set to keep going. The reason is just good design, another aircraft initially designed to catch incoming enemies and destroy them. The F-15 can fly at a top speed of 3,017 miles per hour, then stop, hit ground targets, and fade away.
When the Russians needed something that could try to chase down the vaunted SR-71 Blackbird, they called up the MiG-21 and its Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. The only problem is that it doesn’t handle as well as its predecessor, the MiG-25. With a top speed of 2,993 miles per hour, it also isn’t as fast.
The Su-27 is a heavy fighter, designed to be the Soviet Union’s answer to the F-15 program. First flown in 1977, it’s still used by a handful of different countries, and is relied on for its 2,496 miles per hour top speed. The United States even has four SU-27 aircraft it uses to train pilots.
23rd Fighter Group A-10 Thunderbolt IIs featuring the distinctive shark mouth nose art. (Photo by Air Force SSgt Nathan G. Bevier/Released)
Today, the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the “Warthog” or “Hog,” is the premiere close air support aircraft of the United States Air Force. The Warthog is best known for the massive 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon fitted in its nose. Further highlighting this feature, the aircraft’s nose is often painted with a warthog head or shark mouth. Most fans of the Warthog believe the latter nose art to be derived from the famous shark mouthed P-40 fighter planes of the Flying Tigers, and this is partly true. However, the true origin of shark mouth nose art goes all the way back to the genesis of aerial combat.
WWII enthusiasts will be familiar with the American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, better known as the “Flying Tigers”. Their Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter planes were painted with a distinct shark mouth nose art—partly as a form of psychological warfare, partly as self-expression, and generally as a display of aggression. These motivations are echoed in the Warthog with its own shark mouth nose art, but the Flying Tigers didn’t come up with the idea on their own.
Flying Tiger P-40 Warhawks over China. (Photo by AVG pilot Robert T. Smith/Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
Doug Revell of WARBIRDS INTERNATIONAL did some research on this topic and found that the Flying Tigers were actually inspired by 112 Squadron of the British RAF. 112 Squadron was one of the first to receive the P-40 Tomahawk (the British Commonwealth and Soviet name for the P-40B and P-40C variants of the Warhawk). The large air intake on the P-40’s nose lent itself to the aggressive shark mouth feature. The Flying Tigers saw a photograph of 112 Squadron’s shark mouthed Tomahawks operating in North Africa, and adopted the design for themselves. However, while the RAF inspired the Flying Tigers with their shark mouth nose art, they too drew inspiration from another country’s pilots.
A P-40 of 112 Squadron taxis in Tunisia. Note the RAF roundel on the wing. (RAF photo from the Imperial War Museum)
112 Squadron had encountered the Luftwaffe’s Zerstörergeschwader (heavy fighter wing) 76 earlier in the war. ZG 76 flew Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighter/fighter-bombers which they decorated with shark mouth nose art, though notably without the inclusion of eyes. Other variations of shark mouth nose art existed on German-made aircraft including shark mouth art on the lower engine cowling of Swiss Air Force Messerschmitt Bf 109s and a shark mouth with round eyes on the nose a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter. However, it was the shark mouths of ZG 76’s Bf 110s that inspired 112 Squadron to adopt the shark mouth with the addition of the teardrop-shaped eyes.
A ZG 76 Bf 110 with shark mouth. Note the lack of eyes. (Photo from Bundesarchiv)
Revell was able to trace ZG 76’s shark mouthed Bf 110s back to a German Air Force reconnaissance plane in the First World War. “The first noted mouth was on a World War I German Roland C.II,” Revell said. “The design fell into disuse in the interwar period but reappeared on the ZG 76 Me 110s (the unofficial but more commonly used name for the Messerschmitt Bf 110) operating from Norway…” The Walfisch (German for whale), as the C.II was called, was often painted with an open shark mouth and beady eyes on its nose. ZG 76 omitted the beady eyes when they adopted the shark mouth for their Bf 110s during WWII.
The shape of the C.II inspired both its nickname and nose art. (Photo from aircorpsart.com)
With the more commonly known history of the Flying Tigers, it’s difficult to imagine that the shark mouth art on the nose of the Warthog can be traced back to a WWII Luftwaffe heavy fighter and a WWI German recon plane. In a way, these historical connections are appropriate, since the Warthog is used to provide forward air controller-airborne support (like the C.II) as the OA-10 and close air support for ground troops (like the Bf 110). Despite the Air Force’s intention to replace the A-10 with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, support for the Warthog from troops on the ground and the pilots that fly it are helping to ensure that the shark mouth tradition lives on in the skies.