The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

Sophisticated, weaponized drones were once a US military monopoly, but a growing number of world powers — including rivals China and Russia, rogue states North Korea and Iran, and stateless terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Yemen’s Houthi rebels — are challenging America’s longtime dominance of unmanned warfare.


In the latest sign of the battle for aerial supremacy in the drone wars, a strike Oct. 9 killed 10 fighters from a Lebanese-based Hezbollah unit fighting in eastern Syria. No group immediately claimed responsibility, but Hezbollah has been allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad in his battle against Islamic State and an al-Qaeda offshoot operating in the country, while Israel has been nervously watching the Shiite militants’ advance.

That there are so many plausible suspects shows the increasing prominence of drone warfare, analysts say.

Unmanned weapon systems, colloquially known as drones, have been staples in the US military arsenal since the post-9/11 global war on terrorism. The first publicly acknowledged drone strike conducted by US forces was a 2001 attack against insurgents in Afghanistan just weeks after the American invasion of the country, according to a database tracking drone strikes compiled by the thinktank New America.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

Since then, 28 other nations have successfully developed or purchased weaponized drone assets for their militaries, according to the New America report. That list includes Iran and North Korea, which developed and deployed armed aerial drones in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

Having seen the success of the US drone program, “other states are bringing their own drone programs online, and the proliferation of civilian drone technology has opened the door to the use of [unmanned aerial vehicles] by non-state actors,” wrote Alexander Sehmer, editor of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor, which recently published a survey of increased drone use by Islamic State and states such as Russia and Iran.

Poland and Taiwan were the most recent entrants into the growing league possessing armed drone technology. Earlier this year, Taipei and Warsaw announced plans to field medium-altitude, long-range aerial drones for military operations.

The drone explosion is actually much larger, US intelligence officials warn. As many as 87 nations are believed to possess some sort of rudimentary unmanned capability that could be used for surveillance or offensive operations.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
Still from an ISIS-released video entitled “Ninawa Wilayah – Knights of Diwan” that demonstrates the use of drones.

As drone technology becomes cheaper and the availability of such technology bleeds over from military markets into commercial ones, terrorist groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaeda are quickly taking advantage. Commercially available quad-rotor drones, operated by simple remote controls over standard radio frequencies, wrought havoc on local and coalition forces as they pushed Islamic State back from its enclaves in northern Iraq and now Syria.

Islamic State ground commanders would often use the commercial, off-the-shelf drones outfitted with Bluetooth cameras to track movements of Iraqi and coalition tanks and armored vehicles in cities such as Fallujah, Mosul, and Tal Afar.

The terrorist group would use that information to direct armored suicide car bombers to strike enemy forces advancing through the city. In some instances, Islamic State fighters would rig commercial drones with hand grenades, mortar shells, or other explosive ordnance and drop the makeshift bombs onto Iraqi forces or into coalition firebases set up along the front line of the advance.

The use of commercial drones became such a concern that US commanders in Iraq and Syria ordered American and coalition warplanes to target Islamic State drone-makers, putting them on par with other high-value targets. Three top Islamic State drone developers were killed in a US airstrike late last month, Defense Department officials confirmed Oct. 6.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
USAF photo by Kenji Thuloweit.

“The removal of these key ISIS leaders disrupts and degrades ISIS’ ability to modify and employ drone platforms as reconnaissance and direct fire weapons on the battlefield,” Col. Ryan Dillon, the top US military spokesman in Iraq, said in a statement.

Islamic State is not the only American adversary to exploit the military applications of drones. American warplanes shot down an Iranian-built Shaheed-129 aerial drone advancing on US and coalition positions in southern Syria in July.

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who are engaged in a civil war in Yemen, reportedly launched a sea-based armed drone against a Saudi warship in the Red Sea in January. The relatively sophisticated technology is evidence that the US and its allies point to of Iranian backing of the rebel group in Yemen’s civil war.

“Our assessment is that it was an unmanned, remote-controlled boat of some kind,” Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, 5th Fleet commander and head of US Naval Forces-Central, confirmed to Defense News in February. The drone strike killed two Saudi navy sailors and injured three others.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
An unmanned 11-meter rigid hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) from Naval Surface Warfare Center. Navy photo by John F. Williams.

The potential for unmanned aircraft being used by terrorist groups or non-state actors against the US or its allies has weighed heavily on American intelligence officials going back to 2013.

A US intelligence official who spoke with The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity, said at the time that it is “getting easier for non-state actors to acquire this technology.”

Because drones have clear peaceful, commercial applications as well, “one problem is that countries may perceive these systems as less provocative than armed platforms and might use them in cross-border operations in a way that actually stokes regional tension,” the official said.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
ISIS is using drones more and more in their warfighting tactics.

Market drivers

US adversaries’ adoption of military drone technology began to peak around 2010, just as US drone operations against terrorist targets under the Obama administration reached its high-water mark. That year, President Obama authorized a drone strike against US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the spiritual leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemeni cell.

Iran was the first to obtain a viable unmanned combat aircraft in 2010, according to analysis by New America, fielding the Karrar armed drone. North Korea followed two years later by introducing the “suicide drone” — a modified version of the Raytheon-built MQM-107 Streaker unmanned aircraft, according to South Korean intelligence officials.

Foreign military drone sales by US defense firms were tightly regulated and limited to America’s closest allies, said Alyssa Sims, a national security analyst at New America.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
RQ-1 Predator drone. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock.

But those stringent limitations on the export of US drone technology opened the door for rival producers, especially China, to step into the voracious market.

“Evidence of the use of armed drones supplied by China, in Pakistan, Iraq, and Nigeria in the past year alone reveals the increased willingness of foreign nations to invest money in the purchase or production of armed drones,” she wrote.

Even American weapons makers are looking to markets abroad in the wake of reduced Pentagon budgets in the final years of Mr. Obama’s term.

Beijing’s “no questions asked” approach to armed drone sales has pushed China to the forefront of international proliferators of unmanned technologies, outside of the US and Israel, Ms. Sims wrote. Nigerian and Pakistani forces field China’s CH-3 armed drone, while Iraq, even as it relies on US military support in the fight against Islamic State, has deployed the newer CH-4 against Islamic State positions during the ongoing war there.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-22 engines can be repaired with six tools found in any hardware store

If you’re about to join the Air Force any time soon, there’s a good chance your work is going to involve maintaining aircraft. If you’re lucky, you’ll get assigned to the F-22 Raptor. Even with the rise of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, there is no better air dominance fighter in the world. Unlike the F-35, however, if one of the F-22’s Pratt & Whitney engines fail and you don’t have the tools to fix it, you can just head out to Home Depot and get what you need.


The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

Air Superiority: You can do it, we can help.

The F-35 steals headlines in terms of the latest whiz-bang technology when it comes to stealth, visibility, and even the giant helmets worn by F-35 pilots. But the F-35 cannot substitute what the Raptor brings to the fight. The F-35 has an aerodynamic performance similar to flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon. It can’t fly as high or as fast. What it brings is firepower – and a lot of it. It was designed to be an air-to-ground fighter.

Meanwhile, the F-22 Raptor is the quiet professional in the world of air superiority fighters. It has a smaller radar cross-section than the F-35 (the size of a marble versus the size of a golf ball) and is probably the most lethal air combat aircraft in the world, even considering the fifth-generation fighters produced by great power adversaries like China and Russia. But the area where it’s even more superior isn’t in the air, it’s on the ground.

We’re talking about maintenance and repairs.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

The F-22 gets repaired like a normal plane while the F-35 is happy it doesn’t catch fire before take off. Small victories.

The F-22 Raptor is one of the Air Force’s most reliable planes. Roughly half the time a Raptor spends being repaired is just to fix Low Observable (LO) stealth coatings that get damaged when ground crews open her up for things like routine maintenance. Lockheed-Martin is currently working on a way to reduce the damage to the stealth coating for this. What is really impressive about the F-22 is how easy it is for a trained ground crew to repair her engines.

Lockheed-Martin designed the F-22 with two F-119 Pratt Whitney engines. These sturdy but powerful thrust monsters were designed to be maintained on the flightline using only six common tools available at any commercial hardware store – Not something you’d expect from one of the world’s most advanced air superiority fighters, but it came from what used to be a common principle in the military: simplicity.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

And yet, I still wouldn’t trust the Army with this.

The Pratt Whitney engines used in the F-22 Raptor deliver 22 percent more thrust while using almost half of the parts used in the previous Pratt Whitney designs while making the F-22 the most maneuverable fighter ever flown by any military anywhere and allowing for supercruise speeds of almost two times the speed of sound. Everything about this engine has been expertly engineered, from the titanium alloys to the ceramic coating used on certain parts to absorb radar signals.

Now new airmen can be sent to Home Depot to pick up the tools to fix this marvel of engineering – along with the usual buckets of prop wash.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the new Zumwalt destroyers’ guns won’t work

The Navy is about to give their Zumwalt-class destroyers some serious ship-killing upgrades. The multi-billion dollar vessels, equipped with a host of advanced technologies, will be given additional weapon systems, primarily for their Mk 57 vertical-launch systems.


The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
The Navy’s most technologically advanced surface ship, USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), steams through San Diego Bay after the final leg of her three-month journey en route to her new homeport in San Diego. Zumwalt will now begin installation of combat systems, testing and evaluation and operation integration with the fleet. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Bell/Released)

According to a report by DefenseNews.com, the upgrades are part of the Defense Department’s effort to counter China’s increasingly capable blue-water Navy. The Zumwalt-class destroyers are already capable of firing the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile, some variants of which are capable of hitting ships.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
The guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a Tomahawk land attack missile April 7, 2017. Versions of the Tomahawk can attack ships. (U.S. Navy photo)

The truncation of the Zumwalt-class destroyer to three vessels from previously planned purchases of 32, 28, and seven, resulted in the cancellation of the Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile, leaving the vessels’ pair of 155mm Advanced Gun Systems without any ammo. A number of off-the-shelf options are present for the guns, including the Vulcano round (a miniature anti-ship missile), but the former commander of the lead ship of the class, USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), said that the Navy had made no decision as to what to equip the guns with – leaving them non-functional for all intents and purposes.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) launches a Standard Missile-6 (SM-6). (U.S. Navy photo)

One of the likely systems to be added to the Zumwalt is the RIM-174 SM-6 Extended Range Active Missile. This is a version of the canceled RIM-156 Standard SM-2 Block IVA that has been equipped with the seeker from the AIM-120C-7 version of the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. In essence, it is primarily a fire-and-forget surface-to-air missile.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
The guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) launches a SM-2 missile during a live-fire exercise. Jason Dunham is underway with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group preparing for future operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Zachary Van Nuys/Released)

The RIM-66 Standard SM-1 and SM-2 surface-to-air missiles, earlier missiles in the Standard series, also had a secondary capability to attack surface ships – with one notable use being during Operation Preying Mantis when they were used by to sink an Iranian Navy Combattante II-class missile boat, the Joshan.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
A port bow view of the guided-missile frigate USS Simpson (FFG 56) underway off the coast of New England prior to its commissioning. Simpson was one of several ships that participated in Operation Praying Mantis, which was launched after the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) struck an Iranian mine on April 14, 1988. The Simpson used SM-1 missiles against the Joshan, an Iranian Combattante II-class missile boat. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Bath Iron Works/Released)

The SM-6 also is capable against ballistic missiles, with one of these missiles scoring a kill against a simulated medium-range ballistic missile during a test last August. The kill is notable, as the SM-6 uses a blast-fragmentation warhead as opposed to the SM-3’s hit-to-kill intercept vehicle.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

4 helmets that America copied from other countries

The history of the modern military helmet is relatively short in the grand scheme of military history. Prior to WWI, soldiers generally wore soft uniform headwear in combat. In some instances, leather caps or helmets were worn to offer some protection against sword strikes. However, it was the French who first fielded a steel skull-cap to be wore under their traditional headwear. This idea evolved into the all-steel Adrian helmet. Britain followed suit with the Brodie helmet, as did the Germans with the Stahlhelm. Interestingly, American soldiers have worn some form of all three helmets and one more German helmet that may come as a surprise. Here are a few helmets that America copied over the years.

1. PASGT/Stahlhelm

Officially known as the Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, PASGT refers to the helmet and vest combination first worn by U.S. troops in 1983. Designed to offer more protection, the PASGT helmet comes down over the wearer’s ears more so than the WWII-era M1 helmet that it replaced. Its design is so reminiscent of the German Stahlhelm that troops came to nickname it the Fritz helmet. The PASGT helmet has largely been replaced by smaller and lighter helmets like the Modular Integrated Communications Helmet and the Future Assault Shell Technology Helmet. However, it still sees limited use with the Army Reserves (especially ROTC) and the Navy.

2. M1917/Mk I Brodie Helmet

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
WWI Marines in France. Without seeing them up close, it’s difficult to discern between an M1917 and a Brodie Helmet (U.S. Marine Corps Archives)

This soup dish-style helmet is synonymous with WWI doughboys and WWI in general. When America entered the war, the other nations were already equipping their troops with steel helmets to protect them from bullets and shrapnel. The wool or felt campaign hats that U.S. troops wore were more suited for the American frontier than the trenches of western Europe. As a result, America began production of the M1917 helmet modeled after the British Brodie helmet. However, troops who had already arrived in Europe acquired genuine Brodie helmets from British supply points until American production and logistics caught up. While the M1917 and Brodie helmets appear very similar, a few characteristics like the chinstrap ball, construction material and paint were slightly different. America ended up purchasing roughly 400,000 Brodie helmets from the British and produced over 2,700,000 M1917 helmets by the war’s end. At the outbreak of WWII, the U.S. military switched over from the M1917 to the now iconic M1 helmet. When U.S. soldiers captured in the Philippines at the start of the war were finally liberated, they thought they were being rescued by Germans because they hadn’t seen the new M1 helmets which looked more like the Stahlhelm than the M1917 they were used to.

3. Adrian Helmet

This is more of a stop-gap than a copy. As previously mentioned, America did not have a steel helmet for its troops upon entering the war. American volunteer ambulance drivers that arrived in France before America’s official entry were equipped with the French Adrian helmet. The next Americans to wear the Adrian helmet were American units like the 369th Harlem Hellfighters that were assigned to the French Army. These troops would either maintain the interchangeable French insignia that the helmet came with or remove it entirely. Over the course of American involvement in the war, American insignias were cast in bronze for U.S. troops to more easily identify themselves in the trenches. Moreover, many American officers preferred the Adrian helmet to the Brodie helmet and were photographed wearing them on the frontlines.

4. Pickelhaube

This helmet actually predates WWI. First adopted by Prussia in 1842, the Pickelhaube is also known as the spike helmet for obvious reasons. Originally made of leather, the helmet’s design was meant to help deflect sword strikes to the wearer’s head. Before the adoption of the Stahlhelm, German forces wore leather and later steel Pickelhaubes. However, before WWI, the Pickelhaube was synonymous with Imperial Germany. An undisputed world superpower at the time, many armies modeled their uniforms after them, including America. While the Pickelhaube was not part of the combat uniform, both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps adopted the spiked helmet in their dress uniforms from 1881 to 1902. It’s probably best that we did away with these. Imagine the barracks fights that would erupt if troops were still issued spiked helmets.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

Today, the B-1B Lancer is a key part of the United States bomber force. Its conventional bombloads are simply impressive. It is also very, very fast, capable of dashing at over 900 miles per hour, according to an Air Force fact sheet. It serves alongside the B-52. But 40 years ago, the B-1 was seen as the B-52’s replacement.


The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
Three U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52G Stratofortress aircraft from the 2nd Bombardement Wing take off from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. (USAF photo)

Surprised? Don’t be. Ever since the 1960 U-2 incident, when an SA-2 Guideline shot down the plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers, the United States Air Force was looking to neutralize these missiles – and the follow-on missiles – often by going higher and faster. This might seem odd, as high-altitude planes could be more easily tracked by radar, but the speed often provides less reaction time.

You see, the B-1B may have been the first iteration of the B-1 to enter service, but it was not the first version to take flight. That distinction goes to the B-1A, and that plane was very different from the Lancer of today.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions. The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground-based navigation aids. (U.S. Air Force photo)

According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the B-1A took flight in 1974. The Air Force was ready to buy 240 planes when on June 30, 1977, Jimmy Carter cancelled the program. The plane had hit a top speed of Mach 2.22, but the price was ballooning. Carter did call for B-52s to be equipped with the AGM-86 air-launched cruise missile, which would later be an option for the B-1B. The development of the B-2 Spirit was also underway as a black project.

However, with the election of Ronald Reagan, the B-1 got new life. Not as a high-altitude bomber, but as a low-level penetrator, with 100 planes produced, a bit over 40 percent of the original plans. It remains in service today, a powerful complement to the B-52. You can see a video of how the B-1 almost put the B-52 out to retirement.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The deadliest sniper ever averaged 5 kills per day

Few soldiers are as legendary as Finland’s Simo Häyhä. Known as the deadliest sniper in history, Häyhä served for just under 100 days during the 1939-1940 Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union.

In that short time, he is credited with killing over 500 men.

At long range Häyhä was lethal; his M28/30 sniper rifle (the Finnish version of Russia’s legendary Mosin-Nagant) accounted for half his estimated 500-542 kills. At close quarters, he was equally deadly with his Suomi KP-31 sub-machine gun, with some 250 Soviets falling victim to it. Not surprisingly, Soviet troops soon assigned Häyhä an appropriately sinister nickname: White Death.


Häyhä’s transformation into history’s most accomplished sniper traces back to 1925, when at twenty years old he served his mandatory year in Finland’s Army and afterward joined Finland’s volunteer militia known as the White Guard. Häyhä’s time with the militia sharpened what were already remarkable shooting abilities; a farmer and hunter, he was a natural marksman who regularly collected trophies at local shooting competitions.

When the Winter War broke out on November 30, 1939, Häyhä was nearly 34 years old. By the war’s end on March 13, 1940, he would become a legend. While most snipers used telescopic sights, Häyhä did without. Using a scope forced a sniper to lift their head a few inches higher than ordinary sights, making them an easier target for enemy snipers. Telescopic sights were also vulnerable to extreme cold. Häyhä’s solution was simple: Even in the poor light of a Finnish winter, he would rely on iron sights and the naked eye.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
Simo Hu00e4yhu00e4

As the Soviets soon realized, the dim lighting didn’t affect his aim.

Finnish Army documents (as cited on Wikipedia) reveal just how deadly Häyhä was as a soldier. The war began on November 30, 1939. According to these documents, Häyhä had racked up his first 138 kills by December 22–only 22 days for 138 kills. The entry for January 26, 1940 ups his count to 199, an extra 61 in 35 days. By February 17, he was up to 219. In the 18 days after that, Häyhä killed another 40 enemy soldiers.

These stats reflect his sniping kills. Häyhä was just as deadly up close. His sub-machine gun accounted for another 250 kills. By March of 1940, he’d racked up an astonishing 500+ kills. Yet on March 6, his military career came to a sudden and near-fatal end.

Häyhä was a primary target of the Red Army; Soviets were keen to eliminate this seemingly unstoppable soldier who had spread so much fear, injury, and death among their ranks.

They’d tried everything, pummeling Häyhä’s presumed locations with artillery fire. Soviets also employed counter-sniping, flooding an area with snipers whose primary mission was to kill the White Death.

On March 6, 1940, the Red Army nearly succeeded. A Soviet sniper spotted Häyhä and shot at him with an explosive bullet, striking him in his lower left jaw.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
Hu00e4yhu00e4 in the 1940s, with visible damage to his left cheek after his 1940 wound

The shot should have killed him. Häyhä, though severely wounded, somehow survived. Found by Finnish troops, he was brought into a field hospital. He wasn’t a pretty sight. One of the soldiers who brought him in bluntly described his injuries, saying “half his face was missing”. But once again, Häyhä had beaten the odds: permanently disfigured, but alive nonetheless.

Häyhä was lucky. Only days after he was shot, the Winter War ended on March 13, 1940 — the same day Häyhä regained consciousness. Finland honored the soldier for his service. Starting as a private in 1925, he’d only made ‘Alikersantti’ (corporal) when the Winter War started. After it ended, Corporal Häyhä was commissioned, becoming a “Vanrikki” (second lieutenant) with multiple decorations. He would spend the next few years recovering from the shot to his head, but Häyhä would eventually regain his health.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
Retiredu00a0Simo Hu00e4yhu00e4

After the war, he became a successful moose hunter and dog breeder. Against him, the moose stood no chance. Finland’s President Urho Kekkinen was also a keen hunter and Häyhä, once a nobody from the Finnish border country, became one of the President’s regular hunting partners.

Entering a veteran’s nursing home in Hamina in his old age, Häyhä spent his remaining years quietly. He died on April 1, 2002 aged 96, a national hero in his native Finland and a legend in military history. Asked how he’d been so successful he answered simply: “Practice.”

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is an iconic plane of World War II. The famous Memphis Belle, recently placed on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, was one of 12,677 B-17s built — but did you know the B-17 was close to never taking to the skies as a war plane?

During its second evaluation flight, the Model 299 (the prototype of the B-17) crashed. As a result, the Douglas B-18 Bolo was instead selected by the U.S. Armed Forces.


The B-18 was a variant of the successful DC-2 airliner. As a bomber, it wasn’t bad, either: It could haul 4,400 pounds of bombs and had a maximum range of 1,200 miles. The plane had a six-man crew, a top speed of 223 miles per hour, and was equipped with three .30-caliber machine guns for defense.

The problem was that everyone knew that the B-18, which Douglas originally called the DB-1, won by default. The B-17 prototype had clearly out-performed the B-18 in the trials before the fateful crash — and the service test versions, called Y1B-17s, were even better than the crashed prototype. They could haul 8,000 pounds of bombs up to 3,320 miles at a top speed of 256 miles per hour. Despite the crash, it was emerging as the preferred choice.

The B-18 was indeed cheaper and the technology within was proven and safe. As a result, the Army Air Corps bought 217 B-18s. Some of these planes were sent to the Philippines and Hawaii to hold the line — until the B-17 was ready.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

Three B-18s fly in formation near Hawaii prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 7, 1941, most were destroyed on the ground.

(Photo by Harold Wahlberg)

Despite winning the developmental competition, most officials didn’t believe in these planes by 1940. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, the majority of America’s B-18s were destroyed on the ground. The surviving airframes were then relegated to secondary roles. Over 120 B-18s were later modified to become maritime patrol planes — they defeated two German U-boats.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

The B-18 did see most of its action in secondary roles.

(USAF)

The B-18s made its most significant contributions as a test platform. Some were modified to try a 75mm howitzer as an aircraft armament. Although the B-18 wasn’t a suitable platform for the huge gun, the data collected helped make the weapon practical for the B-25G and B-25H, improved versions of the bomber that would later carry out the Doolittle Raid.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

The United States Air Force has a B-18 at its national museum.

(USAF)

All in all, the B-18 had a much less storied career than the B-17, but it still had an honorable service career during World War II.

To see the plane that once beat the B-17 in action, watch the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tl2cqAP0TQ

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s stealthy ‘Hunter’ drone just took first flight

Russia’s new heavy combat drone has flown for the first time alongside the country’s most advanced fighter jet, giving the fighter a new edge in battle, the Russian defense ministry announced Sept. 27, 2019.

“The Okhotnik unmanned aerial vehicle has performed its first joint flight with a fifth-generation Su-57 plane,” the ministry said in a statement, according to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.

The two Russian aircraft flew together “to broaden the fighter’s radar coverage and to provide target acquisition for employing air-launched weapons,” the ministry added.


Unmanned aerial vehicle “Okhotnik” made the first joint flight with a fifth-generation fighter Su-57

www.youtube.com

Photos of the Okhotnik first surfaced online in January 2019, but it wasn’t until June 2019 that the unmanned aircraft was formally unveiled.

This summer, the heavy attack drone completed its maiden flight, during which it flew circles over an airfield for 20 minutes.

Первый полет новейшего беспилотного летательного аппарата «Охотник»

www.youtube.com

The flight involving both the Okhotnik drone and the Su-57 fighter appears to confirm what some have suspected for months — that the stealthy flying-wing drone was designed to fight alongside and provide critical battespace information to Russia’s new fifth-generation fighters.

In January 2019, shortly after photos of the Okhtonik appeared online, photos of an Su-57 with an interesting new paint job appeared. The redesign featured silhouettes of a Su-57 and a flying-wing aircraft that looked a lot like the Okhotnik.

Russia claims that the Okhotnik has stealth capabilities, a byproduct of its shape and an anti-radar coating, and is equipped with electro-optical, radar, and other types of reconnaissance equipment.

The heavy attack drone is currently controlled remotely, but in future tests, it is expected to perform in a semi-autonomous state and eventually a completely autonomous mode, TASS reports.

Testing with various armaments is expected in the next few years, and the drone will be handed over to Russian troops around 2025.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps looking at new artillery round that can successfully hit moving targets

Raytheon Co. just announced that its new laser-guided Excalibur S 155mm artillery round scored direct hits on a moving target in a secret, live-fire test for the Marine Corps last spring.


The Excalibur is a combat-proven, precision artillery round capable of hitting within a few feet of a target at ranges out to 40 kilometers, the company said.

The new Excalibur S uses the same GPS technology as the Excalibur 1B variant but adds a semi-active laser seeker to engage both moving land and maritime targets.

“The seeker technology will recognize that the target is no longer there, and it will pick up the laser energy from where the target is and redirect itself to that,” Trevor Dunwell, director of Raytheon’s Excalibur Portfolio, told Military.com.

In a U.S. Navy test, Raytheon fired two projectiles from an M777 155mm Howitzer at a moving target at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and scored two direct hits, he said.

“This happened in April of last year; we had to keep it close-hold working with the Navy … more specifically for the Marines,” Dunwell said. “We set the round for a specific location, we fired it off and, as soon as the round got fired, then the target started moving. It realized the target wasn’t there and realized that it had moved somewhere else and … it switched from GPS to laser designation and then engaged the target.”

The Marine Corps is interested in the Excalibur S round but “has not currently placed an order,” he said.

The next step is to conduct more tests this year. Dunwell would not reveal when they will occur, nor would he divulge which service will sponsor the next test.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

The soldiers of 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, conduct dry-fire exercises, Dec. 5, at Oro Grand Range Complex, N.M., before firing the previous version of the Excalibur. This mission was the first time that a FORSCOM unit has fired the Excalibur outside of the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. and combat.

(U.S. Army photograph by Sgt. Sean Harriman, 2nd BCT, 1st AD, Public Affairs)

If the Marine Corps or the Army decides to purchase the new Excalibur S round, Dunwell said it would not be priced dramatically higher than the current Excalibur 1B, which costs roughly ,000 per round.

The new technology would be effective for use in counter-fire artillery missions, he said.

“If you think about it, it is critically important because you are going to have to engage moving targets … especially if you are doing counter-fires,” Dunwell said. So, if it’s a fire-and-move, now on the counter fire you should be able to engage that moving target.”

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

Articles

Trijicon got in trouble for putting bible verses on their scopes

Trijicon is one of the premiere optics manufacturers for the U.S. military. Its magnified rifle optic, the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, is the official medium-distance engagement optic of the U.S. Marine Corps and Special Operations Forces. However, the company found itself in hot water for placing bible verses on optics sold to the military.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
Marines in Fallujah with Trijicon ACOGs atop their M16A4 rifles (U.S. Marine Corps)

Founded by South African and devout Christian Glyn Bindon, Trijicon was originally founded as Armson USA in 1981. The company was the sole U.S. importer and distributor of the Armson OEG. Manufactured in South Africa, the Armson OEG was an occluded-type gunsight. It used tritium and fiber optics to illuminate its reticle. In 1985, Bindon reorganized the company as Trijicon and began manufacturing night sights for pistols. Two years later, Trijicon introduced the ACOG for use by the U.S. military.

The ACOGs were widely distributed across the military. It wasn’t until 2010 that ABC News reported on the placement of Bible verses in the serial numbers of sights sold to the U.S. military. Bindon, who was killed in a plane crash in 2003, applied the practice to all Trijicon products since the company’s founding. However, the inscription of religious passages on products sold to and used by the government was contested by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
The Marines’ M27 IAR standard-issue optic is a Trijicon ACOG variant (U.S. Marine Corps)

Despite the controversy, the military did not discontinue use of Trijicon optics. “This situation is not unlike the situation with U.S. currency,” said CENTCOM spokesman, Air Force Maj. John Redfield. “Are we going to stop using money because the bills have ‘In God We Trust’ on them? As long as the sights meet the combat needs of troops, they’ll continue to be used.”

Indeed, Trijicon sights were and continue to be regarded as top-tier optics. The British Ministry of Defence and New Zealand Special Air Service also purchased Trijicon sights without knowing about the Bible verses. Similarly, both nations continued to use the sights.

On January 22, 2010, just two days after the ABC News story broke, Trijicon announced that it would halt the practice of engraving Bible verses on optics sold to the government. The company also offered to provide modification kits to remove existing engravings on sights already delivered to the military. However, Trijicon products sold to the civilian market continue Bindon’s prescribed practice of including Bible verses in the product serial number. Given the optical nature of the products, all of the Bible verses engraved on Trijicon sights reference illumination.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
The ACOG is part of the Special Operations Peculiar MODification kit (U.S. Navy)

The controversy did not affect Trijicon’s standing as a government contractor. In 2020, Trijicon won a Marine Corps contract to supply its Variable Combat Optical Gunsight as the Corps’ new Squad Combat Optic.


Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael Jefferson Estillomo

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what the Army’s powerful light tank could look like

The US Army just moved one step closer to a new light tank intended to boost the firepower of airborne and other light infantry units.

The Army is currently looking for a new tracked armored vehicle able to protect and support infantrymen as they “destroy the enemy in some of the worst places in the world,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, the director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, said Dec. 17, 2018.


“This capability is much needed in our infantry forces,” he told reporters at a media roundtable.

The infantry has artillery, but “there’s no precision munition to remove bunkers from the battlefield, to shoot into buildings in dense urban terrain,” Coffman explained. That is where Mobile Protected Firepower comes into play.

Two companies, BAE Systems and General Dynamics, have been awarded Section 804 Middle Tier Acquisition Rapid Prototyping contracts for this development project, the Army revealed Dec. 17, 2018. Each contract is worth 6 million, and each company will provide a total of 12 prototypes.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

BAE Systems Mobile Protected Firepower.

(BAE Systems photo)

The purpose of Mobile Protected Firepower is to “disrupt, breach, and break through” fortified defenses

The MPF, a 30-ton light tank expected to fill a critical capability gap, is one of five next-generation combat vehicles being developed by Army Futures Command, a new four-star command focused on preparing the force for high-end warfighting against near-peer threats in an age of renewed great power competition.

The Army, shifting its focus from counterinsurgency to high-intensity multi-domain operations with an eye on rivals China and Russia, wants contractors to deliver a vehicle that offers mobility, lethality, and survivability.

The MPF light tanks would provide the firepower to breach heavily-fortified defensive positions, potentially in an area, such as Russian and Chinese anti-access zones, where the US might not be able to achieve absolute air superiority.

The MPF vehicles will help Infantry Combat Brigade Teams (ICBTs) “disrupt, breach, and break through” secure defensive zones, Coffman explained.

The final Mobile Protected Firepower light tank, which will be delivered to troops in 2025, will be a tracked vehicle with either a 105 mm or 120 mm cannon that can withstand an unspecified level of fire. The Army also wants to be able to carry at least two light tanks aboard a C-17 Globemaster III for easy transport.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

BAE Systems displayed its Mobile Protected Firepower prototype at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting Exposition in October 2016 in Washington.

(BAE Systems via U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center)

BAE Systems’ MPF solution

BAE Systems presented a Mobile Protected Firepower prototype at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting Exposition in 2016. BAE Systems’ latest proposal is a variant of the original design.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

BAE Systems Mobile Protected Firepower.

(BAE Systems photo)

“Our offering integrates innovative technology that reduces the burden on the crew into a compact design deployable in areas that are hard to reach,” Deepak Bazaz, director of combat vehicles programs at BAE Systems, said in a statement.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

GDLS displayed its Griffin tech demonstrator, a starting point for MPF discussions, at the AUSA Annual Meeting Exposition.

(General Dynamics via U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center)

General Dynamics’ MPF

General Dynamics Land Systems displayed a technology demonstrator at AUSA 2016 as a starting point for discussions with the Army about its expectations for the MPF platform.

The company is currently playing its cards close to the vest with its latest proposal, offering only the following picture while clarifying that the vehicle pictured is not the company’s exact offering.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

A General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin II prototype vehicle. GD was selected to produce similar, medium-weight, large-caliber prototype vehicles for the U.S. Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower program.

(General Dynamics photo)

“We are excited about this opportunity to provide the US Army a large-caliber, highly mobile combat vehicle to support the infantry brigade combat teams,” Don Kotchman, the vice president and general manager of General Dynamics Land Systems US Market, said in a statement.

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

Intel

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

Israel’s SPICE (Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-Effective) kit converts unguided bombs into precision-guided ones.


There’s no hiding from a SPICE enabled bomb, it will find you in the dark and chase you on the battlefield. The kit is highly precise in that it combines GPS and EO technology. The GPS side enables the bomb to engage camouflaged or hidden targets in all weather conditions by inputting coordinates. On the other hand, the EO side provides the flexibility of remote control guidance to engage relocatable targets.

With 12 control surfaces on three groups (fore, mid-body and tail), the kit provides a glide range of about 60 kilometers (approx. 37 miles), turning any bomb into a true fire-and-forget weapon. With this much distance between the target, the striking aircraft is safe from short and medium range defense systems.

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GujLif0VZIg

ArmedForceUpdate, YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what would happen if China and Japan went head-to-head

With China growing more aggressive in maritime territorial disputes in the East China Sea, there is a growing chance, albeit still very small, that a conflict with Japan could emerge.


This would end up putting two very well-equipped air forces against each other, and each has a plane that looks very much like a F-16 Fighting Falcon.

While China’s Su-27 and J-11 Flankers have drawn a lot of attention, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force also have a number of Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” jets in service. This is a single-engine fighter, using the same AL-31 powering the Su-27 family of fighters.

It can carry a variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons. China claims to have developed the J-10 on its own, even though there are rumors that they acquired data on a prototype fighter Israel cancelled called the Lavi.

 

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

The Mitsubishi F-2 is also a single-engine fighter, also able to carry air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. The plane is best described as an F-16 on steroids, and it is receiving upgrades. It replaced the Mitsubishi F-1, and fulfills not only an anti-shipping role (by carrying up to four ASM-2s), it also can carry guided bombs.

The F-2 was a modified F-16, and some technology was transferred both ways in the project.

FlightGlobal.com notes that China has over 250 J-10s in service between the PLAAF and PLANAF. Japan has a total of 62 F-2A and 19 F-2B fighters in service. This gives China a three-to-one edge, but the F-2A’s anti-air capabilities with the AAM-4 are considered to be far superior.

The J-10, though, is not a bad plane, and the sheer numbers can have a quality of their own.

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones
A Mitsubishi F-2A taxis during a 2009 exercise. Note the dumb bombs. (USAF photo)

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