Search-and-rescue choppers have become legendary. Remember the Jolly Green Giants and Pave Hawks? Well, it turns out that there was another helicopter that almost joined those two in fame. Why it didn’t make it? Well, it’s a long story — and it had nothing to do with the chopper’s performance.
The Air Force had been looking to replace their search and rescue helicopter, the HH-60G Pave Hawk, in the 2000s. The program even had a name — Combat Search and Rescue, or CSAR-X. Three designs competed for that contract, one from Lockheed (based on the EH-101 helicopter, also used then as the basis for a Marine One replacement), one from Sikorsky (based on the S-92), and one from Boeing (the HH-47, based on the MH-47G, a special ops version of the CH-47F Chinook).
Well, the HH-47 won again. That’s when the politicians, including Senator John McCain, stepped in. All in all, the CSAR-X program never had a chance to get off the ground. In 2009, the HH-47 was cancelled by the Obama Administration. In 2013, the new Combat Rescue Helicopter program picked a joint Lockheed-Sikorsky design, the HH-60W, as a winner after other companies declined to bid.
Did the Air Force miss out on a better helicopter due to the political maneuverings of the CSAR-X competition losers? A look at the specs on paper indicates the HH-47 would have offered higher speed, more range, and more capacity to evacuate wounded personnel. But by sticking with a version of the HH-60, however, the Air Force will not have to make major changes to logistics systems training programs. Much of this is speculation, however, as both Lockheed and Sikorsky reps declined to comment for this piece.
Interestingly enough, the South Korean Air Force uses a modified version of the CH-47D Chinook as a search and rescue platform, an aircraft very similar to the contract-winning HH-47. One has to wonder what it could have done in the hands of the United States Air Force.
Since the end of World War II, the British Army has developed a number of outstanding tanks, starting with the Centurion. The Challenger 1 proved itself during Operation Desert Storm, where it recorded the longest-distance kill of another tank, while the Chieftain held the line for NATO during much of the later part of the Cold War.
The latest in this line of tanks is the Challenger 2. While it entered the fray too late for Desert Storm, it served in the Balkans and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. To date, its service has been just as outstanding as its predecessors.
Like the Challenger 1, the Challenger 2 features a 120mm rifled gun, very different from the smoothbore guns used on American M1 Abrams and German Leopard 2 main battle tanks. This gun provides the Challenger 2 with a greater range than its American and German counterparts.
The Challenger 2 is also equipped with a new version of the revolutionary Chobham armor. In one incident during Operation Iraqi Freedom, a Challenger 2 took over 70 hits from RPGs. Another incident involved the tank being hit on its normally-vulnerable underside with a RPG-29 and yet it still managed to drive back to base on its own power. While the press reported the latter incident as a failure, it should be noted that the tank kept its crew alive and was likely able to keep fighting.
And since then, the tank’s armor has been upgraded.
Unfortunately, it has a glaring weakness — it’s very slow when compared to the American Abrams and the German Leopard, with a top speed of just 37 miles per hour. Should a Challenger 2 face off against an American tank, the Abrams would use its speed to its advantage.
Learn more about the Challenger 2 in the video below!
The U.S. Air Force no longer wants to kick the can down the road on aging aircraft that may not be suitable for a fight against a near-peer adversary such as China or Russia.
More resources should be spent on state-of-the-art programs instead of sustaining old weapons and aircraft, multiple service officials said Sep 4, 2019, during the 2019 Defense News Conference.
“We have to divest some of the old to get to the new,” Lt. Gen. Timothy Fay, deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, told audiences during a panel on Air Force program prioritization.
Fay said the service is prioritizing four major areas that its aircraft fleets will need to meet: multi-domain command and control, space, generated combat power, and logistics under attack.
A B-1B Lancer takes off March 3, 2015, during Red Flag 15-2 at Nellis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Spangler)
As the Air Force drafts its upcoming budget request, it will keep those focuses in mind, he said. “We think those four areas move the needle,” he explained.
Earlier in the conference, Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan said Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been open to “divesting of legacy capabilities that simply aren’t suited” for future battlefields.
“His guidance states that, ‘No reform is too small, too bold or too controversial to be considered,'” Donovan said. “The Air Force is leading the way with bold, and likely controversial, changes to our future budget. We need to shift funding and allegiance from legacy programs we can no longer afford due to their incompatibility with the future battlefields and [instead] into the capabilities and systems … required for victory. There’s no way around it.”
Following Donovan’s remarks, aviation geek enthusiasts posting on social media wondered: Does that mean getting rid of the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft?
A-10 Thunderbolt II.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“Short answer, no,” Fay said.
The beloved ground-support Warthog has had its ups and downs in recent years: The conversation to retire the aircraft began in 2014 by top brass who said the Warthog might not be survivable in a future fight. But in 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the A-10’s retirement would be delayed until 2022 after lawmakers complained that eliminating it would deprive the military of a “valuable and effective” close-air-support aircraft.
More congressional pushback followed to keep the A-10 flying for as long as possible. In July 2019, Boeing Co. won a 9 million contract to re-wing up to 112 new A-10 wing assemblies and provide up to 15 wing kits.
That doesn’t mean sustaining older platforms isn’t taking a toll on the Air Force, Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said Sep. 4, 2019.
“It’s been shocking to me how much hard work the Air Force puts into sustainment programs,” he said during the Air Force panel. “A lot of our programs are in sustainment long past the original design life … and we’re having to do Herculean tasks to keep airplanes flying that should have been retired a long time ago.”
If the Air Force continues to keep less-than-capable fleets that won’t survive a contested environment, it will not have adequate resources to devote to new programs, he said.
“They need to have an expiration date. … We want to be a cutting-edge Air Force working on the pediatric side of the hospital, not the geriatric side,” Roper said.
The Air Force has been pouring money into more than one overtasked aircraft fleet in recent years.
The B-1B Lancer fleet, for example, has been undergoing extensive maintenance for the past few months after the service overcommitted its only supersonic heavy payload bomber to operations in the Middle East over the last decade. The repeated deployments caused the aircraft to deteriorate more quickly than expected, Gen. Tim Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), said in the spring.
U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer
(U.S. Air Force photo by Brian Ferguson)
“Normally, you would commit — [with] any bomber or any modern combat aircraft — about 40 percent of the airplanes in your possession as a force, [not including those] in depot,” he explained April 17, 2019. “We were probably approaching the 65 to 70 percent commit rate [for] well over a decade.”
The B-1’s mission-capable rate — the ability to conduct operations at any given time — is 51.75%, according to fiscal 2018 estimates, Air Force Times recently reported. By comparison, its bomber cousins, the B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress, have mission-capable rates of 60.7% and 69.3%, respectively.
As of August 2019, there were only seven fully mission-capable B-1 bombers ready to deploy, AFGSC said.
The Air Force has managed to kill some aircraft programs despite congressional pushback.
Through the fiscal 2019 defense budget, the service officially put to bed the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System recapitalization effort, convincing lawmakers to think beyond a single-platform program in favor of an elite system that will fuse intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensor data from around the world.
As a result, the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act granted additional funding for the next-generation system, known as the Advanced Battle Management System, in lieu of a new JSTARS fleet.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Russian special forces is often seen as a bit backward compared to NATO allies and the U.S. — with dated equipment, low budgets and ships that can’t sail.
But one force Moscow has clearly placed a lot of emphasis on are its special operations units. Like the U.S., the Russian military clearly sees how a small number of these specially-trained and-equipped troops can have an outsized influence on the battlefield — particularly against poorly organized, commanded and equipped terrorist forces like ISIS.
On May 10, 2017, the Russian military bestowed high honors on 13 members of a special forces unit that reportedly killed 300 ISIS fighters in Syria — that’s an average of 23 EKIA per man.
And by the looks of this video from the Russian Special Operations Forces, Moscow’s commandos have taken a few pages out of Washington’s playbook. From their thumb-over-bore rifle handling, to their Multicam uniforms to their OpsCore helmets and red-dot optics, the Russian special operators have clearly learned the lessons of America’s anti-terrorism experience and applied it to their best trained troops.
“We had a good advantage in terms of armament and equipment, including thermal imaging sights,” one Russian commander said of his troops’ experience in Syria. “All this added to our success.”
Not only do the Russians have the latest weapons technology and gear, they’re also using top-end electronic systems for targeting and surveillance, the video shows. And they’ve clearly come a long way from their ham-fisted anti-terrorist operations in the Chechnya of the 1990s, with high-speed direct action and snipers taking the place of tank shells and dumb bombs.
“Training is constantly being improved, and the current special operations forces are touted as highly professional and elite troops,” independent Russian security expert Igor Nikolaychuk told Sputnik News.
And by the looks of this video from the Russian Special Operations Forces, he’s not far off.
Weapons are like tools; you need the right one for whatever the situation requires. But it’s not always practical to have the most efficient gear on hand. Alexander Arms remedies this pain point with Beowulf, a kit that converts conventional assault rifles into .50 cal destroyers.
“It was designed specifically to fit into the AR-15, M16 platform, and the Beowulf is basically a large caliber drop-in replacement for that system,” said its creator, Bill Alexander in the American Heroes Channel video below.
The assault rifle goes from firing a 5.56 mm to a .50 cal round by switching out the weapon’s upper receiver with the Beowulf kit. In less than a minute, it goes from being an anti-personnel firearm to an anti-material rifle. It still looks and feels like an AR-15, but each blow is now a devastating haymaker. Alexander Arms offers the upper conversion kit for AR-15 owners and fully assembled .50 cal Beowulf rifles on its online store.
This kit is perfect for checkpoints; it has no problem piercing through vehicles. The rounds cut through body panels and windshields like a hot knife through butter. It’s most effective against targets at a short-to-medium distance, according to Alexander Arms product overview page on its website.
In this short two-minute American Heroes Channel video, Bill Alexander demonstrates Beowulf’s awesome firepower and explains his motivation for developing the kit.
The first Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs) fielded in the Army began arriving on Fort Stewart in January 2019 and the first six trucks were delivered to their respective battalions Jan. 28, 2019.
“This program has been working towards fielding trucks to soldiers for ten years,” said Col. Shane Fullmer, Project Manager for the Joint Program Office, Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. “The entire program office has been focused on getting soldiers improved tactical mobility, with better off road, better cross country, higher reliability, more comfort inside the vehicle, and significantly higher protection.”
Before the first of the brigade’s trucks arrived, Raider soldiers were already learning how to take care of and drive the Army’s newest vehicle during Field Level Maintenance and Operator New Equipment Training.
Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and the team from Oshkosh Defense pose in front of the first Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) that were delivered to the battalions, Jan. 28, 2019.
(Photo by Maj. Pete Bogart)
Sgt. Brian Wise, from B Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment, was one of the first soldiers in the brigade to go through the operator training and said he enjoys the new features and capabilities of the JLTV and is looking forward to training the rest of his company.
“It will be different for soldiers, it’s something new and unique,” said Wise. “I see us getting stuck in the mud way less than we usually do.”
The JLTV program is a U.S. Army-led, joint modernization program to replace many existing HMMWVs. The JLTV family of vehicles is designed to provide a leap ahead in protection, payload, and performance to meet the warfighters needs.
Sgt. 1st Class Randall Archie, the JLTV fielding lead for the 10th Engineer Battalion, said he especially likes being able to adjust the vehicle ride height on the move to adapt to different terrain. Archie was also impressed by the numerous comfort features that make it easier for operators to focus on doing their job.
The first of six Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) to be delivered to Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, departs for the 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment motorpool.
(Photo by Maj. Pete Bogart)
“There is a ton of leg room and head room and it’s easier to get in and out of the vehicle,” said Archie. “You also don’t have to lean forward in the seat when you wear a CamelBak since the seat is designed with a spot cut out for it.”
A team from Oshkosh Defense has been working with Raider Brigade soldiers harvesting communication equipment from turn-in vehicles and installing them into the JLTVs. The first six to complete the process were signed over to battalion representatives after the final inventories and paperwork were completed.
While the fielding will continue through spring, Fullmer said that seeing the first JLTV in the unit’s hand was a significant moment that his team has been working towards for quite a while.
“We’re just so glad we’re finally going to have these in the hands of soldiers so we can improve some of their ability to do their job.”
Recently, Army pilots got to tool around with an autonomous helicopter kit that could one day make all Army rotorcraft capable of autonomous flight, completing tasks as varied as take off and landing, flying across the ground and behind trees, and even selecting its own landing zone and landing in it with just a simple command.
US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight
The pilots were given access to the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), an optionally-piloted helicopter filled with tech being developed under a DARPA grant. The idea isn’t to create a fleet of ghost helicopters that can fly all on their own; it’s to give pilots the ability to let go of the stick for a few minutes and concentrate on other tasks.
During the hour-long flight demonstration, [Lt. Col. Carl Ott, chief of Flight Test for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Aviation Development Directorate] interfaced with the autonomous capabilities of the system to conduct a series of realistic missions, including aircrew tasks such as low-level terrain flight, confined area takeoffs and landings, landing zone selection, trajectory planning, and wire-obstacle avoidance.
Lockheed Martin’ MATRIX Technology is created to help pilots by allowing them to focus on complex tasks while the helicopter pilots itself.
“The Army refers to this as Mission Adaptive Autonomy. It’s there when the pilot needs the aircraft to fly itself and keep it free of obstacles, so the pilot can focus on more of the mission commander type role. But the pilot is able to interact with the system to re-suggest, re-route or re-plan on the fly,” said Ott.
But SARA has a pretty robust bag of tricks. When pilots call on it, the helicopter can land or take off on its own, select its own safe landing zones using LIDAR, avoid obstacles including wires and moving vehicles, and can even fly across the ground and behind obstructions, like trees, to hide itself.
A U.S. Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter lands during training with U.S. Marines.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rachel K. Young)
Of course, the Army needs the technology from SARA to be ported over to Army helicopters, like the UH-60 Blackhawk, and that’s coming in the next few months, according to Sikorsky. The package, known as MATRIX Technology, should theoretically work on any aircraft, and porting it to rotary aircraft should be fairly easy.
“We’re demonstrating a certifiable autonomy solution that is going to drastically change the way pilots fly,” said Mark Ward, Sikorsky Chief Pilot, Stratford, Conn. Flight Test Center. “We’re confident that MATRIX Technology will allow pilots to focus on their missions. This technology will ultimately decrease instances of the number one cause of helicopter crashes: Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).”
An optionally piloted UH-1H helicopter drops off supplies during a May 2018 exercise at Twentynine Palms, California.
(Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory Matt Lyman)
The Marine Corps has been doing its own experiments with autonomous rotary flight. Their primary program is the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System on the Bell UH-1H platform, which can take off, fly, land, plan its route, and select landing sites on its own using LiDAR. So, similar to the MATRIX platform.
The US Air Force’s flight schools have a reputation for churning out some of the best pilots in the world. But not even with that standing, only 558 in the service’s entire history were ever able to earn the title “Bandit” — the name awarded exclusively to pilots assigned to fly the top-secret F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet.
During the first years of the Nighthawk program in the 1980s, candidate pilots were drawn from a pool of fast-jet pilots. Only fighter or attack pilots with minimum of 1,000 hours were considered for the job, though candidates with 2,000 or more hours were preferred, given their extensive piloting experience.
According to Warren Thompson in his book, “Bandits over Baghdad,” stealth program brass struck a careful balance between recruiting pilots with phenomenal service records and pilots who were known to push themselves to the edge of the envelope — constantly demonstrating their prowess in the cockpit of the latest and greatest multimillion dollar fighters in America’s arsenal.
Early Bandits already in the program, having earned their number, were allowed to refer fellow pilots from other units, based on critical evaluations of their skill and abilities as military aviators. The majority of candidates, however, came from fighter squadrons whose commanding officers were vaguely instructed to cherry-pick one or two of their very best pilots, and send them to Arizona to begin training on a new airframe.
Nobody, including the selectees themselves, had much of a clue what they were about to get involved in.
Further adding to the mystery was the fact that this “new” airframe was actually the A-7 Corsair II, an attack jet which had already been in service with the Air Force for a number of years. Nighthawk program evaluators chose the A-7 for its similarity to the F-117 in terms of handling, cockpit layout and flight characteristics. Upon the conclusion of their flight training, candidates would appear for a final series of check rides and tests in Nevada.
The 162d Tactical Fighter Group of the Arizona Air National Guard handled this segment of the selection phase on behalf of the 4450th Tactical Group. The 4450th was the cover for the Nighthawk’s existence, drafted up by the Air Force as a supposed A-7 flight test unit.
The casual observer, and even other military personnel not read into the Nighthawk program, would merely see this outfit as yet another one of the Air Force’s myriad boring units, though in reality, it was anything but that.
If the candidates survived the A-7 flight course, passed their final tests in their new jet, and were approved by the selection cadre, they were finally told what they were really there for — to be the next breed of American black operations pilots, flying an aircraft the government habitually denied even existed.
The Nighthawk was developed more as an attack aircraft than a fighter, though it was still granted the “F” designation like other fighters the USAF fields today. Built to evade and avoid radar detection, the F-117 was the deadly ghost America’s enemies didn’t see coming or going, even after it was too late and the bombs had already deployed from the jet’s twin recessed bays.
All prospective Bandits were now introduced in-person to their new aircraft at the Tonopah Test Range, a highly-guarded military facility known to play host to some of the most secretive Air Force projects ever undertaken. After strenuous classroom sessions followed by training missions flown in top-of-the-line simulators, pilots were then taken back to Arizona to Luke Air Force Base, where they would train briefly on the F-15 Eagle, learning to perform a ‘no-flap’ landing, which would simulate the Nighthawk’s handling dynamics during approaches and landings.
After passing muster, the candidates were handed the figurative keys to the F-117 and were allowed to fly for the first time. Upon their first solo in the Nighthawk, each pilot was assigned a number and were officially awarded the title “Bandit.” As no Nighthawk was ever built with a twin cockpit, instructors flew near their candidates in chase planes while maintaining constant radio contact. After further nighttime and daytime training missions which qualified pilots to operate their jets in adverse conditions, a battery of tests and evaluations followed.
By this time, the class was severely depleted in size – the starting quantity of candidates diminished over time either because pilots opted out of the program, or were dropped by evaluators and instructors just because they weren’t good enough to fly this next-level aircraft. If the candidate was successful in his very last round of testing, he would be sent for further training to become combat qualified and would be initiated as a permanent member of the Nighthawk community.
Pilots were then sent to an operational squadron, where they would go on to fly daring missions in extreme secrecy around the world, from Panama to Yugoslavia, and onward to Afghanistan and even Iraq. The Nighthawk has since been retired from service, having been replaced by the F-22 in its role as a stealth attack jet, though the Bandit number has been permanently capped at 558, forever sealing the status of these pilots as some of the most elite military aviators in history.
The Barrett M82, known by members of the U.S. military as the M107 .50-caliber semi-automatic rifle, is one of the military’s most beloved weapons in use today. Its service history is as storied – and as American – as the history of its inventor, Ronnie Barrett.
Before his name became synonymous with American military supremacy, Barrett was a professional photographer in his home state of Tennessee. He never studied science or engineering in college – in fact, he didn’t go to college at all. He went to Murfreesboro High School before going out and starting a photography studio.
That all changed during the course of his usual work.
And many, many U.S. and allied troops are better off for it.
In 1982, Barrett was snapping a photo of a river patrol gunboat during a military exercise on the Stones River near Nashville, Tenn. Mounted on that boat were two M2 Browning .50-caliber machine guns. The size of the ammunition cartridge got Ronnie Barrett thinking. He was “wowed” by the Ma Deuce, but he wanted to know if the .50-caliber cartridge could be fired from a shoulder-mounted sniper rifle.
He was out on the water that day to snap promotional photos for the Browning Firearms Company, but he ended up starting a rival firm, one that would become as closely-linked with the U.S. military as Browning.
The photo also won a first-place award from the Tennessee Professional Photographers Association. No joke.
(Photo by Ronnie Barrett)
Barrett went home and began work on a 3D sketch of what would soon become the Model 82A1 – M107. Within just seven years, Barrett was able to sell his powerful sniper rifle to the Swedish military and eventually the United States Marine Corps, then the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force.
Not bad at all for someone with no college education, but a whole lotta vision. Welcome to Ronnie Barrett’s America, folks.
Air Force Global Strike Command has acquired its first ever aircraft, the MH-139A Grey Wolf, the command’s first major acquisition in its 10-year history. The Grey Wolf will replace the UH-1N Huey, which entered the operational Air Force during the Vietnam War in 1970. The purchase is also unique as it’s an “off the shelf” purchase of an existing airframe modified to meet military requirements.
The acquisition was contracted through Boeing during a full and open competition at a cost of .38 billion — id=”listicle-2645128599″.7 billion under budget.
Gen. Timothy Ray, AFGSC commander, named the helicopter “Grey Wolf” during a naming and unveiling ceremony at Duke Field, Florida, Dec. 19, 2019, comparing the helicopter to the wild animal that bears the same name.
The name Grey Wolf is derived from the wild species that roams the northern tier of North America, which also encompasses the intercontinental ballistic missile bases in AFGSC.
“It strikes fear in the hearts of many,” Ray said. “Its range is absolutely inherent to the ICBM fields we have.”
“As they hunt as a pack, they attack as one, they bring the force of many,” he continued. “That’s exactly how you need to approach the nuclear security mission.”
The helicopters will provide security and support for the nation’s ICBM fields which span Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska in support of U.S. Strategic Command’s nuclear deterrence operations aligned with the National Defense Strategy.
Members of the 54th Helicopter Squadron fly near a missile alert facility near Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, July 26, 2018. The 54th HS members provide swift transportation for 91st Security Forces Group defenders whenever the time arrives.
The new helicopter closes the capability gaps of the UH-1N Huey in the areas of speed, range, endurance, payload and survivability in support of the command’s ICBM missions. Other mission capabilities include civil search and rescue, airlift support, National Capital Region missions, as well as survival school and test support.
The Air Force will procure up to 84 MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters, training devices and associated support equipment from Boeing.
According to Boeing, Grey Wolf is 50% faster than the Huey helicopters currently serving Air Force security forces. It can also fly 50% farther and carry 5,000 more pounds of cargo. Boeing says that Grey Wolf will save up to id=”listicle-2645128599″ billion in life cycle costs.
“When I think about the issue in front of us, about moving forward in nuclear deterrence, when I stare down a wave of acquisition for essentially everything we do, I hope this particular program is a harbinger of very successful stories to follow not just for our command but for the good of the nation and for the good of our allies and partners,” Ray said.
Two UH-1N Twin Hueys from the 1st Helicopter Squadron fly by the Washington Memorial, Washington D.C., Aug. 28, 2015. The helicopters flew for the Vietnam Helicopter Crew Members Association Memorial Service Flyover.
The MH-139A Grey Wolf will provide vertical airlift and support the requirements of five Air Force major commands and operating agencies: AFGSC, Air Force District of Washington, Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Materiel Command and Pacific Air Forces. AFGSC is the lead command and operational capability requirements sponsor.
AFGSC stood up Detachment 7 at Duke Field, to support testing and evaluation of the MH-139A.
Maj. Zach Roycroft, of the 413th Flight Test Squadron, climbs into the cockpit of a UH-1N helicopter in preparation for a test flight at Duke Field near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Sep. 16, 2019. The squadron received its first MH-139 helicopters, which will replace the UH-1N, for flight test in Dec. 2019.
Lt. Col. Mary Clark assumed command of the detachment with Brig. Gen. Andrew Gebara, AFGSC A5/8 director, presiding over the ceremony.
“I’m here to tell you, this is a big deal,” Gebara said during the ceremony. “It is hard to overstate just how much blood sweat and tears have gone into getting this helicopter into our United States Air Force (and) standing up this detachment. We are very excited in Air Force Global Strike Command. We cannot wait to get this out to the missile fields and the National Capital Region where it needs to be.”
The MH-139A Grey Wolf lands at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 19, 2019, before its unveiling and naming ceremony. The aircraft is set to replace the Air Force’s fleet of UH-1N Huey aircraft and has capability improvements related to speed, range, endurance and payload.
The detachment received the first MH-139A helicopter during a naming and unveiling ceremony.
The detachment will work in conjunction with the 96th Test Wing’s 413th Flight Test Squadron, the Air Force’s only dedicated rotary test unit. Detachment 7 brings vital aircrew manning to the test effort and is comprised of pilots and special mission aviators.
From right, test pilots Maj. Zach Roycroft and Tony Arrington, of the 413th Flight Test Squadron, and their flight crew pose in front of a UH-1N helicopter on the Duke Field flightline near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., after a test flight, Sep. 16, 2019. The squadron received its first MH-139 helicopters, which will replace the UH-1N, for flight test in Dec. 2019.
Currently, the unit resides in temporary administrative and hangar facilities on Duke Field. The detachment will eventually move to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, to perform additional testing and evaluation of the aircraft.
“I want you all to know you are special,” Clark said, speaking to those Airmen under her charge during the ceremony. “You were selected to fly, test and field this aircraft, literally writing the book on this helicopter for aviators that will follow us for 50 years or more.”
Detachment 7 will manage four helicopters. The second aircraft is due to arrive mid-January 2020, while the third and fourth aircraft are scheduled to arrive in February.
“We’re going to put this helicopter through its paces,” Gebara said.
The UH-1Ns will continue to support five commands and numerous missions, including operational support airlift, test support and intercontinental ballistic missile security support, until the replacements are ready.
From initial pilot training to mission qualification training, US Air Force pilots complete intensive training and preparation to learn critical skills to fly, fight and win, as well as prevent mishaps.
However, F-35 and F-16 trainees in the 56th Fighter Wing also receive cutting edge human performance optimization training across physical, mental, and emotional domains.
In May 2019, Capt. Robert Larson, a 61st Fighter Squadron student pilot, was on a training mission when he found himself faced with an in-flight emergency. Larson called upon his human performance optimization training and saved not only himself but the F-35A Lightning II he was flying from any damage.
“I was pretty high up, about 34,000 feet, and all of a sudden everything got really quiet,” said Larson. “I tried to call my flight lead and realized I couldn’t talk to anybody. I started descending, working through my checklist and rocking my wings to try and let my flight lead know that I didn’t have a radio. As I got further into the checklist I realized I had lost one of the flight computers that was responsible for controlling oxygen, pressurization, and some parts of communication.”
Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II returning to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, after a two-month European deployment, July 31, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
Larson eventually visually communicated with his flight lead to relay the situation and decided to return to the base. As he worked through multiple checklists with additional failures, he determined that the aircraft’s landing gear could possibly collapse upon landing.
“At that point my plan was to land and if the gear collapsed as I was landing I was going to eject,” said Larson. “Luckily it didn’t and I was able to pull off to the end of the runway and shut down there and wait for maintenance.”
Larson succeeded due to his ability to keep a level head during a high-stakes emergency, and his training helped prepare him for it. Unique to Luke AFB, student pilots receive holistic performance training and support to optimize their physical and mental skills for the stress of flying and coping with an emergency situation.
The Human Performance Team’s Fighter Tactical Strengthening and Sustainment (FiTSS) program is normal part of the F-16 and F-35 Basic Course training, and also available to all Luke AFB instructors and student at all levels.
“We have an academic portion that covers mindfulness, awareness, intensity regulation, focus and attention, self-talk, goal setting, confidence, motivation and team cohesion,” said Dr. John Gassaway, Clinical Sports Psychologist with the Human Performance Team. “Then we meet one-on-one about twice a month to talk about how they are implementing these strategies.”
An F-35A Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
In an advanced, fifth-generation fighter like the F-35 serious malfunctions are extremely rare. For Larson, the incident was solved not only by his knowledge of the jet’s systems but his ability to assess the situation with composure.
“I had practiced for all this time and it worked in a way where I was able to stay calm, successfully work through everything, bring the jet back and land safely,” said Larson. “All those mental skills helped so much, and it’s not until you have the time to reflect that you realize how useful and necessary they are.”
Emergencies or life threatening situations are never ideal when flying; however, Larson believes the experience reinforced the importance of his training.
“It’s not what your hands and feet are doing to fly the jet but what you’re doing mentally to process what you’re going through,” said Larson. “How you can improve that whole process has been my biggest take away for it.”
For Gassaway, the incident emphasized the importance of practicing and improving mental skills.
“The thing that was so impressive with Larson, and the thing that I really take the greatest amount of pride in, was the fact that when he was flying, he didn’t think about any of these skills until he landed,” said Gassaway. “That showed me he was aware he had used the skills, but they were automated, ultimately that is the optimization of these skills.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you browse through the huge amount of photographs regularly released by the DoD, you’ll notice that some of the Air Force Special Operation Command’s CV-22 and U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys have been modified. The tilt-rotor aircraft now sport a new “bulge” on the upper fuselage between the wings and the tail. After a quick investigation we have found that the “bulge” is actually a radome hosting a SATCOM antenna quite similar to the one used aboard airliners to give passengers the ability to stream Prime Video or Netflix live on their mobile devices while airborne.
The antenna is aimed to give the Ospreys the ability to interconnect to classified (and unclassified) networks with increased bandwidth and transparent transitions among multiple satellite beams in process: this significantly improves Situational Awareness, as the Osprey can get tactical details and access secure channels in a reliable way while enroute. The problem faced by the V-22s (both the U.S. Air Force CV-22s and the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22s) as well as other assets, is the changes occurring during a long air transit to the target area. The battlefield is a extremely dynamic scenario with forces in continuous movement. A Special Operations aircraft launching from a Forward Operating Base located at 1-hour flight time from the area of operations may find a completely changed tactical situation than the one briefed before departure by the time it gets there. Describing the need to be constantly updated, the commanding officer of a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force said in a news release: “As an infantryman, it’s very frustrating when you’ve fully planned a mission. Then after a long air transit to the objective area you get off the plane and find out everything is different … rules of engagement, enemy locations, even the objective itself.”
Soldiers from the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command and 3rd Special Forces Group move toward U.S. Air Force CV-22 Ospreys Feb. 26, 2018, at Melrose Training Range. The CV-22 in the foreground has the SATCOM radome, the one in the background does not sport any bulge.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)
For instance, during the civil war in South Sudan, Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys flew a Marine response force from Spainto Djibouti in a non-stop flight of 3,200 nautical miles – the distance from Alaska to Florida. But U.S. Marine Corps crisis response units for U.S. Africa and U.S. Central Commands aboard MV-22 Osprey and KC-130J aircraft were typically disconnected from intelligence updates, tactical data sources and each other while flying to a crisis hot spot. This means that but needed a capability to conduct mission planning, and command and control when flying to distant objective areas.
For this reason, it is extremely important that the aircraft is constantly fed with relevant updates while enroute .
Dealing with the MV-22s, the antenna is part of the Networking On-The-Move-Airborne Increment 2 (NOTM-A Inc 2)initiative launched in 2016. It includes a suite that can be fitted to the KC-130J and MV-22 to provide an airborne en route mission planning and over-the-horizon/beyond-line-of-sight (OTH/BLOS) communication and collaboration capability. Noteworthy, the NOTM-A is capable of installation/configuration within 60 minutes, and rapid disembarkation from its host airframe in preparation for future missions. The Quick-Release-Antenna-System for the satellite communications system varies depending on host aircraft but features network management equipment and C2 components that are airframe agnostic. The system provides internal secure wireless LAN access point for staff personnel to perform digital C2 functions in the SATCOM host aircraft: in other words the NOTM-A provides connectivity for the aircrew through secure WiFi network. Interestingly, access to the global information grid and Marine Corps enterprise network can be accomplished via commercial network access.
Ground communications specialist Marines train on configuring and operating the Networking On-the-Move-Airborne Increment II. In Spetember 2018 Marine Corps Systems Command fielded the first NOTM-A Inc. II System to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit to enhance their ability to communicate in the air.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy of Chris Wagner)
According to the U.S. Marine Corps, in May 2015, the first NOTM-Airborne Increment I (also known as the Hatch-Mounted Satellite Communication Antenna System) was fielded to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces. It gave embarked ground personnel real-time access to networks during airborne operations aboard KC-130 aircraft. As a consequence of the success with the Super Hercules, the Marine Corps decided to install NOTM-A Inc. II on the MV-22 and, in June 2018, the first of the systems was fielded to the 22nd MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit).
“It can take hours to fly to a location to complete a mission, and during that time, the situation on the ground can change significantly,” said Chris Wagner, NOTM lead engineer in MCSC’s Command Element Systems in an official news release. “The NOTM capability provides Marines with real time command, control and collaborative mission planning while airborne.”
An MV-22 Avionics technician installs the Quick-Release-Antenna-System which is part of the Networking On-the-Move-Airborne Increment II.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy of Chris Wagner)
In order to accommodate the new system, the Naval Air Systems Command and MCSC had to modify the Osprey: “This involved modifications such as replacing the rear overhead hatch, installing a SATCOM radome, and installing system interface cables. Mission ready, the system is capable of providing communications access for up to five users, including networks, voice, email, video and text.
With the new equipment, the MV-22 aircrews can get accurate and up-to-date en route information: “If the situation on the ground changes, we can get updates to the Common Operating Picture, from reconnaissance assets to the commander enabling mission changes while en route.”
Testing with the MV-22 took place November through December 2017 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Marine Expeditionary Forces I and II will receive the NOTM-A Inc. II System when fielding continues in 2019.
U.S. Army Special Operations Soldiers exfiltrate from a training area, via a U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey, March 1, 2018, at Melrose Air Force Range, New Mexico. This CV-22 is not equipped with the new SATCOM system.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sam Weaver)
The presentation includes interesting details about the SATCOM antennae used to connect to ViaSat services by C-17 airlifters, AC-130U gunships, Air Force One and VIP aircraft (including C-40 and C-32), RC-135 Rivet Joint spyplanes (both the U.S. and UK ones) as well as MV-22 and CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. Dealing with the latter ones, the presentation states that at least 6 shipsets had already been delivered to AFSOC for the CV-22 Satcom System and Service whilst the initial 4 shipsets for the MV-22 Satcom Systems had been contracted. Based on this, it looks like the system used by the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 and CV-22 is the same (as one might expect): it offers a kit with easy roll on/roll off capability, maintenance and upgrades.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis officially started the U.S. Department of Defense’s review of the country’s nuclear arsenal Tuesday, according to the Pentagon.
President Donald Trump directed Mattis to conduct a review after taking office in January. The full-scope review comes as concerns over the aging nuclear arsenal are growing in both the White House and Congress.
“In National Security Presidential Memorandum 1, dated Jan. 27, the president directed the secretary of defense to conduct a Nuclear Posture Review to ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, effective, reliable and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies,” said Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White in a statement.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will lead the review in cooperation with “interagency partners,” according to White. A final report will be issued at the end of the year.
The review comes at a time when the U.S. is facing increased nuclear threats. North Korea continues to advance its nuclear program and has increased missile testing in the last two years. Russia is believed to have violated a decades-old nuclear agreement banning the deployment of intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles. The Russian military is engaged in a military modernization program that includes both its strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.
A significant portion of the current U.S. nuclear arsenal is based on designs from the 1960s and 1970s. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Military Strength rated the U.S. nuclear arsenal “strong,” just one step down from “very strong,” but leaders within the military, the White House and Congress are concerned over the aging arsenal.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” said Trump tweeted in December.
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