The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

When the Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut took to the skies in 1997, some thought the aircraft, featuring a forward-swept wing, was the future of Russian aviation. Although the Berkut had finally ended its career as a testbed, it wasn’t even that groundbreaking. In fact, the United States had flown its forward-swept wing testbed in the 1980s.


The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade
The Su-47 taking off. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

That’s right, in the era of big hair, when Bon Jovi exploded into prominence and Maverick and Goose graced the silver screen, America had the X-29 in the sky. This plane used the F-5 airframe and had a single F404 engine. In essence, this was the same basic configuration of the F-20 Tigershark.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade
Northrop F-5E, the basis for the X-29. (USAF photo)

But it wasn’t all Tigershark. While the Tigershark was just a modified F-5 and didn’t need fancy fly-by-wire systems, the X-29 did. In fact, the X-29 had three fly-by-wire (FBW) computers and three backup computers. Like the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the X-29 was inherently unstable and needed the help of the FBW system to stay in the air. One thing it didn’t have: weapons.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade
The X-29 shows moves that could make it a good dogfighter. (NASA photo)

The X-29 had a top speed of 1,131 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,553 miles. The two X-29 airframes built as part of the program flew for seven years before being retired. One was donated to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the other is at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade
This photo shows the No. 2 X-29 technology demonstrator aircraft as it lifts off from the runway at Edwards Air Force base on a 1989 test flight. (NASA photo)

By comparison, the Berkut was based on the Su-27 Flanker. This plane was also initially unarmed, but plans were for production models to carry a full suite of weapons. The Berkut flew from 1997 to the mid-2000s, before the four constructed prototypes were sent off to retirement.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade
The X-29 in flight, with a good look at the front. (USAF photo)

Learn more about America’s nimble testbed in the video below. Tell us, do you think the X-29 could have been a good dogfighter?

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0FXeUjjoXw
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Navy SEAL could be the next top spy

Joseph Maguire was, until very recently, the U.S. Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. This was a fitting position, because, in a past life, Maguire was Vice Admiral Joseph Maguire, a Navy SEAL and former commander of SEAL Team Two, bringing American counterterrorism policy home to the bad guys. Now, he’s temporarily taken over the Office of Director of National Intelligence.


Not only did Maguire command one of the teams to take the storied moniker SEAL Team Two, he also would one day command the entire Naval Special Warfare Command based in San Diego, Calif. From there, he oversaw eight Navy SEAL teams, three special boat teams, and their support units, just short of 10,000 people at a time when the United States was engaged in two wars abroad and U.S. special operators were finally beginning to infiltrate and destroy the insurgent networks operating inside Iraq.

But even after his 36 years in the Navy came to a close, he didn’t stop serving the special warfare community. He put his command and administration skills to work, helping the warfighters affected by the wars he oversaw.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

One of Maguire’s first post-military jobs was as President and CEO of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a nonprofit that specializes in helping special operators and their families get help funding their college tuition. The foundation also works to help the families of fallen warriors in the special operations community get an education by providing scholarships of their own, as well as grants and educational counseling. Maguire is not just a brass hat – he knows a thing or two about getting an education through hard work. He didn’t go to Annapolis, he went to Manhattan College, a small liberal arts college in his NYC hometown.

During his career, he also attended the Naval Postgraduate School and became a Harvard National Security Fellow, where he no doubt brought his hands-on experience in keeping America secure to the cohort.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

What you’ll read about Maguire is that his assignment to the post of acting Director of National Intelligence comes “as a surprise to the intelligence community.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean Maguire isn’t qualified to hold the post, only that his ascendance to acting DNI was unexpected. Besides his national security fellowship, the former SEAL and Vice Admiral has worked at the National Counterterrorism Center as Deputy Director for Strategic Operational Planning from 2007 to 2010. This means he was a part of National Security Council’s Counterterrorism Security Group that entire time.

But just because he’s acting in the post of DNI doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll stay there. Many temporary appointments have been very temporary in recent weeks, including the former acting Secretary of Defense.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Special Forces medic will receive Medal of Honor

A former medic with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) that heroically fought his way up a mountain to render aid to his Special Forces teammates and their Afghan commando counterparts will receive the Medal of Honor.

The White House announced Sept. 21, 2018, that former Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II went above and beyond the call of duty April 6, 2008, while assigned to Special Operations Task Force – 33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 1, 2018.


In April 2008, Shurer was assigned to support Special Forces operators working to take out high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley.

As the team navigated through the valley, a firefight quickly erupted, and a series of insurgent sniper fire, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms and machine gun fire forced the unit into a defensive fighting position.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II graphic.

Around that time, Shurer received word that their forward assault element was also pinned down at another location, and the forward team had sustained multiple casualties.

With disregard for his safety, Shurer moved quickly through a hail of bullets toward the base of the mountain to reach the pinned-down forward element. While on the move, Shurer stopped to treat a wounded teammate’s neck injury caused by shrapnel from a recent RPG blast.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II.

After providing aid, Shurer spent the next hour fighting across several hundred meters and killing multiple insurgents. Eventually, Shurer arrived to support the pinned down element and immediately rendered aid to four critically wounded U.S. units and 10 injured commandos until teammates arrived.

Soon after their arrival, Shurer and his team sergeant were shot at the same time. The medic ran 15 meters through a barrage of gunfire to help his sergeant. Despite a bullet hitting his helmet and a gunshot wound to his arm, Shurer pulled his teammate to cover and rendered care.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

Medal of Honor.

(US Army photo.)

Moments later, Shurer moved back through heavy gunfire to help sustain another teammate that suffered a traumatic amputation to his right leg.

For the next several hours, Shurer helped keep the large insurgent force at bay while simultaneously providing care to his wounded teammates. Shurer’s actions helped save the lives of all wounded casualties under his care.

Shurer also helped evacuate three critically wounded, non-ambulatory, teammates down a near-vertical 60-foot cliff, all while avoiding rounds of enemy gunfire and falling debris caused by numerous air strikes.

Further, Shurer found a run of nylon webbing and used it to lower casualties while he physically shielded them from falling debris.

Shurer’s Medal of Honor was upgraded from a Silver Star upon review.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the M18 Hellcat was America’s most underrated tank destroyer in World War II

To counter the German blitzkrieg, the U.S. Army needed to not only destroy individual tanks, it needed to destroy the Wehrmacht’s ability to use them effectively. To do that, it created an entirely new doctrine of mechanized warfare: tank destroyer forces.

In order to ambush massing enemy armor as it attempted a breakthrough, the Army needed a powerful, fast, armored vehicle that  would ride out to meet an armored attack while setting enemy tanks up to be ambushed at the same time. 

The result was the M18 Hellcat, the fastest armored vehicle until the development of the M2 Abrams, and the most effective anti-tank weapon of World War II. 

M18 Hellcat
US Army photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Before the time the United States entered World War II, it did not have an army that could effectively face everything the Nazis were using in Europe, so a number of technological innovations had to be created. One of those needs was a way to stop massed armor formations from breaking through the battlefield. 

The need was to create a weapons system that could stop heavy German tanks without getting blown away themselves. It needed enough armor so that enemy infantry couldn’t neutralize it on their own and it needed enough speed to move when it had to. It also had to be able to kill German tanks. 

More than a dozen models were developed by American manufacturers to meet these Army requirements, but as one need was met, another need would soon arise. Armor was soon sacrificed in favor of speed and mobility, its main turret was soon upgraded with the Sherman tank’s 76mm turret, and the M18 Hellcat was deployed in the field before it could be standardized. 

Hellcats first saw action in the Italian campaign of 1944 but they were already outgunned by upgraded German panzer and Tiger tanks, and particularly vulnerable to those tanks’ main turret rounds. 

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade
M18 Hellcat in action during a 2007 reenactment (Wikimedia Commons)

Nevertheless, the Hellcat was still effective against Axis armor. Even though the armor of German panzers couldn’t be penetrated by the M18 76mm rounds, American tank crews were still able to use the Hellcat to their advantage. The biggest of these was how fast the M18 could take a shot at an enemy tank. When set up for an ambush on the flanks of advancing enemy armor, they were devastating.

American tank crews knew that a well-aimed shot between two specific plates of a panzer’s armor would cause the anti-tank round to ricochet into the enemy vehicle’s driving compartment and kill the crew. The tankers learned this trick in time to meet Hitler’s 1944 armor offensive against Patton’s 3rd Army at Arracourt.

It was at Arracourt that seven M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyers and 25 U.S. tanks  met a force of more than 200 Nazi tanks trying to push Patton back out of the the Lorraine Province of France. Over 11 days, the seven Hellcats destroyed or disabled 39 Nazi panzers.

At the Battle of the Bulge, the Hellcat’s top speed of 50 miles per hour allowed them to get ahead of German armor divisions looking to capture fuel to continue the fighting. This was slowed by Hellcat quickly moving their positions and firing into the advancing enemy.  

Although there are successful examples of Hellcats fighting with their designed purpose, in practice, they were normally used to support infantry operations.


Feature image: US Army photo

popular

This is why no one uses water-cooled machine guns anymore

It was a common sight in World War I – the image of a machine gun spewing bullets from a barrel protruding from what looks like a giant canister. That canister is a healthy indication that the barrel of the machine gun in question is being cooled by water in the canister and that the water will soon be as hot as the barrel.


For the troops who wanted to continue using the machine guns to keep wave after wave of enemy troops in their own trenches and not coming into yours and sweeping you all out with shotguns, this was going to become very important, very fast.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade
“The Kaiser says this will not be a problem!” The Kaiser was wrong.

Water-cooled machine guns, as it turned out, required water to cool them. And the more you used them, the more they needed that water changed out. This may not have been terribly difficult during World War I, when movement along the front was restricted to just crossing no man’s land into the next series of trenches a hundred yards away. Unfortunately for everyone’s infantrymen, the water-cooled MG lived well past the Great War. So, the infantry were stuck hauling water for the guns, well into the Korean War.

But eventually, the guns were replaced with the less efficient but more manageable air-cooled guns. The problem with those was the barrels did not disburse heat quite as well as water-cooled weapons. So if a gunner isn’t shooting in bursts to prevent overheating, there is a chance the barrel could melt or become deformed during use. The solution? Interchangeable barrels. Watch U.S. troops do it:

That video is sixteen seconds long. So as efficient as water cooling those barrels really is, asking machine gunners to carry the weapon, its ammo, and tanks of water on a journey to Mordor is just not as effective as swapping out the actual problem: the barrel.

Articles

This is how researchers are trying to stop sand from killing aircraft engines

If you’ve ever seen some of the DOD videos – or photos, for that matter – from Iraq or Afghanistan, they’re often accompanied by huge clouds of dust as helicopters come in for a landing.


But here’s what you don’t see; the damage the sand and dust does on the engines of those helicopters.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade
A Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter comes into land at Camp Bastion, Helmand, Afghanistan following a mission. Note the huge cloud of dust. (UK MoD photo via Wikimedia Commons)

That matters – because the engines of helicopters and jets have one naturally-occurring enemy: FOD, which stands for “foreign object debris.” According to an FAA fact sheet, FOD was responsible for the June 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde that killed 113 people.

What the fact sheet doesn’t mention is that sand and dust are also foreign objects to an engine. What they do isn’t as spectacular as what happened in Paris almost 17 years ago, but it can be just as lethal.

Worse, while regular FOD walks can handle the larger objects, you can never quite get all the sand and dust away from an air base in Afghanistan or Iraq. So, there is a need to figure out how to keep the sand and dust from damaging engine components.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade
A UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter lands as U.S. Army paratroopers secure the area in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, July 23, 2012. The soldiers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team and the helicopter crew is assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. The soldiers evacuated a wounded insurgent. (US Army photo)

The Department of Defense recently released a video about efforts to address this. For instance, one of the researchers in this video one component in the T-700 engine is supposed to last 6,000 hours, but sand and dust reduce that to 400 hours – 1/15 of the planned operating life.

The price tag for the component in question? $30,000. That is a minor inconvenience. When a helo goes down, things get even uglier.

So check out the new ways researchers are attacking the problem of sand-damaged engines.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jb5ylX3Qjto
MIGHTY TRENDING

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

For most people, surviving the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Europe would be the defining moment of their lives. Men like Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow aren’t most people. The Lithuanian-born Shachnow survived a forced labor camp and went on to join the U.S. Army, serve in Vietnam, and lead the Army Special Forces’ ultra-secret World War III would-be suicide mission in Berlin during the Cold War.


He was only in his mid-50s when the Berlin Wall came down. After almost 40 years in the U.S. Army, he was inducted in the Infantry Officer’s Hall of Fame and is still regarded as a Special Forces legend. He passed away in his North Carolina home at age 83 on Sept. 18, 2018. His life and service are so legendary, inside and out of the Special Forces community, that it’s worth another look.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade
A Young Shachnow (Courtesy of US Army)

Shachnow was born in Soviet Lithuania in 1934. In 1941, an invasion from Nazi Germany overran the Red Army in the opening stages of Operation Barbarossa. Initially greeted as liberators, the Nazis soon began their policy of Lebensraum – “living space” – to create room for German settlers to populate areas of Eastern Europe that Hitler believed should be reserved for the greater German Reich.

This meant the people already living in those areas, which included Shachnow’s native Lithuania, would have to be removed — either through physically removing them or extermination. The young Shachnow was not only a native Lithuanian, he was also from a Jewish family. He spent three years in the Kovno concentration camp. He survived where most of his extended family did not. When the Red Army liberated the camp, Shachnow fled West.

“After I finished that experience, I was very cynical about people,″ he told the Fayetteville Observer. “I didn’t trust people. I thought that there is a dark side to people. If you leave things to people, they’ll probably screw things up.″

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade
Shachnow’s Basic Training Photo. (U.S. Army)

He escaped his past life on foot, traveling across Europe, headed west across the then-burgeoning Iron Curtain, and eventually found himself in U.S.-occupied Nuremberg. There, he worked selling rare goods on the black market until he was able to get a visa to the United States.

By 1950, the young man obtained his visa and moved to the United States, eventually settling in Salem, Mass. to go to school. He was ultimately unsuccessful there because he could hardly speak English. The place he did find acceptance was in the U.S. Army. He enlisted and worked to receive his high school education as he quickly gained rank. After he made Sergeant First Class in the 4th Armored Division in 1960, he earned a commission as an Army infantry officer. In 1962, he joined the outfit where he would spend the next 32 years: The U.S. Army’s Special Forces.

He put on his Green Beret just in time to serve in the Vietnam War. Assigned to Detachment A-121, he was at An Long on Vietnam’s Mekong River border with Cambodia. He served two tours in the country, earning a Silver Star and, after being wounded in an action against Communist troops, the Purple Heart.

While fighting in Vietnam, then-Capt. Shachnow was shot in the leg and arm. According to biographers, these both happened in a single action. He applied tourniquets to both wounds and continued fighting, trying to ensure all his men were well-led and came out alive. As he recovered from his wounds, he was sent home from his first tour, only to come down with both tuberculosis and Typhoid Fever. He recovered from those illnesses along with a few others.

After recovering from his wounds and illnesses, he returned to the United States, where he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska and a promotion to Major. He was sent back to Vietnam, this time with the 101st Airborne, with whom he earned a second Silver Star.

In Vietnam he felt the very real heat of the Cold War against Communism but it would be his next assignment – on the front line of the Cold War – that would be his most memorable, most defining, most secret, and certainly the craziest. He was sent to a divided Berlin to command Detachment A, Berlin Brigade.

The unit’s orders were to prepare to disrupt the Soviet Bloc forces from deep inside enemy territory in the event of World War III. It was a suicide mission and they all knew it. To a man, they carried out these orders anyway.

For 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for years on end, the men of Special Forces Detachment A Berlin squared off against foreign militaries, East German and Russian intelligence agencies, and other diplomatic issues. They wore civilian clothes and carried no real identification — the very definition of a “spook.”

These men trained and prepared for global war every day of their service in Berlin. Capture meant torture and death, even in the daily routine of their regular jobs, and Sidney Shachnow was their leader. He was so successful that the reality of Det-A’s mission didn’t come to light until relatively recently in American history. When the Berlin Wall fell, he was the overall commander of all American forces in Berlin.

He was in command of the city at the heart of the country responsible for the deaths of his family members.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade
(U.S. Army photo)

After the Cold War, Shachnow went on to earn degrees from Shippenburg State College and Harvard as well as the rank of Major General. He commanded the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, Army Special Forces Command, and became Chief of Staff, 1st Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, among other assignments. He was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment in 2007. His autobiography, Hope Honor, was published in 2004.

He died in the care of his wife Arlene at age 83 in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Gone, but not forgotten.


Feature image: U.S. Army photo

Articles

The most important battlefield innovation is not a weapon

Great aircraft and vehicles aren’t very useful without somewhere to park them, and troops need good cover to keep them safe from attacks. So, for all the innovations coming out of DARPA and the weapons being developed by the military, it’s the humble Hesco barrier that became an icon of security in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The barriers are a staple of deployed-life where they formed many of the outer perimeters and interior walls for NATO installations.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade
Photo: US Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael B. Watkins

Originally invented by a former British miner to shore up loose earth in his backyard, the Hesco was first used for military defense in the Gulf War. The basic Hesco design is a wire mesh crate with fabric liner that can be folded flat for storage and transportation. To deploy them, engineers simply open them up and fill them with dirt and rocks. When they want to get fancy about a permanent wall, they can then apply a concrete slurry to the sides and top to seal them.

Even without a slurry added, the walls provided impressive protection. A group of engineers in Afghanistan in 2005 had a limited space to build their wall and so modified the barriers to be thinner. They then tested the modified version against static explosives, RPGs, and 40mm grenades. This thinner version was heavily damaged but still standing at the end of the test. In the video below, go to the 0:45 mark to skip straight to the tests.

Hescos even provide concealment from the enemy while troops are putting them in.

The famous Restrepo Outpost was constructed by soldiers who slipped up to a summit they needed to capture at night and began building fortifications around themselves. They dug shallow trenches for immediate cover and then began to fill Hescos with dirt and rocks for greater protection. When the enemy fired on them to stop construction, some troops would fire back while others would get down and keep pitching rocks into the barriers.

A similar method of construction under fire was used by soldiers in the Battle of Shal Mountain.

Though the original Hesco were great, the company still updates the design. When the military complained that breaking down Hesco walls took too long, the company created a recoverable design with a removable pin that would allow the dirt to fall out. Later, they developed an apparatus that could be attached to a crane to remove multiple units at once.

To rapidly build new perimeter walls like those needed to expand Bagram Airfield as the NATO footprint grew, a trailer was developed that could deploy the barriers in a long line. Each trailer can deploy a barrier wall over 1,000 feet long.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIqDEO7Z7DM

The barriers were so popular with troops that multiple people named animals rescued from Afghanistan after them.

NOW: Here’s how the military takes civilian tech and makes it more awesome

OR: Boeing has patented a ‘Star Wars’-style force field

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why Elon Musk is wrong about fighter jets (but right about drones)

Last week, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk ruffled some feathers during a discussion with Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium. The controversial tech mogul, who is no stranger to drawing headlines and occasionally criticism, voiced concerns over America’s apparent love affair with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, first calling for competition for the advanced fighter, and then going further to say that the era of manned fighter jets was over.


“Locally autonomous drone warfare is where it’s at, where the future will be,” Musk said. “It’s not that I want the future to be this, that’s just what the future will be. … The fighter jet era has passed. Yeah, the fighter jet era has passed. It’s drones.”
The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

Elon Musk, chief engineer of SpaceX, speaks with U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the Space and Missile Systems Center commander and program executive officer for space.

(Senior Airman Christian Conrad/U.S. Air Force)

Musk went on to say that even the F-35 wouldn’t stand a chance against a sufficiently advanced drone that coupled computer augmented flying with human control.

When the story broke, we here at Sandboxx pointed out that Musk is right that a technologically advanced drone could potentialy do a lot of things a manned aircraft couldn’t — including manage hypersonic maneuvers that would leave most human pilots unconscious as a result of the G-forces. Scramjet technology has proven effective at propelling unmanned aircraft to hypersonic speeds in the past, and it seems entirely feasible that this tech will find its way into UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) in the future.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

An X-51A WaveRider hypersonic flight test vehicle is uploaded to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Chad Bellay)

But, we noted, the problem with Musk’s bright idea is that information traveling at the speed of light is actually too slow for the sort of control drone operators would need for such a platform. Even with a somewhat local operator, as Musk pointed toward, the time it would take to relay sensor data from the drone to the operator, followed my the operator processing the information and making a decision, followed by those commands being transmitted back to the drone is simply too slow a process for the split-second decisions that can be essential in a dog fight.

In other words, Musk’s plan is hypothetically right, but likely won’t work in practice for some time to come.

“For a long time, we’re still going to need the manned aircraft on the fighter and bomber side,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes, an F-15 Eagle pilot, said Wednesday during the annual McAleese Defense Programs Conference. “We will increasingly be experimenting with other options, [and] we’re going to work together.”
The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, watches a mission video during a visit to the 363rd Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Areca T. Bell)

The future of air combat likely will include some combination of manned and unmanned aircraft, which is exactly the future the Air Force’s Skyborg program is aiming for. Using “loyal wingman” armed drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, the Air Force hopes to couple fighters like the F-35 with support drones that can extend sensor range, engage targets, and even sacrifice themselves to protect the manned aircraft. In theory, one F-35 could control a number of drones that bear the majority of the risk, flying ahead of the manned jet.

“We can take risk with some systems to keep others safer,” the Air Force’s service acquisition executive, Dr. Will Roper said. “We can separate the sensor and the shooter. Right now they’re collocated on a single platform with a person in it. In the future, we can separate them out, put sensors ahead of shooters, put our manned systems behind the unmanned. There’s a whole playbook.”
The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jesenia Landaverde)

The combination of the sort of technology in play in Skyborg and rapidly developing hypersonic propulsion could put the power of hypersonic platforms in the hands of fighter pilots, just likely not in the jets they’re flying.

Of course, doing so would greatly increase the mental load on pilots in the fight, particularly if their means of controlling their wingmen drones is too complex. One of the selling points of the F-35 that doesn’t get much play in the press is its ability to fuse data from disparate sensors into an overlapping augmented reality display. Prior to this advancement, pilots had to read and manage multiple displays and gauges, combining the data in their minds to make decisions. In the F-35, friendly and enemy assets are clearly identified with colored indicators, as are air speed, altitude, and other essential information. At night, pilots can even use external cameras with their augmented reality helmets to look through the aircraft at the ground below.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

This is what an F-15 pilot has to keep track of while flying combat missions.

(USAF Photo)

A complex drone-control interface could be a step backward in a pilot’s ability to manage the flow of data, but a DARPA experiment first revealed in 2018 might just be able to solve that problem.

At the time, Justin Sanchez, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, explained that two years prior, DARPA had successfully utilized what he called a “Brain Computer Interface” to put one volunteer in control of not one, but three simulated aircraft at the same time. The “N3 System,” as they call it, could give pilots the ability to manage their drone wingmen using only their mind.

“As of today, signals from the brain can be used to command and control … not just one aircraft but three simultaneous types of aircraft,” he said at the “Trajectory of Neurotechnology” session at DARPA’s 60thanniversary event
The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

(DARPA)

In later experiments, volunteers even experienced feedback from the aircraft, transmitted into their brains to feel like a tingling sensation in the hands when the aircraft was pushing back against steering in a certain direction. The only problem is, currently, this system only works for volunteers who have had surgically implanted electrodes in their brain. The volunteers were all people with varying levels of paralysis, as this same technology could feasibly be used to control exoskeletons that could help a patient regain the ability to walk.

“The envisioned N3 system would be a tool that the user could wield for the duration of a task or mission, then put aside,” said Al Emondi, head of N3, according to a company spokesperson. “I don’t like comparisons to a joystick or keyboard because they don’t reflect the full potential of N3 technology, but they’re useful for conveying the basic notion of an interface with computers.”

So, while it’s true that a drone isn’t subject to same physical limitations a manned aircraft is, the tradeoff is that a drone would need to have an extremely advanced, fully autonomous flight system in order to execute maneuvers at the fuzzy edge of its capabilities, because communications lag would make such performance impossible in a human-controlled drone at a distance. If the drone weren’t under the control of a nearby pilot, the only choice would be to give the drone itself decision making capabilities, either through an on-board processor, or through an encrypted cloud computing process.

To date, that level of tech simply doesn’t exist, and even if it did, it would pose significant moral and ethical questions about what level of war fighting we’re comfortable relinquishing to a computer. Friendly fire incidents or unintentional civilian casualties are complicated enough without having to defend the actions of a Terminator drone, even if they were justified.

In the future, it seems entirely likely that drones will indeed be more capable than manned fighters, but they still won’t be able to fly without their cockpit-carrying-counterparts. A single F-35 pilot, for instance, may head into battle with a bevy of hyper-capable drone wingmen, but the decision to deploy ordnance, to actually take lives, will remain with the pilot, rather than the drone, just as those decisions are currently made by human drone operators.

Elon Musk is right that drones can do incredible things, but he’s wrong about the need for human hands on the stick. The future doesn’t look like Skynet, but it may look like the terrible 2005 movie, “Stealth.”

Elon Musk may be good at building rockets, electric cars, and even tunnel boring machines, but when it comes to predicting the future of warfare, he’s just as fallible as the rest of us.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Swiss Army knife factory makes 45,000 pocket knives per day

You’ve probably used one, or know of the iconic shape. After all, 10 million of these pocket knives are produced annually. But how does one factory produce 45,000 each day, and in such a precise manner?

The Swiss Army knives has been around for nearly 130 years. It was originally delivered to the Swiss Army by Karl Elsener in 1891. The knives are now produced by Victorinox, Europe’s largest knife manufacturer. The company was founded in 1884.

The main factory in Ibach, Switzerland, produces a variety of knives, designed to offer versatility and compactness. Here, it takes around 5 minutes to produce a pocket knife depending on the model. There are 400 different models.

The basis of the knife is 85% iron, along with 13% chromium and a small trace of other metals.


2,400 metric tonnes of steel are imported to the factory each year. From these rolls, knife blades are stamped to 2 millimeters thick. This requires 50 metric tonnes of pressure. Each roll can make 16,000 blades.

How Swiss Army Knives Are Made | The Making Of

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Various tools require various alloys for hardness. Blades are made from hard steel, whereas screwdrivers are formed from softer steel. The blades are rounded off using triangular-shaped plastic wheels and water.

The knife blades are then extracted via a magnet and grinded down again to achieve an exact width. They are imprinted with a company stamp, then placed in an oven at 1,050 degrees Celsius.

The signature red outer casing is formed via injection molding. Other tools for the knives are produced on nearby machines via a process of milling and grinding.

The classic officer’s knife is assembled by machine at the factory. Other editions are assembled by hand.

The blades are smoothed and given a final inspection. A small metal cross emblem — the Victorinox Cross Shield — is inspected via a microscope to ensure standard thickness. This was added the first time in 1909 and later to all Victorinox knives since 2006.

The knives are exported from the Ibach factory to over 120 countries.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Navy is preparing for an all-out fight at sea

The Navy is firing weapons, engaging in combat scenarios, and refining warfighting tactics through a rigorous training regiment aimed at better preparing the sea service for massive warfare on the open ocean.

Described by Navy officials as “high-velocity learning,” Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) is focused on speeding up combat decision making and responding in real time to emerging high-tech enemy weapons such as missiles, lasers, sea mines, long-range anti-ship missiles, and torpedoes, among others.

“We are focused on the high-end fight” Cmdr. Emily Royse, SWATT leader, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The emphasis also has a heavy academic focus, lead by specially prepared Warfare Tactics Instructors, aimed at briefing — and then debriefing — a range of operational maritime warfare scenarios.


“For each training type we focus on sea control type events. Warfare units are presented with a scenario and we are there to help them through the decision making process to help them fight that scenario. For surface warfare, for instance, they might plan how they are going to get all their ships through narrow, high-risk straights or how to respond to small boat threats,” Royse added.

The training crosses a wide swath of maritime combat missions, to include mine countermeasures, Amphibious Ready Groups, Carrier Strike Groups, and other elements of surface warfare. The idea is to further establish and refine tactics, techniques, and procedures needed for major warfare against high-tech enemies.

“Sea control objective is to ensure that our forces are able to move freely within the sea lanes and ensure that they are free from threats or able to counter threats,” Royse said.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

U.S. Navy ships assigned to the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group sail in formation for a strike group photo in the Caribbean Sea.

Some of the particular kinds of enemy weapons these courses anticipate for the future include a range of emerging new systems — to include lasers, rail-guns, and long-range missiles, among other technologies.

Not surprisingly, these courses appear as somewhat of a linear outgrowth or tactical manifestation of the Navy’s 2016 Surface Force Strategy document. Tilted “Return to Sea Control,” the strategy paper lists a number of specific enemy threat areas of concern focused upon by course trainers.

Examples of threats cited by the strategy paper include “anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, integrated and layered sensor systems, targeting networks, long-range bombers, advanced fighter aircraft, submarines, mines, advanced integrated air defenses, electronic warfare, and cyber and space technologies.”

Much like the training courses and the Surface Force Strategy, the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept also builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy, in place now for a number of years. This strategic approach emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed.

Having cyber, space, and missile weapons — along with over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons — are relevant to offensive attack as well as the “distributed” portion of the strategy. Having an ability to defend against a wider range of attacks and strike from long-distances enables the fleet to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations, making US Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower.

Interestingly, the pressing need to emphasize offensive attack in the Navy fleet appears to have roots in previous Navy strategic thinking.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Doug Pearlman)

Part of the overall strategic rationale is to move the force back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors, such as that which was emphasized during the Cold War. While the importance of this kind of strategic and tactical thinking never disappeared, these things were emphasized less during the last 15-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, securing the international waterways, counter-piracy and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure.

These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increase its offensive “lethality” given that rivals such as Russia and China have precision-guided anti-ship missiles able to hit targets at ranges greater than 900 miles in some cases. The advent of new cyber and electronic warfare attack technologies, enemy drones and the rapid global proliferation of sea mines all present uniquely modern nuances when compared to previous Cold-War strategic paradigms.

Nevertheless, the most current Naval Surface Warfare Strategy does, by design, appear to be somewhat of a higher-tech, modern adaptation of some fundamental elements of the Navy’s Cold-War-era approach — a time when major naval warfare against a Soviet force was envisioned as a realistic contingency.

A 1987 essay titled “Strategy Concept of the US Navy,” published by Naval History and Heritage Command, cites the importance of long-range offensive firepower and targeting sensors in a geographically dispersed or expansive open ocean warfare environment. The paper goes so far as to say the very survivability of US Naval Forces and the accomplishment of their missions depends upon offensive firepower.

“Integrated forces may be geographically distant, but their movements, sensors, and weapons are coordinated to provide maximum mutual support and offensive capability,” the paper writes.

The Cold War-era Strategic Concepts document also specifies that “Naval defensive capability should include long-range detection systems such as airborne early warning, quick reacting command and control systems and effective defensive weapons systems.”

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China launches new flattop as it builds a force capable of invading islands

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has three aircraft carriers in some degree of completion, but on Sept. 25, 2019, China launched a new kind of flattop — the first Type 075 amphibious assault ship.

The still unnamed ship was put in the water at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai, the China Daily reported. A military expert told The Global Times that the launch “marked the beginning of a new era in the development of Chinese naval surface ships.”

The ship is not yet ready, as the ship still needs to be fitted with radar, navigation, electronic warfare, and other critical systems and go through sea trials before it can become operational, but Wednesday’s launch is an important step toward the fielding of China’s first amphibious assault ship able to transport dozens of aircraft, as well as ground troops and military vehicles — forces needed to mount a seabone raid or invasion.


The launch follows the recent appearance of photos online showing a nearly-completed ship, leading observers to conclude that a launch was imminent.

The Type 075, the development of which began in 2011, is expected to be much more capable than the Type 071 amphibious transport docks that currently serve as the critical components of the Chinese amphibious assault force.

“Compared with China’s Type 071, the new Type 075 can accommodate more transport and attack helicopters and, in coordination with surface-effect ships [fast boats to deploy troops], could demonstrate greater attack capabilities [than the Type 071], especially for island assault missions,” Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military affairs expert, told the South China Morning Post prior to the launch.

Unlike the Type 071, currently the largest operational amphibious warfare vessels in the PLAN, the Type 075 is longer and features a full flight deck.

With a displacement of roughly 40,000 tons, the ship is noticeably larger than Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter destroyer, which Japan is in the process of converting to carry F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, but smaller than the US military’s Wasp-class and America-class amphibious assault ships, vessels the Navy and Marines have been looking at using as light aircraft carriers.

Details about the capabilities of the Type 075 ships and the Chinese navy’s plans for them are limited, so it is unclear if China would eventually equip its 250-meter amphibious assault ships with aircraft with vertical or short takeoff and landing abilities.

China does not currently have a suitable jump jet like the F-35B or AV-8B Harrier II for this purpose, but older reports indicate the country is looking into developing one.

The launch comes just days ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, when China is expected to show off its military might. At least two more amphibious assault ships are said to be in the works.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

See how A-10s are practicing to fight Russia in Europe

Russia’s increasing aggression in Europe has made some countries nervous. This is particularly true for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — former Soviet republics that have since joined NATO. To make matters worse, these countries don’t have much in the way of military power.

That said, NATO is doing what they can to reassure these countries. To do that, they’re putting on an exercise known as Saber Strike. This exercise brings together 19 countries, including Baltic nations and Poland, to “build readiness” in the area — sending a clear message to a particular Eastern neighbor.

This year’s exercise features the 2nd Cavalry Regiment moving from its base in Germany to Poland, simulating the type of deployment the unit would make in a real crisis.


The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

In a fight with Russia, A-10 Thunderbolts would likely use AGM-65 Mavericks as a primary weapon against air-defense systems.

(DOD photo by Jim Haseltine)

One of the units taking part in this exercise is the 127th Operations Group, the parent unit of the 107th Fighter Squadron of the Michigan Air National Guard. This unit has flown the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a plane designed for close-air support missions, since 2008. This is the plane that would back up NATO forces sent to defend the Baltic states if anything were to go down.

The United States currently has 13 squadrons that operate the A-10. This plane, famous for the BRRRRRT emitted by its GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun, has a top speed of 450 knots and a maximum range of 2,240 nautical miles. In addition to its massive gun, the A-10 can carry up to eight tons of bombs, missiles, and rockets.

The US beat Russia to the forward-swept wing by a decade

The A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed to help NATO defeat the hordes of Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks threatening Western Europe.

(USAF)

The Air Force is currently running the OA-X program to try to (partially) replace the A-10 — right now, the AT-29 Super Tucano and the AT-6 Wolverine, a pair of light attack planes, are looking like favorites. Unfortunately, as it stands now, those planes aren’t nearly as capable as the A-10.

Watch the video below to see the A-10s with the Michigan Air National Guard take part in Saber Strike ’18!

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