This bomb is heavier than the MOAB - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

The GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst (also known as the Mother of All Bombs) that took out a lot of members of ISIS’s Afghanistan franchise, is considered the largest conventional bomb in the American arsenal. Or is it?


There is another contender — the GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

So, yeah, there is another massive bomb. It is a heavier bomb — 30,000 pounds compared to the 21,700 of the GBU-43 MOAB. But the 30-foot long GBU-43 is ten feel longer than the GBU-57, and at 40 inches, it is about 8.5 inches wider.

The GBU-43 also has about 18,000 pounds of high explosive. According to a Defense Threat Reduction Agency fact sheet, the GBU-57 has about 5,300 pounds of high explosive.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB
A GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator is prepared for a test. (DOD photo)

So, what is the deal with the MOP? Why get it when you had MOAB? It’s for the same reason you have a high-explosive round and an armor piercing round.

The MOAB, like the BLU-82 “Daisy Cutter,” is like a giant high-explosive round. It detonates — either with the help of a standoff fuze or a proximity fuze — with the intent of using the blast to clear a large area or to leave a psychological mark on the bad guys.

The MOP, on the other hand, is like an armor-piercing shell. As its name suggests, it is designed to penetrate deep into a heavily-protected facility, then go boom. What sort of facility? Think bunkers and command posts.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB
A GBU-57 in the bomb bay of a B-2A Spirit. The Spirit has two bomb bays – we trust that Kim Jong Un can do the math. (DOD photo)

The MOP, it should be noted, was also designed to fit inside a strategic bomber, notably the B-2A Spirit; but the B-52 Stratofortress (or BUFF) can also carry it.

Both bombs, by the way, use the Global Positioning System for guidance, allowing them to be dropped from high altitudes.

This not only allows the plane to escape the blast — something that was difficult with the unguided BLU-82 — but it also reduces the threat from air-defense systems. In the case of the MOP, altitude helps it go deeper underground, making sure that buried target you want to go away goes away.

(You can go ahead and make some penetrator jokes now.)

MIGHTY MOVIES

The reason LEGO cancelled its V-22 Osprey set

On July 21, 2020, LEGO announced that the upcoming LEGO Technic V-22 Osprey had been cancelled. Set number 42113 was an officially licensed model of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft used by the US Navy, Marines, Air Force and Japanese Self-Defense Forces.


Despite being just 10 days away from its August 1 release date, LEGO pulled the Osprey from its website and announced that shipments of the new set would not go out to retailers. In their official statement, LEGO said:

The LEGO Technic Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey was designed to highlight the important role the aircraft plays in search and rescue efforts. While the set clearly depicts how a rescue version of the plane might look, the aircraft is only used by the military. We have a long-standing policy not to create sets which feature real military vehicles, so it has been decided not to proceed with the launch of this product. We appreciate that some fans who were looking forward to this set may be disappointed, but we believe it’s important to ensure that we uphold our brand values.

LEGO’s policy of not making sets based on military vehicles goes back to its very beginning. In fact, the original LEGO brick colors in the 1950s didn’t even include grey because LEGO feared that they could be used to make military vehicles like tanks.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

Orange trim wasn’t enough to distance the V-22 from its military use (LEGO)

In recent years, LEGO has limited the scope of their military restriction to modern military vehicles. This allowed them to create sets based on historic military vehicles like the WWI-era Sopwith Camel biplane and Fokker Dr.1 triplane.

Licensed IPs like Indiana Jones and Star Wars have also allowed LEGO to make sets with military themes that weren’t modern or real. Indiana Jones set number 7198 included an armed Pilatus P-2 with Luftwaffe markings from The Last Crusade and set number 7683 featured the fictional Nazi flying wing bomber from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Under the Star Wars license, LEGO has created molds for fictional blasters that come from the galaxy far, far away.

However, while LEGO has not released a licensed modern military set, it has released some that bear striking resemblances to modern military vehicles. LEGO Creator 3-in-1 sets have featured vehicles that look remarkably like the AH-64 Apache (31023), F-14 Tomcat (4953), Rafale M (5892), F-35 Lightning II (31039) and even the V-22 (31020). LEGO City set number 60021 City Cargo Heliplane is a dedicated set that also bears a striking resemblance to the V-22. The main difference between the aforementioned sets and the cancelled V-22 seems to be the official licensing by Bell and Boeing, who make the real-life aircraft.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

It looks like a V-22, but it isn’t (LEGO)

In July, the German Peace Society issued a warning against LEGO releasing the licensed V-22. Despite rebranding of the aircraft in the set to make it a search and rescue aircraft, the German Peace Society released a statement saying:

On 1. August 2020 LEGO® plans to release its first ever military set while internal corporate value documents forbid the production of current military vehicles. The German DFG-VK also criticises the license placed on the set. With every buy, customers help to finance arms companies.

Despite the set being ready for release with advertisements and stock ready to go, LEGO has marked all packaged sets of the V-22 for return to circulation. While LEGO stores will never receive the set, some smaller retailers did receive their first orders early and buyers have been quick to scoop up the rare sets. New Zealand seems to have received the most shipments as Ebay listings for the V-22 all ship from New Zealand and are selling for well over id=”listicle-2646785825″,000. Some retailers are even returning their stock to LEGO rather than selling them.

While this turn of events has been a major disappointment for LEGO fans, the fact that the set got so close to release can be seen as a sign of things to come. While the V-22 is used exclusively by armed forces, it’s not unreasonable to think that military aircraft with civilian variants like the C-130 Hercules or the CH-47 Chinook might be turned into licensed LEGO sets in the future.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

Commercials were filmed and ready. Note the “Rescue” markings. (LEGO)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch this heart-stopping video of an F-16’s low takeoff, high-G turn

On Jun. 17, 2018, Chippewa Valley Regional Airport in Eau Claire, WI hosted an airshow that included the display of the Air Combat Command’s F-16 Viper Demo Team.

Piloted by Maj. John “Rain” Waters, an operational F-16 pilot assigned to the 20th Operations Group, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina and the United States Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team commander, the F-16 performs an aerobatic display whose aim is to demonstrate demonstrate the unique capabilities by one of the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighters, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, better known as “Viper” in the pilot community.


The F-16 Viper Demo always starts with a take-off followed by a low, high-g turn. The maneuver was filmed from a privileged position (the slow motion effect contributes to the stunning results):


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Below you can find another clip that shows the same maneuver:


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This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part three

The one thing that seems to be a constant in Saigon is the delicious smell of food cooking – from the street vendors, open air cafes, coffee shops, and bakeries – it was that way in the late 60’s and remains so today. The first time I came to the city I remember walking to the headquarters with an officer I’d served with in Ban Me Thuot and stopping at a small coffee shop for a coffee and croissant – both were delicious and the whole event seemed surreal given what was going on in the rest of the country at the time.


This time, when I arrived at Tan Son Nhat airport in Saigon the first thing I saw were customs officials wearing what I remember as North Vietnamese Army uniforms – a bit of a flashback. Stepping out of the terminal I breathed deeply of the humid tropical air – a familiar scent that almost seemed comforting. Driving through the city on the way to the hotel I noticed the beautiful French inspired architecture which added a touch of grace to the cityscape.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

In 1969 Saigon was a multi-faced city, bustling with the business of war. The people were pursuing their livelihood as best they could, while hip deep in the middle of a war zone. They were trying as hard as they could to make life tolerable and better for their families. Today, later generations of those families are doing that same thing, less the war, making life better and succeeding on a grand scale.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

Revisiting Saigon and Vietnam after forty some years reaffirmed my faith in humanity – it doesn’t matter who won or lost, doesn’t matter who is in power – it’s all about the people. The Vietnamese people have always been entrepreneurs, caring for their families and their country and have made it a powerhouse in Southeast Asia. It gladdened my heart and closed a circle for me in a most positive way.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

The tactics that make North Korea’s artillery so annoying

In the opening hours of the next Korean War, the North could kill upwards of 250,000 people using just conventional artillery, to say nothing of nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles, a January 2019 Rand Corporation report found. Those numbers are just from the South Korean capital alone.

And there is little the United States could do about it.


The North’s big gun is essentially a self-propelled coastal defense gun, the Koksan 170 mm, mounted on a tank and firing rocket-propelled shells up to 40 miles in any direction. Since the crews work outside of the weapon and North Korea’s air force could do little to protect them, the North had to devise a means of reloading the guns after firing, when they’re exposed and vulnerable.

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An aging Koksan 170mm artillery piece.

Some 10 million people live within firing range of the Korean demilitarized zone, living and working every day with hundreds of guns pointed at their heads. This includes the population of Seoul as well as the tens of thousands of U.S. and South Korean military personnel stationed on the peninsula. Most of them live within the 25-mile range of Communist artillery pointed at the South, but North Korea has some pieces that can fire as far as 125 miles, affecting a further 22 million people. It’s not a good situation for defending South Korea or protecting our forces.

“Conservative predictions of a likely attack scenario anticipate an initial artillery barrage focused on military targets, which would result in significant casualties,” said U.S. Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, head of U.S. Forces Korea. “A larger attack targeting civilians would yield several thousand casualties with the potential to affect millions… within the first 24 hours.”

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

North Korea has thousands of artillery pieces that could fire tens of thousands of rounds during a 10-minute barrage. The big Koksan 170 carries 12 rounds of its own before it has to go re-arm itself. Since any ammunition depots would be as vulnerable to enemy aircraft as the artillery themselves, North Korea has constructed thousands of reinforced underground bunkers near the DMZ to hold ammo and house the guns.

As a result, in an opening salvo, North Korean artillery are likely to use what military planners call a “shoot n’ scoot” tactic. The guns will come out of the bunkers to fire off their rounds and then go right back into hiding to reload and prepare for another volley in rapid succession. This will make it difficult for allied airpower to track and kill the weapons.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

The best scenario for Seoul is that the Koksan 170 requires a specialized round to hit Seoul, one the North may have in limited quantities. Even if they do fire at a high rate, it’s likely the barrels of the weapons will heat up to a degree that the ideal rate of fire U.S. military planners plan against won’t be the actual rate used in combat. Another potential advantage for the UN forces is the area covered by the guns. If North Korea wants to destroy Seoul in the first few minutes of a war, all of its weapons would need to be trained on Seoul, work perfectly, and have the maximum rate of fire for a skilled crew – while UN planes and artillery are shooting back.

Unlikely.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army accidentally just revealed a mind-blowing new weapon

It’s no secret that the United States military is working tirelessly to develop new hypersonic weapon systems to close the gap presented by Chinese and Russian platforms that have recently entered into service. Hypersonic weapons, for those unfamiliar, are missile platforms that are capable of maintaining extremely high speeds (in excess of Mach 5). That kind of speed means these weapons impact their targets with a huge amount of kinetic force, and perhaps most important of all, there are currently no existing missile defense systems that can stop a hypersonic projectile.


Sources inside China and Russia have both indicated that these nations already have hypersonic weapons in service, which means the United States is lagging behind the competition in this rapidly expanding field, despite testing hypersonic platforms as far back as the early 2000s. In order to close that gap, the Pentagon has acknowledged at least six different hypersonic programs currently in development, including the U.S. Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike weapon, the U.S. Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), and the U.S. Air Force’s AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW, pronounced “arrow”).

However, it’s now clear that Uncle Sam isn’t acknowledging all of the hypersonic programs currently under development, thanks to an unintentional gaff made by U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the recent Association of the U.S. Army convention. In a photo that was uploaded to McCarthy’s own Flickr account (it’s still there), a document can be seen on a table in front of him titled, “Vintage Racer – Loitering Weapon System (LWS) Overview.”

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dana Clarke)

McCarthy likely didn’t anticipate that anyone would be able to make out what was written on the sheet of paper in front of him, and to his credit, most probably couldn’t. Aviation Week’s Steve Trimble, however, isn’t most people–and he not only managed to make out a fair portion of what the sheet says, but also has the technical knowledge behind him to make a few assertions about just what “Vintage Racer” may really be.

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“The Vintage Racer concept, as revealed so far, suggests it may be possible to launch a hypersonic projectile into a general area without knowing the specific location of the target,” Trimble wrote in his analysis you can find in full here. “As it reaches the target area, the projectile may be able to dispense a loitering air system, which is then uses its own sensors to find and identify the target.”
This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

If Trimble’s assertions are right (and they do appear to be based on the document), then “Vintage Racer” could potentially be the most advanced and capable hypersonic weapon anywhere in the world. Most hypersonic weapons currently employ one of two methodologies: they either follow a long arc flight path similar to intercontinental ballistic missiles, gaining extreme speed with a reentry glide vehicle that has to literally re-enter the atmosphere, or they utilize a combination of traditional and scramjet propulsion systems to achieve similar speeds along a linear flight path.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

A DARPA diagram of a hypersonic glide vehicle reentering the atmosphere to engage a target. (DARPA)

In either case, the hypersonic body is, in itself, the weapon: using a combination of warhead and the sheer force of transferred kinetic energy at such high speeds to destroy a target.

“Vintage Racer” on the other hand seems to leverage high speed propulsion to reach hypersonic velocities, but then rather than using all of the energy amassed from moving at that speed, the weapon would instead deploy a “loitering” system that could identify targets in the area and engage them independently with ordnance.

In effect, instead of thinking of “Vintage Racer” as a missile, it might be more apt to think of it as a hypersonic drone not all that unlike the SR-72 program we’ve written about on Sandboxx News before. The platform would enter contested airspace at speeds too high for intercept, deploy its loitering weapon system, and engage one or multiple targets that are identified once the weapon is already in the area. This capability is especially important when it comes to defending against long range ballistic missile launches like nuclear ICBMs employed by a number of America’s opponents, including Russia, China, and North Korea. These missiles are often launched via mobile platforms that move regularly in order to make it difficult to know where or when a nuclear missile launch may come from.

By the time a mobile launcher is identified by satellite or other forms of reconnaissance, there may not be enough time to deploy fighters, bombers, or other weapons to that site in order to stop a missile launch. However, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could feasible cruise into the general area of a launcher at speeds that most air defenses couldn’t stop. From there, it could deploy its loitering asset to locate and identify mobile missile launchers in the area–and then destroy those launchers with its included ordnance.

To further substantiate that possibility, Trimble points to a Russian defense technology expert who recently warned of just such an American platform.

“The fear is that [this] hypersonic ‘something’ might reach the patrol area of road-mobile ICBM launchers [after] penetrating any possible air and missile defense, and then dispense loitering submunitions that will find launchers in the forests,” said Dmitry Stefanovitch, an expert at the Moscow-based Russian International Affairs Council.

This weapon system was also briefly mentioned in Defense Department budget documents released this past February, but aside from calling the effort a success, few other details were included.

Theoretically, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could be used in a number of military operations other than preventing nuclear missile launches. By combining the extreme speed of a hypersonic missile with the loitering and air strike capabilities currently found in armed drones or UAVs, this new weapon could shift the tides of many a battle in America’s favor; from Iranian armed boat swarms, to Russian mobile missile launchers, and even as a form of rapid-delivery close-air-support for Special Operations troops. The potential implications of what may effectively be a Mach 5-capable unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) are far reaching.

In warfare, speed often dictates the outcome of an engagement–and “Vintage Racer” sounds like it has that in spades.

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

Articles

Amazon could soon deliver its own version of MREs

Amazon is planning to make a foray into delivering ready-to-eat meals based on a technology program pioneered by the Army to improve the infamous MRE field rations.


According to a report by Reuters, the online retailer currently trying to acquire Whole Foods is also looking to sell food items like beef stew and vegetable frittatas that would be shelf stable for at least a year.

This is done using a preparation technique called microwave assisted thermal sterilization, or “MATS,” which was developed by 915 Labs, a start-up in the Denver area.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB
Imagine what Amazon can do with MREs. (WATM Archives)

MATS came about as the Army was seeking to improve its Meals Ready to Eat for troops in the field. Traditional methods of preparing shelf-stable foods involve using pressure cookers, which also remove nutrients and alter the food’s flavor and texture. This requires the use of additive, including sodium and artificial flavors, according to reports.

The new technology involves putting sealed packages of food into water and using microwaves to heat them. Currently, machines can produce about 1,800 meals per hour, but some machines could produce as many as 225 meals a minute.

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Could MATS mean nobody has to have this any more? (WATM Archive)

The shelf-stable foods would be ideal for Amazon’s current delivery system, which involves warehouses to store products that are later delivered to customers. Shelf-stable food that is ready-to-eat is seen as a potential “disruptor” in the industry.

“They will test these products with their consumers, and get a sense of where they would go,” Greg Spragg, the President and CEO of Solve for Food, told Reuters. The company is based in Arkansas, near the headquarters of Wal-Mart.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB
MATS could make the MRE look like this K-ration above. (US Army photo)

One bottleneck had been getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration for dishes prepared with MATS. 915 Labs has developed dishes, but is awaiting the go-ahead. Meanwhile, the Australian military has acquired the technology, and several countries in Asia that lack refrigerated supply chains are also purchasing machines.

Oh, and MATS could also be used on MREs, providing the same five-year shelf life that the current versions get as well.

Articles

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

While most people may be familiar with Russia’s T-14, that tank is not the only Armata the Russians have in the works. The term Armata actually refers to a “unified tracked platform,” according to an Aug. 2016 report from Army-Recognition.com.


And that family also includes a heavy infantry fighting vehicle known as the T-15. While GlobalSecurity.org reports that the T-15 has the same 30mm gun used on the BMP-2, along with four turret-mounted AT-14 anti-tank missiles, Army-Recognition.com’s report indicates that a gun first fielded in the 1950s could get a new lease on life with the T-15.

And that has some analysts worried.

Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis, argues notes that the T-15 as presently equipped is “a clear threat against the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which is under gunned with a 25mm M242 chain gun with TOW missiles.”

What has Maginnis alarmed is that the T-15 is slated to be fitted with the S-60 cannon, which started its life as an anti-aircraft gun that got wide use in the Vietnam War and a host of other conflicts. It was also deployed on naval vessels, and is still in service on some of the Grisha-class corvettes in the Russian Navy.

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The T-15 Armata heavy infantry fighting vehicle. This baseline version has a 30mm cannon and four AT-14 missiles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Army-Recognition.com noted that the old gun would be put into the AU-220M turret currently under development. In addition to the old gun, the turret also has four AT-9 “Spiral-2” missiles.

When asked about the implications of the AU-220M turret, Maginnis said, “the Bradley will be outgunned. Further our Strykers face a similar problem even though they may include the Javelin.”

“We are relying on pretty old technology vis-a-vis the Bradley and the Abrams even given the upgrades,” Maginnis added, blaming a “modernization holiday thanks to sequestration.”

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A captured S-60 57mm anti-aircraft gun in an Israeli museum. This gun is the centerpiece of a new turret for the T-15, the AU-220M. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

As to what could be done to counter the T-15 and other modern Russian vehicles, Maginnis said it’s about new weaponry and modern defensive systems.

“The U.S. Army desperately needs to up-gun its arsenal for direct and indirect fire systems,” he said. “We need to relook at our reactive armor given the increased Russian anti-armor penetration systems.”

But it’s not just about tanks and armored vehicles, he said.

“We also need to relook at our air-to-ground capabilities against armored vehicles,” Maginnis said. “The A-10’s 30mm gun is good, but the Russians have paid close attention to that capability and have effective anti-aircraft counters.”

Russia’s support of the Syrian regime included the deployment of S-400 surface-to-air missiles, according to a December 2015 report by the BBC. This past February, Sputnik News reported that T-90 main battle tanks provided to Syria by Russia made their combat debut.

“We are sadly falling behind due to neglect. Hopefully Mr. Trump’s Pentagon leaders will read the weapons effects intelligence coming out of the Ukraine and Syria and come to the sobering realization that America has a lot of catching up to do,” Maginnis concluded.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Who would win a 1989 dogfight between a Tomcat and an Eagle

Today, when we talk about a dominant plane in air-to-air combat, the conversation starts and ends with the F-22 Raptor. But it wasn’t always that way. In the 1980s, the F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Eagle were contenders for the title of biggest air-to-air badass. So, between these two planes, which would come out on top in a head-to-head duel?


 

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

The F-14 was capable of reaching speeds above Mach 2 and could carry a variety of air-to-air missiles. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Ramon Preciado.)

First, a little background. Both the F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Eagle were modeled after lessons learned from the Vietnam War about the realities of air-to-air combat. Previously, the F-4 Phantom had been used as a multi-role fighter, and to do so, it had to give up some air-to-air capability. In the 1980s, both planes were dedicated exclusively to air-to-air missions — in fact, “not a pound air-to-ground” was the design mantra.

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The F-15 Eagle entered service in 1976 and still serves today. In that sense, it has beaten the F-14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

The F-14 Tomcat has a crew of two, a top speed of 1,544 miles per hour, a maximum unrefueled range of 1,864 miles, and is equipped with the AWG-9 radar. It carries a 20mm M61 cannon and can carry eight air-to-air missiles, often operating with a mix of AIM-54 Phoenixes, AIM-7 Sparrows, and AIM-9 Sidewinders. The plane first joined the Navy in 1974. The only export customer was Iran. The Tomcat was primarily designed to counter Soviet bombers trying to sink carriers, but it was intended to also fight for air superiority.

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The one clear advantage the F-14 has over the F-15 is reach — the AIM-54 Phoenix has much longer range than the AIM-7 Sparrow, but the Phoenix isn’t good at killing fighters. (U.S. Navy photo by Capt. Dana Potts)

The Air Force selected the single-seat F-15 Eagle for its air-superiority needs. This plane, which entered service in 1976, is equipped with the APG-63 radar, a 20mm M61 cannon, and also could carry eight air-to-air missiles. However, it could only carry the AIM-7 Sparrow and the AIM-9 Sidewinder. It had a top speed of 1,875 miles per hour and a maximum unrefueled range of 2,402 miles. It got far more export orders than the F-14 and was purchased by Israel, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB
The best chance the F-15 Eagle would have in a fight with the F-14 is to get in close and use superior performance and endurance. (USAF photo)

Which of these planes would come out on top? Well, much depends on which gets to play to their own strengths. The F-14’s best chance against the Eagle is to initially fight at a distance – using the Phoenix missile. This may not be much help as the Phoenix isn’t designed to engage fighters, but there’s always a chance. Even then, this advantage is offset by the fact that the Phoenix could displace as many as six AIM-7 Sparrows, which perform better. That said, the Eagle needs to manage to get close and to use its performance and endurance to win a dogfight.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army tests human-like robots

Army researchers recently tested ground robots performing military-style exercises, much like soldier counterparts, at a robotics testing site in Pennsylvania recently as part of a 10-year research project designed to push the research boundaries in robotics and autonomy.

RoMan, short for Robotic Manipulator, is a tracked robot that is easily recognized by its robotic arms and hands — necessary appendages to remove heavy objects and other road debris from military vehicles’ paths. What’s harder to detect is the amount of effort that went into programming the robot to manipulate complex environments.


The exercise was one of several recent integration events involving a decade of research led by scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory who teamed with counterparts from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and General Dynamics Land Systems.

As part of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, the work focused on state-of-the-art basic and applied research related to ground robotics technologies with an overarching goal of developing autonomy in support of manned-unmanned teaming. Research within the RCTA program serves as foundational research in support of future combat ground vehicles.

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An Army robot plans what to do to address a debris pile, full of objects.

(U.S. Army photo)

The recent robot exercise was the culmination of research to develop a robot that reasons about unknown objects and their physical properties, and decides how to best interact with different objects to achieve a specific task.

“Given a task like ‘clear a path’, the robot needs to identify potentially relevant objects, figure out how objects can be grasped by determining where and with what hand shape, and decide what type of interaction to use, whether that’s lifting, moving, pushing or pulling to achieve its task,” said CCDC ARL’s Dr. Chad Kessens, Robotic Manipulation researcher.

During the recent exercise, RoMan successfully completed such as multi-object debris clearing, dragging a heavy object (e.g., tree limb), and opening a container to remove a bag.

Kessens said soldier teammates are able to give verbal commands to the robot using natural human language in a scenario.

“Planning and learning and their integration cut across all these problems. The ability of the robot to improve its performance over time and to adapt to new scenarios by building models on-the-fly while incorporating the power of model-based reasoning will be important to achieving the kinds of unstructured tasks we want to be able to do without putting soldiers in harm’s way,” Kessens said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

The Army is accelerating its efforts to field a directed-energy prototype system by fiscal year 2022, and hypersonic weapon prototype by fiscal 2023.

For starters, the Army is fast-tracking the development and procurement of the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser, or MMHEL system, said Lt. Gen L. Neil Thurgood, director of hypersonics, directed energy, space, and rapid acquisition.

The MMHEL is a 50-kilowatt laser retrofit to a modified Stryker vehicle, designed to bolster the Army’s maneuver short-range air defense capabilities, according to officials with the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.


The Army is slated to field a four-vehicle battery by late fiscal 2022, Thurgood said. The new system was meant to be maneuverable, while protecting brigade combat teams from unmanned aerial systems, rotary-wing aircraft, and rockets, artillery, and mortars.

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A 5-kilowatt laser sits on a Stryker armored vehicle.

(U.S. Army photo by Monica K. Guthrie)

Further, the Army will consolidate efforts with the other services and agencies to help improve directed-energy technology, the general added. While the Army is executing a demonstration of 100 kW high-energy laser technology on a larger vehicle platform, it is working with partners to exceed those power levels.

Hypersonic weapons

In addition to the MMHEL, the Army is expected to field a four-vehicle battery of long-range hypersonic weapon systems the following fiscal year.

Four modified heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks, or HEMTTs, will be equipped with a launcher. Each vehicle will carry two hypersonic weapon systems — totaling eight prototype rounds, Thurgood said.

“The word hypersonic has become synonymous with a particular type of missile,” he explained. “Generally, hypersonics means a missile that flies greater than Mach 5 … that is not on ballistic trajectory and maneuvers.”

The hypersonic system will also rely on the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System 7.0, which is currently available to artillerymen, for command and control.

“Within the Army’s modernization plan, there is multi-domain, and there is the Multi-Domain Task Force. Part of that task force [includes] a strategic-fires battalion and in that strategic fires battalion [will be] this [hypersonic] weapons platform,” Thurgood said.

“It is not long-range artillery. It’s a strategic weapon that will be used … for strategic outcomes,” he added.

Residual combat capability

Overall, the MMHEL and hypersonic systems will both move into the hands of soldiers as an experimental prototype with a residual combat capability, Thurgood said.

“When I say experimental prototype with residual combat capability, and as we build the battery of hypersonics … that unit will have a combat capability,” Thurgood said. “Those eight rounds are for them to use in combat if the nation decides they want to apply that in a combat scenario. The same [applies] for directed energy.”

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

US Army rocket artillery.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Dustin D. Biven)

In addition to providing an immediate combat capability, soldiers will have an opportunity to learn the new equipment and understand the “tactics, techniques, and procedures” required to use each system during combat, the general added.

Further, the Army will also receive valuable feedback to help shape potential broader production of each system after they transition to a program of record.

The Army has already initiated the contract process to develop the prototype hypersonic systems. Senior leaders plan to award vendors by August, Thurgood said.

With both systems, “what we’re trying to create [is an] an opportunity for a decision, based on actual use by a soldier,” he said. “Does this thing do … what we needed it to do? Do we want to continue and make it better, or do we want to have other choices?”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Jeep: The necessity of innovation

Long before the development of JEEP prototypes, soldiers nicknamed a tractor that hauled guns as a JEEP because that’s all they had available to move equipment and soldiers. As the U.S. prepared to enter WWII, we were faced with a super slow logistics issue – mules, horses, and traditional battlefield movements were just too slow for the modern battlefield. Since U.S. military planners knew that eventually, the U.S. was going to have to get involved with WWII, they quickly realized that the only way to ensure a victory would be to revisit their approach to troop and equipment movement.


We had no guns or equipment 

The Army was ill-equipped to handle entering a global conflict, thanks in part to neglect, budget constrictions and typical Washington bureaucracy. Remember that for our role in WWI, we had to borrow howitzers from the French because we were so underfunded and had no arsenal or weapons stockpiles. It was just about the same setting for WWII, only with a greater sense of impending doom.

Horses and mules were just too slow 

Just like planners in WWI recognized that light infantry fire wasn’t going to win a trench war, planners in WWII quickly saw that the reliance on horses and mules to transport equipment was antiquated and slow.

WWI showed strategists that four-wheel trucks and motorized transports were not only faster at moving across the battlefield but could move troops and weaponry in and out with greater consistency. This not only could save lives, but it could save morale, too. After all, who wants to be stranded in the middle of a field somewhere?

A committee is formed

In true Army fashion, a committee was formed to study the “need” for light motorized transport vehicles that could support infantry and cavalry troops. The Army concluded that there were no vehicles available on the civilian market that could hold up in combat – nothing was durable and rugged enough to handle the terrain or the weight load of the equipment that needed to be moved.

The Army hoped to find a small go-anywhere recon scout car that might help deliver battlefield messages, transmit orders, and function as a weapons carrier. But the commission failed to locate a vehicle that could support the needs of the Army, so they turned to the civilian sector to see if any American companies could design this kind of vehicle from scratch.

In June 1940, 134 bid invitations were sent to companies that might be able to design the kind of vehicle that would suit the Army’s needs. The bid was on a short deadline, though, since we were fighting a war, and gave the companies just one month to come up with something. That’s tough even by today’s standards but almost impossible in 1940 before the computerization of draft work. Because of the short deadline, just two companies responded to the Army’s call – American Bantam and Willys-Overland. These were the only two companies still selling four-cylinder vehicles, and they both specialized in selling cars smaller than the (then) American standard size car. Both companies were relatively small and on the brink of bankruptcy, proving the old adage, “Necessity breeds innovation.”

Bantam gets the contract for a few weeks 

The drawings submitted by Willys-Overland weren’t nearly as comprehensive as the plans provided by Bantam Car Company. So Bantam was awarded the contract, and an order for 70 vehicles was placed. However, Bantam was such a small company that the Army worried it wouldn’t be able to meet the military’s needs once the war effort ramped up. So, while they loved the concept that Bantam presented, the Army ultimately sought out Ford Motor Company and reinvented Willys-Overland to rejoin the mission.

Both companies, Ford and Willy-Overland, watched the Bantam car’s testing and were allowed to examine the vehicle and the blueprints. Then, both designed their own vehicle based on Bantam’s designs.

Testing took forever but one company emerged 

All three companies submitted new designs, and their vehicles were tested over and over, with little tweaks made along the way. By the end of the trials, each company has a finalized design to submit for bidding. Ford called its vehicle the GP, Willys-Overland called theirs the Willys MA, and Bantam came up with the very original name of the BRC-40 and the MK II. In all, thousands of prototypes were built, tested, and discarded.

The prototypes shared the same military designations for a truck, ¼ ton, 4×4. No one knows precisely where the word “JEEP” comes from, but since all of the Army vehicles are General Purpose, and since soldiers love a good acronym, it’s more than likely that someone along the way slurred the GP into what we now know as JEEP.

In 1941, on being interviewed by a journalist about the type of vehicle he was driving, a soldier replied that it was a JEEP and the name stuck. Willys-Overland, whose vehicle the soldier happened to be driving, quickly trademarked the name. During the war, JEEPS were modified to operate in desert conditions, plow snow, and function as a fire truck, ambulance, and tractor. They were capable of laying cable, operating as generators, and could be reconfigured to become a small railroad engine. JEEPS were small enough to be loaded onto aircraft, could fit in gliders, and were a significant part of the D-Day invasion.

As we know them now, JEEPS are as much a part of military culture as they are part of regular driving vehicles. Who knew that their predecessors could have been reconfigured to be so useful for wartime battlefield operations?

Articles

How the P-51 Mustang almost became the A-10

The P-51 Mustang had a long combat career – seeing action in the Soccer War between El Salvador and Honduras over two decades after the end of World War II. In fact, the Mustang was serving with the Dominican Republic well into the 1980s.


But it nearly made a comeback with the United States Air Force – long after it was retired and sold off after the Korean War. Not for the air superiority role it held in World War II, but as a counter-insurgency plane.

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB
PA-48 Enforcer during Air Force trials in the 1980s. (USAF photo)

But in the years after World War II, the Mustang underwent a metamorphosis of sorts. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that the P-51 line was sold by North American to a company known as Cavalier Aircraft Corporation. That company turned the one-time air-superiority fighter into a fighter-bomber, giving the plane eight hardpoints, with a usual warload of six five-inch rockets and two 1,000-pound bombs.

But the design could be pushed further, and Cavalier soon sold the Mustang to Piper Aviation. That company decided to try putting a turboprop engine in the Mustang airframe. That and other modifications lead to the PA-48 Enforcer. By the time they were done, the Enforcer had some Mustang lineage, but was ready for modern counter-insurgency work. It had GPU-5 gun pods – in essence, the Mustang would have two guns delivering BRRRRRT!

This bomb is heavier than the MOAB
The PA-48 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (USAF photo)

The Air Force kicked the tires around the Vietnam War, but didn’t buy any. Not that you could blame ’em – there were plenty of A-1 Skyraiders around.

But in 1981, Congress pushed the Air Force into ordering two prototypes. After some testing in 1983, the Air Force decided to pass. One Enforcer found its way to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB. The other is at Edwards Air Force Base.

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