The Russian-made Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter is affectionately called the “flying tank” for its ability to take hits and keep flying. The nickname is also an homage to the World War II-era Soviet Sturmovik ground-attack aircraft, which was equally hard to knock out of the sky.
Its fuselage is surrounded by thick armor plates capable of taking .50 cal rounds from all angles. The cockpit sits on a titanium tub—much like the A-10 Thunderbolt‘s design—and protected by bullet-proof windshields.
Its flexible design allows the helicopter to perform fire support and infantry transport missions. Depending on the variant, the flying tank is armed with an incredible arsenal, including:
anti-tank guided missiles
machine gun pods
munitions dispenser pods
mine dispenser pods
conventional bomb pods
The gunship entered the Soviet Air Force in 1972 and continues to serve in more than 30 nations around the world as the Mi-25 and Mi-35 export versions. This video perfectly shows why this weapons system is still relevant on today’s battlefields.
CAMP PENDLETON, California — US Marine Corps 60 mm mortar teams can drop explosive rounds on their enemies from over 1,000 meters away, and Insider recently had the opportunity to watch them do it.
During a visit to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Insider observed a mortar crew firing off multiple rounds using an M224 60 mm light mortar, which is a high-angle-of-fire weapon that can be drop- or trigger-fired.
The training was carried out as part of the latest iteration of Iron Fist, an exercise that involves various training evolutions leading up to a large amphibious assault.
Cpl. Kevin Rodriguez, an experienced mortarman who said he chose the mortar because he wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, walked Insider through the ins and outs of firing a mortar and what it takes.
60 mm mortars are typically handled by a crew of Marines.
Mortar crews have a gunner, an assisting gunner (squad leader), and an ammunition man. The crew is often supported by a forward observer and a fire direction center.
When they’re on the move, the three main crew members divide the weapon components, like the gun, the bipod, the sight, and the baseplate, among themselves with no one person carrying the entire weapon.
A crew can set up or tear down a mortar in two minutes.
In combat, the team works together to put fire down range. Standard operating procedure is that the fire direction center first passes range data to the gunner, who puts that into the sight and manipulates the weapon accordingly.
The ammo bearer then hands a prepared round to the assisting gunner, who drops the live round on command. Teams practice every day for months to develop a flawless rhythm.
The 60 mm mortar can be fired on the ground or in a handheld configuration.
A lot of different considerations go into firing this weapon.
There is the gun. “You can breathe on it the wrong way, and it will be completely off,” Rodriguez told Insider.
There is the round. Mortar crews can set it to burst in the air, explode on impact, or detonate a few seconds after impact, giving it the ability to penetrate a bunker.
Then there is figuring out exactly how to get the round to the target, and that involves different range calculations, as well as considerations like temperature, wind speed, and drift, among other things.
Weather is also an important factor. Rain, even light rain, for example, can result in wet charges, making a misfire or the firing of a short round more likely and risking a friendly-fire situation. There are covers to help protect the weapon and the rounds from the elements.
There are two different methods Marine mortar teams use to effectively target an enemy.
Range calculations are estimations at best. An experienced mortarman can eyeball the distance to his target, but it tends to take a few shots to get rounds falling in the right spot.
The quickest and most effective targeting approach is called bracketing. Mortar crews fire behind or in front of a target and then split the distance in half until rounds are coming down on the target.
Or, as Insider watched a crew do at Camp Pendleton, Marine mortar crews can use creeping fire to target an enemy, inching closer to the target with each round. This is not as fast as bracketing and requires more rounds, about five or six.
But creeping fire can be a pretty good option when you’re dealing with a lot of dead space, terrain features that make range estimates harder.
A mortar section usually has three guns delivering damage to a large area.
Mortars set the conditions for other units by keeping bigger threats at bay.
The mortar crews are tasked with “taking out the bigger targets, or at least keeping their heads down long enough for the machine guns to start suppressing enemies,” Rodriguez said. “The [other infantry units] are more the cleanup. They can move from one place to another.”
During the training at Camp Pendleton, the mortars practiced pinning down light armor while crews with M240 machine guns put fire on targets from a nearby ridge.
The mortars and the machine guns cleared the way for several infantry squads to maneuver into position. Each mortar round has a casualty radius of about 25 meters.
We’ve all seen the cool James Bond clip where Q hands over a Walther PPK/S that can only be activated by 007’s palm print .
If a bad guy tries to pick it up and shoot the superspy, no joy.
For years the idea of a so-called “smart” gun like Bond’s has been largely out of reach for anyone but the covert operators of fiction, but that hasn’t stopped the government from trying to make one for real life. And the feds just took the first step in what could eventually be a handgun fielded to law enforcement and the military that only shoots for an authorized user.
As part of a series of executive actions on gun control released in January, President Barack Obama ordered the Department of Justice to look into what a smart gun should look like for military troops and federal agents. His intention was to deploy government resources to push the technology beyond what the civilian market has yielded in hopes of making smart gun technology available for most handguns.
“As the single largest purchaser of firearms in the country, the Federal Government has a unique opportunity to advance this research and ensure that smart gun technology becomes a reality,” the White House said. “In connection with these efforts, the departments will consult with other agencies that acquire firearms and take appropriate steps to consider whether including such technology in specifications for acquisition of firearms would be consistent with operational needs.”
The Armatix iP1 is the first so-called “smart gun” available for consumers. It’s chambered in 22 LR and requires a special watch for the shooter to active the gun.
In July, researchers with the National Institute of Justice released its long-awaited specifications for what a smart handgun should be able to do and how its safety features should work. The requirements represent a high technological bar for military and law enforcement smart gun use, including overrides if the system is jammed, near instant activation and a 10,000 rounds before failure limit.
The Justice Department described “the potential benefits of advanced gun safety technology, but noted that additional work was required before this technology is ready for widespread adoption by law enforcement agencies,” the NIJ report said. “In particular, the report stressed the importance of integrating this technology into a firearm’s design without compromising the reliability durability, and accuracy that officers expect from their service weapons.”
The NIJ specs essentially call for a polymer-framed, striker fired 9mm or .40 SW handgun without any external safety. Basically, the specs point to a Glock 19 or similar modern handgun when it comes to ergonomics, size, and function.
Researchers said the smart gun should able to be programmed to work only for authorized users, could be activated with a wearable device such as a ring or bracelet, and should be able to shoot even if the smart safety fails.
But the researchers went on to call for functions that go well beyond what current technology allows, including that “the security device shall not increase the time required by the operator to grasp, draw from a holster and fire the pistol as a pistol of the same design that is not equipped with the security device.”
That means zero lag time for the pistol to draw, authorize and fire in a split second.
The smart gun will also have to detect and alert the shooter if there is an attempt to jam the system and be able override the safety and fire despite the countermeasures. And the gun must be able to fire with both a bare or gloved hand, making it tough for technology using biometric sensors to read fingerprints.
Most importantly, the smart gun will have to endure 10,000 rounds with 2,000 draws between any failure. Engineers who build systems like small lights and lasers that attach to handguns have said one of the biggest technological challenges to building miniature electronics is making them tough enough to withstand the repeated recoil of a pistol.
Skeptics have long argued smart guns insert an unreliable technology into a system that’s build to work every time at a moment’s notice and that forcing anyone to use an electronic safety on a handgun could mean the difference between life and death.
“Generally speaking, additional complexity brings increased risk of malfunction and error,” the Justice Department has said. “The types of firearms most commonly used by law enforcement and the broader American public … are relatively straightforward mechanical devices, and manufacturers have faced significant engineering challenges as they seek to seamlessly integrate electronics into firearms’ operations.
But the White House has signaled its intention to push the technology to the field as soon as possible, and the latest NIJ report shows just how solid that technology has to be for troops and law enforcement to trust it with their lives.
The U.S. has long led the world in stealth technologies, and for a time, it looked as though America’s love for all things low-observable would extend all the way into rotorcraft like the RAH-66 Comanche Helicopter.
Despite being only a decade away from ruin, the Soviet Union remained a palpable threat to the security and interests of the United States at the beginning of the 1980s. However, elements of America’s defense apparatus were beginning to look a bit long in the tooth after decades of posturing, deterrence, and the occasional proxy war.
With the Soviet Union was believed to still be funneling a great deal of money into their own advanced military projects, the U.S. Army set to work on finding a viable replacement for their fleets of Vietnam-era light attack and reconnaissance helicopters in its forward-looking Light Helicopter Experimental (LHX) program. The program’s intended aim was fairly simple despite the complexity of the effort: To field a single rotorcraft that could replace the UH-1, AH-1, OH-6, and OH-58 helicopters currently parked in Army hangars.
By the end of the decade, the Army announced that two teams, Boeing–Sikorsky and Bell–McDonnell Douglas, had met the requirements for their proposal, and they were given contracts to develop their designs further. In 1991, Boeing–Sikorsky won out over its competition and was awarded $2.8 billion to begin production on six prototype helicopters.
The need for a stealth helicopter
The Boeing–Sikorsky helicopter, dubbed the RAH-66 Comanche, was intended to serve as a reconnaissance and light attack platform. Its mission sets would include flying behind enemy lines in contested airspace to identify targets for more powerful attack helicopters or ground units, but the RAH-66 wouldn’t have to back away from a fight.
In order to meet the Army’s demands, the Comanche would need to be able to engage lightly armored targets as well as identify tougher ones for engagement from more powerful AH-64 Apaches.
Most importantly, the RAH-66 needed to be more survivable than the Army’s existing scout helicopters in highly contested airspace, which meant the new Comanche helicopter would need to borrow design elements from existing fixed-wing stealth platforms like the F-117 Nighthawk to defeat air defense systems and missiles fired from other helicopters.
The Boeing–Sikorsky team quickly set about building the program’s first two prototypes, leveraging the sort of angular radar-reflecting surfaces that gave the Nighthawk its enigmatic visual profile. Those surfaces themselves were made out of radar-absorbing composite materials to further reduce the RAH-66’s radar signature. The stealth helicopter also managed engine exhaust by funneling it through its shrouded tail section, reducing its infrared (or heat) signature to further limit detection.
Its specially designed rotor blades were canted downward to reduce the amount of noise the helicopter made in flight. Finally, a full suite of radar warning systems, electronic warfare systems, and chaff and flare dispensers would help keep the RAH-66’s crew safe while they rode behind Kevlar and graphite armor plating that could withstand direct hits from heavy machine gunfire.
The result of all this technology was a stealth helicopter said to have a radar cross-section that was 250 times smaller than the OH-58 Kiowa helicopter it would replace, along with an infrared signature reduced by a whopping 75%. It wasn’t just tough to spot on radar or hit with heat-seeking missiles either. The Comanche helicopter was also said to produce just half the noise of a traditional helicopter. While the rotorcraft could still be heard as it approached, that reduced signature would mean enemy combatants would have less time to prepare before the Comanche closed in on them.
The RAH-66 was about more than stealth
With the Comanche’s stealth technology spoken for, next came the armament. The stealth helicopter was expected to engage both ground and air targets in a combat zone, and its munitions reflected that goal. Like the stealth fighters to come, the Comanche limited its radar cross-section by carrying its weapons internally, including a retractable 20-millimeter XM301 Gatling cannon and space inside the weapons bays for six Hellfire missiles. If air superiority had been established and stealth was no longer a pressing concern, additional external pylons could carry eight more Hellfires.
However, if the Comanche was sent out to hunt for other attack and reconnaissance helicopters behind enemy lines, it could wreak havoc with 12 AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles. Again, with air superiority established, an additional 16 Stinger missiles could be mounted on external pylons.
The pilot and weapons officer onboard would have utilized a combination of cockpit displays and helmet-mounted systems similar to the more advanced heads up and augmented reality displays found in today’s advanced stealth aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
It was equipped with a long-range Forward-Looking Infrared Sensor to help spot targets, as well as an optional Longbow radar that could be mounted above the rotors to allow the pilot to peak just the radar over hills or buildings–giving the crew important situational awareness of the battlefield ahead while limiting exposure of the rotorcraft itself. Once the Comanche spotted a target, a laser could be used to lock on for its onboard weapons systems.
The RAH-66 Comanche’s air-to-air credibility was further bolstered by the platform’s speed and agility. With a top speed just shy of 200 miles per hour and enough acrobatic prowess to nearly pull off loop-de-loops, the Comanche was fast, agile, and powerful… but by the time the first two Comanche prototypes were flying, it was also widely seen as unnecessary.
A warrior without a war
The first Comanche prototype took to the skies in January of 1996, five years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The stealth helicopter had been envisioned as a necessary weapon amid the constant defense posturing of the Cold War, but without the looming threat of a technologically capable geopolitical boogeyman, the Comanche began to look more like a pile of problems, rather than solutions.
The Comanche was truly forward-reaching in its capabilities, but as is so often the case with first-of-its-kind platforms, that reach came with a long list of cost overruns and technological setbacks. The helicopter had proven to be far heavier than anticipated; So heavy, in fact, that some wondered if the stealth helicopter would even get off the ground with its intended weapons payload. And its weight was just the beginning of the Comanche’s headaches.
Just about every system intended for use aboard the RAH-66 met with setback after setback. Bugs in the software meant to manage the helicopter’s operation proved difficult–and expensive–to root out, the 3-barrel cannon wasn’t as accurate as intended, the target detection system failed to meet expectations, and efforts to both reduce weight and pull more power of the Comanche’s intended T800 turboshaft engines were both slow going.
Each of these issues could have been resolved with enough time and money, but the U.S. Army was already getting tired of waiting for the Comanche to live up to its hype. Then, September 11, 2001 shifted America’s defense priorities for decades to come. A year after the terror attack that would prompt a shift toward anti-terror campaigns, the Army reduced their order for Comanches by almost half, and just two years later, the program itself was canceled.
After decades of development and nearly $7 billion spent on the Comanche program, it came to a close with just two operational prototypes ever reaching the sky.
The Comanche’s life after death
While originally slated for a production run of 1,213 RAH-66 Comanche helicopters, the U.S. Army only ever took possession of the original two prototypes… but that doesn’t mean the program was a complete loss. In fact, among Defense Department insiders, the RAH-66 Comanche program is still seen in a fairly positive light. The difference in perception of the Comanche’s success or lack thereof could potentially be attributed to elements of other classified programs the American public isn’t privy to.
In 2011, Deputy Undersecretary of the Army Thomas Hawley was asked a question by a journalist about the “failed Comanche program.”
“I wouldn’t say Comanche was necessarily a failure of procurement… Comanche was a good program.”
-Deputy Undersecretary of the Army Thomas Hawley
A similar sentiment was also registered by (now former) Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker:
“Much of what we’ve gained out of Comanche we can push forward into the tech base for future joint rotor-craft kinds of capabilities.”
-Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker
These assertions make some sense, but are also easily dismissed thanks to the noticeable lack of stealth rotorcraft in America’s arsenal. How could lessons from the Comanche really be used if the premise itself doesn’t carry over into further programs?
One high-profile possibility came in the form of images that emerged following the raid on Osama Bid Laden’s compound that resulted in the death of the terrorist leader… As well as the loss of one highly specialized Blackhawk helicopter. Immediately following the announcement of Bin Laden’s death, images began to surface online of a very unusual tail section that remained intact after American special operators destroyed the downed helicopter to ensure its technology couldn’t fall into enemy hands.
The tail is clearly not the same as the tail sections of most Blackhawk helicopters, and its angular design certainly suggests that it must have come from a helicopter that was intended to limit its radar return. Eventually, stories about America’s Special Operations Stealth Blackhawks, or Stealth Hawks, started making the rounds on the internet, and recently, the team over at The Warzone even managed to dig up a shot of just such a stealthy Blackhawk–likely a predecessor to the helicopters used in the historic raid.
While these modified stealth helicopters are not Comanches, the modifications these Blackhawks saw were almost certainly informed by lessons learned in the RAH-66 program. Reports from the scene of the raid also indicate how quiet the helicopters were as the American special operations team closed with their target. Clearly, efforts made to reduce the helicopters’ radar cross section, infrared signature, and noise level were all in play during the Bin Laden raid, just as they were within the Comanche prototypes.
And then there’s Sikorsky’s latest light tactical helicopter, the S-97 Raider. Its visual cues are certainly reminiscent of the company’s efforts in developing the RAH-66, and its performance is too. The S-97 Raider has been clocked at speeds in excess of 250 miles per hour–faster even than the proposed Comanche’s top speed–and like the Comanche, the Raider is nimble to boot.
The RAH-66 Comanche stealth helicopter may have been a bit too forward reaching for its time, but the lessons learned throughout its development and testing have clearly found new life in other advanced programs. With defense officials increasingly touting the value of stealth to increase combat aircraft survivability, it seems certain that we’ll see another stealth helicopter enter service at some point; And when we do, it will almost certainly have benefitted from the failures and successes of the Comanche.
As tensions grow in the South China Sea due to Communist China’s aggressive posture, other countries are trying to build up their military forces. One such country is Vietnam, which has a bit of history with China that includes a naval battle fought nearly 45 years ago.
In 1974, Chinese Communist and South Vietnamese naval forces fought a battle off the Paracel Islands. The South Vietnamese lost both the battle and a corvette while China took the Paracels. At the time, the major surface combatants for the Vietnam People’s Navy were five Petya-class light corvettes, World War II-era destroyer escorts, and eight Osa II-class missile boats armed with the SS-N-2c Styx anti-ship missile. These were older designs and the Chinese simply had more capable vessels.
Today, the situation has changed. Vietnam took advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union to get big upgrades at bargain prices, including the acquisition of six diesel-electric subs. But the big buy was the purchase of a half-dozen Gepard-class frigates from Russia, two of which are now in service.
The Soviets designed the Gepard in the last years of the Cold War to replace older Mirka and Petya-class light frigates. The basic weapons suite includes a SAN-4 launcher, two quad SS-N-25 launchers, a 76mm gun, two AK-630 close-in weapon systems, and two twin 21-inch torpedo tube mounts.
The Russians planned to use a single hull type for five different designs. Gepard 1 would have a helicopter deck. Gepard 2 replaced the SA-N-4 with a hangar for a Ka-27 type chopper. Gepard 3 was larger and packed a CADS-N-1. Gepard 4 was an unarmed rescue ship that still could be fitted with some weapons and, finally, Gepard 5 was a long-range patrol ship that was slower, but still carried a heavier gun armament than a littoral combat ship.
These six frigates join at least a dozen Vietnamese Tarantul-class corvettes (eight armed with SS-N-25, four with SS-N-2) and at least two BPS 500 corvettes.
If Vietnam and China fight over the Paracels again, the Vietnamese will likely put up one heck of a fight.
When the U.S. Air Force gets its first F-35 Lightning II distributed mission training simulator system at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, this spring, pilots will have the ability to fly virtually as a group, alongside other aircraft, and practice exchanging information across a network, according to Lockheed Martin officials.
“When the F-35 [deploys to] a fight, we know it’s not going by itself,” said Chauncey McIntosh, vice president of F-35 Training and Logistics for Lockheed. McIntosh spoke during the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) conference in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday.
“So by allowing our … warfighters to really bring in all the other assets in a virtual environment and practice that, to ensure they get high-end training in these dense, immersive environments, [it] is going to be a game changer,” he added.
McIntosh said the distributed mission training simulator, or DMT, has been in testing for months, and is in the final stages of integration before the technology is introduced in the spring.
“It’s not just F-35-to-F-35; it’s F-35 to anything that we can bring in a virtual reality environment to the network … regardless of where it’s located,” he said.
F-35A Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)
According to the company, the simulator “creates interoperability across military platforms for continuation training and large force exercise.”
“We expect this capability will be used in Virtual Flag exercises, allowing warfighters to practice complex training scenarios with other platforms virtually for integrated training operations,” Lockheed said in a statement to Military.com.
The Air Force will be the first to use the technology, with the expectation that it will continue to be rolled out “throughout the F-35 enterprise” in the future, Lockheed officials added.
The Defense Department has put an emphasis on group training, with other services attempting their own digital training initiatives.
For example, a priority for the Army has been the synthetic training environment, also known as the STE.
(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
Engineers collect data to reconstruct cities, mountainsides, bunkers etc. to more accurately represent what soldiers will experience in the STE, thus getting a more authentic representation of what they may face in combat.
The plan is for the STE to develop to a point that squads can operate together in training, facing virtual high-end threats.
However, it’s unclear how soon that level of training will be realized.
During the annual Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in October, Maj. Gen. Maria Gervais, the STE cross-functional team director, said elements of the STE were in jeopardy given ongoing negotiations between lawmakers over the next fiscal budget.
“Once we see the final number, we’ll understand the impact” on making STE operational, Gervais said at the time.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Some artillery pieces become very famous. Some of the most notable are the French 75 of World War I, or the Napoleons used during the Civil War, or the German 88. But some are less well-known, but packed a big punch – or long range – of their own.
One such artillery piece is the M107 self-propelled howitzer. This 175mm artillery piece entered service in 1962, alongside the M110, an eight-inch self-propelled howitzer. It could fire shells as far as 25 miles away – and this long range proved very handy during the Vietnam War.
The M107 is not like the M109 self-propelled howitzer in that it is open, and lacks both a turret and on-board ammunition storage. As such, it needed its ammo vehicles nearby to provide shells. The M107 was fast for an armored vehicle, with a top speed of 50 miles per hour, and could go almost 450 miles on a single tank of fuel.
The M107s used the same chassis as the M110s. In fact, Olive-Drab.com reported that the two self-propelled howitzers could exchange guns, thus a M107 could become a M110, and vice versa. This was used to good effect in Vietnam, where the barrels could be swapped as needed at firebases. Israel also used the M017 for decisive effect in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, destroying a number of Syrian and Egyptian surface-to-air missile batteries, and even shelling Damascus.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the M107 fired only one type of conventional round, the M347 high-explosive round. The gun didn’t see service long past the Vietnam War. The M107 had a long reach, but it was not accurate – rounds like the laser-guided Copperhead or the GPS-guided Excalibur had not been developed yet.
An extended barrel for the M110 was developed, and in the late 1970s many M107s were converted to the M110A2 standard. The M110s eventually were replaced by the M207 MLRS.
During the last years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was debuting two aircraft intended to hit ground targets on a tactical level. The Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot was one of these planes, the Soviet (and later, Russian) answer to the A-10. The other plane was the MiG-27 Flogger, which had some tank-killing power in its own right.
How could the MiG-27, a modification of the MiG-23 Flogger (which was designed to fight other fighters) be such an effective option against tanks? Well, one answer is in the gun — and as the A-10 has demonstrated, the right gun can do a hell of a lot of damage to armor on the ground.
The United States chose the GAU-8 as its tank-killer, pairing it with 1,174 30mm rounds to deliver that sweet, iconic BRRRT. Russia, on the other hand, opted for the GSh-6-30. According to RussianAmmo.org, this gun fires a staggering 5,000 rounds per minute. The only problem here is that the MiG-27 Flogger could only carry 260 rounds for this gun — which is enough for all of three seconds of firing time.
The GSh-6-30 cannon is the heart of the MiG-27 Flogger.
(Photo by VargaA)
The Flogger didn’t just have a gun, though. The World Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament notes that MiG-27 Flogger also could carry missiles, like the AS-7 Kerry and the AS-14 Kedge, for attacking ground targets. This platform could also haul up to a dozen 250-kilogram bombs, six 500-kilogram bombs, or four UB-32-57 rocket pods. The rocket pods were particularly lethal — each pod holds 32 S-5 rockets, armed with one of nine warheads, one of which was an extremely potent anti-tank option.
A MiG-27 taking off.
(Photo by Rob Schleiffert)
The MiG-27 has retired from the service of Russia and former Soviet republics. India, however, still has this plane in service and there are a dozen more in Kazakh service.
Learn more about this lethal Russian attack plane that could kill tanks in the video below.
When you hear the term ‘vigilante,’ you think of someone who self-righteously takes it upon themselves to deliver violence to the bad guys. But there was one vigilante that made its mark not by bringing death and destruction to those who’ve earned it, but by spying.
The North American A-5 Vigilante was originally designed to be a nuclear-attack plane that would eject a nuclear bomb, attached to a pair of fuel tanks, out of the plane’s rear. The plane could also carry some bombs on the wings, but it’s intended purpose was to deliver a nuke from high altitude at Mach 2.
An RA-5C lands on USS Saratoga (CV 60). Only 156 A-5s of all variants were built, most as the RA-5C.
Well, that plan didn’t pan out — the program was marred with complications. First of all, the bomb and fuel tanks would sometimes come out when the Vigilante was launched from an aircraft carrier’s catapult. If you were to make a list of things you didn’t want to happen, accidentally dumping a live nuke on a carrier deck would rank pretty damn high.
Other times, the system simply wouldn’t eject the bomb as expected or the bomb/fuel tank package wouldn’t stay stable. Meanwhile, the ballistic missile submarine was coming into its own, provingto be a far more reliable nuclear delivery system.
Now, most projects characterized bythese kinds of problems would be in for a world of hurt, but the A-5’s speed and high-altitude performance instead gave it a second life — as a reconnaissance plane.
While it is flying sedately now, the RA-5C was capable of going very fast and very high.
The RA-5C became the definitive version. It dispensed with the bomb and the weapons bay was used for fuel tanks. Catapult launches, though, still sometimes meant the tanks got left behind, starting a fire. But this plane used cameras, infrared sensors, and electronic warfare sensors to monitor enemy activities.
A total of 156 A-5s were built over the production run. Of those, 91 were built as RA-5Cs — 49 other models were later converted to that variant. The plane left service in 1979. Though some consider it a disappointment — the A-3 Skywarrior family of planes outlasted it by over a decade — but none can deny that it was an excellent reconnaissance aircraft.
Learn more about this vigilante turned spy in the video below!
November 2019, the US Navy unveiled the official seal for the future aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, which was officially launched on Oct. 29, 2019 — three months ahead of schedule.
The Kennedy will be christened in Newport News, Virginia, on Dec. 7, 2019, and even though it likely won’t be commissioned into service until 2020, the carrier’s seal reveals what naval aviation will look like aboard the Kennedy in the decades to come.
The seal, which is meant to honor Kennedy, his Navy service, and his vision for space exploration, depicts several of the aircraft that will operate on the carrier.
In front of the superstructure is what appears to be an E-2 Hawkeye early-warning aircraft, its wings folded back. Next to it, on the carrier’s bow, are F/A-18 Super Hornet jets, while an F-35C Lightning II stealth fighter and an H-60 helicopter variant are on the other side of the deck.
The crest for the Ford-class aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy.
(US Navy graphic)
Between the F-35C and the helicopter is a new addition to the carrier air wing: an MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle, its wings folded above it.
In an email, Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, public affairs officer for Naval Air Force Atlantic, confirmed that the MQ-25 was pictured on the seal, which “displays future naval aviation capabilities that the aircraft carrier will likely support throughout its estimated 50 year service life.”
The MQ-25’s inclusion means the Navy “firmly expects UAVs will play a key role in directly supporting the primary combat function of the carrier, which will still be conducted by Super Hornets, Growlers, and the F-35,” said Timothy Choi, a Ph.D. student at the University of Calgary’s Center for Military and Strategic Studies.
“Contrast the MQ-25’s presence with the absence of other carrier aircraft, such as the C-2 or its replacement, the CMV-22, that don’t play a combat role,” added Choi, who first spotted the MQ-25 on the seal when it was released.
Boeing’s MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueling tanker, being tested at Boeing’s facility in St. Louis, Missouri.
(Boeing photo by Eric Shindelbower)
A heavyweight champion
The Navy awarded Boeing an 5 million contract for the Stingray in August 2018, and one of four development models made the drone’s first flight in September. The first of four development models is expected to be delivered in fiscal year 2021, followed by planned initial operational capability for the aircraft in 2024.
In all, the Navy expects to get 72 MQ-25s and for a total cost of about billion, according to James Geurts, Navy assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, who called it “a hallmark acquisition program.”
The MQ-25 is a refueling drone, meant to ease the workload of the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornets, which currently conduct both combat missions as well as refueling operations, using detachable tanks.
The drone would also allow carrier aircraft to fly longer and farther, conducting more missions and putting more space between the carrier and the growing variety of weapons that threaten it.
A dedicated carrier-based aerial refueling tanker could allow carrier aircraft “to reach [combat air patrol] stations 1,000 [nautical miles] from the carrier and conduct long-range attacks to respond promptly to aggression while keeping the carrier far enough away from threat areas to reduce the density of air and missile threats” to a level the carrier strike group’s defense could handle, according to a 2018 report on the carrier air wing by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Boeing and the US Navy’s MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueler during its first test flight, Sept. 19, 2019.
The Stingray “gives us additional reach, just like that of heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali,” Adm. James Foggo, head of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, said on a recent edition of his On the Horizon podcast.
The Navy may eventually ask for more than range, however.
The CSBA report also recommended redesignating the MQ-25 as a “multi-mission UAV,” modifying later versions to conduct attack, electronic warfare, or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions where appropriate.
Those modified MQ-25s “would be able to complement [unmanned combat aerial vehicles] when the risk is acceptable, providing the future [carrier air wing] a potentially less expensive option for surveillance, EW, or attack missions in less stressing environments,” the report said.
But the Stingray is still a long way from joining the fleet, and what it can do when it gets there, if it gets there, remains to be seen.
“The positioning of the MQ-25 into the background and off to the side might also be interpreted as a certain hesitancy” by the Navy, Choi said. “In the event UAVs turn out not to be as successful as expected, it can be easily ignored and the seal is not burdened with a white elephant sitting front and center on the deck.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
By far, the most coveted and “forgotten to return” item that’s ever been issued to members of the military is the woobie. Maybe you’ve forgotten that your most cherished bit of military memorabilia is actually a poncho liner … since so few people ever actually used it for its intended purpose. The woobie designers intended for you to use the little holes on the sides to tie it together, but let’s be serious – no one has ever done that. It’s probably a really excellent poncho liner, but chances are you’re never going to use it for its manufactured purpose. Instead, let’s take a look at some great ways to use your woobie besides using it as a blanket.
History of the woobie
But first, do you even know why it’s called a woobie? The real origin story is likely lost to history, but most people tend to think it’s because of the phrase, “Because you would be cold without it.” “Would be” eventually evolved into woobie, and a military star was born.
The truth is that the woobie history stretches back even further to the 1850s when ponchos were first in use by the American military. Forces assigned to patrol the Western Plains were issued ponchos to keep them warm. These ponchos were made from “gutta-percha muslin,” which was muslin fabric coated with rubber. The rubber coating made the poncho waterproof but also made it hard to fold.
During the Civil War, these rubber coated ponchos were standard issue. Ponchos were used as both waterproof groundsheets and to keep dry.
By 1900, ponchos were made from rubberized canvas, which was great for weatherproofing, but really freaking heavy.
During WWI and WWII, service members used ponchos because they could protect both the pack and the wearer as well as serving as a makeshift shelter in the field.
The 1950s saw ponchos made from synthetic fabrics, and this is when the earliest predecessor of what we know as the woobie began to emerge. During the Vietnam War, the standard-issue Army wool blanket was unsuited for the terrain and climate, since it got really heavy when wet. The woobie made its first field appearance sometime between 1962 and 1964.
Okay, enough history. Here are three fun things you can do with your woobie.
1. Repurpose as a robe
Find a seamstress and make your woobie into the coziest robe ever. Trust us when we say you’ll never want to take it off. If you’re not the robe-wearing type, what about making it into the warmest hoodie ever? Or you could go all out and have it repurposed into a light jacket, thereby getting pretty darn close to the woobie’s intended original use.
Use it as a tent divider if you’re still keen on camping. That is if being in the field wasn’t enough camping to last a lifetime. Woobies make perfect tent dividers to section out space inside a large tent or to create rooms if you’re camping with your family.
Let your cat or dog appropriate it and use it as their new favorite bed. It smells like you, it’s soft, warm, and it makes for the perfect traveling pet bed because it’s so compact. It’s especially useful for the inside of kennels if you have to move since the woobie is waterproof and dustproof.
A few years back, the Marine Corps unveiled the Woobie 2.0, and four years on, we’re still smiling about its enhanced benefits. This upgrade includes the things service members have been asking for – better insulation, a way to keep various tie-down points in place, and the addition of parachute cord loops. The latest version also includes a heavy-duty reversible zipper to make the woobie into the ultimate cozy cocoon. Woobie 2.0 doesn’t have as much stitching as the older version because the insulation is so much better. But to prevent rips, some stitches run down the length of the woobie.
We’re obsessed with the new zipper function and like all the old times always said, these new kids don’t know how good they’ve got it. From its humble beginnings in the earliest days of the American military to the jungles of Vietnam, the woobie truly is the greatest military invention ever fielded.
The US Army is developing precision-guided 155mm rounds that are longer range than existing shells and able to conduct combat missions in a GPS-denied war environment.
The Precision Guidance Kit Modernization (PGK-M) is now being developed to replace the standard PGK rounds, which consist of an unguided 155 round with a GPS-fuse built into it; the concept with the original PGK, which first emerged roughly 10 years ago, was to bring a greater amount of precision to historically unguided artillery fire.
Now, Army developers with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal are taking the technology to a new level by improving upon the range, accuracy, and functionality of the weapon. Perhaps of greatest importance, the emerging PGK-M shell is engineered such that it can still fire with range and accuracy in a war environment where GPS guidance and navigation technology is compromised or destroyed.
The emerging ammunition will be able to fire from standard 155mm capable weapons such as an Army M777 lightweight towed howitzer and M109 howitzer.
“PGK-M will provide enhanced performance against a broad spectrum of threats. In addition, PGK-M will be interoperable with the Army’s new long-range artillery projectiles, which are currently in parallel development,” Audra Calloway, spokeswoman for the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, told Warrior Maven.
BAE Systems is among several vendors currently developing PGK-M with the Army’s Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium. BAE developers say the kits enable munitions to make in-flight course corrections even in GPS-jammed environments.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica A. DuVernay)
“Our experience with munitions handling, gun launch shock, interior ballistics, and guidance and fire control uniquely positions us to integrate precision technology into the Army’s artillery platforms,” David Richards, Program Manager, Strategic Growth Initiatives for our Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions group, BAE Systems, told Warrior Maven in a statement.
This technological step forward is quite significant for the Army, as it refines its attack technologies in a newly-emerging threat environment. The advent of vastly improved land-fired precision weaponry began about 10 years ago during the height of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. GPS-guided 155m Excalibur rounds and the Army’s GPS and inertial measurement unit weapon, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, burst onto the war scene as a way to give commanders more attack options.
Traditional suppressive fire, or “area weapons” as they have been historically thought of, were not particularly useful in combat against insurgents. Instead, since enemies were, by design, blended among civilians, Army attack options had little alternative but to place the highest possible premium upon precision guidance.
GMLRS, for example, was used to destroy Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, and Excalibur had its combat debut in the 2007, 2008 timeframe. With a CEP of roughly 1-meter Excalibur proved to be an invaluable attack mechanism against insurgents. Small groups of enemy fighters, when spotted by human intel or overhead ISR, could effectively be attack without hurting innocents or causing what military officials like to call “collateral damage.” PGK was initially envision as a less expensive, and also less precise, alternative to Excalibur.
The rise of near peer threats, and newer technologies commensurate with larger budgets and fortified military modernization ambitions, have created an entirely new war environment confronting the Army of today and tomorrow. Principle among these circumstances is, for example, China’s rapid development of Anti-Satellite, or ASAT weapons.This ongoing development, which has both the watchful eye and concern of US military strategists and war planners, underscores a larger and much discussed phenomenon – that of the United States military being entirely too reliant upon GPS for combat ops. GPS, used in a ubiquitous way across the Army and other military services, spans small force-tracking devices to JDAMs dropped from the air, and much more, of course including the aforementioned land weapons.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Veronica Mammina)
Advanced jamming techniques, electronic warfare and sophisticated cyberattacks have radically altered the combat equation – making GPS signals vulnerable to enemy disruption. Accordingly, there is a broad consensus among military developers, and industry innovators that far too many necessary combat technologies are reliant upon GPS systems. Weapons targeting, ship navigation, and even small handheld solider force-tracking systems all rely upon GPS signals to operate.
Accordingly, the Army and other services are now accelerating a number of technical measures and emerging technologies designed to create what’s called Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT), or GPS-like guidance, navigation and targeting, without actually needing satellites. This includes ad hoc software programmable radio networks, various kinds of wave-relay connectivity technologies and navigational technology able to help soldiers operate without GPS-enabled force tracking systems.
At the same time, the Army is working with the Air Force on an integrated strategy to protect satellite comms, harden networks, and also better facilitate joint-interoperability in a GPS-denied environment.
The Air Force Space strategy, for instance, is currently pursuing a multi-fold satellite strategy to include “dispersion,” “disaggregation” and “redundancy.” At the same time, the service has also identified the need to successfully network the force in an environment without GPS. Naturally, this is massively interwoven with air-ground coordination. Fighters, bombers and even drones want to use a wide range of secure sensors to both go after targets and operate with ground forces.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is working with industry to test and refine an emerging radiofrequency force-tracking technology able to identify ground forces’ location without needing to rely upon GPS.
Given all this, it is by no means insignificant that the Army seeks guided rounds able to function without GPS. Should they engage in near-peer, force-on-force mechanized ground combat against a major, technologically advanced adversary, they may indeed need to launch precision attacks across wide swaths of terrain – without GPS.
Finally, by all expectations, modern warfare is expected to increasingly become more and more dispersed across wider swaths of terrain, while also more readily crossing domains, given rapid emergence of longer range weapons and sensors.
This circumstance inevitably creates the need for both precision and long-range strike. As one senior Army weapons developer with PEO Missiles and Space told Warrior Maven in an interview — Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch — …”it is about out-ranging the enemy.”
For a long time, the AGM-84/RGM-84 Harpoon missile has been the primary anti-ship weapon of the United States military. Over the years, with improvements, it’s successfully held the line. But, as is perpetually the case, time and technological advances have forced the U.S. Military to look for a missile with even more reach and punch.
Fortunately, the answer is, in some ways, already in service. A version of the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (or JASSM) is going to replace the venerable Harpoon as the military’s primary anti-ship weapon. This new iteration is called the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (or LRASM).
The AGM-84 Harpoon served well as the main anti-ship missile of the United States Military.
The AGM-158 was primarily designed to hit land targets. The first version, fielded by the Air Force in 2004, had a range of 200 nautical miles and carried a 1,000-pound warhead. The Navy, however, held out and stuck with a Harpoon variant called the AGM-84 Standoff Land-Attack Missile (or SLAM). The latest versions of SLAM have a 150-nautical-mile range and a carry an 800-pound warhead.
The LRASM is based off of the second version the AGM-158, called the JASSM-ER, or Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range. This missile has a 600-mile reach and carries the same 1,000-pound warhead. Just as with previous iterations, however, the JASSM-ER was intended for land targets. So, how did the newest missile, designed for targets at sea, come to be?
There’s just one reason for its development — well, three reasons, technically: the Chinese Navy currently has 3 aircraft carriers in their fleet (with plans to build more). Yes, submarines can do the job against carriers – just ask USS Wasp (CV 7) what a sub can do to a carrier — but more often than not, carriers fight carriers. The Harpoon missile, as good as it is, just doesn’t have the oomph to do in an 85,000-ton carrier.
The good news for the United States is that a F/A-18E/F Super Hornet can haul four LRASMs. A B-1B Lancer can haul up to 24 internally. The F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-15E Strike Eagle can also carry this missile. But, more likely, the LRASM will be launched from surface ships like the Zumwalt-class destroyers.
In other words, this missile could very well be a worthy successor — or partner — to the Harpoon for years to come.