Enemy drones have been a pain. In the Middle East, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has come up with IEDs mounted on drones. So, what can be done with these pesky things? Sometimes, you just can’t shoot `em down due to the risk of collateral damage. But letting them do their thing is not a good option, either.
Fortunately, Battelle has come up with a solution to the problems created by the proliferation of drones amongst terrorist groups and other assorted no-goodniks. Furthermore, it also can greatly reduce the risk of collateral damage.
The DroneDefender, displayed at the AirSpaceCyber expo held at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, looks like an oversized rifle. It doesn’t fire a shot in the normal sense, but it does jam the frequencies used to remotely control the drones. It can also jam GPS signals, in case the drone is operating through the use of waypoints. In short, the drone has no clue where it is going, and so, it will default to going home.
The system has an effective range of 400 meters – roughly a quarter-mile. It can be used for two hours continuously and has a rechargeable battery. It weighs 15 pounds, or a little more than half the weight of the .50-caliber Barrett M107 rifle. The system is battery powered, and the battery can be recharged.
Now, here is the bad news. You can’t get one of these for yourself. According to the project’s web site, “Under current law, the DroneDefender device may be used in the United States only by authorized employees of the Federal government and its agencies, and use by others may be illegal.”
You can see a video of the DroneDefender during U.S. Army training below.
While most drones require an operator to control them, the ones in DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program fly themselves. Although not perfect in its current phase, the program’s first flight test exceeded expectations.
“We’re excited that we were able to validate the airspeed goal during this first-flight data collection,” said Mark Micire, DARPA program manager. “The fact that some teams also demonstrated basic autonomous flight ahead of schedule was an added bonus. The challenge for the teams now is to advance the algorithms and onboard computational efficiency to extend the UAV’s perception range and compensate for the vehicle’s’ mass to make extremely tight turns and abrupt maneuvers at high speeds.”
Advancing algorithms and extending perception range. That’s what we thought.
Now watch this video of DARPA’s first test flight:
The Arleigh Burke class of guided-missile destroyers is huge – and they are some of the most powerful ships in the world.
These 9,000-ton ships are armed with a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems (with 90 to 96 cells), two triple 324mm torpedo tubes, and a 20mm Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System. Some even carry two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.
But sometimes, the firepower ain’t the solution. Far from it, in some cases. Say the Iranians are up to their usual… antics. That is when the destroyer will need to move.
The ship can go fast – over 30 knots, thanks to her gas turbine propulsion. She also can turn – and for a ship this big, she turns on a dime.
Do those turns matter? You bet they can. The fast turn can help avoid one of those “fast attack craft” the Iranians use. If a torpedo is fired, the turn can also buy time once the ship’s AN/SLQ-25 Nixie goes off.
Torpedo seekers do not have a long range, so the turn at high speed can allow the ship to escape an attack.
You can see the destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) make one of these high-speed turns in this video below. Making such a turn does take practice – mostly because if the gear ain’t stowed right, there is likely to be one hell of a mess. But a mess to clean up is much better than a torpedo hit.
Ten commercial Earth-imaging satellites have been launched into space from California.
An Orbital ATK Minotaur C rocket blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 2:37 p.m. Oct. 31.
Deployment was to occur about 12 minutes later during a communications blackout period. Confirmation of deployment was expected about an hour and a half after launch, according to the Orbital ATK webcast.
The six SkySat satellites and four miniature Dove satellites — each about the size of a loaf of bread — were bound for orbits 310 miles (500 kilometers) above the Earth to join dozens of other satellites that provide streams of data to San Francisco-based Planet Labs Inc.
The satellites are designed to gather medium- and high-resolution multispectral images of Earth for businesses, governments, and non-governmental organizations.
The embattled Zumwalt-class destroyers still don’t have any ammunition, but the US Navy has an idea, or at least the beginnings of an idea.
The Navy has invested hundreds of millions of dollars and more than a decade into railgun research, which has run up against several technological roadblocks. But while the railgun may not turn out to be a worthwhile project, the railgun rounds seem to show promise.
The Navy fired nearly two dozen hypervelocity projectiles (HVPs) — special rounds initially designed for electromagnetic railguns — from the Mk 45 5-inch deck gun aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Dewey at one point during 2018’s Rim of the Pacific exercises, USNI News first reported. The guns are the same 40-year-old guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) fires its Mk 45 5-inch gun.
(U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist Matt Bodenner)
The same concept could presumably be applied to the 155 mm Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) aboard the Zumwalt-class destroyers. “That is one thing that has been considered with respect to capability for this ship class. We’re looking at a longer-range bullet that’s affordable, and so that’s one thing that’s being considered,” Capt. Kevin Smith, a program manager for the Zumwalt, revealed at the Surface Navy Association Symposium, USNI News reported Jan. 22, 2019.
“The surface Navy is really excited about this capability,” he added, saying that nothing has been decided.
This is apparently only one of several possibilities. “There are a lot of things that we’re looking at as far as deeper magazines with other types of weapons that have longer range,” Smith said. Previous considerations have included the Raytheon Excalibur 155 mm guided artillery, but that plan was abandoned.
USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000).
(U.S. Navy photo)
The Zumwalt’s 155 mm AGS guns, intended to strike targets farther than 80 miles away, are ridiculously expensive to fire — a single Long Range Land Attack Projectile costs almost id=”listicle-2626896386″ million. Procurement was shut down two years ago, leaving the Zumwalt without any ammunition.
Since then, the Navy has been looking hard at other alternatives.
The Navy “will be developing either the round that goes with that gun or what we are going to do with that space if we decide to remove that gun in the future,” Vice Adm. William Merz, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, told the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee in November 2018, Breaking Defense reported at the time.
So, if the Navy can’t find suitable ammunition for the stealth destroyers, it may end up scrapping the guns altogether to be replaced with something else down the road.
Despite repeated setbacks, which include everything from loss of stealth to engine and electrical problems, the Navy said “the ship is doing fine.” Merz told Congress that the vessel should be operational by 2021.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sometimes you just know something’s not right. You feel a twinge in the pit of your gut, a growing sense of uneasiness, and you start to notice things that you wouldn’t normally notice. Is that guy acting weird or am I just being paranoid? You ask yourself before dismissing the thought. Come on, nothing’s gonna happen in this neighborhood.
Despite the headlines saturating every media outlet in the country, the United States is (statistically speaking) an overwhelmingly safe place to live. Regardless of our ever-present concerns about violent crime, mass shootings, and terror attacks, the likelihood that you’ll find yourself faced with a violent end are far lower than you’ll find throughout much of the world… and as a result, Americans are at a disadvantage when it comes to cultivating a high level of situational awareness.
Instead, Americans tend to develop what’s called a normalcy bias. Put simply, normalcy bias is our natural inclination to shrug away concerns about potential threats, because we’ve developed a deep-seated sense of what’s normal.
I’m sure these guys are just waiting for an Uber.
(Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Shejal Pulivarti, US Army)
Our minds are evolutionarily hard-wired to assess and prioritize risks, and after decades of living in a world where you’ve never faced an active shooter or a terror attack, our brains tend to file those potential threats way in the back, after more pressing concerns like crashing our cars or falling down the stairs. The sheer unlikelihood that we could find ourselves in the middle of a fight for our lives just tends to make us ignore those fights until they’ve already landed right in our laps.
Normalcy bias manifests as a delay in our processing of what’s going on around us, as we hush away our gut instincts and dismiss our seemingly “unfounded” concerns as paranoia. In a nutshell, it’s our way of clinging to reality as we’ve come to know it through a lifetime of nervous twinges that we’ve ignored, followed by confirmations that we were safe. Those times you hesitated before dragging your trash can through the dark alley behind your house growing up helped you to overcome a fear of the dark, but also helped to establish a bias toward dismissing your concerns about what could be a threat.
Instead of dismissing your nervousness about dark alleys, listen to your gut and be objective about any potential threats.
That intellectual buffer is the source of normalcy bias. We discount concerns that seem unlikely and scold ourselves for being afraid of the dark, but those gut feelings are often actually the sum of a series of parts assembled subconsciously by the incredible, pattern recognizing computers we call our brains. The evidence of a threat may not be irrefutable, but something has our hair standing on end. We dismiss it as a product of our overactive imaginations and eventually, this even stalls our ability to process real evidence of threats; as they break through the cognitive barriers between what our lives have been to this point and what they are about to become.
Fortunately, there’s a simple way to overcome the mental inhibitors of normalcy bias: simply practice maintaining an objective mindset when it comes to threats. When you catch yourself dismissing concerns about a bulge in the waistband of the rowdy drunk at the bar or the chances something dangerous could be waiting for you at the other end of a dark alley, stop and put some real thought into your situation instead of allowing normalcy bias to silence the warning bells in your head.
I snapped this photo of the closest rooftop to us with my phone as we got out of dodge.
While in Alexandria, Egypt with my wife a few years ago, we were given a tour of a large building near the city’s port. As our tour reached the roof, our tour guide left us to enjoy the views and see ourselves out at our leisure, but before we could really take in the sights, I noticed a two-man sniper team perching themselves on a nearby roof. A bit further down the closed road to the port, I saw another team moving into position as well, and then another.. Chances were good that these guys were members of law enforcement preparing security for an arrival, or port security conducting training. Honestly, we’ll never know–because the minute I spotted what could be a sign of impending trouble, I made the decision that we were leaving.
I never heard any news about something terrible happening at that port in Alexandria that day, but as an American traveling overseas with my adorable (but not all that good in a fight) wife, I try my best to avoid situations that involve armed overwatch from guys that aren’t wearing Old Glory on their shoulders.
Overcoming normalcy bias isn’t about living in a constant state of paranoia, but rather about listening to your gut and making a rational decision. Sometimes the things we perceive as threats are nothing more than bumps in the night… but when those bumps in the night are caused by real people that mean you harm, it pays to trust your gut.
In an era where a lot of the focus is on smaller helicopters — sometimes unmanned, like the MQ-8 Fire Scout — there are some big choppers out there worth mentioning. Arguably the world’s biggest helicopter comes from Russia’s Mil design bureau.
This beast comes in at almost 131 feet four inches long, just under 105 feet wide, and just under 26 feet nine inches tall. It can carry up to 90 troops — two full light infantry platoons — into combat, or lift over 22 tons of cargo. By comparison, the Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion can carry up to 55 troops, is 99 feet long, 78 feet nine inches wide, and 27 feet nine inches tall. It can lift up to 15 tons of cargo.
The Mi-26 has been widely exported — 17 countries use it. The CH-53E, on the only hand has been primarily operated by the United States, with some airframes exported to Japan. The Mi-26 has also come in a number of variants, including passenger transport (more convenient than commuter planes), medevac (capable of carrying 60 litters), a heavy-lift crane, and even anti-submarine versions.
This chopper’s huge capacity has been helpful in a number of disaster relief operations, notably after severe earthquakes in China. But the large capacity has been a double-edge sword. When Chechen militants shot down a Mi-26 in 2002, the death toll reached 125.
The Mi-26 has been in service since 1986, and with over 300 airframes produced. Will likely see action for a long time. Check out the video below to learn more about this Russian beast.
By the time May 1, 2019, rolls around, American troops will have rolled out of Syria entirely, according to the Wall Street Journal. The plan calls for a complete American withdrawal from the country after the last vestiges of ISIS territory have been captured by the various anti-ISIS factions in the country.
As of February, the remaining Islamic State fighters and their families are fleeing whatever strips of territory still under its control in Syria as President Donald Trump doubled down on his assertion that the Islamic State had been defeated in Syria and the time is right for American troops to return to their home bases.
Anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters pose with a captured ISIS flag.
The United States did not break the back of ISIS over the past five years on its own. Kurdish forces from Syria and Iraq, along with fighters from other various factions were led by U.S. forces in Syria, either through air cover, artillery support, and direction from American special operations troops. As of yet, there is no plan in place to secure these Syrian fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), once their American support is gone.
President Trump’s current timeline is set to pull a significant number of American troops out of Syria by mid-March, 2019, with a full withdrawal coming by the end of April. After that time, Kurdish fighters on the ground will be open to retaliation from Turkish forces operating in Syria, who consider the Kurds terrorists in their own right. Also fighting the Kurds will be other Islamic militant groups still operating, as well as Russian-backed Syrian government troops.
A U.S. armored vehicle in Al-Hasakah meets with Kurdish YPG fighters in Kurdish-held territory in Northern Syria, May, 2017.
The United States is trying to reach a political agreement with the Turkish government to protect the Kurdish fighters, who did the bulk of the fighting against ISIS on the ground. Given the current timetable for withdrawal, an agreement seems unlikely unless the U.S. military slows its process. Kurdish allies will no doubt express alarm at the removal of the 2,000 Americans in Syria.
Pentagon spokespeople and the United States Central Command have all expressed that there is no official timeline for withdrawal, and no conditions are fixed for a removal of Americans from the country, but equipment and materiel support for the troops has already begun to move out of Syria.
When most ships are decommissioned, they eventually will head to the scrapyard. Mostly, their fate is to become razor blades.
Others become artificial reefs, providing a tourist attraction for divers and a home for fish. But some vessels escape these fates for a more noble end: They are sunk as targets.
And that’s not new.
Back in the early 1920s, the United States used old battleships as targets to test how well air-dropped bombs could sink ships. In fact, since the end of World War II, ships have been sunk as targets – often to test how well current or new weapons work, or to provide crews with training that is quite realistic in using their anti-surface warfare systems.
The 1946 Operation Crossroads was perhaps one of the most dramatic examples. In two tests, the Navy detonated atomic bombs amongst a fleet of obsolete ships, including the Japanese battleship Nagato, the German cruiser Prinz Eugen, and the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV 3). A total of 14 ships sank outright, while the Prinz Eugen sank five months later.
Perhaps the largest ship to be sunk as a target was the aircraft carrier USS America (CV 66). This ship displaced almost 85,000 tons when fully loaded, and had a 31-year career, including service in the Vietnam War, Operation El Dorado Canyon, and Desert Storm.
On May 14, 2005, the America was sunk after the testing by controlled scuttling, which included remote systems monitoring the effects of underwater explosions that took place over four weeks.
The video below shows the sinking of a pair of Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates and a Newport-class landing ship. Often smaller systems will be used before they unleash the really powerful missiles – and last, but not least, the torpedoes.
Boeing said on Nov. 11, 2019, that it expected to resume delivering 737 Max jets in December, before the plane is approved to fly passengers again.
Boeing is working to get a fix to the troubled plane — as well as a pilot-training requirement — certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane maker is looking to have pilots start delivering jets to airline customers after the plane’s main certification is complete but before that training is finalized, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Boeing has faced increasing pressure as it halted deliveries while production continued. Though in April 2019 it cut its production rate to 42 planes per month from 52, it has had difficulty finding places to store the completed but undeliverable planes.
Resuming deliveries would also help Boeing weather mounting financial pressure. The company has sold only a handful of Max jets since Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed in March 2019, and it’s concerned because of dwindling wide-body orders partly stemming from the Trump administration’s trade war with China.
Though Boeing has maintained since the summer that it would be able to get the Max flying again by the fourth quarter, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines recently pulled the plane from their schedules until early March 2020.
Despite several recent setbacks, including being required to resubmit documentation outlining changes to the Max’s flight computer, Boeing last week cleared a step in the certification process following a series of successful simulator tests with the FAA, The Journal reported.
However, even if the plane is certified by the end of 2019, the pilot training isn’t expected to be approved until several weeks later, following a public comment period, The Journal reported. Until the training is approved and implemented, airlines would not be allowed to use the planes to carry passengers.
Even so, airlines are anxious to resume deliveries. Operators will need to service the stored planes and inspect jets before returning them to service. By beginning deliveries before the training is approved, Boeing and airlines would have some extra time to get the planes ready.
Boeing’s stock was trading about 5% higher on Nov. 11, 2019, following the announcement.
Boeing has been preparing to aggressively deliver jets, recruiting recently retired aircraft technicians to help prepare stored planes for delivery flights, an initiative first reported by Business Insider.
The 737 Max, the latest version of Boeing’s best-selling plane, has been grounded since March 2019 after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people.
Investigations into the two crashes suggest that an automated system called MCAS, or the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, erroneously engaged, forcing the planes’ noses to point down, and that pilots were unable to regain control of the aircraft.
The system could be activated by a single sensor reading. In both crashes, the sensors are thought to have failed, sending erroneous data to the flight computer and, without a redundant check in place, triggering the automated system.
MCAS was designed to compensate for the 737 Max having larger engines than previous 737 generations. The larger engines could cause the plane’s nose to tip upward, leading to a stall — in that situation, the system could automatically point the nose down to negate the effect of the engine size.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When one thinks of German armored vehicles, massive tanks, like the Tiger and Tiger II, from World War II spring to mind. So does the Leopard 2, considered one of the best modern tanks in the world. But while Germany has developed some huge, armored powerhouses, it’s also developed a pint-sized vehicle that packs some serious firepower.
In the 1970s, the West Germans realized that their regular infantry didn’t stand much of a chance against hordes of tanks that the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact would deploy should World War III break out. To answer to this concern was the Rheinmetall Wiesel, a very capable, air-mobile armored vehicle.
The Wiesel weighs in at 9,557 pounds. To put that into perspective, the M1114 Up-Armored HMMWV comes in at 12,101 pounds. The Wiesel, however, is no slouch in a fight. Depending on the version, it can carry the BGM-71 TOW missile or a 20mm autocannon.
The Wiesel also made for a natural reconnaissance vehicle. The Wiesel 1 was ordered in 1985, entered service in 1989, and 343 examples were purchased by the Bundeswehr. However, a larger version, the Wiesel 2, was designed and entered service in 1994. The Bundeswehr ordered 179 of those vehicles, which serve as ambulances, command-and-control vehicles, mortar carriers, and air-defense assets.
The Wiesel, though, hasn’t gotten a lot of export orders. The United States did acquire a few to test as unmanned vehicles but, to date, the only troops using the Wiesel have been Germans. The Wiesel has seen service in Operation Enduring Freedom and in peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Somalia.
Learn more about this pint-sized tankette that packs a big-time punch in the video below.
The U.S. Marine Corps is progressing with a new project to arm its MV-22 Osprey aircraft with new weapons such as laser-guided 2.75in rockets, missiles and heavy guns – a move which would expand the tiltrotor’s mission set beyond supply, weapons and forces transport to include a wider range of offensive and defensive combat missions, Corps officials said.
“Currently, NSWC (Naval Surface Warfare Center) Dahlgren explored the use of forward firing rockets, missiles, fixed guns, a chin mounted gun, and also looked at the use of a 30MM gun along with gravity drop rockets and guided bombs deployed from the back of the V-22. The study that is being conducted will help define the requirements and ultimately inform a Marine Corps decision with regards to armament of the MV-22B Osprey,” Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
Adding weapons to the Opsrey would naturally allow the aircraft to better defend itself should it come under attack from small arms fire, missiles or surface rockets while conducting transport missions; in addition, precision fire will enable the Osprey to support amphibious operations with suppressive or offensive fire as Marines approach enemy territory.
Furthermore, weapons will better facilitate an Osprey-centric tactic known as “Mounted Vertical Maneuver” wherein the tiltrotor uses its airplane speeds and helicopter hover and maneuver technology to transport weapons such as mobile mortars and light vehicles, supplies and Marines behind enemy lines for a range of combat missions — to include surprise attacks.
The initial steps in the process will include arming the V-22 are to select a Targeting-FLIR, improve Digital Interoperability and designate Integrated Aircraft Survivability Equipment solutions. Integration of new weapons could begin as early as 2019 if the initiatives stay on track and are funded, Burns added.
Burns added that “assault support” will remain as the primary mission of the MV-22 Osprey, regardless of the weapons solution selected.
“Both the air and ground mission commanders will have more options with the ability to provide immediate self-defense and collective defense of the flight. Depending on the weapons ultimately selected, a future tiltrotor could provide a range of capabilities spanning from self-defense on the lighter side to providing a gunship over watch capability on the heavier scale,” Burns explained.
So far, Osprey maker Bell-Boeing has delivered 290 MV-22s out of a planned 360 program of record.
Laser-guided Hyra 2.75inch folding fin rockets, such as those currently being fired from Apache attack helicopters, could give the Osprey a greater precision-attack technology. One such program firing 2.75in rockets with laser guidance is called Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System, or APKWS.
Bell-Boeing designed a special pylon on the side of the aircraft to ensure common weapons carriage. The Corps is now analyzing potential requirements for weapons on the Osprey, considering questions such as the needed stand-off distance and level of lethality.
“We did a demonstration with Bell where we took some rockets and we put them on a pylon on the airplane using APKWS. We also did some 2.75 guided rockets, laser guided weapons and the griffin missile. We flew laser designators to laser-designate targets to prove you could do it,” Rick Lemaster – Director of Business Development, Bell-Boeing, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Lemaster also added that the Corps could also arm the MV-22 with .50-cal or 7.62mm guns.
New Osprey Variant in 2030
The Marine Corps is in the early stages of planning to build a new, high-tech MV-22C variant Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to enter service by the mid-2030s, service officials said.
While many of the details of the new aircraft are not yet available, Corps officials told Scout Warrior that the MV-22C will take advantage of emerging and next-generation aviation technologies.
The Marine Corps now operates more than 250 MV-22 Ospreys around the globe and the tiltrotor aircraft are increasingly in demand, Corps officials said.
“This upgrade will ensure that the Marine Corps has state-of-the-art, medium-lift assault support for decades to come,” Corps spokesman Maj. Paul Greenberg told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
The Osprey is, among other things, known for its ability to reach speeds of 280 knots and achieve a much greater combat radius than conventional rotorcraft.
Due to its tiltrotor configuration, the Osprey can hover in helicopter mode for close-in surveillance and vertical landings for things like delivering forces, equipment and supplies – all while being able to transition into airplane mode and hit fixed-wing aircraft speeds. This gives the aircraft an ability to travel up 450 nautical miles to and from a location on a single tank of fuel, Corps officials said.
“Since 2007, the MV-22 has continuously deployed in a wide range of extreme conditions, from the deserts of Iraq and Libya to the mountains of Afghanistan and Nepal, as well as aboard amphibious shipping. Between January 2007 and August 2015, Marine Corps MV-22s flew more than 178,000 flight hours in support of combat operations,” Greenberg added.
Corps officials said th idea with the new Osprey variant is to build upon the lift, speed and versatility of the aircraft’s tiltrotor technology and give the platform more performance characteristics in the future. While few specifics were yet available — this will likely include improved sensors, mapping and digital connectivity, even greater speed and hover ability, better cargo and payload capacity, next-generation avionics and new survivability systems such as defenses against incoming missiles and small arms fire.
Greenberg also added that the MV-22C variant aircraft will draw from technologies now being developed for the Army-led Future Vertical Lift program involved in engineering a new fleet of more capable, high-tech aircraft for the mid-2030s
“The MV-22C will take advantage of technologies spurred by the ongoing joint multi-role and future vertical lift efforts, and other emerging technology initiatives,” Greenberg added.
The U.S. Army is currently immersed in testing with two industry teams contracted to develop and build a fuel-efficient, high-speed, high-tech, next-generation medium-lift helicopter to enter service by 2030.
The effort is aimed at leveraging the best in helicopter and aircraft technology in order to engineer a platform that can both reach the high-speeds of an airplane while retaining an ability to hover like a traditional helicopter, developers have said.
The initiate is looking at developing a wide range of technologies including lighter-weight airframes to reduce drag, different configurations and propulsion mechanisms, more fuel efficient engines, the potential use of composite materials and a whole range of new sensor technologies to improve navigation, targeting and digital displays for pilots.
Requirements include an ability to operate in what is called “high-hot” conditions, meaning 95-degrees Fahrenheit and altitudes of 6,000 feet where helicopters typically have difficulty operating. In high-hot conditions, thinner air and lower air-pressure make helicopter maneuverability and operations more challenging.
The Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator, or JMR TD, program has awarded development deals to Bell Helicopter-Textron and Sikorsky-Boeing teams to build “demonstrator” aircraft by 2017 to help inform the development of a new medium-class helicopter.
Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter is building a tilt-rotor aircraft called the Bell V-280 Valor – and the Sikorsky-Boeing team is working on early testing of its SB1 Defiant coaxial rotor-blade design. A coaxial rotor blade configuration uses counter-rotating blades with a thrusting technology at the back of the aircraft to both remain steady and maximize speed, hover capacity and manueverability.
The Bell V-280 offering is similar to the Osprey in that it is a tiltrotor aircraft.
Planned missions for the new Future Vertical Lift aircraft include cargo, utility, armed scout, attack, humanitarian assistance, MEDEVAC (medical evacuation), anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, land/sea search and rescue, special warfare support and airborne mine countermeasures, Army officials have said.
Other emerging technology areas being explored for this effort include next-generation sensors and navigation technologies, autonomous flight and efforts to see through clouds, dust and debris described as being able to fly in a “degraded visual environment.”
Meanwhile, while Corps officials say they plan to embrace technologies from this Army-led program for the new Osprey variant, they also emphasize that the Corps is continuing to make progress with technological improvements to the MV-22.
These include a technology called V-22 Aerial Refueling System, or VARS, to be ready by 2018, Greenberg explained.
“The Marine Corps Osprey with VARS will be able to refuel the F-35B Lightning II with about 4,000 pounds of fuel at VARS’ initial operating capability. MV-22B VARS capacity will increase to 10,000 pounds of fuel by 2019. This will significantly enhance the F-35B’s range, as well as the aircraft’s ability to remain on target for a longer period,” he told Scout Warrior.
The aerial refueling technology on the Osprey will refuel helicopters at 110 knots and fixed-wing aircraft at 220 knots, Lemaster added.
“The intent is to be able to have the aircraft on board the ship have the auxiliary tanks on board. An aircraft can then fill up, trail out behind the Osprey about 90-feet,” he explained.
The VARS technology will also be able to refuel other aircraft such as the CH-53E/K, F-18, AV-8B Harrier jet and other V-22s, Greenberg added.
The Corps is also developing technology to better network Osprey aircraft through an effort called “Digital Interoperability,” or DI. This networks Osprey crews such that Marines riding in the back can have access to relevant tactical and strategic information while in route to a destination. DI is now being utilized by the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and is slated to be operational by 2017.
The Navy SEAL community is arguably the best-known special operations organization in the U.S. military, if not the world. But there is a smaller community within the SEAL Teams you may have never heard of that specializes in some old-school commando-style missions: the SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Teams.
Inspired by the Italian frogmen of World War Two, who sunk or damaged several Allied ships in daring special operations, the SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams operate a fleet of mini-submarines that can strike or carry special operators clandestinely behind enemy lines.
A Unique Capability
SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams specialize in three primary mission sets: underwater insertion and extraction of special operations troops, underwater special operations, and underwater special reconnaissance.
Although not a primary mission-set, SDVs can also support Naval Special Warfare Development Group, the Tier 1 SEAL Team that specializes in counterterrorism and hostage rescue, in maritime counterterrorism scenarios by clandestinely transporting assaulters close to a target. That unit is more commonly known among those outside the SEAL community as SEAL Team 6.
SDV Teams offer a niche but highly valuable capability to commanders. As competition with China heats up and tensions with Russia continue to increase, the SDVs are becoming increasingly valuable at both tactical and strategic levels.
In the event of a conflict with China, for example, SDV Teams could transport SEAL operators close to enemy harbors or to other strategic targets, such as the Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) batteries that can prevent U.S. Navy aircraft carriers from getting within range. Also, SDVs could unilaterally attack enemy warships in harbor by placing limpet mines on ships or detonating other devices that would block the entrance and stop or stall traffic. Finally, SDVs could operate close to enemy shores, emplace sensors, and reconnoiter before sending vital intelligence back to headquarters to inform commanders.
“SDVs aren’t sexy. They are uncomfortable and a lot of work, but they fill a critical and unique capability. The guys that do get to work with the SDVs are a strategic national asset,” a former Navy SEAL operator told Sandboxx News.
SDVs have two crew members: a pilot and a navigator. Traditionally, the pilot has been an enlisted operator, while the navigator is an officer. But the roles aren’t set in stone and depend on both manpower and skill.
Becoming an SDV SEAL, however, isn’t easy or (one might argue) even desirable.
A Special Community
After a Sailor has finished the SEAL pipeline, which is composed of the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training and the SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) course, and has earned the SEAL Trident, he (or in the future, she) gets assigned to a SEAL Team.
There are nine active duty regular SEAL Teams, two SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, and three Special Boat Teams. The units are divided between the West and East Coasts. There is an additional Tier 1 SEAL Team, the DEVGRU, previously and colloquially known as SEAL Team 6, that recruits the best SEALs from the other teams and specializes in hostage rescue and counterterrorism operations.
“Most Team guys actively try to avoid getting assigned to an SDV Team. Believe it or not, SEALs don’t really like the water, despite the fact that we’re America’s dedicated underwater special operations force,” the former Navy SEAL said.
“When you’ve spent so much time being cold and miserable in BUD/S [Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training], the last thing you want is spending eight plus hours in a wet coffin in the bottom of the cold ocean.”
If a newly minted SEAL is selected or volunteers for SDV duty, he has to go through additional training, namely the SEAL Delivery Vehicle School, before he gets to his team. And often, SEALs will receive additional training, called Advanced Operator Training (AOT), once they arrive on the team. That’s another reason for the unpopularity of SDV teams within the SEAL community. By the time a new SEAL has finished with all of his SDV training and is fully qualified, a classmate of his from BUD/S would be finishing his first platoon or beginning his second.
Although a minority, there are some SEALs who actually prefer the SDVs and volunteer for duty in one of the Teams. As with all military assignments, SEALs rotate through units throughout their careers, and though an operator might begin his journey in an SDV team, he might end it in a regular SEAL team.
“[Guys] also think getting shipped to an SDV Team means fewer opportunities to deploy in an operational role and see some action—really what we signed up for. That’s not very accurate. Take the Red Wings guys, for example, they were SDV SEALs but deployed to Afghanistan and were conducting a special reconnaissance mission when it happened. But truth be told, that was another age, where everyone and their mom saw combat,” the former SEAL added.
“Today, opportunities to see combat outside the tier 1 level [Naval Special Warfare Development Group] are very few, and, in a perverse twist of roles, SDVs are the place to be right now because of the attention to China in the Pacific.”
At the headquarters of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two, there is a plaque hanging with a simple question: “Are you just a SEAL or are you an SDV SEAL?”
The U.S. military first used submersibles for special operations with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor of the CIA and the Army Green Berets, during World War Two. OSS’ maritime branch had a primitive submersible capability in the form of underwater canoes. The British had developed more advanced technology, which the OSS was able to study and pave the road for the modern-day SDVs.
The workhorse of the SDV Teams today is the Mark 8 SEAL Delivery Vehicle. However, the days of the aging Mark 8s are almost over, with the Mark 11 Shallow Water Combat Submersible (SWCS) currently going through final operational trials.
The future of the Naval Special Warfare’s SDV capability is focused on two submersible platforms: The Mark 11 (SWCS) and the Dry Combat Submersible (DCS).
The Mark 11 comes with several upgrades over its Mark 8 predecessor, including increased operational range, more advanced sensors, better navigation systems, a new command-and-control structure that allows for the easy integration of new technologies, and an increased payload. It is approximately 23 feet long and is designed to carry two crew members, a pilot and navigator, along with a four-person combat diver team.
Both the Mark 8 and Mark 11 are flooded, meaning that the combat swimmers are exposed to the water, using the vehicle’s compressed air supply to breath during the transit and shifting to their Drager breathing apparatuses once close to the target.
At 40 feet, the DCS is almost twice the size of the SWCS and also four times heavier. But the increased size and weight come with a much longer operational range and payload, in addition to being more comfortable for the operators. While comfort may not sound essential, it becomes imperative when SEALs have to accomplish their mission after an eight-hour plus dive. The DCS can hold two crew members and eight combat divers, twice that of the Mark 11.
SDVs are quiet, hard to detect, and clandestine, making them the perfect chariot for covert and clandestine special operations. They can be launched from the water (both via surface ships and submarines), from land, and even from the air via helicopter. The most optimal launch method for stealth is underwater via a submarine’s Dry Dock Shelter (DDS), which is attached on top of a submarine.
However, SDVs aren’t a magic bullet for getting operators ashore without arousing suspicion. They’re limited by their low speed and short operational range and can be affected by environmental factors, such as water temperature and sea conditions.
The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is placing increasing emphasis on the SDV capability. In 2019, Naval Special Warfare Command reactivated SEAL Vehicle Delivery Team Two (SDVT-2) in Little Creek, Virginia. SDVT-2 is the dedicated East Coast SDV team, while SEAL Delivery Team One (SDVT-1), based in Hawaii, is responsible for the West Coast. The SDV teams were first activated in the early 1980s.