For a long time, “Marine One” has been the call sign for any U.S. Marine Corps aircraft that carries the President of the United States. Since 1978, two helicopters from Sikorsky, the VH-3D Sea King and the VH-60N White Hawk, have fulfilled this role.
As you can imagine, these choppers are getting up there in years. So, in the 2000s, the Marines ran a competition, called VXX, to replace the VH-3 and VH-60. Two helicopters were in competition for the gig: Lockheed teamed up with AgustaWestland (who built the Sea King in the United Kingdom) to produce a variant of the EH101/Merlin helicopter called the VH-71 while Sikorsky offered up a specialized version of its S-92.
Lockheed won that contract, but the VH-71 took a lot longer than expected to figure out. The complications kept mounting and the price kept climbing and, eventually, the Obama Administration put the VXX program on the chopping block. The need for a new presidential chopper remained unsatisfied.
Almost immediately, the DOD gathered suitors for another competition and tried again. In the second round, the Sikorsky S-92 won out. Primarily because the other two competitors, a team of Northrop Grumman and AgustaWestland (offering the Merlin again) and a Bell-Boeing team (offering the V-22 Osprey), elected to drop out of the competition. HMX-1 “Nighthawks,” who typically operate Marine One, will be equipped with 21 S-92 airframes by 2023.
The S-92 has seen some export orders, often for civilian use, but the Canadian Forces (as the CH-148 Cyclone), Republic of Korea Air Force, and the Kuwaiti Air Force all use it. The baseline S-92 has a crew of 3, a top speed of 190 miles per hour, a range of 621 miles, and can carry up to 22 passengers.
Learn more about the new Marine One in the video below.
The US Marine Corps received its first CH-53K King Stallion on May 16, 2018, landing at Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina, according to The Drive.
“[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded,” CH-53 program chief Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght said in April 2018. “Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest.”
But it’s also the most expensive. With a price tag of about $144 million, it costs more than the F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter.
Still, the King Stallion can haul three times more than the helicopter it’s replacing, the CH-53E Super Stallion.
Here’s what it can do:
Engineered by Sikorsky, the CH-53K King Stallion made its first flight in 2015.
It’s also fitted with a glass cockpit, which basically means it has digital displays, for the four-man crew, as well as fourth generation high-efficiency composite rotor blades with swept anhedral tips.
The United States Air Force says they intend to pit an artificial intelligence-enabled drone against a manned fighter jet in a dogfight as soon as next year.
Although drones have become an essential part of America’s air power apparatus, these platforms have long had their combat capabilities hampered by both the limitations of existing technology and our own concerns about allowing a computer to make the decision to fire ordnance that will likely result in a loss of life. In theory, a drone equipped with artificial intelligence could alleviate both of those limiting factors significantly, without allowing that life or death decisions to be made by a machine.
As any gamer will tell you, lag can get you killed. In this context, lag refers to the delay in action created by the time it takes for the machine to relay the situation to a human operator, followed the the time it takes for the operator to make a decision, transmit the command, where it must then be received once again by the computer, where those orders translate into action. Even with the most advanced secure data transmission systems on the planet, lag is an ever-present threat to the survivability of a drone in a fast paced engagement.
Unmanned aerial vehicle operators in training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman BreeAnn Sachs)
Because of that lag limitation, drones are primarily used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and air strikes, but have never been used to enforce no-fly zones or to posture in the face of enemy fighters. In 2017, a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone successfully shot down another, smaller drone using an air-to-air missile. That success was the first of its kind, but even those responsible for it were quick to point out that such a success was in no way indicative of that or any other drone platform now having real dogfighting capabilities.
“We develop those tactics, techniques and procedures to make us survivable in those types of environments and, if we do this correctly, we can survive against some serious threats against normal air players out there,” Col. Julian Cheater, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, said at the time.
Artificial intelligence, however, could very feasibly change this. By using some level of artificial intelligence in a combat drone, operators could give the platform orders, rather than specific step-by-step instructions. In effect, the drone operator wouldn’t need to physically control the drone to dogfight, but could rather command the drone to engage an air asset and allow it to make rapid decisions locally to respond to the evolving threat and properly engage. Put simply, the operator could tell the drone to dogfight, but then allow the drone to somewhat autonomously decide how best to proceed.
A hawk for hunters
The challenges here are significant, but as experts have pointed out, the implications of such technology would be far reaching. U.S. military pilots receive more training and flight time than any other nation on the planet, but even so, the most qualified aviators can only call on the breadth of their own experiences in a fight.
Drones enabled with some degree of artificial intelligence aren’t limited to their own experiences, and could rather pull from the collective experiences of millions of flight hours conducted by multiple drone platforms. To give you a (perhaps inappropriately threatening) analogy, you could think of these drones as the Borg from Star Trek. Each drone represents the collected sum of all experiences had by others within its network. This technology could be leveraged not just in drones, but also in manned aircraft to provide a highly capable pilot support or auto-pilot system.
“Our human pilots, the really good ones, have a couple thousand hours of experience,” explains Steve Rogers, the Team Leader for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Autonomy Capability Team 3 (ACT3). “What happens if I can augment their ability with a system that can have literally millions of hours of training time? … How can I make myself a tactical autopilot so in an air-to-air fight, this system could help make decisions on a timeline that humans can’t even begin to think about?”
As Rogers points out, such a system could assess a dangerous situation and respond faster than the reaction time of even highly trained pilots, deploying countermeasures or even redirecting the aircraft out of harm’s way. Of course, even the most capable autopilot would still need the thinking, reasoning, and directing of human beings–either in the cockpit or far away. So, even with this technology in mind, it appears that the days of manned fighters are still far from over. Instead, AI enabled drones and autopilot systems within jets could both serve as direct support for manned aircraft in the area.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)
By incorporating multiple developing drone technologies into such an initiative, such as the drone wingman program called Skyborg, drone swarm initiatives aimed at using a large volume of cooperatively operating drones, and low-cost, high capability drones like the XQ-58A Valkyrie, such a system could fundamentally change the way America engages in warfare.
Ultimately, it may not be this specific drone program that ushers in an era of semi-autonomous dogfighting, but it’s not alone. From the aforementioned Skyborg program to the DARPA’s artificial intelligence driven Air Combat Evolution program, the race is on to expand the role of drones in air combat until they’re seen as nearly comparable to manned platforms.
Of course, that likely won’t happen by next year. The first training engagement between a drone and a human pilot will likely end in the pilot’s favor… but artificial intelligence can learn from its mistakes, and those failures may not be all that long lived.
“[Steve Rogers] is probably going to have a hard time getting to that flight next year … when the machine beats the human,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said during a June 4 Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event. “If he does it, great.”
In March 2019, the Marine Corps stood down its last squadron of EA-6B Prowlers. This stand down marked the end of the Prowler’s active service in the U.S. military. The tactical electronic warfare jamming bird first started its career in 1971, making it one of the oldest airframes still flying. Well, until Mar. 8th. 2019, it will be.
It will be replaced by the advanced capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, just like the F-35 replaced the F/A-18 Hornet and the AV-8B Harrier.
It fought everyone from Ho Chi Minh to ISIS
First introduced to southeast Asia in 1972, the Prowler has been there with the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps through thick and thin, deploying more than 70 times and flying more than 260,000 hours.
Its victories were flawless
Not one Prowler has ever been lost to enemy action. Many have tried; North Vietnam, Libya, Iraq (a few times!), Iran, the Taliban, Panama, no one has been able to take down any of the 170 Prowlers built to defend America. Unfortunately, 50 of those were lost due to accidents and mishaps.
An EA-6B Prowler at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
Its job was to jam enemy radar
But what to do when there’s no enemy radar to jam? It still blocks radio signals and weapon targeting systems. The Prowler was a perfect addition to the Global War on Terror, as it also could block cell signals and garage door openers, keeping troops on the ground safe from many remotely-triggered improvised explosive devices.
It’s the longest serving tactical jet
F-16? Never met her. The service life of the Prowler beats that of even the F-16, making it the longest-serving tactical fighter jet in the history of the U.S. military.
The Prowler helped ice Bin Laden
Sure, the SEALs had a specially-built top-secret helicopter to help them sneak into Pakistan. But it was an EA-6B Prowler that made sure the area around Osama bin Laden’s compound was free and clear of any pesky radar or electronic signals that might give the operation away.
Ground combat is the US Army’s main domain, but a lot of that ground is surrounded by water.
That’s why the Army’s plan to get rid of most of its boats and the units overseeing them, caused immediate dismay.
As of November 2018, the Army’s fleet included eight Gen. Frank S. Besson-class Logistic Support Vessels, its largest class of ships, as well as 34 Landing Craft Utility, and 36 Landing Craft Mechanized Mk-8, in addition to a number of tugs, small ferries, and barges.
Landing craft move personnel and cargo from bases and ships to harbors, beaches, and contested or damaged ports. Ship-to-shore enablers allow the transfer of cargo at sea, and towing and terminal operators support operations in different environments.
“The Army has these unique capabilities to redeploy their forces or insert their forces into an austere environment if needed,” Sgt. 1st Class Chase Conner, assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade, said during an exercise in summer 2018.
In 2017, the Army awarded a nearly billion-dollar contract for 36 new, modern landing craft. But in January 2018, then-Army Secretary Mark Esper, who is now secretary of defense, decided the Army Reserve would divest “all watercraft systems” in preparation for the service’s 2020 budget.
Esper said the Army had found billion that could be cut and spent on other projects.
Lt. Col. Curtis Perkins, center, commander of 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, talks to crew aboard Army Landing Craft Molino Del Ray, Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait, Aug. 6, 2019.
(Kevin Fleming, 401st Army Field Support Brigade)
The Army memo starting the process said the goal was to “eliminate all United States Army Reserve and National Guard Bureau AWS (Army Watercraft Systems) capabilities and/or supporting structure” — nearly 80% of its force.
The memo was first obtained by the website gCaptain.
The 170-foot-long, 25-foot-high fuselage of a C-17 cargo aircraft is lifted onto Army transport ship SSGT Robert T. Kuroda at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, July 22, 2009.
(US Navy/Gregg Smith)
The 170-foot-long, 25-foot-high fuselage of a C-17 cargo aircraft is lifted onto Army transport ship SSGT Robert T. Kuroda at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, July 22, 2009.
(US Navy/Gregg Smith)
Later in July, the listing for the Kuroda was taken down, according to The Drive. By the end of July, plans to auction nearly half of the Army’s roughly 130 watercraft were halted.
Before the auction was taken down, a id=”listicle-2640238370″ million bid was entered for the Kuroda, but that did not meet an unspecified reserve price for the ship, which cost million to construct.
Army mariners on a multiday transport mission aboard Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.
(US Army/Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)
The order to halt reportedly came from acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and included a hold on the deactivation of watercraft positions and the transfer of Army mariners to other non-watercraft units.
US Army Reserve watercraft operators replicate a fire-fighting drill during a photo shoot aboard a logistics support vessel in Baltimore, April 7 and April 8, 2017.
(US Army Reserve/Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
The Army confirmed in early August that it halted sales to conduct a study ordered by Congress, after lawmakers who disagreed with the plan moved to withhold funds for deactivations until the Army reviewed and validated its ability to meet watercraft needs.
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.
Before the development of the F-22 Raptor, the F-15 Eagle ruled the skies. It replaced the vaunted F-111 as the U.S. military’s primary fighter bomber and, for much of its life, it was the fast-moving air superiority fighter, king of all air superiority fighters. In much of the world, it still rules — and there are many, many reasons why.
The F-15 was designed to fly fast and deep into the heart of enemy territory to clear the skies of pesky enemy plane. After Vietnam proved the need for a maneuverable airframe that could evade surface-to-air missiles and engage enemy fighters, the F-15 was developed with radar, missiles, and – most importantly – a gun.
Those are just a few of its features. The highlights of its career are what makes the airframe a legend.
1. It is fast.
Boy, is the F-15 fast. Imagine being about 43 years old and getting laid off and replaced in favor of a younger employee who is barely of age. Welcome to the world of the F-15, whose top speed is above 1,800 mph. Its replacement, the F-22, tops out at just above 1,400. With its weight and speed, once it achieves lift in takeoff, it can shoot up at an almost 90-degree angle.
Too bad sight is the first to go. That’s the primary advantage of the F-22 and F-35, who are both slower by far. The F-15’s cruising speed is just below the speed of sound. The bird is so fast, some analysts think it’s more than a match for Russia’s fifth-generation fighters.
2. It could take out satellites in space.
When the United States wanted to include destroying Russian satellites as part of its war plans, it had to take into account the fact that the Russians could detect a ground-to-orbit missile launch. So the U.S. developed an antisatellite missile designed to be fired by an F-15.
The system was successfully tested by Air Force Maj. Wilbert D. “Doug” Pearson, who is still the only pilot with an air-to-orbit kill.
If you’re looking for an all-weather, maneuverable, super-fast airframe that can carry a LOT of missiles, ground bombs, avionics, more fuel, advanced radar, and probably more, you might want to consider the F-15 and its five variants. Though two are designed to be trainers, the others are design for air superiority and fulfillment of a dual fighter role, supporting troops on the ground.
But even the F-15E Strike Eagle can handle some air-to-air combat, as it proved during Desert Storm.
Hell, the plane is so well-built, it can even fly with significant stability after losing a wing.
4. It kills.
The F-15 was one of the first airframes that could track multiple enemy targets simultaneously from ranges of more than 100 miles away. Once closed in, the fighter can pop off enemies with its six-barrel, air-cooled, electrically fired M-61 vulcan cannon, along with its impressive array of missiles and ground munitions.
5. Its impressive kill record.
By all substantiated accounts, the F-15’s record in combat is a whopping 104 to zero. While some enemy combatants claim F-15 kills, none have ever been able to provide actual evidence. The F-15 and its variants were used to great effect by Israel against Syria and Lebanon, the United States against Iraq, and the Saudis against Iran. The F-15 was also the airframe Israel used to destroy an Iraqi nuclear facility during Operation Opera.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway
One of the reasons why American weapons systems have been so dominant is computer power. Whether it’s helping the M1 Abrams keep its gun on target or helping secure communications, computers give American troops an edge. Now, the Pentagon wants to bring the next generation of computers, quantum computers, into the fight.
You’re probably asking yourself, “what, exactly, is quantum computing and how would it give our troops an edge? Well, here’s a quick rundown.
As explained by one of America’s top tech companies, IBM, quantum computing is a form of computing that uses quantum mechanics — the mathematics of subatomic particle movements. Current processors distill all information down, eventually, to a simple ‘0’ or ‘1.’ Quantum processors, however, can distill information down to ‘0’ and ‘1.’ In short, this has the potential to greatly increase the baseline speeds at which computers operate. To put that increase in speed into perspective, it’s the difference between using a horse to go from New York to San Diego and using a SR-71 Blackbird for that same trip.
Joint Direct Attack Munitions, currently dependent on GPS, could become more accurate thanks to quantum clocks.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)
So, how might this translate to military operations? Well, one application could be a replacement for the Global Positioning System. The satellite-based system relies on multiple updates per day, and there have been concerns the system could be vulnerable to attack. Quantum clocks could provide GPS-like accuracy when the satellite system is down.
Quantum computing could help make satellite communications more secure.
A number of other countries, including the United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, and Australia, are also working on quantum computing programs. The Air Force Research Laboratory expects to have working prototypes in five years, with other systems rolling out later. In one sense, this program is an urgent one: China is also working on quantum computers, and has reportedly launched a purportedly unhackable satellite using that technology — and it’s not a good idea to be technologically outgunned if tensions should boil over.
The US Air Force’s flight schools have a reputation for churning out some of the best pilots in the world. But not even with that standing, only 558 in the service’s entire history were ever able to earn the title “Bandit” — the name awarded exclusively to pilots assigned to fly the top-secret F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet.
During the first years of the Nighthawk program in the 1980s, candidate pilots were drawn from a pool of fast-jet pilots. Only fighter or attack pilots with minimum of 1,000 hours were considered for the job, though candidates with 2,000 or more hours were preferred, given their extensive piloting experience.
According to Warren Thompson in his book, “Bandits over Baghdad,” stealth program brass struck a careful balance between recruiting pilots with phenomenal service records and pilots who were known to push themselves to the edge of the envelope — constantly demonstrating their prowess in the cockpit of the latest and greatest multimillion dollar fighters in America’s arsenal.
Early Bandits already in the program, having earned their number, were allowed to refer fellow pilots from other units, based on critical evaluations of their skill and abilities as military aviators. The majority of candidates, however, came from fighter squadrons whose commanding officers were vaguely instructed to cherry-pick one or two of their very best pilots, and send them to Arizona to begin training on a new airframe.
Nobody, including the selectees themselves, had much of a clue what they were about to get involved in.
Further adding to the mystery was the fact that this “new” airframe was actually the A-7 Corsair II, an attack jet which had already been in service with the Air Force for a number of years. Nighthawk program evaluators chose the A-7 for its similarity to the F-117 in terms of handling, cockpit layout and flight characteristics. Upon the conclusion of their flight training, candidates would appear for a final series of check rides and tests in Nevada.
The 162d Tactical Fighter Group of the Arizona Air National Guard handled this segment of the selection phase on behalf of the 4450th Tactical Group. The 4450th was the cover for the Nighthawk’s existence, drafted up by the Air Force as a supposed A-7 flight test unit.
The casual observer, and even other military personnel not read into the Nighthawk program, would merely see this outfit as yet another one of the Air Force’s myriad boring units, though in reality, it was anything but that.
If the candidates survived the A-7 flight course, passed their final tests in their new jet, and were approved by the selection cadre, they were finally told what they were really there for — to be the next breed of American black operations pilots, flying an aircraft the government habitually denied even existed.
The Nighthawk was developed more as an attack aircraft than a fighter, though it was still granted the “F” designation like other fighters the USAF fields today. Built to evade and avoid radar detection, the F-117 was the deadly ghost America’s enemies didn’t see coming or going, even after it was too late and the bombs had already deployed from the jet’s twin recessed bays.
All prospective Bandits were now introduced in-person to their new aircraft at the Tonopah Test Range, a highly-guarded military facility known to play host to some of the most secretive Air Force projects ever undertaken. After strenuous classroom sessions followed by training missions flown in top-of-the-line simulators, pilots were then taken back to Arizona to Luke Air Force Base, where they would train briefly on the F-15 Eagle, learning to perform a ‘no-flap’ landing, which would simulate the Nighthawk’s handling dynamics during approaches and landings.
After passing muster, the candidates were handed the figurative keys to the F-117 and were allowed to fly for the first time. Upon their first solo in the Nighthawk, each pilot was assigned a number and were officially awarded the title “Bandit.” As no Nighthawk was ever built with a twin cockpit, instructors flew near their candidates in chase planes while maintaining constant radio contact. After further nighttime and daytime training missions which qualified pilots to operate their jets in adverse conditions, a battery of tests and evaluations followed.
By this time, the class was severely depleted in size – the starting quantity of candidates diminished over time either because pilots opted out of the program, or were dropped by evaluators and instructors just because they weren’t good enough to fly this next-level aircraft. If the candidate was successful in his very last round of testing, he would be sent for further training to become combat qualified and would be initiated as a permanent member of the Nighthawk community.
Pilots were then sent to an operational squadron, where they would go on to fly daring missions in extreme secrecy around the world, from Panama to Yugoslavia, and onward to Afghanistan and even Iraq. The Nighthawk has since been retired from service, having been replaced by the F-22 in its role as a stealth attack jet, though the Bandit number has been permanently capped at 558, forever sealing the status of these pilots as some of the most elite military aviators in history.
In the early days of the Cold War, the United States was working on developing advanced surface-to-air missiles to intercept Soviet bombers. The first and only missile for a while that fit the Air Force’s bill was dubbed the “Bomarc.”
According to Designation-Systems.net, the missile was first called the XF-99, as the Air Force was trying to pass it off as an unmanned fighter. Eventually, the Air Force switched to calling the Bomarc the IM-99.
The system made its first flight in 1952, but development was a long process, with the IM-99A becoming operational in September 1959. The IM-99A had a range of 250 miles, a top speed of Mach 2.8, and could carry either a 1,000-pound high-explosive warhead or a 10-kiloton W40 warhead.
The IM-99A had a problem, though – its liquid fuel needed to be loaded into the booster before launch, a process that took about two minutes. The fueling was not exactly a safe process, and the fuel itself wasn’t entirely stable. So, the Air Force developed a version with a solid booster. The IM-99B would end up being a quantum leap in capability. Its speed increased to Mach 3, it had a range of 440 miles, and only carried the nuclear warhead.
The Bomarc also has the distinction of making Canada a nuclear power. Well, sort of. Canada bought two squadrons’ worth of the missiles, replacing the CF-105 Arrow interceptor. Canada’s Bomarcs did have the nuclear warhead, operated under a dual-key arrangement similar to that used by West Germany’s Pershing I missiles.
The Bomarc, though, soon grew obsolete, and by the end of 1972 they were retired. However, the Bomarc would end up sharing the same fate as many old fighters, as many of the missiles were eventually used as target drones since their speed and high-altitude capability helped them simulate heavy Russian anti-ship missiles like the AS-4 Kitchen and AS-6 Kingfish.
Over 700 Bomarcs were produced. Not a bad run at all for this missile.
The U.S. Military drops big bucks for all sorts of equipment, supplies, and software. But while we spend millions to upgrade computers when better software comes out, we also spend millions to keep older software because, if we don’t, it could actually cost lives in combat.
Why The US Military Can’t Upgrade From Windows XP?
The Infographics Show has a good primer on this, available above, but the broad strokes of what’s going on are pretty simple to understand.
The Department of Defense is always developing new weapons and programs, and each piece of mission-essential software was originally written for a specific operating system. This is often Windows, the most commonly used operating system for laptops and desktops on the planet.
But, of course, Windows comes out with a new version every few years. So, every few years, the military waits for the worst of the bugs to get worked out of the system, and then it starts upgrading its systems with the newest operating system.
Navy pilots really want the computer to get the thrust right for the catapults since they can be crushed by G-forces or dropped into the ocean if the math is wrong.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Carter)
When computers are being upgraded, though, systems with specialized, mission-essential software are often held back from the software upgrade. If say, the major software controlling the USS Gerald R. Ford’s magnetic launch system is optimized for Windows 7, then it would be extremely risky to upgrade to Windows 10 without extensive testing, which the Ford can’t do while conducting its mission.
(Note: We couldn’t find what software the USS Ford is running for EMALS. This is just a for-instance.)
If the software is changed overnight while the Ford is conducting missions, there’s a decent chance that some of the ship’s systems won’t work properly with the new operating system. That could result in pilots getting pitched off the deck either too fast or too slow for safe flying. Ship defense systems may fail to track an incoming plane or missile, or they could fire defensive countermeasures at a friendly target or when no target is present.
Abrams tanks and many other weapon systems run their own special software and operating systems, but even many of these systems are actually built on top of a Windows OS.
(U.S. Army Mark Schauer)
And this problem exists for all systems that use Windows. And while many weapons, like the F-35 Lightning II and M1 Abrams tank, use special operating systems special-built for aircraft and armored vehicles, some weapons use software that run on “Windows boxes,” computers that run specialty software but are built on top of Windows software.
So, you can’t safely upgrade the underlying Windows OS without getting new versions of all that bespoke software in the box.
And there are plenty of systems that run in a standard Windows environment. They run programs that control surveillance systems, or that allow troops to pass mission information, or that facilitate training and briefings. Plenty of important briefings run on PowerPoint.
While having your chat windows hacked during combat may not be as dramatic as having your tank hacked, it actually is a dangerous possibility. After all, chat windows are filled with sensitive information during combat and include, things like troop locations, dispositions, armament, etc. And you don’t want your enemy hacking into that or stealing it.
So it’s probably worth dealing with Windows XP if it makes it easier to prevent intrusion.
But, since the military is using these old software, it needs companies like Microsoft to keep updating security patches for them to prevent intrusions. And the military is often the only customer that needs these fixes, so it single-handedly pays Microsoft to maintain the necessary computer engineers and software coders to do this. And that costs big bucks.
The US Navy has shed light on a previously highly classified project meant to protect aircraft carriers from the grave and widespread threat of torpedoes, and it’s been a massive failure.
Virtually every navy the US might find itself at war against can field torpedoes, or underwater self-propelled bombs that have been sinking warships for more than 100 years.
US Navy aircraft carriers represent technological marvels, as they’re floating airports powered by nuclear reactors. But after years of secretive tests, the US has given up on a program to protect the ships against torpedoes.
“In September 2018, the Navy suspended its efforts to develop the [surface ship torpedo defense] system. The Navy plans to restore all carriers to their normal configurations during maintenance availabilities” over the next four years, the report said.
(Photo by Michael D. Cole)
Essentially, the report said that over five years the program made some progress in finding and knocking down incoming torpedoes, but not enough. Data on the reliability of the systems remains either too thin or nonexistent.
This leaves the US Navy’s surface ships with almost no defense against a submarine’s primary anti-surface weapon at a time when the service says that Russia’s and China’s submarine fleets have rapidly grown to pose a major threat to US ships.
The US ignored the threat of torpedoes, and now anyone with half a navy has a shot
The new class of speedy torpedoes can’t be guided, but can fire straight toward US Navy carriers that have little chance of detecting them.
Torpedoes don’t directly collide with a ship, but rather use an explosion to create an air bubble under the ship to bend or break the keel, sinking the ship.
High-speed underwater missile Shkval-E.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
Other Russian torpedoes have a range of 12 miles and can zigzag to beat countermeasures when closing in on a ship.
In a combat exercise off the coast of Florida in 2015, a small French nuclear submarine, the Saphir, snuck through multiple rings of carrier-strike-group defenses and scored a simulated kill on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and half its escort ships, Reuters reported. Other US naval exercises have seen even old-fashioned, diesel-electric submarines sinking carriers.
Even unsophisticated foes such as North Korea and Iran can field diesel-electric submarines and hide them in the noisy littoral waters along key US Navy transit routes.
The US Navy can deploy “nixies” or noise-making decoys that the ship drags behind it to attract torpedoes, but it must detect the incoming torpedoes first.
A US Navy carrier at 30 knots runs just 10 knots slower than a standard torpedo, but with a flight deck full of aircraft and personnel, pulling tight turns to dodge an incoming torpedo presents problems of its own.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US military snipers have to be able to make the hard shots, the seemingly impossible shots. They have to be able to push themselves and their weapons.
Staff Sgt. Hunter Bernius, a veteran Marine Corps scout sniper who runs an advanced urban sniper training course, walked INSIDER through his most technically difficult shot — he fired a bullet into a target roughly 2.3 kilometers (1.4 miles) away with a .50 caliber sniper rifle.
The longest confirmed kill shot was taken by a Canadian special forces sniper, who shot an ISIS militant dead at 3,540 meters, or 2.2 miles, in Iraq in 2017. The previous record was held by British sniper Craig Harrison, who shot and killed a Taliban insurgent from 2,475 meters away.
“There are definitely people out there who have done amazing things,” US Army First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper and instructor at the sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, told INSIDER. “Anything is possible.”
Weapons Company scout sniper and Lufkin, Texas, native Hunter Bernius takes a shooting position during field training at an undisclosed location.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tommy Huynh)
Snipers are trained to scout the movements of enemy forces often from very exposed positions, and are also used to target enemy leaders and to pin down their forces. These dangerous missions require they become masters of concealment, as well as skilled sharpshooters.
While 2,300 meters may not be a record, it is still a very hard shot to make.
US military snipers typically operate at ranges between 600 and 1,200 meters. At extreme ranges, the Marine is pushing his weapon past its limits. The M107 semi-automatic long range sniper rifles used by the Marine Corps can fire accurately out to only about 2,000 meters.
“Shooting on the ground can be easy, especially when you are shooting 600 meters in or 1,000 meters in. That’s almost second nature,” Bernius explained. “But, when you are extending it to the extremes, beyond the capability of the weapon system, you have all kinds of different things to consider.”
At those longer ranges, a sniper has to rely a lot more on “hard math” than just shooter instinct.
Bernius, a Texas native who has deployed to Iraq and other locations across the Middle East, made his most technically difficult shot as a student in the advanced sniper course, a training program for Marine Corps sharpshooters who have already successfully completed basic sniper training.
“When I came through as a student at the course I am running now, my partner and I were shooting at a target at approximately 2,300 meters,” Bernius explained. “We did in fact hit it, but it took approximately 20-25 minutes of planning, thinking of everything we needed to do with calculations, with the readings.”
Sgt. Hunter G. Bernius shoots at a target placed in the water from a UH-1Y Huey during an aerial sniper exercise.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Chance Haworth)
At that distance, it takes the bullet roughly six to eight seconds to reach the target, which means there is a whole lot of time for any number of external factors to affect where it lands.
“You have all kinds of considerations,” Bernius told INSIDER, explaining that snipers have to think about “the rotation of the earth, which direction you are facing, wind at not just your muzzle but at 2,300 meters, at 1,000 meters, you name it.”
Direction and rotation of the earth are considerations that most people might not realize come into play.
Which direction the sniper is facing can affect the way the sun hits the scope, possibly distorting the image inside the scope and throwing off the shot. It also determines how the rotation of the planet affects the bullet, which may hit higher or lower depending on the sniper’s position.
“This is only for extreme long range, shots over 2,000 meters,” Bernius explained.
Other possible considerations include the temperature, the humidity, the time of day, whether or not the sniper is shooting over a body of water (it can create a mirage), the shape of the bullet, and spin drift of the round.
“We ended up hitting it,” Bernius said. “That, to me, was probably the most technically difficult shot.”
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