This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

Today, the B-1B Lancer is a key part of the United States bomber force. Its conventional bombloads are simply impressive. It is also very, very fast, capable of dashing at over 900 miles per hour, according to an Air Force fact sheet. It serves alongside the B-52. But 40 years ago, the B-1 was seen as the B-52’s replacement.


This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52
Three U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52G Stratofortress aircraft from the 2nd Bombardement Wing take off from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. (USAF photo)

Surprised? Don’t be. Ever since the 1960 U-2 incident, when an SA-2 Guideline shot down the plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers, the United States Air Force was looking to neutralize these missiles – and the follow-on missiles – often by going higher and faster. This might seem odd, as high-altitude planes could be more easily tracked by radar, but the speed often provides less reaction time.

You see, the B-1B may have been the first iteration of the B-1 to enter service, but it was not the first version to take flight. That distinction goes to the B-1A, and that plane was very different from the Lancer of today.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52
A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions. The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground-based navigation aids. (U.S. Air Force photo)

According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the B-1A took flight in 1974. The Air Force was ready to buy 240 planes when on June 30, 1977, Jimmy Carter cancelled the program. The plane had hit a top speed of Mach 2.22, but the price was ballooning. Carter did call for B-52s to be equipped with the AGM-86 air-launched cruise missile, which would later be an option for the B-1B. The development of the B-2 Spirit was also underway as a black project.

However, with the election of Ronald Reagan, the B-1 got new life. Not as a high-altitude bomber, but as a low-level penetrator, with 100 planes produced, a bit over 40 percent of the original plans. It remains in service today, a powerful complement to the B-52. You can see a video of how the B-1 almost put the B-52 out to retirement.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how the Air Force keeps its biggest planes in the air

In a team, there’s a leader, a lancer, the smart guy and the lovable big guy.

In the Air Force, it’s the fighter jets, the stealth bombers, the drones and the cargo planes … except they aren’t as beloved as the big guy.

Often overshadowed by their more aggressive, quicker and sleeker cousins, the fighter jets, the heavy aircraft are the airframes that carry the US Air Force and sister-service components, and it is about time they get the love they deserve.


Some people tend to think the Air Force is all about the pilots that bring the fight to the enemy and protect America’s freedoms from the sky with sleek, supersonic fighter jets. They’re not wrong, to a point. Fighter pilots in the Air Force do exactly that.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base, in Utah, July 31, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

But just as an army marches on its stomach, an air force’s mobility depends on the fleet of aircraft and maintainers to handle the logistics of troop and material movement. That is where the heavies and their crew come in.

Aircraft from the modern C-17 Globemaster III and the KC-46 Pegasus — the new kid on the block — to the venerable C-130 Hercules, B-52 Stratofortress, KC-135 Stratotanker and others play a massive role in the service’s global operations, all with different purposes. Although one commonality they have is this — all of their crew chiefs start their careers with training at Sheppard AFB.

“For their first 23 days of training, its fundamentals,” said Master Sgt. Jason Ricke, section chief for 362nd Training Squadron’s Heavies Flight. “Fundamentals have a large focus. They learn a lot about fighters, heavies, some of the UAVs, bombers cargo, but if they’re going to 135s, the 52, or 130s, they’ll learn the specifics here [in the 362nd Training Squadron.]”

Ricke said students, whether coming in with some experience in mechanics or can’t tell the difference between a wrench and a hammer, will learn the heavy maintainer lifestyle and comradery in the crew chief apprentice course.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

C-130 crew chief apprentice students open the cargo door of a C-130 Hercules at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, Nov. 20, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

“A lot of people don’t know what goes into being a crew chief specifically. It’s a lot of hours and hard work,” Tech. Sgt. Dennis Neville, 362nd Training Squadron Instructor Supervisor for the C-130 course, said. “We get students with a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Some of them who are excited to be here, some who don’t know what they will be doing yet. That’s something they’ll pick up and go with once they get out on that flight line and once they see their aircraft fly for the first time.”

Neville said there is no better feeling as a crew chief than seeing your aircraft leave with a pallet of supplies or a pallet of patients or even filled to the brim with bullets and bombs and watch it come back with nothing. Knowing that it completed its mission, but not without the help of the crew chiefs.

“Without the maintainers, and not just crew chiefs but maintainers in general, these aircraft don’t fly or at least they aren’t going to fly like they’re supposed to,” Neville said. “[The pilot] will have no guidance systems, no electrical systems, you definitely can’t fly without your engines, you gotta have fuels as well, different shops maintain those systems without them, that aircraft would just sit there and people will just admire it from the ground and it’ll never get to do its mission.”

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

US Air Force crew chief trainees change a tire on a KC-10 Extender at Travis Air Force Base, California, Feb. 7, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

This mission to get these aircraft in the air is exemplified in the crew chiefs that must undergo months of training learning more than three volumes of information. Information pertaining to engine pylons, navigator positions, booms, loadmaster tasks and refueling missions, the crew chief will learn all these tasks, depending on their assigned airframe.

Crew chiefs are part of the maintenance force that ensure aircraft are airworthy and mission-ready so pilots can complete their various variety of missions.

Examples of the wide range of missions for the C-130, one of USAF’s oldest and most reliable assets, can range from humanitarian missions, military supply runs to allies all over the world, transporting hardware like tanks for the Army, to being outfitted into a AC-130 “Spooky” gunship and going to battle with an array of weaponry to wreak havoc on the enemy.

The KC-135’s mission is a bit more streamlined as it is about 300 gas stations with wings. Its mission is to refuel other aircraft during flight so they can continue their mission without landing.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

B-52 crew chief apprentice course students install a drag chute onto a B-52 Stratofortress at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, Nov. 19, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

The B-52 is the oldest bomber in the Air Force inventory, having first begun flying in the 1950s. The fortress in the sky is able to fly long distances and carry around 70,000 pounds of mixed ordnance.

All these flying giants are sustained by crew chiefs that have trained at Sheppard. Ricke said the crew chief job, while daunting at times, because of the age of some aircraft in the fleet, is also rewarding because he works on aircraft and builds camaraderie with fellow maintainers. It’s why he continues to put on the uniform.

“What our instructors instill the most within the students is the brotherhood and sisterhood between all maintainers,” he said.

Ricke said everyone who joined the Air Force, right next to their personal reason, was a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves, a desire to be part of a team or a second family. He said being an Air Force maintainer is something a student, whether or not they specifically wanted the maintainer job, will learn to and hopefully become excited about being part of this important team of unsung heroes.

“That’s probably the main things that really kept me around,” he said. “You’ll never make better friends than the ones you make in the military service. When it’s easy and nice anyone can do the job, but when it gets tough and dirty that’s when the best people show up and that’s when best friends make it fun.”

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

From left, Airman Greg Hogle, Airman 1st Class Daniel Miranda, Airman George Michael Singer III, and Airman Brycen Brooks, all B-52 crew chief apprentice course students, in a B-52 Stratofortress at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, July 2, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

Ricke said he tries to instill these values into the students who come through that while doing their job, know there’s people who are there that can help pick up the slack as being a maintainer is a hard job. He and Neville also encourage students to try to become flying crew chiefs, a position that makes all the hardships seem worth it.

“The first time they get to do their first TDY when becoming a flying crew chief, that’s really when it gets brought home and you get to see your part of this mission,” Neville said. “The biggest thing is that drive and force, needs to remember, those pilots can’t fly those without us and who doesn’t want to fly over the world as a part of your job. There’s great food all over the world.”

Ricke said the same thing about flying crew chiefs being one of the more rewarding parts of the hard crew chief life and said whether the mission is a four to five day trip just dropping supplies or working on an military training exercise with the Army for two weeks, becoming a flying crew chief is a goal any new crew chief should strive for.

Many of the aircraft in the Air Force’s heavies fleet will be on display at the SAFB Air Show this Oct. 26-27, showing off the often underappreciated heavy aircraft that are the base of our Air Force.

“For all our cargo aircraft, they will be opened up so people can walk through it, go in the flight deck, they can experience it all,” Ricke said. “That’s the thing for us, showing them one aspect of how this little thing makes all this move around, it’s all just a piece of the puzzle and to show them that we don’t just have fighters or bombers, they can learn about the cargo mission, the training mission.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

It’s often said that if you want to know what equipment your car will have in 10 to 20 years, just look at the Mercedes-Benz S-Class; and it’s true. Every car today has a pretensioner seatbelt that preemptively tightens to prevent you from jerking forward in the event of a crash. The S-Class was the first car to include this feature in 1981. Today, many cars have active safety systems that use radar and cameras to detect if you’re about to have a collision and apply the brakes to bring you to a stop. While adaptive cruise control was first introduced by Mitusbishi, Mercedes introduced the first system that could bring the car to a complete halt on the S-Class back in 2005. The same principle applies to the military too. If you want to know what the regular line soldier will be equipped with in a few decades, look no further than special forces. Here are a few pieces of gear that have trickled their way down from tier one.

1. Rifle Optics

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52
A Delta Operator with an Aimpoint 2000 on his CAR-15 (U.S. Army)

In modern infantry units, just about every soldier gets some sort of optic on their rifle. Whether it’s a magnified ACOG or red dot CCO, having some sort of optic is a huge help when you’re on the shooting range (both one-way and two-way). The Army has even adopted a new variable-power rifle optic to equip all of its line soldiers across the force. However, before optics were commonplace in infantry units, they were first seen in special forces. One of the first red dots fielded by special forces was the Aimpoint 2000. “This was a game changer to me,” said former Delta operator Larry Vickers. “I went through OTC with iron sights…went to A Squadron, saw guys using red dot, I tried it, and at that point I realized the advantage that something like an Aimpoint red dot sight brings to the table…The way that red dot rights are used today kinda started back in the Delta Force late 1980s era with the Aimpoint 2000.”

2. Silencers

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52
A Navy SEAL (left) armed with a silenced MP5 (U.S. Navy)

Yes, they’re called silencers. Hiram Percy Maxim received the patent for his design in 1909 and marketed them as “Maxim Silencers”. The DoJ and ATF also use the term silencer. However, silencers are a bit of a misnomer. Depending on variables like caliber, bullet weight, powder, and barrel length, a silencer generally suppresses the sound of a gunshot. Very few firearms can actually be silenced to Hollywood levels of quiet. Still, the devices are effective at masking or modifying the noise created by a gunshot. Special forces units have used silencers since at least WWII with specialized weapons like the Welrod. In 1993, the Special Operations Peculiar Modification kit was introduced. The SOPMOD accessory system allowed special forces operators to adapt their weapons to different missions with attachments like optics, lights, and a silencer. At the end of 2020, the Marine Corps announced that it had begun widespread fielding of suppressors. The Corps’ goal is to field 30,000 suppressors by FY2023. The Army is also considering widespread use of suppressors with its Next Generation Squad Weapon program.

3. ATVs

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52
A special forces prepares to drive his ATV into a CH-47 Chinook (U.S. Air Force)

Well, ATVs and four-wheelers anyway. A specialized dune buggy called the Desert Patrol Vehicle was used extensively by special forces during Operation Desert Storm. In fact, the first U.S. forces to enter Kuwait City were Navy SEALs in DPVs. During the early years of the War on Terror, light utility vehicles were purchased off-the-shelf and employed by special forces. They proved invaluable for navigating the mountainous terrain and rough trails of Afghanistan. Motorcycles, quad bikes, and four-wheelers all helped tier one operators hunt down and destroy Taliban fighters throughout Operation Enduring Freedom. Seeing the potential of off-the-shelf vehicles like these, the Army adopted Polaris vehicles like the MRZR Diesel and the Sportsman MV850. These vehicles are often employed by light infantry units as scouts to quickly transit rough terrain. Their small size means that they can also be driven into a CH-47 Chinook and airlifted onto the battlefield.

4. Pistols

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52
A Navy SEAL armed with a Sig Sauer pistol (U.S. Navy)

While pistols are not new to line units, they are less common. The Beretta M9 was generally issued to officers and senior non-comissioned officers, but not to leaders at the squad and fireteam levels. On the special forces side, all members are dual-armed with both a rifle or their assigned weapon and a pistol. However, with the adoption of the Sig Sauer M17/M18 pistol, the Army plans to issue sidearms down to squad and fireteam leaders. This new policy gives junior leaders in regular line units more options in close quarter battle situations. Moving in this direction, it’s likely that all line soldiers will eventually be dual-armed just like special forces.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why helicopters don’t crash when they lose an engine

Myth: Helicopters will drop like a rock when the engine shuts down.

In fact, you have a better chance at surviving in a helicopter when the engine fails than you do in an airplane. Helicopters are designed specifically to allow pilots to have a reasonable chance of landing them safely in the case where the engine stops working during flight, often with no damage at all. They accomplish this via autorotation of the main rotor blades.

Further, when seeking a helicopter pilot’s license, one has to practice landing using this no-power technique. When practicing, instead of actually shutting the engine off completely though, they usually just turn the engine down enough to disengage it from the rotor. This way, if the student encounters a problem during a no-power landing, the helicopter can be throttled back up to avoid an accident. Given that this isn’t an option during actual engine failure, it’s critical for helicopter pilots to practice this until they have it down pat.


A landing via autorotation is also sometimes necessary if the rear rotor blades stop functioning properly, no longer countering for the torque of the main rotor blades, so the helicopter will spin if the engine isn’t turned off. Whether this happens and the pilot shuts off the engine or in the case of actual engine failure, once the engine drops below a certain number of revolutions per minute, relative to the rotor RPM rate, a special clutch mechanism, called a freewheeling unit, disengages the engine from the main rotor automatically. This allows the main rotor to spin without resistance from the engine.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

Once the engine fails or otherwise is shut off, the pilot must immediately lower the pitch, reducing lift and drag, and the helicopter will begin to descend. If they don’t do this quick enough, allowing the RPM of the main rotor to drop too far, they’ll then lose control of the helicopter and will likely not get it back. When this happens, it may well drop like a rock. However, this isn’t typical because as soon as the freewheeling unit disengages the engine, the pilot is trained to respond appropriately immediately.

Exactly what the correct glide angle is to maintain optimal rotor RPM varies with different helicopter designs, but this information is readily available in the helicopter’s manual. The glide angle also varies based on weather conditions (wind, temperature, etc.), weight, altitude, and airspeed, but in all cases a correct glide angle has the effect of producing an upward flow of air that will spin the main rotor at some optimal RPM, storing kinetic energy in the blades.

As the helicopter approaches the ground, the pilot must then get rid of most of their forward motion and slow the decent using the stored up kinetic energy in the rotors. If done perfectly, the landing will be quite gentle. They accomplish this by executing a flare, pitching the nose up, at the right moment. This will also have the effect of transferring some of that energy from the forward momentum into the main rotor, making it spin faster, which will further allow for a smooth landing. Because the flare will often need to be somewhat dramatic, the tricky part here is making sure that the rear of the helicopter doesn’t hit the ground. Ideally the pilot executes the flare (hopefully stopping most all the forward motion and slowing the decent to almost nothing), then levels the nose out just before touchdown.

Autorotation may sound like a fairly complex and difficult thing to do, but according to one instructor I briefly chatted with about this, it’s really not all that difficult compared to a lot of other aspects of flying a helicopter. In fact, he stated that most students have a lot more trouble when they first try things like hovering, than they do when they first try a no-power landing. Granted, this is partially because students don’t try autorotation landings until they are near the end of their training, so they are more skilled than when they first try a lot of other maneuvers, but still. It’s apparently not nearly as difficult as it sounds and most of the problems students have just stem from being nervous at descending at a higher rate than normal.

You can see a video of someone executing a near perfect autorotation landing below:

Helicopter Autorotation EC-120

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

Articles

This amazing use of nuclear technology will blow your mind

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52
Image: Lockheed Martin


Imagine a plane that could stay aloft with unlimited range and endurance without refueling. That’s exactly what Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division claims it could develop within ten years.

The makers of some of the most famous military aircraft—the SR-71 Blackbird, U-2 spy plane, and F-117 Nighthawk—are developing a reactor to harness nuclear fusion, the process that powers the sun.

Related: These re the 9 fastest piloted planes in the world

Nuclear technology for power is not a new concept; we’ve been doing it for decades through fission. Fission occurs when an atom is split into smaller fragments, creating small explosions resulting in the release of heat energy. Fusion, on the other hand, is the process by which gas is heated up and separated into its ions and electrons. When the ions get hot enough, they can overcome their mutual repulsion and collide, fusing together, hence its name — fusion. When this happens, the energy released is three to four times more than that of a fission reaction, according to Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin aims to mimic the fusion process within a small magnetic container designed to release its hundreds of millions of degrees of heat in a controlled fashion. These devices will be small enough to be used on planes and other vehicles.

Its compact size is the reason for which the engineers and scientists at Lockheed Martin believe they can achieve this technology so quickly. A small device size allows them to test and fail quickly under budget.

In this video Tom McGuire, a research engineer and scientist at Lockheed Martin explains how they plan to bottle the power of the sun within a decade:

LockheedMartinVideos, YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

7 weapons that are used in the Marine infantry

The Marine infantry has been fighting for our nation’s freedoms for the last few hundred years in every clime and place where they can take a gun. Today, the U.S. Marine Corps is one of the most respected and well-recognized branches of any military, the world over. From a mile away, you can identify a Marine by their unique Dress Blues and their high-and-tight haircut. But the Marine getup wouldn’t be so well-known if it weren’t for the many hard-fought victories they’ve earned on the battlefield.

Historically, Marines have won battles through tough training, world-famous discipline, and, of course, the weapons they bring to the fight. So, let’s take a look at a few of those impressive weapons system used to fight those who threaten our freedoms.


Also Read: This incredible rap song perfectly captures life in Marine Corps infantry

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

M9 Beretta

M9 Beretta

This pistol is the standard for the Marine infantryman. The Beretta fires a 9mm bullet and holds up to 15 rounds in the magazine and one in the pipe. Although this pistol is standard-issue to those who rate, most grunts would prefer a .45 Colt due to its stopping power.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. John Brancifort, a rifleman with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, fires an M4 carbine in the lateral movement portion of a stress shooting exercise held by U.S. Army Special Forces in Germany, Apr. 12, 2016.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tia Nagle)

M4 Carbine

This is the lighter and shorter version of the M16A2 semi-automatic assault rifle. The M4 is a direct impingement gas-operated, air-cooled, magazine-fed weapon that shoots a 5.56x45mm round. Many M4s are retrofitted with a .203 grenade launcher that is sure to clear the bad guys from their defensive positions.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

A Marine fires an M240 Bravo medium machine gun during a live-fire training exercise at a multipurpose machine gun range at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tyler Andersen)

M240 Bravo

This medium-sized machine gun is a belt-fed and gas-operated weapon that fires a 7.62mm round. The weapon can disperse between 650 to 900 rounds per minute while on a cyclic rate of fire. The M240 Bravo enables its operator to put down a wall of lead when ground forces need to win the war of fire superiority.

“The battlefield is a dance floor, and the machine gunners are the jukeboxes.” — Marine Lance Cpl. Dixon.
This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

A U.S. Marine with II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, fires a Mark 19 40mm grenade machine gun during the II MIG Field Exercise at Camp Lejeune. The Marines fired the weapon to become more proficient with different weapon systems.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Larisa Chavez)

Mark 19

This belt-fed, air-cooled 40mm automatic grenade launcher has a cyclic rate of fire of 325 to 375 rpm. The weapon system operates on a blow-back system, which uses chamber pressure to load the next grenade, launching each round a maximum distance of 2,210 meters.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

A sniper attached to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment takes aim at insurgents from behind cover, during a firefight in Helmand province. Patrols have been increased in an effort to push the Taliban back and create a buffer for villages friendly towards coalition forces in the region.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. James Clark)

M110 SAAS

The M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System is mainly for multiple target engagements, firing 7.62x51mm NATO rounds. This highly accurate sniper rifle is a favorite on the battlefields of Afghanistan as it weighs just 15.3 pounds and has a muzzle velocity of 2,570 feet per second.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

A Marine racks a round into his .50 caliber Browning M2HB on the training range at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

(DoD)

Browning M2

This .50 caliber machine gun is the stuff of nightmares for NATO’s enemies as it’s terrorized the bad guys for years. This insanely powerful weapon system can be mounted in a turret or the back of an aircraft. This belt-fed machine gun has a max range of 2,500 meters and weighs approximately 127-pounds while attached to a TE (traverse and elevation) mechanism.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

The turret-mounted M40A1 Saber anti-tank missile.

(Marine Corps Recruiting)

M40A1 Saber

This anti-tank system can nail targets moving laterally at 45 to 50 miles per hour at a range of approximately 3,500 meters. What’s more impressive is that this weapon system has a 95-percent hit-to-kill ratio.

Check out the Marine Corps Recruiting‘s video below to get the complete breakdown from the infantrymen themselves.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center received formal approval in late October 2018 to enter the production phase for the B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb’s new guided tail-kit assembly, or TKA.

“This marks the completion of a highly successful development effort for the tail kit,” said Col. Dustin Ziegler, AFNWC director for air-delivered capabilities.

The AFNWC program office recently passed the Air Force review of the weapon system’s development and received approval to end its engineering and manufacturing development phase and enter the next phase for production of the tail kit. In the production phase, the testing environment will more closely approach real-world environments.


Known as Milestone C, the decision to enter this next phase marked the completion of a series of developmental flight tests. The program office completed a 27-month test program in less than 11 months, with 100 percent success for all of its 31 bomb drops. The accelerated schedule, as well as other risk mitigation strategies, enabled the program office to save more than 0 million in development costs, according to Ziegler.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

A frontal view of four B-61 nuclear free-fall bombs on a bomb cart.

(DoD photo by Phil Schmitten)

“The flight tests demonstrated the system works very well in its intended environment,” said Col. Paul Rounsavall, AFNWC senior materiel leader for the B61-12 TKA, Eglin AFB, Florida. “This development effort brought the first-ever digital interface to the B61 family of weapons and demonstrated the B61-12 TKA’s compatibility with the Air Force’s B-2 and F-15 aircraft. In addition, the TKA achieved greater than five times its required performance during developmental testing and is ready to start initial operational test and evaluation.”

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is responsible for the B61-12 nuclear bomb assembly. The Air Force is responsible for the B61-12 TKA, joint integration of the bomb assembly and TKA into the “all-up-round” of the weapon, and its integration with aircraft.

Headquartered at Kirtland AFB, AFNWC is responsible for synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command and in direct support of Air Force Global Strike Command. The center has about 1,100 personnel assigned to 18 locations worldwide, including Eglin AFB; Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts; Hill AFB, Utah; Kirtland AFB; and Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, in the U.S. and Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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This is why the Air Force wants a stealthy new cruise missile

The Air Force is buying a new bomber, dubbed the B-21 Raider, which has generated a lot of headlines and is considered one of the biggest priorities for the service. However, another program may be just as important – even if it doesn’t get the press.


According to an interview that TheCipherBrief.com had with retired Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, who was one of the primary planners of the Desert Storm air campaign, that program is the Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, or LRSO. In plain terms, it is a new cruise missile.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52
David Deptula during his service with the United States Air Force. (USAF photo)

While the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile is perhaps the most famous – and perhaps the most widely-used cruise missile since Operation Desert Storm – the Air Force has had a pair of cruise missiles it launched from its bombers for about four decades. They were the AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile and the AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile.

While some might argue that the B-2 and B-21 stealth bombers make cruise missiles unnecessary, Deptula said that was not the case. In fact, they make the stealth bombers more potent.

“The LRSO, when carried by B-21s, will enable simultaneous target attacks against several targets from one aircraft, with multiple cruise missiles making defense against this combination highly problematical,” he said. “This combination strengthens deterrence by presenting an adversary an intractable challenge.”

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52
Artist rendering of B-21 Raider bomber. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

One of the biggest factors in making that challenge intractable is that the bombers are able to attack from just about any point on the compass. In essence, the cruise missiles would enable a B-21 to hit multiple targets from unexpected directions.

Older bombers like the B-52 and B-1B will also be able to use LRSO as well, with Deptula explaining that they would thus “add mass to an attack” against an adversary. The missile is planned to enter service in 2030 according to FlightGlobal.com, and will feature both nuclear and conventional warheads.

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This is how the Marines are hiding their command posts from drones

You can run, but you can’t hide – especially the age of satellites, hand-held GPS devices, Google Earth and inexpensive, camera-bearing drones.


So with easy surveillance tools in the hands of a technologically unsophisticated enemy, how does a unit hide its command post?

During the recent Large Scale Exercise 2016, I Marine Expeditionary Force experimented with a new tent setup for its command post, or CP, that included big swaths of tan-and-drab camouflage netting draped over hard structures and tents.

The idea, of course, was to disguise – if not hide – the presence and footprint of the command post that I MEF Headquarters Group set up for the exercise, a de facto MEF-level command wargaming drill that ran Aug. 14 to 22. During a similar exercise in February 2015, its top commander acknowledged the large footprint occupied by his field command post, then set up in a field at Camp Pendleton, California, but without any camo netting.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52
Multiple tents connect to create a Combat Operations Center during a 2nd Marine Division Command Post Exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 29, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kirstin Merrimarahajara/Released)

It was, frankly, large and obvious that the tents and structures were something important to the battle effort. And that makes it a big target, whether seen on the ground from line of sight or from the air from drones, aircraft or satellite imagery, officials say.

This year, intent on better concealment, headquarters group Marines looked at ways to hide the lines and structures of the CP. They came up with a new camo netting design and refined it with some bird’s-eye scrutiny.

The Leathernecks went “back to basics,” one officer said.

“We flew a drone over it. Now, it’s a little bit more ambiguous,” Col. Matthew Jones, the I MEF chief of staff, said last week as the command worked through the exercise’s final day from its CP set up in a dusty field. “It’s just camouflaged, it’s a lot better concealed.”

MEF officials declined to reveal the secret sauce of the new CPX camo set they used. “This is the state of the art right now,” said Jones.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52
U.S. Marines with Combat Logistics Detachment 391, 3d Transportation Support Battalion, set up a command operation center on Camp Mujuk, South Korea, in support of exercise Ssang Yong, Feb. 29, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Sgt. Joseph Sanchez/Released)

Still, he acknowledged camouflage netting has some limitations, saying, “I won’t say it won’t look like a hard military installation.”

“The fact is, it’s clearly visible from space,” he added. “You can’t mistake it. Even if it’s camouflaged. … It’s big enough to be worth shooting at.”

In fact, camouflage and concealment are as basic to warfighting – whether on the offensive or defense – as weaponry.

It’s all about deception – hiding your capabilities and your location, which taken together might help spell out your intentions, unintentional as that may be. Deception like camouflage can mask your true force strength, combat power and, more so these days, technological capabilities. But a collection of tents and structures, and the presence of radio antennas, satellite dishes, power generators and containers, can spell out the obvious presence of an important headquarters.

“If you can be seen, you will be attacked,” Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, told a Center for Strategic and International Studies audience on Aug. 6.

Neller relayed I MEF’s experience with camouflaging the field CP, which despite netting efforts still had the vulnerability of detection from light shining off concertina wire that encircled the facilities. He wants Marines to get back to the basics of fieldcraft, like “digging a hole, preparing a defensive position, and camouflaging that, living in the field, and not going back to a [forward operating base] overnight to check your email.”

That will be more relevant, top leaders have noted, as more Marines deploy and operate in the dispersed, distributed battlefield of the near future.

And it’s not just the physical look that I MEF and the Marine Corps wants to change. Trendy gadgets and new technologies make it easier to detect and interfere with electronic signals. Such electronic surveillance poses real threats to military command networks and command and control.

“We are working really hard on our electronic signatures … that would make it easier for the enemy to detect you,” Jones said. It’s especially critical if U.S. forces get into a fight against a peer or near-peer adversary with similar surveillance capabilities, so “maybe we need to be thinking of other ways.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why troops love and hate aluminum vehicles

Aluminum has served in war since ancient times, but its most common application today is as armor, allowing for well-protected but light vehicles that can tear through rough terrain where steel would get bogged down. But aluminum has an unearned reputation for burning, so troops don’t line up to ride in them under fire.


This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

Crewmen in the coupla of an M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle elevate the barrel during a 1987 exercise.

(U.S. Army Pfc. Prince Hearns)

Aluminum got its start in war as alum, a salt composed of aluminum and potassium. This was one of the earliest uses of aluminum in military history. Ancient commanders learned you could apply a solution of the stuff to wood and reduce the chances it would burn when an enemy hit it with fire.

As chemists and scientists learned how to create pure aluminum in the 1800s, some military leaders looked to it for a new age of weaponry. At the time, extracting and smelting aluminum was challenging and super expensive, but Napoleon sponsored research as he sought to create aluminum artillery.

Because aluminum is so much lighter than steel, it could’ve given rise to more mobile artillery units, capable of navigating muddy lanes that would stop heavier units. Napoleon’s scientists could never get the process right to mass produce the metal, so the ideas never came to fruition.

But aluminum has some drawbacks when it comes to weapon barrels. It’s soft, and it has a relatively low melting point. So, start churning out cannon balls from aluminum guns, and you run the risk of warping the barrels right when you need them.

Instead, the modern military uses aluminum, now relatively cheap to mine and refine, to serve as armor. It’s light, and it can take a hit, making it perfect for protection. The softness isn’t ideal for all purposes, but it does mean that the armor isn’t prone to spalling when hit.

But aluminum’s differences from steel extend deep into the thermal sphere. While aluminum does have a lower melting point than steel, it also has a higher thermal conductivity and specific energy (basically, it takes more heat to heat up aluminum than it does to heat up steel). So it can take plenty of localized heat without melting away.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

An armored personnel carrier burns in the streets of Egypt during 2011 protests.

(Amr Farouq Mohammed, CC BY-SA 2.0)

So why don’t troops love the stuff? It has a reputation for burning, for one. It’s not fair to the material. Aluminum actually doesn’t burn in combat conditions, needing temperatures of over 3300 Fahrenheit to burn and lots of surface area exposed to keep the reaction going.

(In industrial applications that rely on aluminum burning, the process is usually started by burning another metal, like magnesium, which burns more easily and releases enough heat, and the aluminum is crushed into a fine powder and mixed with oxygen so that the soot doesn’t halt the reaction.)

But that hasn’t stopped detractors from blaming the metal for all sorts of vehicles that were lost. The Royal Navy lost nine ships in the Falklands War, and three of them had aluminum superstructures. Aluminum detractors at the time claimed it was because the ships’ aluminum hulls burned in the extreme heat after being hit, even though the ships had steel hulls and aluminum does not burn outside of very certain conditions.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

U.S. Army armored vehicles leave Samarra, Iraq, after conducting an assault on Oct. 1, 2004.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

All these reports of burning aluminum were spurred on in the ’80s and ’90s by a very public fight between Army Col. James G. Burton, a man who didn’t like the M113 in Vietnam and hated the M2 Bradley while it was under development. He repeatedly claimed that the Army was rigging tests in the Bradley’s favor, tests that he said would prove that the vehicles would burn and kill the crew in combat.

In a book published in 1993, after the Bradley became one of the heroes of Desert Storm, he claimed that the vehicles survived because of changes made after those tests. But while the Army might have switched the locations where ammo was stored and other design details, they didn’t change the hull material.

But, again, aluminum does melt. And the few Bradley’s that did suffer extended ammo fires did melt quite extensively, sometimes resulting in puddles of aluminum with the steel frame sitting on top of it. This spurred on the belief that the aluminum, itself, had burnt.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

The M2A3 Bradley is capable, but troops don’t love its aluminum hull.

(Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)

But aluminum melts at over 1,200 Fahrenheit, hot enough that any crew in a melting aluminum vehicle would’ve died long before the armor plates drip off. Aluminum is great at normal temperatures, providing protection at light weights.

And so aluminum protects vehicles like the M2 Bradley and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is slated to replace the M113 has, you guessed it, an aluminum hull. But while troops might enjoy the increased space, they’ll probably leave off any discussion of the vehicle’s material while bragging.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The best American tank of World War II rarely saw combat

Sometimes, a good weapon system never gets a chance to shine. In some cases, there simply aren’t any conflicts going on through which the gear can demonstrate its worth (the B-36 Peacemaker comes to mind). In other cases, a piece of technology might mark an important milestone, but end up virtually obsolete by the time the next war rolls around, as was the case with USS Ranger (CV 4).

Well, the M26 Pershing fits into neither of these categories. While over 2,000 of these tanks were produced, they largely missed World War II because of bureaucratic infighting. The few tanks that did get to the front lines performed well, though — leaving many to wonder what might have happened had an Army general by the name of Leslie McNair been more open-minded.


Here’s the deal. Prior to World War II, the United States Army didn’t think that tanks should fight other tanks. Instead, that job was relegated to the aptly named tank destroyer class of vehicle. These vehicles were fast and had potent guns, but sacrificed a lot of armor to achieve such a speed. Meanwhile, the mission of the tank was to support infantry.

That was the leading theory of the time and, as a result, the Army went with the M4 Sherman – producing over 50,000 of those tanks.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

One of the few M26 Pershing tanks that got to the front lines.

(US Army)

Reality, of course, tells a different story. If tanks support infantry and infantry fights infantry, then logic would tell us that tanks would end up facing off against other tanks as those tanks supported opposing infantry. In essence, a key capability in supporting infantry is the ability to kill the other side’s tanks.

The Pershing could do just that with its 90mm main gun (and the 70 rounds it carried for it). Unfortunately, GIs would never get the chance to witness that.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

M26 Pershings being prepared to embark on LSTs in Pusan, South Korea.

(US Army)

According to tanks-encyclopedia.com, Leslie McNair, who headed Army Ground Forces, stuck with the pre-war theory. His opposition to a new tank delayed the M26’s service entry. Eventually, McNair was given a combat assignment and killed by friendly fire during the fighting near Saint-Lô.

The Pershing reached the front lines after the Battle of the Bulge proved the inadequacy of the M4 Sherman in tank combat.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

The M26 Pershing saw some action in the Korean War, but many were soon shipped to Europe to bolster NATO.

(USMC)

The Pershing went on to see some action in the Korean War, but it was quickly shifted to Europe to bolster the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Eventually, it was replaced by the M46/M47/M48 Patton family of tanks.

Watch the video below to learn more about this great tank that never get a real shot to prove itself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FURywJI-MkU

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the US doesn’t export the F-22

Lockheed Martin, the leading manufacturer of stealth aircraft in the world, proposed a new hybrid between the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning on April 22, 2018, for Japan to purchase, and it could easily outclass the US Air Force.

Japan has, for decades, wanted in on the US Air Force’s F-22, a long-range, high-capacity stealth fighter that perfectly suits its defense needs, except for one problem — the US won’t sell it.


While completing the F-22, the US ruled out its sale to allies as the technology involved in the plane was too advanced for export. But this decision took place 11 years ago in 2007.

Today, the US is in the process of selling Japan the F-35 multi-role strike aircraft, but according to Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, the plane’s design makes it less than ideal for Tokyo.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52
An F-35 Lightning II
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)

“The F-35 is primarily a strike aircraft, intended to hit well defended targets on the ground, and is limited in air-to-air combat because of its size, its single engine, and way it was designed,” Bronk said.

But because Russian and Chinese jets constantly pester Japan’s airspace, Tokyo wants a more air-dominance focused jet.

The F-22 can cruise at 60,000 feet going about 1.5 times the speed of sound without igniting the afterburners, meaning it can maintain its stealth while covering incredible distances in short times. The F-35 is a capable fighter, but can’t touch those numbers.

“Along with a bigger missile load out, it’s a much much more capable for air superiority tasks,” Bronk said of the F-22. “The strike role that Japan really really cares about is not really the one that the F-35 is designed for.”

He added that Japan would love a jet that can fire anti-ship missiles, but that the F-35 is just too small to hold them inside its stealthy weapons bays.

Beast of both worlds

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52
(U.S. Air Force photo)

President Donald Trump has moved to loosen up restrictions on foreign military sales, and could potentially revisit the decade-old ruling on selling the F-22, as the sensitive technology it uses has aged and become less cutting-edge, but that same advancement in technology has likely doomed the F-22’s restart.

Bronk said the costs of restarting F-22 production were “not trivial,” and even if Japan offered to pay, “a lot of the electronic components, computer chips and things, are not built anymore.” The F-22 had a decades-long development that started off with 1980s-era technology.

“If you were going to put the F-22 into production now, it’s hard to justify doing without updating the electronics,” Bronk said. Once the electronics become updated, and take up less space and throw off the balance of the jet, the flight software would need an update. Once the flight software starts getting updated, “it starts to look like a new fighter program,” Bronk said.

This would create a serious headache for the US Air Force

In the end, Lockheed’s proposal looks like an F-22 airframe jammed with F-35 era technology, essentially stripping the best part of each jet and combining them in a plane that would outclass either.

“If it can stomach the costs, then not only would Japan have a fantastic fighter on its hands, but perhaps problematically it would be more capable than anything the US Air Force is flying,” Bronk explained.

In the end, the US Air Force would end up in a very difficult position — having to live with Japan getting a better fighter, or spending money earmarked for F-35s, which the US sees as the future of its force, on another aircraft it didn’t come up with.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force B-52 bombers drop laser-guided bombs for first time in a decade

Laser-Guided Bomb Units, commonly referred to as LGB’s, were dropped from the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress for the first time in nearly a decade during an operational test performed by the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron Aug. 28, 2019.

The munitions used to be dropped from the bomb bay of the jet using a cluster bomb rack system, but the method raised safety concerns and the practice was eliminated.

“We’ve still been able to utilize LGB’s underneath the wings of the B-52, but they don’t do very well when carried externally because they are susceptible to icing and other weather conditions,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Little, 49th TES commander.


According to Little, the seeker head of the LGB can be adversely affected by the elements, potentially reducing its effectiveness.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

US Air Force Senior Airman Endina Tinoco wires a GBU-12 laser guided bomb after it was loaded onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

The advent of the Conventional Rotary Launcher, a bomb bay weapons platform made available to the B-52 fleet in 2017, provides an alternative to the cluster bomb rack system and may once again allow LGB’s to be dropped from inside the jet.

Doing so would keep the weapons protected from the elements, reducing the effects of weather. It also has the potential to increase the jet’s lethality.

“It’s another arrow in the quiver, it gives us the ability to carry more LGB’s on the aircraft or give more variation on a conventional load,” said Little. “It adds capability and is another thing you can bring to the fight.”

Little explained the CRL was not originally designed for gravity-type bombs like the LGB, but recent software upgrades to the system now allow for such munitions.

Getting to the point of operational testing required a team effort between the 49th TES and Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The 307th AMXS took the lead in configuring the CRL to accept the LGB’s.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Skyler McCloyn and Staff Sgt. Nathan Ehardt load a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

SSgt. Skyler McCloyn, 307th AMXS aircraft armament systems mechanic, served as the loading team chief for the event.

“It was very cool mission,” said McCloyn. “It is exciting to know you are a part of something that could have a long-term impact.”

The experience of the Reserve Citizen Airmen contributed greatly to the success of the effort, according to McCloyn.

“When you are doing something for the first time there will always, be kinks,” said McCloyn. ” But the expertise we have from working with so many type of munitions allowed us to adjust and work through those issues without much trouble .”

Little appreciated having the breadth and depth of experience offered by the unit.

“The 307th AMXS is on the leading edge of weapons loading and giving the rest of the B-52 maintenance community the data they need for unique scenarios like this,” he said.

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

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