In the early years of the Cold War, huge propeller-driven bombers began to give way to bombers equipped with jet engines. These first jet bombers, like the Boeing B-47 Stratojet, had performance, but very short range. The first B-47s entered service in 1950.
The Soviet Union answered the B-47 with the Tupolev Tu-16 bomber, code-named Badger by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This plane entered service in 1954, eventually proved to be a versatile airframe, and included tanker, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare versions. While the United States didn’t export the B-47, the Soviets had no compunctions when it came to exporting its jet-powered medium bomber. The fall of the Soviet Union saw the Badger and its variants retire in 1998.
One of those potential export customers was the People’s Republic of China. The Soviets had even sent some kits for China to assemble the plane locally (something also done with the MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21). According to MilitaryFactory.com, some Soviet-built examples entered service in 1959 as the Xian H-6. Reflecting the fact that it is a Chinese copy of the Soviet plane, NATO calls the H-6 the Badger.
Then came the break-up of the Sino-Soviet friendship. Suddenly, China had to spend time reverse-engineering the Badger. Eventually, they were able to produce as many as 180 of their own. China’s newest variants have longer range and are optimized more for the cruise-missile shooter role.
The H-6 can reach a top speed of 652 miles per hour, and has a range of 3,728 miles. The plane can carry up to 20,000 pounds of bombs, or it can carry C-601, C-602, or KD-88 missiles. China has been introducing newer versions of this bomber in recent years, and even made some exports of their own!
You can see more about this bomber in the video below.
The stunning photographs in this post were taken on Feb. 21, 2019, by our friend and photographer Christopher McGreevy.
They show a 461th FLTS F-35A from Edwards Air Force Base, at low level, on the Sidewinder low level route, enroute to the famous “Jedi Transition.”
While we are used to see some great photographs of the F-35s, F-16s, and many other types thundering over the desert in the “Star Wars” canyon, the rare snow days in California provided a fantastic background for these shots McGreevy shot from an unusual spot, deep in the Sierra Mountains.
As mentioned several times here at The Aviationist, what makes the low level training so interesting, is the fact that aircraft flying the low level routes are involved in realistic combat training. Indeed, although many current and future scenarios involve stand-off weapons or drops from high altitudes, fighter pilots still practice on an almost daily basis to infiltrate heavily defended targets and to evade from areas protected by sophisticated air defense networks as those employed in Iran, Syria or North Korea. While electronic countermeasures help, the ability to get bombs on target and live to fight another day may also depend on the skills learnt at treetop altitude.
To be able to fly at less than 2,000 feet can be useful during stateside training too, when weather conditions are such to require a low level leg to keep visual contact with the ground and VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in trouble spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.
Even a stealth plane (or helicopter), spotted visually by an opponent, could be required to escape at tree top height to survive an engagement by enemy fighter planes or an IR guided missile.
That’s why low level corridors like the Sidewinder and the LFA-7 aka “Mach Loop” in the UK are so frequently used to train fighter jet, airlifter and helicopter pilots.
And such training pays off when needed. As happened, in Libya, in 2011, when RAF C-130s were tasked to rescue oil workers that were trapped in the desert. The airlifter took off from Malta and flew over the Mediteranean, called Tripoli air traffic control, explained who they were and what they were up to, they got no reply from the controllers, therefore continued at low level once over the desert and in hostile airspace.
H/T to our friend Christopher McGreevy for sending us these shots. Make sure to visit his stunning Instagram page here.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
This Is The First F-35C Carrier Variant Joint Strike Fighter For The U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-314.
Marines are also getting the F-35C CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Lightning II. Here’s their first Carrier Variant Jet in VMFA-314 markings.
Along with flying the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II aircraft, that operates from amphibious assault ships, the U.S. Marine Corps is transitioning to the F-35C, the CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (also known as CV – Carrier Variant), that can operate from U.S. Navy’s flattops (the Nimitz-class ones, until issues with the Ford-class carriers are fixed).
Indeed, the Corps plans to operate 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs to replace three types of aircraft: the F/A-18A++/C/D “Legacy” Hornet, the AV-8B Harrier II and the EA-6B Prowler.
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, is the first Marines squadron that will replace the “Legacy” Hornet with the brand new F-35C.
The first F-35C delivered to a USMC squadron, VMFA-314, at NAS Lemoore.
Photo by United States Marine Corps
At the time of writing, VMFA-314 has already started training alongside the U.S. Navy’s VFA-125, the F-35’s only Fleet Replacement Squadron, based at NAS Lemoore, California. The plan is to complete the preparation by next Spring.
By the time the Marine Aircraft Group 11 commander officer will certify the squadron as “safe for flight” and ready to operate independently of the FRS, VMFA-314 will have returned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.
The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the F-35C was declared on Feb. 28, 2019, after the first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, conducted aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and received its Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification.
“In order to declare IOC, the first operational squadron must be properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations. This includes having 10 Block 3F, F-35C aircraft, requisite spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS). Additionally, the ship that supports the first squadron must possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications and certifications. Lastly, the Joint Program Office (JPO), industry, and Naval Aviation must demonstrate that all procedures, processes and policies are in place to sustain operations,” the Navy added in an official statement.
VFA-147 will conduct the first deployment with the F-35C integrated into the Carrier Air Wing 2, aboard the Nimitz-class USS Carl Vinson in 2021, and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 will conduct the second F-35C carrier deployment.
Interestingly, at least one F-35C already sports full VMFA-314 markings. The first photos of CF-35/169601, modex VW-434, including those that you can find in this article, were posted three weeks ago by Col. Simon Doran, MAG 11’s commanding officer. More shots have started circulating on the Internet after the aircraft, with just a handful flying hours, made a public appearance at Tinker AFB Air Show, on Jun. 1, 2019.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
US Marine Corps F-35B pilots aboard the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship, took off with externally stored missiles in the Philippine Sea, which suggests they trained for all-out aerial combat with China.
The move came just days after China deployed its DF-26 missiles that experts say can take down US aircraft carriers from thousands of miles away.
The Wasp regularly patrols the western Pacific and became the first ship to host combat-ready F-35s, the first-ever carrier-launched stealth jets. The F-35B is a short-landing and short-take-off version of the aircraft designed for Marine pilots.
An F-35B Lightning II makes the first vertical landing on a flight deck at sea aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Natasha R. Chalk)
Because of the F-35’s stealth design, it usually stores weapons in an internal bay to preserve its radar-evading shape.
So when the F-35 flies with weapons outside the bay, it’s flying in what Lockheed Martin calls “beast mode.”
The F-35 holds only four air-to-air missiles on combat-focused air missions, and just two when it splits the mission between air-to-ground and air-to-air.
But with weapons pylons attached, Lockheed Martin has pitched the F-35 as an all-out bomb truck with 18,000 pounds’ worth of bombs and missiles in and under the wings.
While the F-35 has never actually tested this extensive loadout, the F-35Bs aboard the Wasp in January 2019 took off with two weapons pylons and at least one dummy air-to-air missile.
Other pictures of the F-35s on the Wasp showed guided bombs being loaded up into the jets.
Flying with dummy missiles and pylons under the wings trains F-35 pilots on how the aircraft handles under increased strain, and demonstrates what it’s like to have a deeper magazine in combat scenarios.
Lockheed Martin previously told Business Insider that F-35s are meant to fly in stealth mode on the first day of a war when the jets need to sneak behind enemy defenses and take out surface-to-air missiles.
After the initial salvos, F-35s can throw stealth to the wind and load up on missiles and bombs, Lockheed Martin said.
“When we don’t necessarily need to be stealthy, we can carry up to 18,000 pounds of bombs,” Jeff Babione, general manager of the F-35 program, told Business Insider in 2017.
Marines load a Captive Air Training Missile (CATM) 9X onto an F-35B Lightning II aircraft.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean Galbreath)
China is seeking air-to-air dominance
But the theoretical implications of the F-35’s loadout take on a new importance in the Pacific, where China has increasingly sought to impose its will on international waters.
China has increasingly threatened US ships in the region, with one admiral even calling for the sinking of US aircraft carriers.
China has responded to US stealth fighters with a stealth jet of its own, the J-20, a long-range platform with the stated goal of winning air superiority.
While the US may be able to contain China’s air power for now, Beijing recently deployed “carrier-killer” missiles to the country’s northwest. The US, in its recent Missile Defense Review, suggested F-35s could shoot down these missiles in flight.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The United States Army recently demonstrated some new killer robots at Fort Benning, near the city of Columbus, Georgia. While these robots are new, some of the gear they used looks awfully familiar to grunts.
While it might seem odd to use the older vehicles as the basis for robots, keep this in mind: The military has thousands of M113s and thousands of HMMWVs on inventory. The vehicles have also been widely exported. In fact, the M113 is so widely used, it’s hard to imagine anyone would want the used M113s the United States Army has to offer. The same goes for the HMMWV.
Furthermore, while these vehicles may not be ones that you can keep troops in during combat, they can still drive. They can carry cargo. Or, they can carry some firepower. With today’s ability to either drive vehicles by remote control, or to program them to carry out missions, these vehicles could have a lot of useful service left to give.
An Army release had details about how the old platforms helped. One M113 was used to deploy other robots from its troop compartment – one that could hold 11 grunts. Another M113 was used to provide smoke – and conceal a pair of M1A2 Abrams tanks. An unnamed HMMWV demonstrated its ability to use a remote weapon station and a target acquisition system.
That’s not all. The military also had a modified Polaris all-terrain vehicle show its stuff. The ATV also featured an unmanned aerial vehicle on a tether. Such an eye in the sky can have huge benefits. Furthermore, the ATV has a much lower profile.
If these experiments are any indication, American grunts will still be seeing the M113 and HMMWV on the battlefield. This time, though, they will be fighting alongside them, not riding in them.
Training has evolved over the years but the core elements have always remained the same. There’s an instructor and a bunch of students. They go over material, both in theory and in practice, mastering the skills required by the job. But no matter how good the teacher, students will always need a refresher from time to time. So, that means it’s time to go back to school — or does it?
Now, mixed-reality technology — including smart glasses — could change the way sailors learn the skills they need to serve.
At the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo in Maryland, we got a chance to see the glasses that just might change the face of training for sailors — and, eventually, all other military personnel.
Sailors remove a steam-powered catapult chamber on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Augmented reality could help train sailors to perform such maintenance tasks.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Jahnke)
A demo program showed how (in real-time) to disassemble a diesel engine. All nineteen steps were shown on the glasses, which rested (a bit heavily) on the nose. The smart glasses in use were Microsoft HoloLens, which work with Windows 10. As the operator worked on the engine, they used voice commands to cycle through the steps displayed, easily allowing trainees to learn as they work.
This new technology, known as Augmented Reality Training, could go far beyond just training sailors on maintenance tasks. Having a few pairs of goggles available while doing maintenance, however, will help keep every single step of a complicated process fresh in the mind of the technician. Anyone who’s dealt with assembling IKEA furniture can relate — wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to drop everything to reference the manual every step? Cheap furniture is one thing, but forgetting a step when doing work on an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer in the middle of the Indian Ocean can lead to disaster.
Gas Turbine System Technician (Mechanical) 1st Class Jordan Urie, assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5, performs corrective maintenance on the aft transmission system of Landing Craft, Air Cushion 31. Imagine if he could see how to disassemble and re-assemble the system while working.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Brock)
With Augmented Reality Training, the classroom can be taken out to sea. Even though most ships have the manuals nearby, this technology is a huge step forward in blending theoretical and practical education.
In short, technology could very well make it easier not only to train sailors before they go out to sea, but it may also help them keep their skills fresh at sea. That is a very good thing.
Green Beret Travis Wilson is like most members of the Special Operations community. He normally looks at problems and sees two options: find a way around or blow your way through it. The latter worked for Travis downrange, but after multiple IED strikes, enough flashbangs in the face to make even Chuck Norris cringe, and a freefall accident (yeah, seriously, you read that right), Travis, now CEO of Time for a Hero, is taking on a problem that has stopped even the most talented doctors in the world: traumatic brain injury, or TBI.
TBI is often the result of an explosion or crash, both of which are common in the Special Operations community. However, unlike a broken leg or even a gunshot wound, brain injuries just don’t heal like the rest of the body. Even worse, no brain injury is the same, which is what keeps doctors from finding an effective treatment.
As a result, symptoms such as confusion, amnesia, insomnia, and depression can last for months and even years. This is exactly the world Travis found himself in after six deployments and numerous doctors reporting that there was no long term cure for his injuries. So, Travis took matters into his own hands or, more accurately, his own mind.
Travis serving as a Green Beret in Afghanistan
(Courtesy of Travis Wilson)
“It just didn’t make sense to me,” Wilson said. “The doctors were saying there is no cure, but having been a medic, I knew the body was resilient and could heal from all kinds of trauma. I knew there had to be a better answer.”
As a combat medic and exercise science major, Travis knew that the body had an uncanny method to fix itself, but he searched for a treatment that could specifically help brain cells repair themselves. That’s when Travis stumbled upon the founder of Time for a Hero and an unlikely, out-of-the-box solution: stem cells.
I know what you’re thinking: Stem cells? The highly politicized, seemingly creepy, and crazy expensive voodoo treatment that relies on cells harvested like something out of The Matrix? Yep, that’s right, except that Travis and the founders found a stem cell treatment that relies upon the host’s own cells and can be applied to multiple injuries, including TBI.
There was only one problem: The treatment was offered out of the country and was exclusive to the super wealthy and celebrities — you don’t think Tom Cruise has really aged backwards, do you?
Even though you may see stem cell “clinics” in the states, the truly innovative “body heal thyself” kind of treatments aren’t currently approved by the FDA, and aren’t covered by most insurance companies.
Even though the treatment costs roughly ,000 per session, access was a problem Travis could overcome. Travis paired with the founder of Time for a Hero to underwrite all costs for SOF veterans to travel to undergo stem cell therapy. The procedure uses the patient’s own stem cells harvested from the adipose tissue using liposuction (a plus if you’ve been out of the gym for a minute) and then injects the cells into the body using an IV therapy and direct injection into multiple joints.
Mesenchymal Stem cells, which are basically cells that haven’t figured out what they want to be when they grow up (much like most of us), travel through the body and, once they reach the brain, attach themselves to regenerate growth in trauma areas. To date, Travis and his team have sponsored over twenty SOF veterans through this remarkable treatment, and the veterans have reported significant improvement in their cognitive and physical wellbeing.
Travis undergoing Mesenchymal stem cell treatment
(Courtesy of Travis Wilson)
“We’ve seen some remarkable improvement in overall quality of life and thought processes,” Travis said. “These guys are sleeping again and are thinking more clearly for the first time in a long time. Many of these veterans feel alive again.” But there is an added bonus here that we didn’t expect: anti-inflammation, which Travis thinks can be used on the battlefield.
Travis went on to explain that millions of stem cells flooding the body results in positive anti-inflammatory (think bigger than just motrin) effects that allow the body to heal more rapidly. Travis and his team are starting to explore the idea of stem cell treatment on the battlefield, before years of trauma is left untreated.
“The research and data we are collecting from these SOF veterans during their stem cell treatment could help save lives on future battlefields. As a former combat medic, I know how critical it can be to reduce trauma in the first few minutes of an injury. We have a chance to help the body start to heal almost immediately.”
Travis and the Time for a Hero team are planning to treat many SOF veterans this year and will continue to collect data to support other stem cell programs. Travis and his team have even recently been using an app to monitor cognitive growth after the treatment. “I don’t know if the treatment will make you smarter, but it sure as hell has made things more clear for me.”
“We have hundreds of special ops men — and women — on our waiting list and that list is growing everyday. So we’re out spreading the word, letting people know what we’re doing, and asking for help every chance we get.”
For more information on TBI, or how to sponsor a SOF veteran’s treatment, please visit www.timeforahero.com.
Pocket-size drones are on their way to US Army soldiers, offering a better view of the battlefield and giving them a lethal edge over enemies.
The Army has awarded FLIR Systems a $39.6 million contract to provide Black Hornet personal-reconnaissance drones — next-level technology that could be a total game changer for US troops in the field — the company said in a recent press release.
Measuring just 6.6 inches in length and weighing only 1.16 ounces, these “nano unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems” are “small enough for a dismounted soldier to carry on a utility belt,” according to FLIR Systems.
These drones can provide situational awareness beyond visual line-of-sight capability day or night at a distance of up to 1.24 miles, covering ground at a max speed of 20 feet per second.
The “nearly silent” combat systems can provide constant covert coverage of the battlefield for almost a half hour, transmitting both live video and high-definition photographs back to the operator.
The Army is looking at a number of technologies that will allow soldiers to spot and even fire on enemies without putting themselves in harm’s way, such as night vision goggles connected to an integrated weapons sight that allows troops to shoot from the hip and around corners with accuracy.
The new drones “will give our soldiers operating at the squad level immediate situational awareness of the battlefield through its ability to gather intelligence, provide surveillance, and conduct reconnaissance,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor told Task and Purpose.
The drones will first be delivered to a single brigade combat team, but they will later be sent to platoons across the various brigade combat teams.
Deliveries will start early 2019 FLIR said in its recent press statement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
While France, at times, has been the butt of many jokes when it comes to military prowess, we must not forget one historical fact: The French Navy arguably won the battle that secured American independence by defeating the Royal Navy’s effort to relieve General Cornwallis at Yorktown. The Battle of the Virginia Capes, at the time, was a rare setback for the Royal Navy – it was like the Harlem Globetrotters losing a game.
It’s a reminder that the French Navy is no joke, even if it has left a lot of the heavy lifting in the World Wars to the Royal Navy. In fact, France has one of the more modern air-defense destroyer classes in the world. They didn’t design this vessel on their own, however.
In 1992, the French Navy, the Royal Navy, and the Italian Navy began development of what they called the Common New Generation Frigate. The goal was to come up with a common design that would help cut costs for the three countries. The British planned to buy 12 vessels, France four, and the Italians four. However, increasing expenses and disagreements lead to the British dropping and instead building six Type 45 destroyers.
France and Italy ended up building a grand total of four ships, two for each country. The French vessels were named Horizon-class frigates and the Italian vessels were labeled Orizzonte class frigates.
The Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World notes that the French Horizon-class vessels are armed with eight MM.40 Exocet anti-ship missiles, a 48-cell Sylver A50 vertical-launch system, two 76mm guns, and two 20mm guns. They can also carry a NH-90 helicopter for anti-submarine warfare or to mount additional Excoet anti-ship missiles.
Learn more about this destroyer in the video below.
During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.
Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.
The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.
There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.
The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.
So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.
Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.
US military snipers in the Army, Marines, and the special operations community are getting new bolt-action sniper rifles, and they all want a certain one from Barrett.
The preferred choice is the Barrett Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) rifle, Task & Purpose first reported, citing budget documents and previous contracting information.
Rather than force snipers to choose between weapons capable of firing different rounds for different purposes, the multi-caliber rifle can be chambered in 7.62X51 mm NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum.
“There are three ranges associated with the three calibers, and there are different target sets that we are trying for at those ranges,” Army Lt. Col. Chris Kennedy, the lethality branch chief for the soldier division at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, told Insider.
“It gives more flexibility to the sniper as to what configuration to put it in and what targets they are going after,” he added.
In its fiscal year 2021 budget request, the Army asked for 536 MRAD sniper rifles for a little over million for the Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) program. The Marine Corps, which is also buying MRAD rifles for the Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR) program, estimated that each one would cost about ,000.
The Army’s latest budget request described the rifle as “a multi-caliber, bolt-action sniper rifle, which is effective against personnel and material targets at extreme ranges.” The weapon is expected to replace the Army’s M2010 and M107 sniper rifles.
“What we are trying to achieve is to collapse those two systems into one instead of having the sniper choose one or the other,” Kennedy told Insider.
The Army PSR, not to be confused with the older special operations PSR, is expected to be lighter, more accurate, and have a greater range than legacy systems.
The rifle, the budget request said, also “includes a sound suppressor and direct view optics (with fire control capabilities), which allows snipers, when supplemented with a clip-on image intensifier or thermal sensor system, to effectively engage enemy snipers, as well as crew served and indirect fire weapons virtually undetected in any light condition.”
The goal is to offer a passive sighting system that is not emitting anything that could give away a sniper’s position, Kennedy said.
The Army’s PSR is the same MRAD rifle for which Special Operations Command offered Barrett a nearly million contract last year. It was selected for the command’s ASR program as a replacement for the older PSR for special operations snipers, Military Times reported last March.
In the Department of the Navy’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal, the Marines included a million request for 250 Barrett multi-caliber sniper rifles. The service wants the new rifles to “replace all current bolt-action sniper rifles in the Marine Corps.”
The recent budget request describes the rifle, part of the ASR program, as a “multi-caliber system featuring extended range, greater lethality and a wider variety of special purpose ammunition than current systems.”
The purpose of the PSR and ASR programs, according to the budget documents, is to provide US military snipers with capable modern rifles that will allow them to maintain standoff and overmatch against near-peer competitors.
The US Army is now evaluating plans to build prototypes of a new highly-deployable lightweight Mobile Protected Firepower armored vehicle expected to change land war by bringing a new mission options to advancing infantry as it maneuvers toward enemy attack — and outmatching Russian equivalents.
Long-range precision fire, coordinated air-ground assault, mechanized force-on-force armored vehicle attacks and drone threats are all changing so quickly that maneuvering US Army infantry now needs improved firepower to advance on major adversaries in war, Army leaders explain.
“Mobile Protected Firepower helps you because you can get off road. Mobility can help with lethality and protection because you can hit the adversary before they can disrupt your ability to move,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, TRADOC, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The Army is now evaluating industry proposals in anticipation of awarding developmental deals by 2019 — with prototypes to follow shortly thereafter. The service’s request to industry described the Mobile Protected Firepower program as seeking to “provide IBCTs with direct-fire, long-range and cyber resilient capability for forcible early-entry operations.”
Smith did not elaborate on any precise weight, but did stress that the effort intends to find the optimal blend of lethality, mobility and, survivability. Senior Army leaders, however, do say that the new MPF will be more survivable and superior than its Russian equivalent.
The Russian 2S25 Sprut-SD air transportable light tank, according to Russian news reports, weighs roughly 20 tons and fires a 125mm smoothbore gun. It is designed to attack tanks and support amphibious, air or ground operations. The vehicle has been in service since 2005.
Senior Army leaders have been clear that the emerging Army vehicle will be designed as a light vehicle, yet one with much greater levels of protection than the Russian equivalent.
In light of these kinds of near-peer adversaries with longer-range sensors, more accurate precision fires and air support for mechanized ground assault, the Army is acutely aware that its maneuvering infantry stands in need of armored, mobile firepower.
Current Abrams tanks, while armed with 120mm cannons and fortified by heavy armor, are challenged to support infantry in some scenarios due to weight and mobility constraints.
Accordingly, Smith explained that Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs), expected to operate in a more expansive battlespace, will require deployable, fast-moving close-to-contact direct fire support. This fast-changing calculus, based on knowledge of emerging threats and enemy weapons, informs an Army need to close the threat gap by engineering the MPF vehicle.
“The MPF vehicle will not be like an Abrams tank in terms of protections and survivability… but mobility helps you because you can get off roads and lethality helps you with protection also,” Smith said.
While referred to by some as a “light tank,” Army officials specify that plans for the new platform seek to engineer a mobile combat platform able to deploy quickly. The MPF represents an Army push toward more expeditionary warfare and rapid deployability. Therefore, it is no surprise that two MPFs are being built to fit on an Air Force C-17 aircraft.
Rapid deployability is of particular significance in areas such as Europe, where Russian forces, for instance, might be in closer proximity to US or NATO forces.
Tactically speaking, given that IBCTs are likely to face drones armed with precision weapons, armored vehicle columns advancing with long-range targeting technology and artillery, infantry on-the-move needs to have firepower and sensors sufficient to outmatch an advanced enemy.
All of these factors are indicative of how concepts of Combined Arms Maneuver are evolving to account for how different land war is expected to be moving forward. This reality underscores the reason infantry needs tank-like firepower to cross bridges, travel off-road and keep pace with advancing forces.
Designs, specs and requirements for the emerging vehicle are now being evaluated by Army weapons developers currently analyzing industry submissions in response to a recent Request for Proposal.
The service expects to award two Engineering Manufacturing and Development (EMD) deals by 2019 as part of an initial step to building prototypes from multiple vendors, service officials said. Army statement said initial prototypes are expected within 14 months of a contract award.
While requirements and particular material solutions are expected to adjust as the programs move forward, there are some initial sketches of the capabilities the Army seeks for the vehicle.
According to a report from Globalsecurity.org, “the main gun has to be stabilized for on-the-move firing, while the optics and fire control system should support operations at all weather conditions including night operations.”
BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems and SAIC (partnered with ST Kinetics and CMI) are among the industry competitors seeks to build the new MPF. Several months ago, BAE Systems announced it is proposing a vehicle it calls its M8 Armored Gun System.
For the Army, the effort involves what could be described as a dual-pronged acquisition strategy in that it seeks to leverage currently available or fast emerging technology while engineered the vehicle with an architecture such that it can integrate new weapons and systems as they emerge over time.
An estimation of technologies likely to figure prominently in the MPF developmental process leads towards the use of lightweight armor composites, active protection systems and a new generation of higher-resolution targeting sensors. Smith explained how this initiative is already gaining considerable traction.
This includes the rapid incorporation of greater computer automation and AI, designed to enable one sensor to perform the functions of many sensors in real-time. For instance, it’s by no means beyond the imagination to envision high-resolution forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, electromagnetic weapons and EO-IR cameras operating through a single sensor.
“The science is how do I fuse them together? How do I take multiple optical, infrared, and electromagnetic sensors and use them all at once in real-time ” Smith said.
“If you are out in the desert in an operational setting, infrared alone may be constrained heat so you need all types of sensors together and machines can help us sift through information,” added Smith.
In fact, the Army’s Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) is already building prototype sensors — with this in mind. In particular, this early work is part of a longer-range effort to inform the Army’s emerging Next-Generation Comat Vehicle (NGCV). The NGCV, expected to become an entire fleet of armored vehicles, is now being explored as something to emerge in the late 2020s or early 2030s.
One of the key technical challenges when it comes to engineering a mobile, yet lethal, weapon is to build a cannon both powerful and lightweight enough to meet speed, lethality and deployability requirements.
U.S. Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites the need to bring large caliber cannon technology to lightweight vehicles. Among other things, the strategy cites a lightweight 120mm gun called the XM360 – built for the now-cancelled Future Combat Systems Mounted Combat System. While the weapon is now being thought of as something for NGCV or a future tank variant, its technology bears great relevance to the MPF effort – which seeks to maximize lightweight, mobile firepower.
Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.
Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.
For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy.”
An article in nextBIGFuture cites progress with a technology referred to as rarefaction wave gun technology, or RAVEN, explaining it can involve “combining composite and ceramic technologies with castings of any alloy — for dramatic weight reduction.”
The idea is, in part, to develop and demonstrate hybrid component concepts that combine aluminum castings with both polymer matrix composites and ceramics, the report says.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The Marlin is an unmanned underwater vehicle that is currently used in a variety of applications, but primarily for searching for stuff.
You may be wondering – why would you use an unmanned vehicle underwater? After all, we’re paying through the nose for nuclear-powered attack submarines. Why can’t they do they job? It’s a very good question. One of the big reasons is that nuclear attack submarines are primarily designed to sink enemy ships and attack. This requires that they be built very differently.
The Marlin can be deployed from the surface or from underwater.
(Photo by Lockheed)
Unmanned underwater vehicles, or UUVs (also called drones) are very useful for looking for things on the ocean floor. First of all, you can send them into hostile territory or a dangerous area (like a minefield), and really you just have to worry about the accountants if the drone hits the mine. Second, they can spend a lot of time searching, because they don’t need to take breaks to feed themselves or sleep or other time-consuming human endeavors. Third, because they don’t have to haul around the stuff that humans need to survive and function, they can be a lot smaller.
The Marlin Mk 2 can operate at depths of up to 1,000 feet, and has a top speed of four knots.
(Photo by Lockheed)
According to information obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, two versions of the Marlin are available or in the works. One, the Marlin Mk 2, is able to operate at depths of up to 1,000 feet and operate for up to 24 hours. It has a top speed of four knots. The Marlin Mk 3 is much larger, has a minimum endurance of 20 hours, a top speed of five knots, and can operate at depths of up to 4,000 feet. They can be deployed from a surface vessel or from underwater.
These days, when you are searching for something in the ocean, it can take a lot of time. And unlike the character from Finding Nemo, these Marlins won’t give you some snarky sass.