This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train - We Are The Mighty
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This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

The Northrop T-38 Talon supersonic trainer is a legendary airplane. Any plane that has served for over fifty years in not just its intended role, but in other roles (notably as an occasional aggressor) has a very valid claim to the title of legend. But let’s face it, the T-38’s not only getting up there in years, it’s also behind the times.


At a Lockheed Martin media briefing on the T-50 program held during the AirSpaceCyber expo at National Harbor, Maryland, retired Air Force General Bill Looney, a former commander of Air Education and Training Command, noted that in 1958, his father was a lead pilot for the T-38 program. The top planes in service then were the “Century” series of jet fighters – second-generation planes like the F-100 Super Sabre and the F-102 Delta Dagger.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
The T-38 Talon is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance, and exceptional safety record. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Steve Thurow)

But today, the planes in service are the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II – and both are very different planes. As the T-38 has soldiered on, transitioning to those fighters, and even fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F/A-18 Hornet has become more and more difficult.

A joint project between Lockheed and Korean Aerospace Industries could be the answer. The T-50A, based on KAI’s FA-50 Golden Eagle, is one of three competitors that could offer the chance to not only replace the old T-38, but to radically restructure pilot training. Lockheed representatives at the briefing expressed the belief that a fair bit of lead-in fighter training, or LIFT, could be done on the T-50A, cutting the time a pilot would train in a F-16 Fighting Falcon from nine months to as little as four months.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
A Lockheed/KAI T-50A banks to the left a little. (Photo from Lockheed)

This is a big freaking deal, to paraphrase a former Vice President. By shifting training time from the F-16 to the T-50A, this will not only reduce the flight hours on the F-16 airframes, allowing them to last longer, it would also reduce the maintenance costs for the F-16s at the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base. Similar reductions can also happen with training for the F-35 and F-22.

More savings could be possible because the T-50A program includes ground-based systems. Looney noted that when he learned to fly the F-15 Eagle, he had to fly eight radar intercept training sorties. With the T-50 program, that number could be reduced by doing some of the training in simulators.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
Two Lockheed/KAI T-50As in formation. (Photo from Lockheed)

The winner of this competition, whether it is the Lockheed/KAI T-50, the Leonardo/Raytheon T-100, or the Boeing/Saab T-X, could not only get sales from the United States Air Force, but would also have a leg up in replacing the Navy’s T-45 Goshawk and the T-38 used by a number of other American allies. So pay attention to this competition, folks, it will change a lot more than just the planes on the flightline. Check out this video from Lockheed on the T-50A below.

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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 the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
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 the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
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 the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
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 the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
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.

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Navy’s newest aircraft carrier finally gets long-missing gear

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first-in-class aircraft carrier that’s been plagued by technical problems and cost overruns, got the first of its 11 advanced weapons elevators on Dec. 21, 2018, “setting the tone for more positive developments in the year ahead,” the Navy said in January 2019.

That tone may be doubly important for Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who has promised the elevators would be ready by the end of the carrier’s yearlong post-shakedown assessment summer 2018. Spencer staked his job on the elevators, which were not installed when the carrier was delivered in May 2017, well past the original 2015 delivery goal.


Advanced Weapons Elevator Upper Stage 1 was turned over to the Navy after testing and certification by engineers at Huntington Ingalls-Newport News Shipbuilding, where the carrier was built and is going through its post-shakedown period after testing at sea.

The elevator “has been formally accepted by the Navy,” Bill Couch, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, said in a statement.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer being briefed by the USS Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer, Capt. John J. Cummings, on the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator on the flight deck.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)

The testing and certification “focused on technical integration of hardware and software issues, such as wireless communication system software maturity and configuration control, and software verification and validation,” Couch said.

The Ford class is the first new carrier design in 40 years, and rather than cables, the new elevators are “commanded via electromagnetic, linear synchronous motors,” the Navy said in a news release. That change allows them to move faster and carry more ordnance — up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute instead of Nimitz-class carriers’ 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute.

The ship’s layout has also changed. Seven lower-stage elevators move ordnance between the lower levels of the ship and main deck. Three upper-stage elevators move it between the main deck and the flight deck. One elevator can be used to move injured personnel, allowing the weapons and aircraft elevators to focus on their primary tasks.

The Ford also has a dedicated weapons-handling area between its hangar bay and the flight deck “that eliminates several horizontal and vertical movements to various staging and build-up locations” offering “a 75% reduction in distance traveled from magazine to aircraft,” the Navy said.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, reviewing safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from the USS Gerald R. Ford’s weapons department.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)

The upper-stage 1 elevator will now be used by the Ford’s crew and “qualify them for moving ordnance during real-world operations,” Couch said.

The amount of new technology on the Ford means its crew is in many cases developing guidelines for using it. The crew is doing hands-on training that “will validate technical manuals and maintenance requirements cards against the elevator’s actual operation,” the Navy said.

James Geurts, the Navy assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, told senators in November 2018 that two elevators had been produced — one was through testing and another was “about 94% through testing.”

The other 10 elevators “are in varying levels of construction, testing, and operations,” Couch said. “Our plan is to complete all shipboard installation and testing activities of the advanced weapons elevators before the ship’s scheduled sail-away date in July.”

“In our current schedule there will be some remaining certification documentation that will be performed for 5 of the 11 elevators after [the post-shakedown assessment] is compete,” Couch said. “A dedicated team is engaged on these efforts and will accelerate this certification work and schedule where feasible.”

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

Spencer during a tour of the USS Gerald R. Ford.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)

That timeline has particular meaning for Spencer, the Navy’s top civilian official.

The Navy secretary said at an event this month that at the Army-Navy football game on Dec. 8, 2018, he told President Donald Trump — who has made his displeasure with the Ford well known — that he would bet his job on the elevators’ completion.

“I asked him to stick his hand out — he stuck his hand out. I said, ‘Let’s do this like corporate America.’ I shook his hand and said the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me,” Spencer said during an event at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC.

“We’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done,” Spencer added. “I haven’t been fired yet by anyone — being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

An F/A-18F Super Hornet performing an arrested landing aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford on July 28, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Elizabeth A. Thompson)

The weapons elevators have posed a challenge to the Ford’s development, but they are far from the only problem.

Trump has repeatedly singled out the carrier’s new electromagnetic aircraft launch system, or EMALS, which uses magnets rather than steam to launch planes. Software issues initially hindered its performance.

“They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out,” Trump told Time magazine in May 2017, referring to the new launch system. “You going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.”

Spencer said he and Trump had also discussed EMALS at the Army-Navy game.

“He said, should we go back to steam? I said, ‘Well Mr. President, really look at what we’re looking at. EMALS. We got the bugs out,'” Spencer said at the event in January 2019, according to USNI News. “It can launch a very light piece of aviation gear, and right behind it we can launch the heaviest piece of gear we have. Steam can’t do that. And by the way, parts, manpower, space — it’s all to our advantage.”

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

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This is why the F-4 Phantom II had so many fans

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train


As he slides his hands across the edges of the wings and walks from nose to tail, inspecting all aspects of the jet, a wave of emotion begins to hit Jim Harkins.

His weathered features appear calm and determined, but they hide the tears he is fighting back.

While he walks around the aircraft, he greets each maintainer and says, “Thank you.” Harkins rubs and taps the bulging nose of the QF-4 Phantom II, like an aged cowboy saying hello to a trusty steed, and then climbs into the cockpit.

“One last time,” Harkins says and the canopy closes around him.

For Harkins and the F-4, this is a day of lasts. For Harkins, it’s the last time he will fly for the Air Force and, for the Phantom, the last time it will take to the skies.

It’s their final flight.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
Ground crew of 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 perform maintenance on a QF-4 Phantom, left, and its replacement, the QF-16, at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 20, 2016. The final variant of the Phantom II, the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s, was the QF-4 unmanned aerial target flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. Pilots of the 82nd flew the F-4 for the last time prior to a retirement ceremony for the storied aircraft on Dec. 21, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“It’s not really sad, because in the military you get used to a lot of lasts, but it’s humbling,” Harkins said.

Harkins isn’t the only one feeling nostalgic and emotional about the aircraft affectionately referred to as “Old Smokey.” Hundreds of “Phantom Phixers,” “Phantom Phliers” and “Phantom Phanatics” gathered on the flightline at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to watch the final F-4 flight.

Some used to work on the aircraft, some are just fans and others, like retired Col. Chuck DeBellevue, had the privilege of actually flying the fighter.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

DeBellevue flew the F-4 in Vietnam, where he had six confirmed kills – two against the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 and four against the MiG-21, the most of any U.S. aviator during the war.

He’s not just saying farewell to an amazing machine, he’s saying goodbye to an old friend.

“A friend who got me home more times than I care to remember,” DeBellevue said. “Being back on the flightline today brought back a lot of memories, not all are good. I lost a lot of friends, but it was a great airplane. I loved to fly that airplane. It’s very honest and it got me out of a lot of tight spots during the war.”

DeBellevue recalls the Navy originally bought the F-4 to be a fleet interceptor and the Air Force bought it in 1963 to do everything – and it did do everything. It served as the primary air superiority fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, but it also served roles in ground-attack and aerial reconnaissance and, once taken out of active service, was designated the QF-4 where it flew as aerial targets.

The F-4 was a workhorse weapons system for the Air Force through the 1990s and it still hold the distinction of being the first multi-service aircraft. During it’s heyday, the F-4 set 16 speed and altitude records and demonstrated its effectiveness time and again throughout its lengthy career.

The Phantom looked cool doing it, too.

“You didn’t get into the F-4, you put it on, it became you,” DeBellevue said. “It was a manual airplane, not like an F-16 or F-15, they were aerodynamic and designed well. The F-4 was the last plane that looked like it was made to kill somebody. It was a beast. It could go through a flock of birds and kick out barbeque from the back.”

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

On the flightline at Holloman, the final flight of four F-4s prepare to take off for the last time. The engines rumble and smoke flies.

In his jet, Harkins looks over the crowd, dancing in the cockpit, revving up the on-lookers and saluting those in attendance. Everyone cheers as the final four F-4s begin their last taxi.

Harkins is first to pass the crowd, followed by pilots Eric “Rock” Vold, Jim “Boomer” Schreiner and finally Lt. Col. Ronald “Elvis” King, the last active duty F-4 pilot and commander of Det. 1, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron. Together these men will fly the Phinal Phlight demonstration before King officially retires the QF-4 program during a ceremony following the flight.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

“I don’t want to sound cheesy, but every time I get into the F-4 I can’t help but think of all the stories of all the pilots and all the maintainers who made this aircraft great,” King said. “The history and the heritage to me is the biggest satisfaction of flying the airplane.”

King had no concept when he became the squadron commander he would be the last active duty pilot. It didn’t really set in until he and Harkins began taking the F-4 on a farewell tour during to air shows and aviation expos last year. King felt obligated to take the F-4 on the road, to give admirers the chance to see it, touch it and share their stories one last time. It was then he realized this tour piloting the F-4 would be something special.

“It’s going to be sad to shut those engines down for the last time, but she’s served our country well,” King said of the F-4. “It’s exciting too, because our mission is to provide full scale aerial targets and we are going to be able to do that now with an airplane that’s better suited, provides higher performance and is more representative of the threats we face today in the QF-16.”

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
Two McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 steak over the flightline during the final military flight of the storied aircraft at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 21, 2016. The F-4 Phantom II entered the U.S. Air Force inventory in 1963 and was the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The F-4 flew bombing, combat air patrol, fighter escort, reconnaissance and the famous Wild Weasel anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. The final variant of the Phantom II was the QF-4 unmanned aerial targets flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

King said it was getting more and more difficult to keep the F-4’s in the air, and the only reason the QF-4 lasted as long as it did was because of the maintainers of the 82nd ATS.

Unfortunately, he says, there is no longer a need for the F-4. All remaining aircraft will be de-militarized at Holloman and used as ground targets at the White Sands bombing range.

King says most people don’t like to hear the fate of the last F-4s, and he understands, but it’s too costly to maintain as a heritage piece or to preserve them for museums.

“At the end of the day, the Air Force isn’t real sentimental,” King said. “It will have a warrior’s death.”

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

Engines roar and a flume of dust and smoke signals to the crowd the final four F-4s are off. The first two jets, piloted by King and Schreiner take off in a two-ship formation. Harkins follows in the third position and Vold in fourth. The last two jets perform an unrestricted climb, staying low to the ground in afterburner before pulling into a vertical climb at the end of the runway. The crowd goes crazy.

The sound of the F-4 is distinct. As Harkins passes over the crowd in a low-altitude turn it sounds like the jet is ripping the sky.

Multiple passes are made in four-ship, two-ship and stacked formations over the crowd of hundreds in attendance. Camera shutters clicking at a furious pace can be heard down the tarmac.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
A McDonnell Douglas QF-4 Phantom II of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 steaks over the crowd gathered to witness the final military flight of the storied aircraft at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 21, 2016. The F-4 Phantom II entered the U.S. Air Force inventory in 1963 and was the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The F-4 flew bombing, combat air patrol, fighter escort, reconnaissance and the famous Wild Weasel anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. The final variant of the Phantom II was the QF-4 unmanned aerial targets flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Out of nowhere, the sky cracks open and multiple booms shake the ground, buildings and cars, setting off alarms across the base. The concussions signal the F-4s going supersonic high above.

Harkins swoops down out of the sky passing over the crowd multiple times, and makes his final approach. As his wheels touch back to Earth, Harkins enters the history books as the last pilot to fly 1,000 hours in the F-4.

“I can’t imagine a better way to go out than with the F-4, it’s a special moment and a special jet and then … done,” Harkins said. “Although I flew F-16s and I went down to the F-4, but I consider myself going out on top.”

As climbs down from his jet he’s doused with water from his comrades and sprayed with champagne. In the distance, King lands his F-4 and with the front landing gear touching the asphalt, the history books close on the aircraft’s legacy.

But while the Phantom’s time in the sky may be over, the tales of its exploits are far from done. For those who flew the F-4, there is always time to wax poetic about the good ‘ole days, tearing across the wild blue yonder on “Old Smokey.”

AirmanMagazineOnline, YouTube

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The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses

As rival powers develop increasingly capable air-defense networks, the US military is working with defense firms to arm the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter with a missile able to destroy these systems at long range.

Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $34.7 million contract to modify the stealth jet’s internal weapons bay to carry “aft heavy weaponry,” the Department of Defense announced July 2019.

The “aft heavy weaponry” referenced in the announcement is the Navy’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile — Extended Range (AARGM-ER), a standoff weapon designed to target enemy radar systems from outside the range of enemy air-defense assets, a source close to the project told Aviation Week.


Northrop Grumman, which is responsible for the development of the AARGM-ER, has said that this long-range weapon can be deployed from a “sanctuary,” a protected area presumably beyond the reach of Chinese and Russian anti-access area-denial capabilities.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

The exact range of the weapon is classified, although there are reports that it could be in excess of 120 miles, significantly farther than the 60 to 80 miles of the AGM-88E AARGM.

The US Navy began developing the AARGM-ER, officially designated the AGM-88G, nearly two years ago with reported plans to field this weapon on nonstealthy fourth-generation fighters like the carrier-based F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the electronic attack EA-18G Growlers sometime in the early 2020s.

The service is expected to later integrate the missile into the weapons bay of the fifth-generation F-35Cs, which only recently achieved initial operating capability.

The Air Force, also a part of the project, is expected to field the AGM-88G on its F-35As around 2025. The Marine Corps F-35Bs, because of the presence of the lift fan, has very limited space in its internal weapons bay.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter in-flight missile launch.

(F-35 Program Office)

The F-35 modifications, which will involve changes to the Station 425 bulkhead in the weapons bay, will also allow the advanced fighters to carry more air-to-air missiles internally, Aviation Week reported. The “Sidekick” modification, as the program is called, will allow the F-35 to carry six AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles, instead of four, internally.

The ability to store more firepower in the weapons bay rather than externally allows the F-35 to maintain its all-aspect stealth in combat. Storing the weapons on the outside in the “beast-mode” configuration allows the aircraft to carry more weapons overall, but it increases the size of the jet’s radar signature, making it easier to detect.

The modifications will be made at a facility in Fort Worth, Texas, and completed in 2022.

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

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This company is turning these old tanks into modern killers

The M60 Patton was America’s first main battle tank and a heavy-lifter for the U.S. from its adoption in 1960 to its final retirement in 1997. It’s still in service in allied countries around the world and Raytheon has come out with a modernization kit to get it ready for 21st-century combat.


The Raytheon M60A3 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) features a 950-horsepower engine (a 200-horsepower improvement), a 120mm main gun, new fire control and targeting systems with thermal and day sights, and more reactive motors to move the turret and main gun.

Replacing the old, 105mm M68 rifled gun with the L44 120mm smoothbore cannon is probably the most visible and important part of the SLEP upgrades. The L44 is also known as the M256, the main gun on the M1 Abrams main battle tank that America uses today. It features greater range and penetrating power than the M68 it is replacing.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
GIF: YouTube/arronlee33

The upgraded electric motors will allow crews to respond more quickly to enemies spotted on the battlefield than the old hydraulic motors. They also do their job more quietly, reducing the chances that the Pattons will be spotted as quickly in combat.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
GIF: YouTube/arronlee33

Meanwhile, the new, 950-hp engines will allow the tanks to reach more places more quickly, giving commanders better tactical and strategic options on the battlefield.

Finally, the sights on the tank are a leap forward for it, allowing crews to quickly and reliably engage targets with their larger cannon.

The tanks featured in a Raytheon video about the SLEP also seem to feature armor upgrades, but Raytheon hasn’t commented on what new capabilities the armor gives.

Of course, this is still an old dog learning new tricks and M60s would struggle against the most modern tanks on the battlefield. For Raytheon, it seems to be about giving customers who can’t afford new tanks an upgrade option rather than making the M60 a peer to Abrams, Leopard, or Armata tanks.

For countries who field the M60 and aren’t yet ready for a tank acquisition program, the SLEP offers a chance to deter aggressive neighbors without breaking the bank.

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Air Force wing completes first Combat Archer at Eglin AFB

F-22 Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron and F-35 Lightning IIs from the 58th Fighter Squadron successfully flew more than 140 sorties and fired 13 missiles to culminate the first post-Hurricane Michael Combat Archer air-to-air exercise at Eglin Air Force Base Dec. 14, 2018.

“This is the final step of our combat readiness — we assess our operations and maintenance personnel as well as the aircraft itself,” said Lt. Col. Marcus McGinn, 27th Fighter Squadron commander. “We need to make sure we have the ability to load missiles, the aircraft are configured correctly, the aircraft perform as they should when you press the pickle button, the missile performs as advertised and the pilots know what to expect. All of these aspects must be tested and proven prior to actually needing the process to work in combat.”


The 27th FS brought 200 personnel from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, to participate in the exercise, which was flown out of Eglin AFB due to the rebuilding efforts at Tyndall AFB.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

Senior Airman Angel Lemon, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, marshals an F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, during exercise Combat Archer Dec. 4, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)

“The amount of coordination that goes into a single missile shoot cannot be quantified. The ability for the 83rd Fighter Weapon Squadron to accomplish this coordination across two different locations, with the infrastructure limitations that Tyndall (AFB) currently has, was unbelievable,” said McGinn.

This was the second Combat Archer the 27th Fighter Squadron has participated in this year. Of the 30 F-22 pilots, six were first-time shooters.

“While this was the first time I fired a live missile, I wasn’t nervous,” said 1st Lt. Jake Wong, 27th Fighter Squadron F-22 pilot. “There is the seriousness that I have a live missile on my jet today, which is not something we do every day. The training is really good and the flight profile is controlled so we know what to expect to ensure we fire the missile safely.”

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron awaits permission to taxi as an F-22 Raptor assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron takes off in the background, Dec. 4, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)

While the aircraft took off from Eglin AFB, the sub-scale drones assigned to the 82 ATRS, took off from Tyndall AFB.

“No other Air Force in the world comes close to the same scale of weapons testing as the U.S. Air Force,” said Lt. Col Ryan Serrill, 82nd ATRS commander. “We recognize the importance of this data to continually improve our warfighters’ ability which is why it was important to resume the Combat Archer mission so soon after the hurricane.”

The 83rd FWS conducted telemetry data collection and missile analysis, 81st Range Control Squadron conducted command and control and the 53rd Test Support Squadron provided electronic attack pods out of Tyndall AFB.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Marines demand new lightweight 50-cal ammunition

The Marine Corps is hoping industry can make lightweight .50 caliber ammunition that provides machine-gunners with a 30 percent weight savings over existing linked belts of .50 caliber ammo.

Marine Corps Systems Command recently released a request for information to see if commercial companies have the capability to produce lightweight .50 caliber ammo that “will provide a weight savings when compared to the current M33 .50 cartridge in the DODIC A555 linked configuration,” according to the document released on FedBizOpps.gov.


“A belt of 100 Lightweight .50 Caliber cartridges with 101 links shall have a threshold overall weight of 24.6 lbs. or 15 percent weight savings compared to the legacy A555 configuration,” the document states. “A belt of 100 lightweight cartridges with 101 links shall have an objective overall weight savings of more than 20.3 lbs. or 30 percent compared to the legacy A555 configuration.”

Lightweight ammunition is not a new concept. Commercial companies continue to work new methods to lighten one of the heaviest necessities of warfare.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
Ammunition for the M2 .50 caliber machine gun is prepared as Marines with Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, prepare for their first day of firing crew-served weapons at the East Fuji artillery range Sept. 12.

The Chesapeake Cartridge Corporation showed off its new line of nickel ammunition at SHOT Show 2018 in Las Vegas.

The shell casings, made of aluminum-plated nickel alloy, are lighter and stronger that traditional brass casings, Ed Collins, Chesapeake’s director for business development, told Military.com in January 2018.

The company is working toward creating ammunition that’s 50 percent lighter than conventional brass ammo. Currently, the company makes military calibers such as 9mm, 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO, but it plans to make it in additional calibers in the future.

Companies such as PCP Ammunition make polymer-cased ammunition, which offers up to a 30 percent weight savings compared to brass-cased ammo.

Textron Systems makes case-telescoped weapons and ammunition. The ammo concept relies on plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell.

Over the past decade, the U.S. Army has invested heavily in Textron’s concept, formerly known as Light Weight Small Arms Technology.

Textron doesn’t currently make .50-caliber, case-telescoped ammunition, but its 5.56mm CT ammo weighs about 37 percent less than standard belted 5.56mm.

Companies have until June 1, 2018, to respond to the RFI, the document states.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This modern amphibious assault ship is carrying WWII planes

The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) is an integral part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force as a forward operating platform. Essex is capable of carrying up to 1,771 Marines as well as the landing craft to get them ashore.

Her aircraft suite includes AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft, F-35B Lightning II stealth strike-fighters, AH-1W/Z Super Cobra/Viper attack helicopters, MV-22B Osprey assault support tiltrotors, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters, UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters, and SH-60F/HH-60H anti-submarine warfare helicopters.


However, rather than her usual wing of modern jets and helicopters, USS Essex is currently carrying 14 WWII-era trainer, bomber and fighter aircraft.
This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

USS Essex usually carries Marine aircraft like these Ospreys (US Navy)

The 844-foot-long ship is on her way to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to participate in RIMPAC 2020, the world’s largest international maritime exercise. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Pentagon made the decision to cancel RIMPAC’s air exercises.

In January, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called for a number of WWII-era aircraft to assemble in Hawaii to participate in a commemoration of the end of the war in the Pacific. Known as V-J Day for “Victory over Japan”, the event is most commonly celebrated on August 15. On August 15, 1945, (which was August 14 in America due to the time change), Emperor Hirohito announced his decree to accept the Potsdam Declaration and surrender over the radio.

Since the Marines had to leave their aircraft behind, USS Essex had plenty of room for the WWII-era aircraft since the vintage planes were unable to make the flight to Hawaii. The planes will include five AT-6/SNJ advanced trainers, two PBY Catalina flying boats, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, an FM-2 Wildcat fighter, an F8F Bearcat fighter, a Stearman Model 75 biplane, a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber and a T-28 Trojan.
This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

The FM-2 Wildcat is lowered to the hangar deck (Commemorative Air Force)

The planes will conduct flyovers over Hawaii from August 29, the day U.S. troops began the occupation of Japan, to September 2, the day that the formal Japanese surrender was made aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Before embarking on the trip to Hawaii, the pilots, maintainers and ground crews accompanying the planes were required to spend two weeks in quarantine at Naval Base San Diego to prevent anyone with COVID-19 from boarding the ship.

The 14 planes headed to Hawaii aboard the USS Essex will return to San Diego with the ship following the conclusion of the V-J Day Commemoration and RIMPAC.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

These high-tech glasses could change how sailors train

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.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

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.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

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.

Articles

Forget Godzilla, Russia is building this new sea monster

Godzilla may be king of the monsters, but during the Cold War, he’d find the Caspian Sea a little crowded.


Now, Russia is building a new Caspian Sea Monster.

According to a tweet by the Russian embassy in South Africa, the Chaika A-050 is slated to enter service by 2020. The A-050 is what is known as an “ekranoplan,” or ground-effect vehicle. The Soviet Union pushed these airplane hybrids during the Cold War, largely because they offered a unique mix of the capabilities of ships and aircraft.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
A Ekranoplan, or ground-effect vehicle. The Soviet Union pushed development of these Caspian Sea Monsters during the Cold War. (Youtube Screenshot)

According to militaryfactory.com, the Lun-class ekranoplan is one such example. It had a top speed of 342 miles per hour — slightly slower than the B-29 Superfortress — which could go 358 miles per hour. However, the Lun carried six SS-N-22 Sunburn anti-ship missiles, which are limited for use on surface combatants like the Sovremenny-class destroyer and Tarantul-class missile boat. The Lun could climb to as high as 24,000 feet.

According to a 2015 report by Valuewalk.com, the Chaika A-050 will travel at speeds of up to 300 miles per hour, with a range of 3,000 miles. It will be able to carry at least nine tons of cargo or 100 passengers. However, a Sputnik News report indicated that the Russians could install the BrahMos missile on the new ekranoplan.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
A model of the BrahMos II, Russian-Indian hypersonic missile under joint development.

The BrahMos is a version of the SS-N-26 Oniks surface-to-surface missile that has been installed on a number of Indian Navy vessels. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the BrahMos has a top speed of Mach 2.8 and a range of 500 kilometers. The missile carries a 300-kilogram warhead, and can hit surface ships or land targets. The missile can be used by submarines and surface ships.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Stephen Hawking is one of humanity’s designated survivors

You may be familiar with the term “designated survivor” from the ABC television series, Designated Survivor, in which — and this is a real thing — one member of the President’s Cabinet is required to be physically far away from a gathering of the President, VP, and Cabinet leaders during certain events in case of some unforeseen catastrophe.


You may not have known that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, was the designated survivor during President Trump’s 2018 State of the Union Address. You also may not have known that the human race has its own designated survivor program.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

In 2008, game developer Richard Garriot developed the “Immortality Drive,” a sort of digital time capsule on the International Space Station that contains the DNA and genetic codes of a handful of humans. Think of it as a kind of backup disk in case of worldwide calamity. If humans were to be wiped out, this drive exists as a source code for rebooting humanity.

“The Immortality Drive is a digital archive of mankind’s greatest achievements and a snapshot of humanity itself,” Garriot says. “This archive will be stored on the International Space Station to serve as a remote “offsite backup” of humanity, should we suffer a disastrous fate.”

Now, obviously, Stephen Hawking isn’t going to be held on the International Space Station forever. But just because he died doesn’t mean he can’t be a blueprint for the next iteration of life on Earth. His genetic code will live forever, along with a few others, as one of humanity’s designated survivors.

Comedian Stephen Colbert, legendary television writer Melvyn B. Sherer, Businessmen Kevin Rose and Tim Draper, Pro Wrestler Matt Morgan, athlete Lance Armstrong, and Playboy model Jo Garcia join a lot of sci-fi/fantasy and TV writers in the Immortality Drive.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
If there are any objections, go make your own Immortality Drive.

At this point, you might be worried that Hawking will be overlooked by potential alien reboots in favor of making a species of WWE Superstars, adult models, or Dungeons and Dragons writers.

But, for a few reasons, there’s no cause for concern. First and foremost, you’ll be dead. Secondly, if superintelligent aliens do come to Earth, find the Immortality Drive, and reboot the human race, Hawking himself believed their first instinct would be to simply enslave us.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train
But would they even know about the nerd heaven they could be making?

And finally, as the series Life After People predicts, the International Space Station will come crashing into Earth within three years of the end of life on Earth. So, either hope the DNA lands in some kind of primordial ooze or that aliens make our fantasy-fun-world full of TV writers as soon as possible.

popular

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

War brings out the very best in technological innovation. Humans have shown themselves to be remarkably adept in devising new, creative ways to kill each other. The Vietnam War brought out this human capacity for creative destruction on a grand scale, even if it manifested itself a little differently on both sides.

The United States was blasting into the Space Age and, with that surge of technology, came chemical defoliants, like Agent Orange and jet aircraft that could break the sound barrier. The Vietnamese expanded their work on tried-and-true effective yet obsolete weapons, like punji stick booby traps. The two sides were worlds apart technologically, but when it came to murderous creativity, the combatants were close peers.


This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

The XM-2 backpack mounted personnel detector.

1. People sniffers

The United States was desperately seeking a way to detect North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong movement across the DMZ and down the Ho Chi Minh trail, not to mention the bands of NVA and VC that were hiding in the dense jungles of South Vietnam. The U.S. infamously used the chemical defoliant Agent Orange to strip vegetation from entire areas, but it was more effective at giving everyone cancer than it was at outing hidden bands of the enemy.

So, the minds over at General Electric created a mobile cloud chamber that could detect ammonia, a component of human sweat. They called them the XM2 and XM3 personnel detectors, but the troops who used the devices quickly dubbed them “people sniffers.” While troops hated the XM2 backpack versions (and for good reasons, like the noise it made in an ambush area and the fact that it detected their sweat as well as the enemy’s), the XM3 saw widespread use on helicopters.

However, the enemy caught on and began to post buckets of urine around the jungle to create decoys for people sniffers. In the end, the device wasn’t even that great at picking up people, but it did detect recent cooking fires, which retained its usefulness.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

Gross dog poop. …or is it?

2. Poop

It’s fairly well-known by now that the punji stick booby traps used by the Viet Cong during the were sometimes smeared with poop as a means to cause a bacterial infection in the victim. The idea was to try to take as many people and resources from the battlefield as possible: one injured soldier, at least one more to help cart him away, and maybe a helicopter could be lured into an ambush trying to medevac the wounded.

What’s not as well known is the Americans also used poop to their advantage. This is, again, the result of trying to track the movement of men and materiel down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The United States placed sensors along the supposed routes of the Trail but when discovered, these sensors were, of course, destroyed. The U.S. needed to place sensors that wouldn’t be detected or destroyed. The answer was poop – in the form of a poop-shaped radio beacon.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

An X-ray view of that same “poop.”

The Air Force dropped these sensors from the air and they would detect movement along the trail during the night, relaying the signal via radio. Since they looked like disgusting poop, the VC and NVA would often just leave them alone, thus ensuring the Americans would be able to listen along the trail.

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

3. “Lazy Dog” Flechettes

Imagine an explosive device filled with thousands of tiny darts or nails. It’s not difficult – many anti-personnel weapons use some kind of shrapnel or fragmentation to wreak havoc on enemy formations. Flechette weapons in the Vietnam War were no different. American helicopters, ground forces, and even bombers would fire missiles and rockets filled with thousands of these darts, launched at high speeds to turn any enemy cluster into swiss cheese.

A unique version of the flechette weapons however, came from B-52 Bombers, who would fly so high as to be pretty much silent to enemy Viet Cong or North Vietnam Army formations on the ground. When dropped from such a high altitude, the darts didn’t need an explosive to propel them, as they fell to Earth, they gained in velocity what they would have had from such an explosion. The result was a deadly blast of thousands of darts that was both invisible and inaudible – until it was too late and death rained from the sky.

Fun fact: When dropped from space, a large enough object could hit the ground with the force of a nuclear weapon.

Now Read: These Air Force ‘rods from god’ could hit with the force of a nuclear bomb

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

4. Tactical Tree Crusher

Throughout the war, the Army wrestled with the problem of clearing vegetation to find Vietnamese hiding spots. Since Agent Orange took too long and could be washed away by heavy rains, the U.S. needed another way to clear paths for the troops. In 1968, they leased two vehicles designed for logging companies and sent them off to Southeast Asia. These became tactical tree crushers.

A 60-ton vehicle with multi-bladed logger wheels knocked trees over and chopped the logs as it drove. The U.S. military version would have a .50-cal mounted on the rear for self-defense, as well as a couple of claymores on the sides to keep the VC away from the driver. The vehicle was very effective at clearing trees, but the engine was prone to giving out and the large design made it an easy target for the enemy, so the military version was never made.

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