This is why Russia's newest carrier jet is such a dud - We Are The Mighty
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This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

The Russian-built MiG-29K “Fulcrum” multi-role fighters purchased for use off the Indian navy’s carrier, INS Vikramaditya, are breaking. This marks the latest hiccup for Russian naval aviation, going back to the Kuznetsov Follies of last year’s deployment, as Russia plans to replace its force of Su-33 Flankers with MiG-29Ks.


According to a report by the London Daily Mail, serviceability of the Fulcrums has dropped to below 16 percent in some cases. The Indian Navy had planned for the Fulcrums to last 25 years, and to also operate from the under-construction INS Vikrant, which is expected to enter service in 2023.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
An Indian MiG-29K purchased from Russia. (Photo: Indian Navy CC BY 2.5 IN)

The MiG-29K made its combat debut over Syria in 2016, primarily flying from land bases after being ferried over by the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. One MiG-29K made a splash landing during that deployment, which came to be called the Kuznetsov Follies. Land-based versions of the Fulcrum have turned out to be second-best in a number of conflicts, including Operation Desert Storm, Operation Allied Force, and the Eritrea-Ethiopia War.

The MiG-29K is a single-seat multi-role fighter designed by the Mikoyan design bureau. According to GlobalSecurity.org, it carries a variety of air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons, including the AA-11 Archer, the Kh-35 anti-ship missile, and bombs. It has a top speed of 2,200 kilometers per hour, and a range of up to 3,000 kilometers. India has purchased a total of 45 MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB fighters.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
The INS Vikramaditya has the ability to carry over 30 aircraft comprising an assortment of MiG 29K/Sea Harrier, Kamov 31, Kamov 28, Sea King, ALH-Dhruv and Chetak helicopters. The MiG 29K swing role fighter is the main offensive platform and provides a quantum jump for the Indian Navy’s maritime strike capability.

INS Vikramaditya started out as a modified Kiev-class carrier known as the Baku. The vessel was re-named the Admiral Gorshkov in 1991 before being placed up for sale in 1996. When in Russian service, the vessel was armed with six twin launchers for the SS-N-12 Sandbox anti-ship missile, 24 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 Gauntlet surface-to-air missile, two 100mm guns, eight AK-630 Gatling Guns, and ten 533mm torpedo tubes.

For Indian service, many of those weapons were removed, and a ski-jump ramp was added. The vessel can fire Israeli-designed Barak surface-to-air missiles, and still has four AK-630s.

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The devastating 105mm cannon is back on the AC-130 gunship

The AC-130 just got its signature weapon back – and many in the public may not have known it was gone.


According to a report by Strategypage.com, the decision ends a 12-year hiatus on the powerful cannon, which has been used on versions of the Spectre gunship since 1972 – along with two 20mm Vulcan cannon and a 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun in the AC-130H. The AC-130U replaces the two 20mm guns with the 25mm GAU-12 used on the AV-8B Harrier.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
An AC-130U gunship from the 4th Special Operations Squadron, flies near Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 20. The AC-130 gunship’s primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and force protection. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

The decision had been made to halt use of the 105mm gun in favor of missiles like the AGM-114 Hellfire and AGM-176 Griffin as well as the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. The problem was, the need for guns didn’t go away. The Air Force started out by adding the 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun. This helped out, especially when troops were in close contact or there was a need to avoid collateral damage.

The gun’s rounds were also a lot cheaper than the missiles – even though the guns are only really useful at night.

The “boots on the ground” and the crews, though, kept making the case to bring the 105mm gun back. So, the Air Force tested a new mount for the 105mm gun. While previous incarnations of the AC-130 had the gun mounted to the side, now the gun will be fired from the rear of the plane.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
AC-130W Stinger II gunship (USAF photo)

While this puts an end to the famous pylon turn, it also means the AC-130 can hold twice as many 105mm howitzer rounds as it used to.

Testing of the new mount was finished in 2017, and will go on the new AC-130J Ghostrider, which will replace older AC-130H, AC-130U, and AC-130W aircraft by 2021.

Articles

This White House plan for the Afghanistan war might surprise you

The Trump administration is considering the ramifications of paring back the US presence in Afghanistan as part of its ongoing strategy review in America’s longest war, The Wall Street Journal reports.


Trump’s national security cabinet is bitterly divided on the future US role in Afghanistan. Senior national security officials like Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster are reportedly pushing Trump to allow a surge of approximately 4,000 troops into Afghanistan, while White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has lobbied against the effort.

“It doesn’t work unless we are there for a long time, and if we don’t have the appetite to be there a long time, we should just leave. It’s an unanswered question,” a senior administration official told WSJ of any plan to increase US troops. “It is becoming clearer and clearer to people that those are the options: go forward with something like the strategy we have developed, or withdraw.”

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
Secretary of Defense James Mattis (left). DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Trump is reportedly deeply skeptical of increasing US troops in Afghanistan and sent back McMaster’s final version of a plan to his national security council in late-July. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other military leaders in charge of the war in Afghanistan say they need a few thousand more US troops to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Security Forces in the fight against the Taliban.

The Afghan National Security Forces have largely failed to rise to the challenge of the Taliban insurgent movement, despite tens of billions of dollars in US assistance and a 16-year NATO presence. Afghan civilian casualties are also at a 16-year high in the war as a result of Taliban improvised explosive devices. US military commanders admit that any surge in US troops will need to be sustained for years to come in order to build up the Afghan National Security Force’s indigenous capabilities.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Afghan Air Force Brig. Gen. Eng A. Shafi. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

The Taliban now controls more territory than at any time since the US invasion in 2001, and maintains control over approximately one-third of the civilian population. The US backed Afghan government remains paralyzed by corruption and political infighting, further hindering the war effort and plummeting morale among Afghan troops.

Former US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller described officials asking the same fundamental questions about US strategy in the region in 2017 as they were 4 years ago, in a recent interview with Politico Magazine. “Here we are two full presidential terms and into the start of a next one later; there are no peace talks,” Miller lamented.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Army wants a cannon that can hit targets in the South China Sea

The US Army wants a cannon that can fire a round over 1,000 miles, with the aim to blow a hole in Chinese warships in the South China Sea should a conflict occur, according to Army senior leadership.

“You can imagine a scenario where the Navy feels that it cannot get into the South China Sea because of Chinese naval vessels, or whatever,” Secretary of the Army Mark Esper revealed Jan. 23, 2019, “We can — from a fixed location, on an island or some other place — engage enemy targets, naval targets, at great distances and maintain our standoff and yet open the door, if you will, for naval assets or Marine assets.”


The Army, relying heavily on the newly-established Army Futures Command, is undergoing its largest modernization program in decades, and it is doing so with a renewed focus on China and Russia, the foremost threats to US power in the National Defense Strategy.

A key priority for the new four-star command is Long-Range Precision Fires, a team which aims to develop artillery that can outrange top adversaries like Russia and China.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

Soldiers fire 155 mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer weapons system.

(U.S. Army photo by Evan D. Marcy)

“Our purpose is to penetrate and disintegrate enemy anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) systems, which will enable us to maintain freedom of maneuverability as we exploit windows of opportunity,” Col. John Rafferty, head of the LRPF cross-functional team, explained to reporters in October 2018.

The Chinese and Russians have made significant advancements in the development of effective stand-off capabilities. Now, the Army is trying to turn the tables on them.

“You want to be outside the range that they can hit you,” Esper told Task Purpose Jan. 23, 2019.

“Why was the spear developed? Because the other guy had a sword. A spear gives you range. Why was the sling developed? Because the spear closed off the range of the sword,” he explained. “You want to always have standoff where you can strike without being struck back. That’s what extended-range cannon artillery gives us.”

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

An M777A2 155 mm howitzer.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Katelyn Hunter)

The ERCA is an ongoing project that may eventually create opportunities for the development of a supergun with the ability to fire a round over 1,000 miles. The extended-range cannon artillery currently has a range of 62 miles, which is already double the range of the older 155 mm guns.

The Army is also looking at adapting current artillery for anti-ship warfare.

During the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in 2018, Army soldiers fired multiple rockets from High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) at the ex-USS Racine during a combined arms sinking exercise. The drill highlighted what a war with China in the Pacific might look like.

China has one of the world’s largest navies, and there is significant evidence that it intends to use its growing military might to drive the US out of the region.

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

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The 5 most legendary snipers of all time

Snipers are a special breed, warriors with a combination of shooting skill, cunning, and patience. Military history has shown that a single sniper in the right place at the right time can change the course of battle, even in the face of overwhelming odds.


Here are the five most legendary among them:

5. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Adelbert Waldron

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
(Photo: Waldron family archives)

As a member of the 9th Infantry Division, he was assigned to PBR boats patrolling the Mekong Delta, at one point making a confirmed kill from a moving boat at 900 yards. He set his record of 109 kills in just 8 months, which was the record until Chris Kyle broke it during the Iraq War and is perhaps even more remarkable considering he was fighting in a dense jungle environment that didn’t always provide easy sight lines.

4. Red Army Captain Vasily Zaytsev

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
(Photo: Russian National Archives)

Between November 10 and December 17, 1942, during the Battle of Stalingrad, Zaytsev killed 225 soldiers and officers of the Wehrmacht and other Axis armies, including 11 enemy snipers. Before that he killed 32 Axis soldiers with a standard-issue rifle. Between October 1942 and January 1943, he made an estimated 400 kills, some at distances of more than 1,100 yards.

A feature-length film, Enemy at the Gates, starring Jude Law as Zaytsev, includes a sniper’s duel between Zaytsev and a Wehrmacht sniper school director, Major Erwin König.

3. U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

Navy SEAL Chris Kyle served four tours during the Iraq War, and during that time he became the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history with over 160 kills officially confirmed by the Department of Defense. Kyle’s bestselling book, American Sniper, was made into a movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper as Kyle.

On February 2, 2013, Kyle was shot dead at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas along with his friend, Chad Littlefield. The assailant, Eddie Ray Routh, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

2. U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Norman Hathcock

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
(Photo: Marine Corps Archives)

During the Vietnam War Hathcock had 93 “confirmed” kills of North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong personnel, which meant they occurred with an officer present (in addition to his spotter). He estimated the number of “unconfirmed” kills to be upwards of 400.  His warfighting career ended when he was wounded by an anti-tank mine in 1969 and sent home.  He later helped establish the USMC Sniper School.

1. Finnish Army Second Lieutenant Simo Häyhä

Nicknamed “White Death,” Simo Häyhä tallied 505 kills, far and away the highest count from any major war. All of Häyhä’s kills of Red Army combatants were accomplished in fewer than 100 days – an average of just over five kills per day – at a time of year with very few daylight hours.  He was wounded late in the war when an explosive bullet shot by a Soviet soldier took off his lower left jaw. He lived a long life, however, dying in a veterans nursing home in 2002 at the age of 96.

When asked if he regretted killing so many people he replied, “I only did my duty, and what I was told to do, as well as I could.”

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15 veterans taking the comedy world by storm

Comedy greats Johnny Carson, Bill Cosby, Drew Carey, and  Rob Riggle all started their working lives in the military, and all of them have credited their service for giving them unique perspectives that shaped their routines or approaches to roles they played. And now a new generation of veterans are finding success in comedy.


Here are 15 veterans currently making names for themselves on stages and elsewhere around the country:

1. Julia Lillis

Julia is a Naval Academy graduate who has had great success as a stand up comedian and writer.  She has appeared on E! and MTV and is a recurring guest on the Dennis Miller show. Julia has also done multiple tours entertaining the troops overseas.

2. James Connolly

James is a veteran of Desert Storm and Harvard graduate. He has appeared on VH1, HBO, Comedy Central, and is one of the most played comedians on Sirius XM. In addition, he has done multiple tours entertaining the troops and holds an annual “Cocktails and Camouflage” comedy show that raises money for veterans organizations.

3. Jose Sarduy

Jose is currently an aviator in the Air Force reserves. He’s made a big impact with comedy festivals, has toured overseas with the GI’s of Comedy, and currently co-hosts NUVOtv’s “Stand up and Deliver.”

4. Thom Tran

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCgJGAvRSg4

An Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Thom launched a successful comedy career after leaving the Army. He founded the GI’s of Comedy, raising money for veteran organizations, and has toured throughout the U.S. He is currently producing a new series called “Comedy Stir Fry.”

5. Jon Stites

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXIMVuTQDPM

Jon is a veteran of the Army infantry and founder of Operation Comedy, recruiting some of the biggest comedians in the industry to give free shows to veterans at signature venues like the Improv in Hollywood.

6. Justin Wood

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6ZH7LpUAcA

An Army veteran turned stand up comic, Justin has performed at major venues throughout Los Angeles, toured with the GI’s of Comedy, and founded “Comics that Care” recruiting comedians to perform for homeless veterans. He recently made a viral satire video of him committing “stolen valor” (posted above).

7. Benari Poulten

Benari is currently a Master Sergeant in the Army Reserve and a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As a comic he has toured with the GI’s of Comedy and was hired this year as a writer on “The Nightly Show” with Larry Wilmore.

8. Shawn Halpin

After serving in the Marine Corps infantry, Halpin has had success as a comedian opening for Pauley Shore, Tom Green, and as a regular at The World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood. He has entertained the troops performing with Operation Comedy, GI’s of Comedy, and Comics on Duty.

9. PJ Walsh

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCdn-64XHkc

After serving in the Navy, Walsh has shared the stage with many comedy greats including Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy. He has performed for troops in several countries including Iraq and Afghanistan and is committed to raising funds for veteran organizations.

10. Jody Fuller

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lU4TRSeyWtk

Fuller currently serves as a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve with three tours overseas. His performance highlights include a opening gig in front of comedy great Jeff Foxworthy.

11. Will C

Will C served in the Marine Corps, Army, and the Air Force. He has had great success as a comedian touring across the country and has appeared in numerous television roles. He founded The Veterans of Comedy, a group that tours nationally to entertain active duty military and veterans.

12. Tom Irwin

A U.S. Army veteran, Tom’s success as a comedian includes an invitation to perform at The White House. He has done multiple tours overseas entertaining troops and created a “25 Days in Iraq” show about his tour in Iraq.

13. Erik Knowles

Knowles is a Marine Corps veteran turned stand up who was a finalist at the California Comedy Festival and The World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas. He has worked with Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis and also tours with The Veterans of Comedy.

14. Katie Robinson

Katie is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns where she worked as a chem-bio-radiation officer. Known as “Comedy Katie” she is a regular at The World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood and won critical acclaim at MiniFest: Los Angeles.

15. Ibo Brewer

A Marine and Iraq war veteran, Brewer is a Los Angeles based comedian and regular at various major comedy clubs.

BONUS:

Check out the amazing documentary Comedy Warriors (2013) which follows wounded warriors who aspire to become comedians and are mentored by A-list comics including Zach Galifianakis and Lewis Black.

NOW: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

OR: The 8 most famous US military recruiting posters of World War II

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how GPS actually works – and why some devices might stop working

Developed over the course of decades, GPS has become far more ubiquitous than most people realize. Not just for navigation, its extreme accuracy in time keeping (+/- 10 billionths of a second) has been used by countless businesses the world over for everything from aiding in power grid management to helping manage stock market and other banking transactions. The GPS system essentially allows for companies to have near atomic clock level precision in their systems, including easy time synchronization across the globe, without actually needing to have an atomic clock or come up with their own systems for global synchronization. The problem is that, owing to a quirk of the original specifications, on April 6, 2019 many GPS receivers are about to stop working correctly unless the firmware for them is updated promptly. So what’s going on here, how exactly does the GPS system work, and who first got the idea for such a system?


On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. As you might imagine, this tiny satellite, along with subsequent satellites in the line, were closely monitored by scientists the world over. Most pertinent to the topic at hand today were two physicists at Johns Hopkins University named William Guier and George Weiffenbach.

As they studied the orbits and signals coming from the Sputnik satellites the pair realized that, thanks to how fast the satellites were going and the nature of their broadcasts, they could use the Doppler shift of the signal to very accurately determine the satellite’s position.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

A replica of Sputnik 1.

(NASA)

Not long after, one Frank McClure, also of Johns Hopkins University, asked the pair to study whether it would be possible to do this the other way around. They soon found that, indeed, using the satellite’s known orbit and studying the signal from it as it moved, the observer on the ground could in a relatively short time span determine their own location.

This got the wheels turning.

Various systems were proposed and, in some cases, developed. Most notable to the eventual evolution of GPS was the Navy’s Navigation Satellite System (also known as the Navy Transit Program), which was up and running fully by 1964. This system could, in theory, tell a submarine or ship crew where they were within about 25 meters, though location could only be updated about once per hour and took about 10-15 minutes to acquire. Further, if the ship was moving, the precision would be off by about one nautical mile per 5 knots of speed.

Another critical system to the ultimate development of GPS was known as Timation, which initially used quartz clocks synchronized on the ground and on the satellites as a key component of how the system determined where the ground observer was located. However, with such relatively imprecise clocks, the first tests resulted in an accuracy of only about 0.3 nautical miles and took about 15 minutes of receiving data to nail down that location. Subsequent advancements in Timation improved things, even testing using an atomic clock for increased accuracy. But Timation was about to go the way of the Dodo.

By the early 1970s, the Navigation System Using Timing and Ranging (Navstar, eventually Navstar-GPS) was proposed, essentially combining elements from systems like Transit, Timation, and a few other similar systems in an attempt to make a better system from what was learned in those projects.

Fast-forward to 1983 and while the U.S. didn’t yet have a fully operational GPS system, the first prototype satellites were up and the system was being slowly tested and implemented. It was at this point that Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which originally departed from New York, refueled and took off from Anchorage, Alaska, bound for Seoul, South Korea.

What does this have to do with ubiquitous GPS as we know it today?

On its way, the pilots had an unnoticed autopilot issue, resulting in them unknowingly straying into Soviet airspace.

Convinced the passenger plane was actually a spy plane, the Soviets launched Su-15 jets to intercept the (apparently) most poorly crafted spy plane in history — the old “It’s so overt, it’s covert” approach to spying.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor.

Warning shots were fired, though the pilot who did it stated in a later interview, “I fired four bursts, more than 200 rounds. For all the good it did. After all, I was loaded with armor piercing shells, not incendiary shells. It’s doubtful whether anyone could see them.”

Not long after, the pilots of Korean Air 007 called Tokyo Area Control Center, requesting to climb to Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet) from Flight Level 330 (33,000 feet). This resulted in the aircraft slowing below the speed the tracking high speed interceptors normally operated at, and thus, them blowing right by the plane. This was interpreted as an evasive maneuver, even though it was actually just done for fuel economy reasons.

A heated debate among the Soviet brass ensued over whether more time should be taken to identify the plane in case it was simply a passenger airliner as it appeared. But as it was about to fly into international waters, and may in fact already have been at that point, the decision was made to shoot first and ask questions later.

The attacking pilot described what happened next:

“Destroy the target…!” That was easy to say. But how? With shells? I had already expended 243 rounds. Ram it? I had always thought of that as poor taste. Ramming is the last resort. Just in case, I had already completed my turn and was coming down on top of him. Then, I had an idea. I dropped below him about two thousand metres… afterburners. Switched on the missiles and brought the nose up sharply. Success! I have a lock on.

Two missiles were fired and exploded near the Boeing plane causing significant damage, though in a testament to how safe commercial airplanes typically are, the pilots were able to regain control over the aircraft, even for a time able to maintain level and stable flight. However, they eventually found themselves in a slow spiral which ended in a crash killing all 269 aboard.

As a direct result of this tragedy, President Ronald Reagan announced on Sept. 16, 1983, that the GPS system that had previously been intended for U.S. military use only would now be made available for everyone to use, with the initial idea being the numerous safety benefits such a system would have in civil aviation over using then available navigation tools.

This brings us to how exactly the GPS system works in the first place. Amazingly complex on some levels, the actual nuts and bolts of the system are relatively straightforward to understand.

To begin with, consider what happens if you’re standing in an unknown location and you ask someone where you are. They reply simply — “You are 212 miles from Seattle, Washington.”

You now can draw a circle on a map with radius 212 miles from Seattle. Assuming the person giving you that information is correct, you know you’re somewhere along that circular line.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

Not super helpful at this point by itself, you then ask someone else, and they say, “You are 150 miles from Vancouver BC.” Now you’re getting somewhere. When you draw that circle on the map, you’ll see it intersects at two points. You are standing on one of those two points. Noticing that you are not, in fact, floating in the ocean, you could at this point deduce which point you are on, but work with us here people.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

Instead of making such an assumption, you decide your senses are never to be trusted and, after all, Jesus stood on water, so why not you? Thus, you ask a third person — they say, “You are 500 miles from Boise, Idaho.” That circle drawn, you now know exactly where you are in two dimensional space. Near Kamloops, Canada, as it turns out.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

This is more or less what’s happening with GPS, except in the case of GPS you need to think in terms of 3D spheres instead of 2D circles. Further, how the system tells you your exact distance from a reference point, in this case each of the satellites, is via transmitting the satellites’ exact locations in orbit and a timestamp of the exact time when said transmission was sent. This time is synchronized across the various satellites in the GPS constellation.

The receiver then subtracts the current known time upon receiving the data from that transmission time to determine the time it took for that signal to be transmitted from the satellites to its location.

Combining that with the known satellite locations and the known speed of light with which the radio signal was propagated, it can then crunch the numbers to determine with remarkable accuracy its location, with margins of error owing to things like the ionosphere interfering with the propagation of the signal, and various other real world factors such as this potentially throwing things off a little.

Even with these potential issues, however, the latest generation of the GPS system can, in theory, pinpoint your location within about a foot or about 30 centimeters.

You may have spotted a problem here, however. While the GPS satellites are using extremely precise and synchronized atomic clocks, the GPS system in your car, for example, has no such synchronized atomic clock. So how does it accurately determine how long it took for the signal to get from the satellite to itself?

It simply uses at least four, instead of three, satellites, giving it the extra data point it needs to solve the necessary equations to get the appropriate missing time variable. In a nutshell, there is only one point in time that will match the edge of all four spheres intersecting in one point in space on Earth. Thus, once the variables are solved for, the receiver can adjust its own time keeping appropriately to be almost perfectly synchronized, at least momentarily, with the much more precise GPS atomic clocks. In some sense, this makes GPS something of a 4D system, in that, with it, you can know your precise point in not only space, but time.

By continually updating its own internal clock in this way, the receiver on the ground ends up being nearly as accurate as an atomic clock and is a time keeping device that is then almost perfectly synchronized with other such receivers across the globe, all for almost no cost at all to the end users because the U.S. government is footing the bill for all the expensive bits of the system and maintaining it.

Speaking of that maintanence, another problem you may have spotted is that various factors can, and do, continually move the GPS satellites off their original orbits. So how is this accounted for?

Tracking stations on Earth continually monitor the exact orbits of the various GPS satellites, with this information, along with any needed time corrections to account for things like Relatively, frequently updated in the GPS almanac and ephemeris. These two data sets are used for holding satellite status and positional information and are regularly broadcast to receivers, which is how said receivers know exact positions of the satellites in the first place.

The satellites themselves can also have their orbits adjusted if necessary, with this process simply being to mark the satellite as “unhealthy” so receivers will ignore it, then move it to its new position, track that orbit, and once that is accurately known, update the almanac and ephemeris and mark the satellite as “healthy” again.

So that’s more or less how GPS came to be and how it works at a high level. What about the part where we said many GPS devices may potentially stop working very soon if not updated?

Near the turn of the century something happened that had never happened before in the GPS world — dubbed a “dress rehearsal for the Y2K bug”. You see, as a part of the time stamp sent by the GPS satellites, there is something known as the Week Number — literally just the number of weeks that have passed since an epoch, originally set to Jan. 6, 1980. Along with this Week Number the number of seconds since midnight on the previous Saturday evening is sent, thus allowing the GPS receiver to calculate the exact date.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

Artist’s conception of GPS Block II-F satellite in Earth orbit.

So what’s the problem with this? It turns out every 1024 weeks (about every 19 years and 8 months) from the epoch, the number rolls back to 0 owing to this integer information being in 10 bit format.

Thus, when this happens, any GPS receiver that doesn’t account for the Week Number Rollover, will likely stop functioning correctly, though the nature of the malfunction varies from vendor to vendor and device, depending on how said vendor implemented their system.

For some, the bug might manifest as a simple benign date reporting error. For others, such a date reporting error might mean everything from incorrect positioning to even a full system crash.

If you’ve done the math, you’ve probably deduced that this issue first popped up in August of 1999, only about four years after the GPS system itself was fully operational.

At this point, of course, GPS wasn’t something that was so ubiquitously depended on as it is today, with only 10-15 million GPS receivers in use worldwide in 1999 according to a 1999 report by the the United States Department of Commerce’s Office of Telecommunications. Today, of course, that number is in the billions of devices.

Thankfully, when the next Week Number Rollover event happens on April 6, 2019, it would seem most companies that rely on GPS for critical systems, like airlines, banking institutions, cell networks, power grids, etc., have already taken the necessary steps to account for the problem.

The more realistic problems with this second Week Number Rollover event will probably mostly occur at the consumer level, as most people simply are not aware of the issue at all.

Thankfully, if you’ve updated your firmware on your GPS device recently or simply own a GPS device purchased in the last few years, you’re probably going to be fine here.

However, should you own a GPS device that is several years old, that may not be the case and you’ll most definitely want to go to the manufacturer’s website and download any relevant updates before the second GPS epoch.

That public service announcement out of the way, if you’re now wondering why somebody doesn’t just change the specification altogether to stop using a 10 bit Week Number, well, you’re not the first to think of this. Under the latest GPS interface specifications, a 13 bit Week Number is now used, meaning in newer devices that support this, the issue won’t come up again for about a century and a half. As the machines are bound to rise up and enslave humanity long before that occurs, that’s really their issue to solve at that point.

Bonus Facts:

  • Ever notice that your cell phone tends to lock on to your GPS position extremely quickly, even after having been powered off for a long time? How does it do this when other GPS devices must wait to potentially receive a fresh copy of the almanac and ephemeris? It turns out cell phones tend to use something called Assisted GPS, where rather than wait to receive that data from the currently orbiting GPS satellites, they will instead get it from a central server somewhere. The phone may also simply use its position in the cell phone network (using signals from towers around) to get an approximate location to start while it waits to acquire the signal from the GPS satellites, partially masking further delay there. Of course, assisted GPS doesn’t work if you don’t have a cell signal, and if you try to use your GPS on your phone in such a scenario you’ll find that if you turn off the GPS for a while and then later turn it back on, it will take a while to acquire a signal like any other GPS device.
  • Starting just before the first Gulf War, the military degraded the GPS signal for civilian use in order to keep the full accuracy of the system as a U.S. military advantage. However, in May of 2000, this policy was reversed by President Bill Clinton and civilian GPS got approximately ten times more accurate basically overnight.
  • The military also created the ability to selectively stop others from using GPS at all, as India discovered thanks to the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999. During the conflict, the U.S. blocked access to the GPS system from India owing to, at the time, better longstanding relations between the U.S. and Pakistan than the U.S. had with India. Thus, the U.S. didn’t want to seem like it was helping India in the war.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

The US Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment began in an unusual way, and it appears to be part of efforts to make the service less predictable.


In a break from the norm, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group deployed immediately after completing a final certification exercise instead of first returning to the carrier’s home port.

Carrier Strike Group 10, a formidable naval force consisting of the Eisenhower, two cruisers, three destroyers and more than 6,000 sailors, set sail on deployment right after completing the Composite Unit Training Exercise, the Navy announced Thursday.

“Upon the successful completion of C2X, strike groups are certified and postured to deploy at any time,” US 2nd Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Marycate Walsh told Insider.

“IKE’s timeline for departure was demonstrative of the inherent agility of our naval forces,” she continued. “There is no one size fits all policy; operations at sea routinely flex for a variety of reasons.”

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Eisenhower in the Atlantic.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Norket

At times, the Navy has adjusted deployments in response to unexpected problems.

For example, when the USS Harry S. Truman suffered an electrical malfunction in August, its strike group deployed without it, forming a surface action group instead.

As the Truman underwent repairs, the USS Abraham Lincoln, the carrier sent to deter Iran, had its deployment extended — one of several extensions that allowed the Lincoln to set a record for longest carrier deployment since the Cold War.

But the Eisenhower’s latest deployment, as The Virginian-Pilot notes, appears to be a part of the Navy’s efforts to implement dynamic force employment, which the Navy argues makes the fleet much less predictable and strengthens deterrence against potential adversaries.

The Truman executed the first DFE deployment in 2018, when it sailed into the North Atlantic and Arctic shortly after returning from the Mediterranean.

After that deployment, Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, said: “The National Defense Strategy makes clear that we must be operationally unpredictable to our long-term strategic adversaries, while upholding our commitments to our allies and partners.”

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

It is unclear where the Eisenhower is currently headed.

“The sailors of IKE Strike Group are trained and ready to execute the full spectrum of maritime operations in any theater,” Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, commander of Carrier Strike Group 10, said in a statement.

“Carrier Strike Groups,” he said, “are visible and powerful symbols of US commitment and resolve to our allies and partners, and possess the flexibility and sustainability to fight major wars and ensure freedom of the seas.”

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

Articles

USAA marches into the esports scene with new Call of Duty League Sponsorship

SANTA MONICA, Calif.—Feb. 10, 2021—Today, USAA and the Call of Duty League™, the official esports league of Call of Duty®, announce a multi-year deal that will see USAA become the League’s Official Insurance Sponsor, the presenting partner of the League’s match day pre-show program and its first-ever Military Appreciation Week.

Call of Duty League, which launched in 2020, returns with the start of its 2021 season on Feb. 11. This season, fans around the globe will watch as the world’s greatest Call of Duty players compete in the newly released “Call of Duty®: Black Ops®  Cold War” in exciting 4 vs. 4 competition.

As part of the sponsorship, USAA will be the exclusive presenting partner of the Call of Duty League’s match day pre-show segment – titled the “USAA Pre-Show” – streaming live at the beginning of each League match broadcast throughout the season.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
Photo courtesy of Call of Duty

USAA will also be the exclusive presenting partner of the League’s inaugural “Military Appreciation Week.”

“We understand how gaming can strengthen bonds and connect friends and families across the world. We are excited to join the Call of Duty League as an ally in the trenches for our military community gamers, and young currently serving and veterans in particular,” said Eric Engquist, USAA vice president of enterprise brand management and U.S. Army veteran. “This partnership will allow us to meet military members where they are and provide them with unique experiences and benefits through the Call of Duty League.”

The upcoming Call of Duty League season will be highlighted by several high stakes ‘Majors,’ or tournaments that will feature all 12 teams competing in double-elimination competition. Like the inaugural season, teams will earn CDL Points for each match win throughout the season – with these points determining 2021 season standings, giving them a shot at becoming one of eight teams to qualify for the 2021 Call of Duty League Playoffs, to be hosted later in 2021. As part of the new sponsorship, USAA will be the presenting sponsor of the ‘Major’ to occur in May.

“The Call of Duty franchise continues to deliver, amassing over the years an enormous and passionate fan base that extends to the Call of Duty League, and to esports fans around the globe,” said Brandon Snow, Chief Revenue Officer of Activision Blizzard Esports. “USAA is a world-class brand, building its sterling reputation on taking care of U.S. service members and their families – a mission close to the hearts of the Call of Duty community. We look forward to working together to create meaningful, engaging moments for fans throughout the 2021 and 2022 seasons.”

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
Photo courtesy of Call of Duty

The Call of Duty League’s 2021 season begins with the Atlanta FaZe Home Series, Feb. 11-14. For more information on the new Call of Duty League, sign up for updates at callofdutyleague.com or tune in to the action at youtube.com/codleague

About USAA

Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families. Headquartered in San Antonio, Tex., USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 35,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com

About Call of Duty League

Call of Duty League™ is the official esports league of the Call of Duty® franchise, from publisher Activision. The Call of Duty League includes 12 teams from four countries and spotlights the best Call of Duty esports players from around the world. The Call of Duty League launched in 2020 and features fresh ways for pro players, amateurs, and fans to come together around one of the world’s most beloved games. To learn more about the Call of Duty League, visit callofdutyleague.com.

About Activision Blizzard Esports

Activision Blizzard Esports (ABE) is responsible for the development, operation, and commercialization of Activision Blizzard’s professional gaming properties including the Overwatch League™, the Call of Duty® League™, and Hearthstone® Grandmasters, among others. It is ABE’s vision to be the most innovative, scalable, and valuable developer of competitive entertainment. 

About Activision

Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Activision is a leading global producer and publisher of interactive entertainment. Activision maintains operations throughout the world and is a division of Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI), an S&P 500 company. More information about Activision and its products can be found on the company’s website, www.activision.com or by following @Activision.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-looking Statements: Information in this press release that involves Activision Blizzard’s expectations, plans, intentions or strategies regarding the future, including statements about the availability, dates, programming, features and functionality of the Call of Duty League, including the 2021 season, Playoffs and Majors, are forward-looking statements that are not facts and involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Factors that could cause Activision Blizzard’s actual future results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements set forth in this release include unanticipated product delays and other factors identified in the risk factors sections of Activision Blizzard’s most recent annual report on Form 10-K and any subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. The forward-looking statements in this release are based upon information available to The Call of Duty League, LLC, Activision Publishing and Activision Blizzard as of the date of this release, and none of The Call of Duty League, LLC, Activision Publishing or Activision Blizzard assumes any obligation to update any such forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements believed to be true when made may ultimately prove to be incorrect. These statements are not guarantees of the future performance of The Call of Duty League, LLC, Activision Publishing or Activision Blizzard and are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors, some of which are beyond its control and may cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations

CALL OF DUTY, CALL OF DUTY BLACK OPS and CALL OF DUTY LEAGUE are trademarks or registered trademarks of Activision Publishing, Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.  The CALL OF DUTY LEAGUE team names, logos and other team trademarks are the properties of their respective owners.

Articles

This recent HBO documentary shows previously-unseen footage from the Holocaust

In 1945, Allied military and newsreel cameramen documented the liberation of Nazi concentration camps as the British, American, and Russian forces pushed ever further into Germany.  This footage was compiled and edited by the British government to make the film German Concentration Camps Factual Survey (with Alfred Hitchcock as a supervising director). More than 100 reels of footage were shot to make this documentary, the intended audience was to be German people living inside the former Nazi state to show them what the regime had done in their name.


This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

Earlier this year, HBO launched a new documentary, Night Will Fall, which draws on footage shot by those same military cameramen while using testimony from Holocaust survivors from infamous places like Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz, Dachau and others. Narrated by Helena Bonham-Carter, the documentary includes interviews from the film’s director, Billy Wilder, and even Hitchcock himself. But the film was never completed.

German Concentration Camps Factual Survey itself was set to include interviews with the camps’ survivors, the soldiers who liberated the camps, and historians looking back to put the events into context. The rough cut of the documentary was put away into the depths of the British Imperial War Museum and was unearthed in an effort to restore this and other films like it. In fact, the sixth and final reel of the film was missing and so Night Will Fall will finally bring this heart-wrenching documentary to a conclusion after 70 years.

The unfinished film was screened on PBS’ Frontline and at the 1984 Berlin Film Festival, and uses the most shocking and riveting concentration camp footage ever seen, fully restored. This restored footage was screened in 2014 at the Berlin International Film Festival. Some of the holocaust survivors in the HBO documentary can recognize themselves in the footage shot by military cameramen. The scenes shot by the cameramen are so striking, they were used against Nazi regime officials in trials at Nuremberg.

In the end, the film was not shown because the British needed the German people to rebuild their economy on their own, as the economies of all of Europe had been derailed by the war. The British government decided showing this film would only demoralize the Germans further.

Night Will Fall aired worldwide in January 2015, but can be seen on HBOGo and HBO Now.

NOW: Meet the rebel kids who danced in defiance of the Nazis

OR: That one time England recruited a magician to trick Hitler

Articles

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program

When Matthew Garcia, a sergeant with nine years of honorable service, left the Marine Corps in December he felt pretty invincible. His transition back to civilian life and new career would be easy, he thought.


Garcia had three combat tours under his belt and had just ended a successful tour as a Marine drill instructor, a demanding, intense but revered job at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot. For two weeks, attending the service’s Transition Readiness Seminar, he listened to speakers and counselors and took notes about resuming life as a civilian after his time in the military.

It was, he said, “like a water hose” of information and advice.

His broad plan was to find work in the San Diego area in a safety-related job. Before he left uniform, he had earned a key OSHA certificate. He felt confident but also felt nervous when he began his transition earlier this year.

“I didn’t know if I would succeed or not. The military life becomes the blanket that you understand,” said Garcia, 29, who served as a field wireman — the Marine Corps’ equivalent of a civilian lineman or network data specialist. “Would I fit in? Would I be successful? How will they receive me?”

As the months ticked off, the job offers eluded him. He hadn’t realized that his appearance, demeanor and daily routine had changed little from his time as a drill instructor, the epitome of the ramrod, Smokey-hat wearing, poster image of a Marine.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Garcia

“I got out but looked like I was still in” the military, he said.

That realization came in the help Garcia received from Cynthia, an Easterseals Southern California Bob Hope Veterans Support Program employment specialist he met through a referral from a friend pursuing similar work. She coached him through writing his resume and practicing for job interviews. She reminded him to prepare for those interviews just as he did for promotion boards during his military career. And before he interviewed for his first job prospect, he sent her a photo of the clothing he planned to wear — just to be sure.

“I felt a lot more competent,” he said.

Garcia said that the one-on-one support he received from Cynthia and Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program was pivotal to bolster his confidence and ability to transition from the military and ultimately find meaningful civilian employment.

“She gave me some basic things that people don’t think about when leaving the military,” he said, like being mindful of differences in terminology he used and understanding how his military job experience translates to a civilian workplace.

He credits the personalized services with helping him settle into civilian work and life perhaps sooner and smoother than if he had tried it on his own. “Just the fact that she sat down with me and went over my individual resume made the difference,” he said. “She took the time to understand the field that I was going in.”

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Garcia

It paid off: In June, just six months after hanging up his military uniform, Garcia started work as a safety, health and environmental manager with Balfour Beatty Construction, a San Diego-based firm.

“I try to make sure I set a good example,” he said. “I get a lot of praise from a lot of my coworkers.” His boss, he said, is an Air Force veteran.

Garcia’s success story is one of scores of military service members transitioning from active or reserve duty with help from Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which aims to help veterans and their families return to a productive and healthy civilian life. The program provides tailored, one-on-one employment services and assists veterans who want to start their own small business.

Easterseals Southern California launched the employment services program in early 2014 for transitioning veterans, many who choose to remain in Southern California, and reservists leaving active-duty tours, with a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation.

The Bob Hope Veterans Support Program is free and open to veterans, whether they are separating from the service after completing their contracts or are resuming their civilian life as a drilling reservist or member of the National Guard. They must be a post-Sept. 11, 2001, veteran leaving active or reserve duty who intends to work in the San Diego or Orange county areas and who has an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, as of 2014, there were 2.6 million post-9/11 veterans, and that community is projected to grow to nearly 3.5 million by 2019 as more service members exit the service and reservists complete active duty.

Santiago Leon is one of those reservists who sought out help as he resumed life as a civilian after an extended period serving full time in the Army Reserve.

The Army sergeant first class — he holds a leadership position and rank as a noncommissioned officer — has spent 16 years in the Army Reserve and said he’s “still going strong.” He is a senior instructor with the Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy, a reserve job he fulfills during his two-week annual training period and monthly drilling weekends.

Leon has tallied about four and a half years of active duty time so far, much of that coming from three combat tours with activated Army Reserve transportation companies. He deployed to Iraq in 2003 and in 2005 and to Afghanistan during a 2009-2010 assignment, and as a platoon sergeant was in charge of 34 soldiers and millions of dollars worth of equipment and vehicles.

When he returned home, he focused on completing a Bachelor’s degree with his Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits and finding a job to support his wife and three children. Like many reservists, he attended two days of classes on transitioning home and returning to reserve status, but “when you’re coming back from a 13, 14-month deployment, the last thing you’re thinking about is paying attention,” he said.

Still, he thought it would be an easy transition.

But “it was another rude awakening,” recalled Leon, 34. “I was cocky. I thought, with me being a  senior enlisted soldier, I had a leg up… and would make $70,000 to $80,000 a year and job offers would be coming my way.”

But after interviewing for a part-time job that paid $9.90 an hour, “I didn’t even get called in for an interview,” he said. “My confidence, my ego, was gone. I was thoroughly depressed.”

It was a humbling experience. Leon, who wanted to find a job where he could help other veterans, one day walked into the Chula Vista Vet Center in south San Diego County and met a manager who referred him to the South County Career Center.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud
Photo: Courtesy of Santiago Leon

“That’s when my life changed,” he said. After about two years without work, within three weeks “I found my first job” as a workshop facilitator for transitioning veterans. Through  VetWORKS, a training, certification, and employment program for unemployed veterans in San Diego County, he came across Easterseals Southern California and met John Funk, director of veterans programs and a retired Navy veteran.

Leon got advice about his resume and assistance sorting through job leads through Easterseals Southern California’s employment services. John Funk “gave me a huge reality check,” which helped temper his passion but focus on his goals, he said. “To say you want a job does no one any good. What we want is a career. So if you start building your skill sets, little by little, you can be competitive.”

Today, he is a business services manager with Able-Disabled Advocacy in San Diego, thanks to a VetWORKS grant.

“The ES program, working one-on-one with John, it was instrumental,” Leon said. “It can become very disheartening applying for a job and not getting anything.”

Leon keeps that in mind as he speaks with potential employers, teaches classes on resume writing and mentors some vets through the process, reminding them that jobs don’t come automatically to them. he said. Easterseals’ employment specialists and counselors “challenge the veteran,” he said. “We work for the betterment of the veteran.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

Skyborg is an autonomy-focused capability that will enable the Air Force to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft driven by artificial intelligence that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments. These unmanned aerial systems are meant to operate alongside manned fighters and will utilize machine learning technology to increase combat capability as they train alongside their piloted partner.

These wingman aircraft could fly ahead of manned planes to extend the pair’s sensor coverage to increase battlespace awareness. They can fire weapons at targets designated by their human wingmen, and a swarm of automated wingmen could protect piloted aircraft by absorbing missile shots from enemy forces.


SKYBORG

vimeo.com

Air Force policy stipulates that people are always responsible for lethal decision-making. Accordingly, Skyborg will not replace human pilots. Instead, it will provide them with key data to support rapid, informed decisions.

“Ever since “Star Wars” first debuted, this idea of being able to fly with autonomy to support you, and cute little beeps and squeaks right, it has just caught the imagination,” said Dr. Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “It’s time to make that real.”

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

Attendees watch a video about the Skyborg Vanguard Program during the Air Warfare Symposium, Feb. 28, 2020. Skyborg is an unmanned aircraft focused competency that will allow the Air Force to employ a team of artificially intelligent aircraft to quickly thwart adversaries in combat. Skyborg will not replace pilots but will provide crucial and prompt data to help the pilot make informed and accurate decisions. (PHOTO // KENNETH MCNULTY)

Roper said he’s excited for the R2-D2 program, a name he uses to refer to Skyborg.

Speaking to the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in June, Roper divulged that conversations with world-renowned experts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed that artificial intelligence, in its current form, is fragile.

“It’s (AI) fine when it’s helping you with entertainment related functions. If your app crashes and the AI gives you the wrong choice on what movie or song to play next, well no big deal,” Roper said. “But on the battlefield an adversary will be there trying to thwart and confound that AI and it’s very easy to do.”

Roper added that the Air Force is going to need a new form of AI that is hardened against an adversary, and research is underway. He expressed the need to accelerate and if done skillfully, the Air Force won’t just be accelerating for the Defense Department; this kind of hardened AI is also needed in the commercial sector for delivery drones and improving self-driving cars.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, discusses “The Future Air Force, Faster, Smarter: The Next Gear” during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 16, 2019. One innovative project the Air Force is employing is Skyborg, an unmanned aircraft focused competency that will allow the Air Force to employ a team of artificially intelligent aircraft to quickly thwart adversaries in combat. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. CHAD TRUJILLO)

“The roots of the Air Force are all about breaking boundaries and doing new things and I think we may have forgotten that a little bit,” Roper said. “In the wake of the Soviet Union collapse, we didn’t have that adversary pushing us. We ought to be doing new things all the time and everywhere and AI autopilot, or wingman or R2-D2 is something new. I can’t wait to get it out on the battlefield.”

Skyborg is one of three Vanguard programs identified in 2019 as part of the Air Force Science and Technology 2030 Strategy. The Air Force plans to channel more resources into the programs and speed up their development.

The Air Force Research Laboratory announced the new strategy last year. It prioritizes demands on time, space and complexity in future conflicts across all domains. The strategy aligns with the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy and lays out a path forward for the Air Force Science and Technology ecosystem to deliver warfighting capabilities at the speed of relevance and necessity.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

The Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie is an experimental stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle designed and built for the United States Air Force Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator program, under the USAF Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology project portfolio. (PHOTO // AFRL)

In July, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center awarded multiple indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts to The Boeing Co., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, Inc. and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. These initial awards will establish a vendor pool that will continue to compete for up to 0 million in subsequent delivery orders in support of the Skyborg Vanguard Program.

“Because autonomous systems can support missions that are too strenuous or dangerous for manned crews, Skyborg can increase capability significantly and be a force multiplier for the Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Dale White, program executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft, who, along with Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, serves as the leadership for the Skyborg program. “We have the opportunity to transform our warfighting capabilities and change the way we fight and the way we employ air power.”

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

An illustration depicting the future integration of the Air Force enabling fusion warfare, where huge sets of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data are collected, analyzed by artificial intelligence and utilized by Airmen, their autonomous wingmen and the joint force in a seamless process to stay many steps ahead of an adversary. (ILLUSTRATION // AFRL)

“Autonomy technologies in Skyborg’s portfolio will range from simple play-book algorithms to advanced team decision making and will include on-ramp opportunities for artificial intelligence technologies,” Pringle said. “This effort will provide a foundational government reference architecture for a family of layered, autonomous, and open-architecture unmanned aerial systems.”

The Vanguards are also introducing a novel early partnership between AFLCMC and AFRL due to the need to quickly identify cutting edge technology and transition it directly into the hands of the warfighter.

“The greatest technological edge is for naught if the warfighter can’t use it on the battlefield. That makes the partnership between AFRL and AFLCMC so vital to this program. We can’t allow bureaucratic speed bumps to interfere with our mandate to deliver,” White said.

Just as the last generation of pilots had the instincts for stealth, Roper believes, the next generation will have the instincts for this, previously nonexistent, type of algorithmic warfare on future battlefields.

“This next generation of pilot is not going to be ready to hand the reins over to R2-D2, but neither will they be willing to go into combat without R2-D2, if R2-D2 is available,” Roper said. “Our pilots are the best and they will continue to be the best if we give this technology, it will take their game into a completely different dimension.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

This helicopter is the predecessor of the stealth Black Hawk from the bin Laden raid

Ever since the first details were released about a stealth helicopter being used and crashing during the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, the internet aviation community has been awash with great interest and speculation about the aircraft. Recently, an image of what looks to be a forerunner for the stealth Black Hawk used in the raid surfaced online.

The internet community was quick to perform a visual autopsy on the image and scrutinize it for telling details that might reveal hidden secrets about the enigmatic project. One highly respected and anonymous contributor shared as many explicit details, the type that can only come from firsthand knowledge, as they could without breaching an NDA.


According to this source, the aircraft pictured is a YEH-60A at Edwards Air Force Base in 1989 or 1990. The helicopter is allegedly sporting a “Direction Finding Enhancement Kit”, of which a half dozen were produced. The kit reportedly also featured additional components like tail modifications that do not appear in the picture. This is consistent with the fact that the tail rotor of the crashed Black Hawk from the OBL raid was heavily modified and resembled the tail rotor of the canceled RAH-66 Comanche stealth helicopter.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

The tail rotor of the wreckage left behind from the raid (Public Domain)

The anonymous source goes on to detail that those involved in the program nicknamed the aircraft the “Black Blackhawk.” In keeping with its spectral name, the test team took a picture with the helicopter which the source had double exposed with them in and out of the photo. “We all looked like ghosts. This would be a real head-turner on the contest table,” the source said.

At the same time that the “Black Blackhawk” was being tested at Edwards, the Lockheed YF-22 was being tested out of a hangar not too far away. The helicopter can reportedly be seen in some photos of the YF-22 flight test operations. Allegedly, the Lockheed engineers were bewildered when they first saw the YEH-60A with its kit.

At one point, despite the secretive test site, the helicopter’s test pilots had to take off one hour before sunrise and arrive back at Edwards one hour after sunset so that the aircraft would not be observed. Even this was a loosened restriction since the aircraft allegedly had to fly exclusively at night when it first began testing.

While the modern MH-60L Direct Action Penetrators flown by the US Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment are not pictured with any sort of stealth kit, the wreckage of the OBL raid helicopter and the release of this image are proof that the technology is out there and has been for some time.

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

A 160th SOAR MH-60L DAP (US Army)

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