This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS - We Are The Mighty
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This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

When the B-52 is over 60 years old, and a large number of F-15 Eagles are over 30, it seems surprising that the Air Force is looking to replace a plane that won’t even be in service for twenty years until later this year.


However, according to an Air Force News Service article, the Air Force is looking to replace the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, which didn’t achieve its initial operating capability until December 1997 according to an Air Force fact sheet. This plane is an all-seeing eye that looks for and tracks ground targets, using the AN/APY-7, a 24-foot long synthetic aperture radar, according to a Northrop Grumman data sheet.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System is a joint Air Force – Army program. The Joint STARS uses a multi-mode side looking radar to detect, track, and classify moving ground vehicles in all conditions deep behind enemy lines. The aircraft is the only airborne platform in operation that can maintain realtime surveillance over a corps-sized area of the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

So, why is this system, which isn’t even old enough to drink, suddenly planned for replacement? The answer is in the airframe.

The E-8, like the E-3 Sentry, is based on the Boeing 707, a jet that first flew just over 59 years ago. With the exception of Omega Aerial Refueling Services, nobody operates this aircraft commercially.

Furthermore, according to a 2015 FlightGlobal.com report, the E-8s were produced by acquiring second-hand 707s. A September 2016 Air Force report noted that those second-hand 707s had as many as 60,000 flight hours before they had been purchased for conversion.

One JSTARS that had to be written off was built in 1967, according to DefenseTech.org.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conduct a post-flight systems check on an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Oct. 20, 2016, following a mission supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. JSTARS uses its communications and radar systems to support ground attack units and direct air support throughout the area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

In other words, these are old airframes and they’ve had a lot of use – even before the Air Force gave the 16-plane fleet over 1 million flight hours collectively (as of this past September). That is an average of 62,500 flight hours per plane — meaning that some of the E-8 aircraft could have in excess of 120,000 total flight hours.

That’s the equivalent of 5,000 days in the air.

What is the Air Force looking towards in replacing the E-8C? The JSTARS recapitalization project is likely to involve a smaller jet. According to a 2014 report by Aviation Week and Space Technology, Northrop Grumman is testing a new JSTARS based off a Gulfstream V business jet.

Boeing’s web site is touting a version of the 737 jet as its entry, attempting to partially piggyback on experience with the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon.

Reports indicate the Air Force plans to start retiring the JSTARS in 2019.

MIGHTY CULTURE

DARPA wants AI to dogfight, but not for reasons you think

The futurists over at DARPA are pursuing a vision that most of us knew was coming: creating artificial intelligence that can outperform human pilots in dogfights, can survive more Gs in flight without expensive life support, and can be mass produced. But it turns out, DARPA doesn’t think dogfights are the real reason the technology is needed.


DARPA is working “mosaic warfare,” a vision of warfighting that sees complex systems working together to overcome an adversary. Basically, a military force would be deployed across a wide front, but the sensors and command and control would be split across multiple platforms, many of them controlled by artificial intelligence.

So, even if the enemy manages to take out multiple armored vehicles, planes, or other platforms, the good guys would still have plenty of sensors and computing power.

And those remaining platforms would be lethal. The humans making the decisions would be in tanks or other vehicles, and they would have their own weapons as well as control of the dozens of weapons on the AI-controlled vehicles. Think multiple armored vehicles, a couple of artillery platforms, and maybe some drones in the sky.

In this vision of the future, it’s easy to see why dogfighting drones would be valuable. Human pilots could stay relatively safe to the rear while commanding the weapons of those robot dogfighters at the front. But the real reason DARPA wants the robots to be good at dogfighting is just so human pilots will accept them.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

A DARPA graphic illustrates how manned and unmanned systems could work together in fighter engagements.

(DARPA)

From a DARPA release titled Training AI to Win a Dogfight:

Turning aerial dogfighting over to AI is less about dogfighting, which should be rare in the future, and more about giving pilots the confidence that AI and automation can handle a high-end fight. As soon as new human fighter pilots learn to take-off, navigate, and land, they are taught aerial combat maneuvers. Contrary to popular belief, new fighter pilots learn to dogfight because it represents a crucible where pilot performance and trust can be refined. To accelerate the transformation of pilots from aircraft operators to mission battle commanders — who can entrust dynamic air combat tasks to unmanned, semi-autonomous airborne assets from the cockpit — the AI must first prove it can handle the basics.

Basically, DARPA doesn’t want robot dogfighters so they can win dogfights. After all, dogfighting is relatively rare now, and it doesn’t matter much if we lose one or two robots in dogfights because they’re cheap to replace anyway. But DARPA knows that pilots trust good dogfighters, so an AI that would be accepted by them must be good at dogfighting.

Once they’re in frontline units, the robots are more likely to act as missile carriers and sensor platforms than true dogfighters. Their mission will be to hunt down threats on the ground and in the sky and, at a command from the human, destroy them. It’s likely that the destruction will be conducted from beyond visual range and with little threat to the robot or the human pilot that it’s protecting.

This may sound like far future stuff, but it’s likely DARPA will find solid proposals fast. They’re soliciting proposals through May 17, but University of Cincinnati students created an AI named ALPHA in 2016 that repeatedly defeated a retired Air Force colonel in simulated dogfights. If that AI and similar tech can be properly adapted to work in current or future fighter aircraft, then we’ll be off to the races.

Articles

8 pieces of gear grunts buy themselves before deploying

Before any service member deploys, they have to visit the supply depot on their station. Now, these supply depots issue out a bunch of items. But for the most part, they’re worn down and look like something a homeless guy would reject.


The fact is — you’re not the first guy or gal to take a nap in that sleeping bag or to load rounds into that M16 magazine. It’s been well used before you even thought about touching it.

Related: 8 things Marines like to carry other than their weapon

After seeing the state of some of this gear, service members typically think about the months of deployment time that lies ahead and remind themselves how much stuff the military doesn’t voluntarily distribute.

So check out our list of things you may want to consider buying before going wheels up.

1. Bungee Cords

Like 550 cord, these elastic straps are strong as Hell and will secure down nearly everything.

If you need to tow it, bungee cord will probably hold it. (images via Giphy)

2. Blow up sleeping pad

Traditionally, supply issues you a ratty foam mat which is like sleeping in a really cheap motel room.

Purchasing a quality air mattress can make all difference. (image via Giphy)  

3. Headlamp

Getting issued a flashlight that’s designed to clip to your uniform (which is what you’ll get) is fine if you’re okay with tripping over everything in the pitch black (because it doesn’t point to where you’re looking).

Get a red-filtered headlamp for combat zones — it could save your life. (images via Giphy)

4. Rite in the rain

Normal paper isn’t meant to repel water. You never know when you need to take notes in the field while it’s pouring down rain. “Rite in the Rain” is waterproof paper you can still jot notes on.

With a “Rite in the Rain” it doesn’t matter if it’s raining, you can still takethose unimportant notes your commanding officer thinks is critical. (images via Giphy)

5. P-Mags

The 30 round magazine that the supply guy handed out has seen better days and has a single compression spring built inside which can increase the chances of your weapon system jamming when you need it the most. The polymer version made by Magpul is much better — so good, in fact, the Marine Corps is issuing it to all Leathernecks.

P-mags are dual spring compressed, decreasing your chances of a weaponsmalfunction. (images via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 things you should know before joining the infantry

6. GPS

People get lost if they spin around one too many times, and most people simply suck at land-nav. Consider purchasing a G.P.S. that fits snuggly on your wrist.

We told you about G.P.S., but you didn’t want to listen. (image via Giphy) 

7. Cooler eye-pro

The military does issue eye protection that has frag resistant lenses, but they don’t make you look cool. Everyone buys sunglasses before a deployment that make you look tough — its an unwritten rule.

Now you look badass. Your eyes won’t be a protected, but who needs them away?(images via Giphy)Note: you still need to protect your eyes.

8. Knife/multitool

This should be self-explanatory. If you want to open up just about anything and your Judo chop won’t cut it.

His worked, but yours may not. (images via Giphy)

Lists

Top 10 fighters that changed aerial warfare forever

It could be argued that the history of aviation spans thousands of years, but in the last generation alone, mankind has developed technology that has allowed humanity to not only take flight, but to accomplish powerful feats of aerodynamic speed, distance, and heights. We’ve also built advanced weapons — both manned and unmanned — that have changed the scope of warfare forever.


This is a list of the top 10 fighters to transform the aerial battlespace for better… or for worse:

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
(Photo by Dimitri Tarakhov)

10. Su-27 Flanker

The Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker introduced a true modern fighter for the Soviet Union. It was developed in response to the F-15 Eagle during the Cold War and would become one of the most impressive fighter jets of the 20th century. The combination of AA-11 Archer missiles and Helmet Mounted Sight system introduced a true close-in threat to western fighters. The Su-27 might even have an edge over the F-15 in a dogfight — if the Eagle’s superior avionics let it get that close, but I’ll let you guys debate that in the comments.

Built for air superiority, the Su-27 has the flexibility for interceptor and ground attack missions and it remains in service as a multi-role fighter to this day.

Also read: F-15 vs. Su-27: Who would win

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

(Photo by wiki user Airwolfhound)

9. F-86 Saber

The F-86 Sabre was the first swept-wing airplane in the U.S. fighter inventory. It scored countless air-to-air kills against Soviet-built aircraft during the Korean War, namely the MiG-15 Fagot. In 1948, an F-86A set a world speed record of 570 mph; model upgrades would go on to beat that record when an F-86D flew 698 mph in 1952 and then hit 715 mph in 1953.

While the United States would discontinue production of the F-86 in 1956, it still boasts the legacy of defeating its enemy with a victory ratio of 10-to-1 over the Korean Peninsula, where nearly 800 MiG-15s were destroyed at the cost of fewer than eighty Sabres.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

(Photo by Stefan Krause)

8. Fokker Dr 1

The Fokker Dr 1 is infamous for its missions at the hands of German World War 1 ace Baron Manfred von Richtofen — otherwise known as the Red Baron. In fact, it is the very plane he was killed in after his 80th and final victory. The triplane was built to outmaneuver Great Britain’s Sopwith Triplane — and it did. While relatively slow with a maximum speed of 115 mph at sea level, it could, according to the Red Baron himself, “maneuver like a devil.”

More impressive, perhaps, were its thick cantilever wings, which needed no struts or bracing wires, unlike most other planes during the war. While later variants of the Fokker would surpass the Red Baron’s driedecker (translation: triplane), the Fokker Dr 1 earned its reputation paving the way for aerial dogfights.

Read next: This is the crazy true story about how the Red Baron became a legend

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Robert G. Schmitt)

7. F-4 Phantom

The F-4 Phantom made this list not only because it was one of the most versatile fighters ever built, but also because of its bad a** Wild Weasel role during the Vietnam War. The Phantom was specifically designed to go looking for trouble, flying low and slow to light up enemy SAMs (surface-to-air missile sites).

Early models of the F-4 didn’t even have an internal gun — it was built for beyond visual range weapons. Carrying everything from the AIM-9 Sidewinder to nuclear weapons, the Phantom ushered in modern air combat as a true multi-role fighter.

During its time in service, “the F-4 established 16 speed, altitude, and time-to-climb records,” cementing its place in aviation history.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

(Photo by wiki user Bluedharma)

6. Supermarine Spitfire

With the Bf-109, the P-51 Mustang, and P-38 Lightning in the skies, it can be hard to choose a favorite plane from World War II, but we’re giving the glory to the Supermarine Spitfire. The British icon was built with an advanced all-metal airframe, making it fast and maneuverable. It was also full of firepower, and its role in the Battle of Britain against the German Luftwaffe gave the Allies a crucial victory when they needed it the most.

During the D-Day invasion, the Spitfire Mark IX carried 20mm cannons and .50 calibre machine guns, carrying out critical ground-attack missions — and even injuring General Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, himself.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

(U.S. Dept. of Defense photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II)

5. F-117 Nighthawk

While stealth technology had been explored since World War II, the F-117 Nighthawk gets credit for bringing true stealth capabilities to combat. Shrouded in secrecy during its development, the F-117 was designed to attack high-value targets without being detected by enemy radar. In 1981, it became the world’s first operational stealth aircraft.

In 1999, the U.S. lost its edge when an F-117 was shot down in Yugoslavia. The details about the event are still classified, but it’s known that the aircraft landed relatively intact, potentially allowing Russia and China to enter the stealth technology game.

The F-117 saw combat during multiple operations over two decades and it paved the way for the 5th generation stealth fighters we fly today.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Rob Tabor)

4. F/A-18 Hornet

The F/A-18 Hornet was the first tactical aircraft designed to carry out both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, making it a versatile fighter for both Naval aircraft carrier duty and Marine Corps combat operations. The Hornet could switch roles easily, a feat it performed successfully during the Persian Gulf War when it shot down two Iraqi MiG-21s in fighter mode and then took out a ground target in attack mode during a mission.

The Hornet is not only the nation’s first official strike-fighter, it’s proven to be one of the most reliable as well, operating as a fighter escort, fleet air defense, and providing both close and deep air support.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)

3. MQ-1 Predator

The MQ-1 Predator brought true combat drones to reality and marked the beginning of the end of man-powered aerial combat. Yeah I said it. Come at me, flyboys. With its first Hellfire kill in November, 2002, the Predator changed warfighting forever.

The Predator was operated remotely by a pilot and one or two sensor operators. It was a multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance asset that primarily operated as an ISR platform, but its armament capabilities offered it the ability to strike targets as needed.

The U.S. Air Force officially retired the Predator on March 9, 2018, to give way to its super-sized follow-up, the MQ-9 Reaper, which saw the Hellfire missiles of the MQ-1 and raised it some JDAMs and the GBU-12.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Ammons)

2. F-15 Eagle

The F-15 Eagle boasts an undefeated record in air-to-air combat, with models still in use today despite the design being from the 1970s. Its longevity can be attributed to its unprecedented acceleration, groundbreaking maneuverability, and impressive weapons capabilities. It’s high thrust-to-weight ratio and low wing-loading allow the Eagle to turn tightly without losing airspeed while its top speed above Mach 2.5 made it the first U.S. fighter capable of vertical acceleration.

It’s avionics package and armament specs — notably including the AIM 120-D AMRAAM radar-guided missile — combined with flight performance defined air superiority and it has yet to meet an enemy capable of bringing it down.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

(Photo by Rob Shenk)

1. F-22 Raptor

The F-22 Raptor is the most powerful air dominance fighter in the world — no, in the universe. Considered the first 5th generation fighter in the U.S. inventory, the Raptor boasts unprecedented attack capabilities, integrated avionics, and battlespace awareness, as well as stealth technologies that allow it to protect not only itself but other assets.

In air-to-air configuration, the Raptor carries six AIM 120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, while in air-to-ground mode it can carry two GBU-32 JDAMs (while bringing along two AMRAAMs and two Sidewinders just for kicks).

The F-22’s powerful engine and sleek aerodynamic design allow it to cruise at supersonic speeds without using afterburner and its flight controls and maneuverability are unmatched by any other aircraft. Ever.

If that list doesn’t make you want to cross into the wild blue yonder, then dammit, I don’t know what will. Leave a comment and let me know.

Articles

APRIL 8: Today in military history: The Japanese take Bataan

On April 8, 1942, the Japanese captured the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. The next day, the U.S. surrendered the peninsula to the Japanese, leaving the approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops on Bataan to the mercy of their captors, who forced the brutal 65-mile trek to prison camps known as the Bataan Death March.

The Japanese Imperial Forces’ attack on Pearl Harbor in Dec. 1941 is perhaps the most infamous attack of a much larger campaign unleashed on U.S. and Allied Forces across the Pacific. The day after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese launched an invasion against the Philippines, capturing the capital within a month. 

Over the following months, U.S. forces fought desperately to hold the islands, but by April 6, they were fighting against overwhelming odds as defensive lines were destroyed or ordered to withdraw before they could be fully occupied. Crippled by disease, starvation, and lack of supplies, the U.S. defense was deteriorating.

On the morning of April 8, the U.S. was fortifying new positions on the Alangan River in an attempt to form one last safe space from which to fight when Japanese planes began hitting the line and forced the withdrawal of the infantry and tanks on the right side of the line.

That night, the U.S. dug a final line of defense at the Lamao River only to discover that the Japanese already held ground on their flank. 

Forces were redistributed to try and stem the tide, but U.S. Navy sailors were sent to destroy the remaining stockpiles of ammunition and other material before it could be captured. The siege of Bataan was essentially over — and the Japanese had won.

The next day, U.S. forces surrendered and the Japanese forced the survivors, including 12,000 Americans, on the cruel march to the prison camps in San Fernando. Thousands of prisoners died along the way at the hands of their captors, who starved, beat, and bayoneted the marchers. Thousands more would die from disease, abuse, and starvation in the prison camps.

Featured Image: This picture, captured from the Japanese, shows American prisoners using improvised litters to carry those of their comrades who, from the lack of food or water on the march from Bataan, fell along the road.” Philippines, May 1942.

Articles

This brave turret gunner faced 200 German aircraft

Army Air Corps Tech. Sgt. Ernest Merle Hancock was the top turret gunner in a B-17 bomber flying into Nazi Germany from Italy in the third of three American bomber groups. The German forces at the target offered some resistance to the first two bomber groups, but they held the real fireworks for the third group.


The B-17s had no fighter cover when 200 German fighters, some of which were the feared Focke Wulf-190, rose up to attack the mere 27 B-17s in the American formation.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
Staff Sgt. Maynard Smith mans a machine gun in a B-17 in a promotional photo during World War II. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Despite the long odds, Hancock and the other gunners opened up with everything they had. Hancock’s plane was struck by Messerschmitt 109 and Fw-190 fire and Hancock himself suffered injuries from the enemy guns.

Still, Hancock fought on, firing into the fighter formations. He managed to down three, at least one of which was a Fw-190. The tail gunner on the plane knocked out a fourth.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
This Boeing B-17F had its left wing blown off by an Me-262 over Crantenburg, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A fire spread through the bomber, but Hancock stayed at his post until ordered to bail out. He finally exited the burning plane as it flew near the German border with France. Unfortunately, he was captured by the Germans and spent the rest of the war as a POW.

A Silver Star was approved for him in 1945, but Hancock didn’t learn of the award until 2015.

You can watch Hancock tell his own story in the video below:

Articles

9 times when troops said what they really felt

Your average civilian may look at the military and think it’s like the movies, with highly-motivated soldiers doing their job without complaint, saluting smartly, and marching around a lot.


But of course, that’s not really the case. Just like with any other job, military members have good days and bad days, and often air those grievances with each other. Sometimes, they let it slip in public, and tell everyone how they really feel.

Here are 9 of those times.

1. When a soldier tells you how he really feels about his post, through Wikipedia edits.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
via Reddit

2. This soldier on Yelp doesn’t really like the “Great Place” of Fort Hood, either.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

3. A Marine writing a review on Amazon challenges your manhood if you don’t want to wear ultra-short “silkie” shorts.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
via Amazon

4. The British Marine who makes a hilarious video poking fun at his officers.

5. When a sailor on Glassdoor compares Navy life to drinking sour milk.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

6. This anonymous service member using Whisper to confess his or her love for marijuana.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

7. The Marine who tells you over Yelp that Marine Corps Base 29 Palms will definitely steal your soul.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

8. The British soldiers in World War I who printed a mock newspaper filled with gallows humor satirizing life in the trenches.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

9. When real-life Armed Force Radio DJ Adrian Cronauer (portrayed by Robin Williams in “Good Morning Vietnam”) gives the troop version of a weather report in Vietnam.

Articles

Geopolitical Expert: ‘China is at virtual war with the United States’

Last month’s massive breach of federal employees’ data allegedly at the hands of Chinese hackers, made public Thursday, indicates a treacherous new reality in the global cyber game.


“It’s very serious indeed,” geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, the founder of Eurasia Group, told Business Insider.

“China’s offensive cyber capabilities have consistently surprised the United States in terms of breadth and sophistication of attacks.

“The latest attacks revealed yesterday show millions of existing and former US government employees with their private data now in the hands of the Chinese state.”

The Obama administration has refrained from making any official statements about China’s role in the attack on the Office of Personnel Management, since it is still so difficult to trace a data breach back to its original source.

An unnamed official told Reuters that information taken includes security clearance information and background checks going back decades.

“This is deep. The data goes back to 1985,” the official said. “This means that they potentially have information about retirees, and they could know what they did after leaving government.”

Reuters notes that the Office of Personnel Management “conducts more than 90% of all federal background investigations, including those required by the Department of Defense and 100 other federal agencies.”

The data includes details about the private lives of more than 4 million US government workers.

These federal employees “are the people who hold US secrets,” national security expert Douglas Ollivant explained to Business Insider, referring to the employees’ varying levels of government security clearance.

“And now the hackers likely have access to blackmail-able levels of information, such as the employees’ passports, Social Security numbers, history of drug use or psychological counseling, foreign contacts, etc.”

Whether the attack was state-sponsored remains to be seen, but few doubt that the stolen personnel data will ultimately end up in the hands of the Chinese government.

“This is a really big deal,” Ollivant added. “Some might consider it an act of war.”

Further, the alleged hack is part of Beijing’s evolving cyber-espionage operation.

“Having a large database of personal information on key individuals that have access to critical infrastructure or classified information gives China an advantage in whatever agenda they have,” Mark Wuergler, a senior cybersecurity researcher at Immunity Inc., told Business Insider.

“By breaking into one organization it points in the direction of the next juicy target to siphon data from, or add to, an arsenal of leverage over a superpower,” Wuergler said.

The Chinese are masters of the long game, Wuergler added, and Chinese hackers have been known to infiltrate servers and maintain their access for a year or more to quietly spy on their targets.

“They are really good at what they do, and when they break into something it’s not just smash and grab,” Wuergler said, noting that hackers in the OPM network had been there for months before they were even detected.

According to Wuergler, a “complete overhaul” of the network and systems we use today would be needed to deter attacks like this in the future.

As Bremmer sees it, however, such efforts at deterrence would be largely futile given China’s determination to remain embedded in American networks.

“There’s no effective defense against these attacks and, as we’ve seen, there’s also no effective deterrence,” he said. “China isn’t trying to engage in ‘integrity’ attacks against the US — they don’t want to destroy American institutions and architecture as, after all, they’re hugely invested in American economic success.”

That said, Bremmer added: “We should be very clear: China is at virtual war with the United States, and the threat is far higher than that of terrorism, which gets the lion’s share of attention — and, in the post-9/11 world, funding.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

Articles

Army reconsidering XM25 ‘Airburst’ weapon in spite of combat successes

Dodging enemy gunfire in close-quarter urban combat, seeking to destroy enemy fighters hiding behind walls, rocks and trees and firing ammunition especially engineered to explode at a particular, pre-planned point in space – comprise the highly sought-after advantages of the Army’s XM25 “airburst” weapon.


However, despite the initial promise of prototypes of the technology in combat in Afghanistan as an emerging way to bring a decisive advantage to soldiers in a firefight, the future of the XM25 is now uncertain due to ongoing Army needs, requirements, weapons inventory assessments, and budget considerations, service officials told Scout Warrior.

The Army’s XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement airburst weapon system, in development for several years, was used to destroy Taliban fighters hiding behind grape-growing walls in Afghanistan during a Forward Operational Assessment of the weapon several years ago. Extensive analysis and adjustments to the weapon followed this operational combat evaluation, Army officials explained.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
An XM25 airburst grenade launcher in July 2009. | US Army photo

Part of the calculus regarding a production decision about the weapon relates to the possibility of the weapon “misfiring,” several news reports said. Army officials did not comment on this, however a 2015 news report in the Economist said a US soldier was slightly injured during training with the XM 25 when it misfired. It does now, nonetheless, appear as though this problem was pervasive or persistent with the weapon – but it could be a factor amidst ongoing plans for the weapon’s future.

Army and Pentagon weapons developers and budget planners are now deliberating plans for the weapon, which could be formally produced and deployed within the next several years – or passed over due to fiscal constraints.

While the XM25 would clearly be useful in a major force-on-force engagement or great power conflict, airburst attacks have particular value in a counterinsurgency type-fight wherein enemies seek to use terrain, building, rocks, ditches or trees to protect themselves from being targeted.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
US Army photo

By attacking with an “airburst” round, soldiers do not have to have a linear view or direct line of sight to an enemy target; if they know an enemy is behind a rock or tree (in defilade) – the weapon can explode above or near the location to ensure the target is destroyed.

The weapon uses laser-rangefinder technology to fire a high-explosive airburst round capable of detonating at a specific point near an enemy target hidden or otherwise obscured by terrain or other obstacles, Army developers have explained.

Program managers had been seeking to expedite development of the system, refine and improve the technology, and ultimately begin formal production by the fall of 2014, however its current trajectory is now unclear.

“The XM25 brings a new capability to the soldier for the counter-defilade fight, allowing him to be able to engage enemy combatants behind walls, behind trees or in buildings,” former XM25 program manager Col. Scott Armstrong previously explained in an Army statement.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Corrosion is actually the US military’s most effective enemy

In 2009, the Department of Defense acquisition chief John J. Young, Jr. issued a mandate requiring the military departments to find new ways to reduce their use of hexavalent chromium (also known as hex-chrome or Cr6+). Hex chrome, which became infamous in the eyes of the public after the release of the film, Erin Brockovich, is a carcinogen that is harmful to humans and the environment. DoD maintenance facilities go to painstaking lengths to reduce the level of exposure sustained by their maintenance technicians due to hex chrome.


Hex chrome offers important corrosion prevention and control qualities in organic pre-treatments and primers used to coat a variety of military aircraft. For example, most coatings and primers used on legacy fighter and cargo aircraft such as the Navy’s F/A-18 and F-14, the Air Force’s C-130, C-5, and F-16 contain hex chrome, and the Army’s H-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

Chromate-based corrosion inhibitors are widely recognized as the best inhibitors available to the DoD. Their high level of performance means that they are still used prolifically as a coating for all types of military aircraft.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
An F-16 Fighting Falcon.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Kleinholz)

The Delicate Balance of Finding Alternatives to Hex Chrome

Complicating the issue of finding alternatives to hex chrome is the drastic cost of corrosion faced by the U.S. military. According to a study released by the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, the DoD spent nearly $20 billion on corrective corrosion actions in fiscal year 2016. That expenditure amounts to nearly 20 percent of the entire DoD maintenance budget.

Moreover, corrosion experienced by Navy and Marine Corps aircraft costs approximately $3.43 billion annually and accounts for almost 28 percent of all maintenance costs. Corrosion-related maintenance prevents active aircraft from being ready for mission tasking for approximately 57 days each year.

The high cost of corrosion within the DoD persists despite its prolific use of carcinogenic, but best-in-class, chromate primers.

Navy experts who attack the problem of chromates walk a delicate line between finding an environmentally benign inhibitor and refusing to sacrifice so much performance that the DoD maintenance budget swells even further. Since 2009, the search by DoD and industry for a non-chromate primer has persisted alongside the expectation of finding an alternative that performs just as well as current chromate-based primers. Among DoD officials and engineers, this expectation has become known as the “as good as” requirement.

In response to Young’s 2009 mandate, experts at the Materials Engineering Division of the Naval Air Warfare Command – Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) in Patuxent River, MD, re-energized their internal primer research and development efforts in an effort to push the performance of non-chromated primers closer to that of chromated primers, since the products qualified at the time were the best available, but still not good enough for many naval aviation applications

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
While the Naval Air Warfare Command’s Al-Rich primer already has been applied to an Army H-60 helicopter, a NASA C-130 cargo plane, and various pieces of Navy support equipment, Navy engineers are preparing to test it on other DoD aircraft and equipment.
(U.S. Army photo)

To address this shortcoming, NAWCAD materials engineer Craig Matzdorf and chemical engineer William Nickerson, now with the Office of Naval Research, have invented their own solution to the problem. Their patented Active Aluminum-Rich (“Al-Rich”) technology is a powerful anti-corrosion chemical composition created for use in coating systems. The Al-Rich primer is a metalized, sacrificial, chromate-free, high-performance, anti-corrosion primer for use in all situations where a chromated primer is currently used.

“Al-Rich is superior to existing coatings based on the novel aluminum pigment that actively overcomes corrosion by electrochemical means,” said Matzdorf. “Current coatings rely on chemical inhibitors like chromate, which are less effective at fighting galvanic corrosion. We anticipate that the Al-Rich primer will reduce galvanic and other types of corrosion and its effect on the Navy’s cost and availability.”

Key Technology Components in Al-Rich Primer

Although metal-rich primers have existed for quite some time, there were some underlying problems. First, the most traditional metal-rich coatings, such as zinc-rich coatings, are far too heavy for aviation applications and are not effective on aluminum. Second, other metal-rich coatings did not have the longevity of performance in harsh operating environments. “The Al-Rich primer employs two unique approaches to alleviate these key issues and to provide corrosion protection at the level of chromate primers,” according to Matzdorf.

The first key component of the technology is the use of a specialty aluminum alloy as the pigment inside the primer. The alloy composition of this pigment is specifically chosen for its high efficiency. In turn, this high efficiency, in combination with the low density of aluminum, allows the coating to be applied at normal aviation thicknesses, thus eliminating weight concerns.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
NASA C-130
(NASA photo)

The technology’s second key component is a proprietary surface treatment applied to the pigment. By subjecting the primer’s pigment to a surface treatment, both the pigment’s overall level of performance and the primer’s overall length of performance are increased. A surface-treated particle boosts the performance of this metal-rich primer to meet the “as good as” requirement.

According to Matzdorf, these two key technology components combine to create a truly novel approach to non-chromated and high-performance primers. One area of Al-Rich primer’s performance excellence is its ability to reduce fastener-induced corrosion. Each time a titanium or stainless steel fastener is punched into the aluminum body of an aircraft, a potent corrosion cell is created. These corrosion cells cause prolific and expensive corrosion damage. For reasons that are likely to stem from its ability to protect aluminum electrochemically, the Al-Rich primer excels at preventing fastener-induced corrosion as well as filiform corrosion. In many scenarios, the Al-Rich primer outperforms its chromated counterparts at preventing these rampant corrosion problems.

Applications and Future Testing

Thus far, the Al-Rich primer has been applied to an Army H-60 helicopter, a NASA C-130 cargo plane, two Coast Guard H-60 tail sections, and various pieces of Navy support equipment. Engineers at NAWCAD have extensive lab data on this product and are now looking to test it extensively on a variety of DoD applications. However, to do so, the Navy needs to procure large batch sizes of the new primer. Because the Navy is not in the business of manufacturing commercial quantities of chemicals, it has begun licensing this Al-Rich primer technology to equipped and capable businesses.

Through funding sponsored by the Office of Naval Research over the next few years, the Navy plans to apply the new Al-Rich primer to larger and larger portions of its assets. Successful field demonstrations will allow the Navy to comply with the DoD mandate regarding hex chrome. According to officials at NAWCAD and the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, Al-Rich primers represent an exciting new entry into the non-chromated anti-corrosion primer market.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers train with new virtual-reality goggles

The Army is now testing virtual-reality goggles that will allow soldiers to rehearse combat missions that they are about to undertake.

The Integrated Visual Augmentation System, known as IVAS, will be tested by 82nd Airborne Division troops next month at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The IVAS goggles will allow soldiers to see simulated images superimposed over the actual terrain.

The soldiers will wear the goggles and miniature computer equipment as they negotiate obstacle courses, run land navigation and conduct other missions, said officials from Program Executive Office Soldier.


Called Soldier Touchpoint 2, the test is designed to provide feedback to PEO soldier so the IVAS heads-up display can be further enhanced before 200,000 of the headsets begin to be fielded in 2021.

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, director of the Army’s AI Task Force, discusses how artificial intelligence will modernize the force during a Warriors Corner presentation at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.

(Photo by Mr. Gary Sheftick)

IVAS has been touted by senior leaders as a “game-changer” for soldier lethality and a quick win for the modernization priority.

The IVAS headsets are a good example of how artificial intelligence is being used to enhance soldier lethality, said Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, director of the Army’s AI Task Force.

Each pair of IVAS goggles has “significant amounts of high-tech sensors onboard and processors,” Easley said at a Warriors Corner presentation Monday afternoon during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Each IVAS headset has integrated AI chips built into the system, he said.

“Those chips are doing visual recognition,” he said. “They’re tracking a soldier’s eye movements, they’re tracking a soldier’s hand as it interfaces with the system, and they’re tracking a soldier’s voice.”

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, director of the Army’s AI Task Force, discusses how artificial intelligence will modernize the force during a Warriors Corner presentation at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.

(Photo by Gary Sheftick)

The IVAS headset “uses a customized AI piece” to make it work, he said.

AI will be an enabler for all of the Army’s modernization programs over the next decade, Easley said.

“Each one of those systems need AI,” he said, from Future Vertical Lift to Long-Range Precision Fires to the Next Generation Combat Vehicle.

“AI, as you know, is becoming a pervasive part of our society,” he said.

“Every system that you can think of — from self-driverless cars to ride-sharing applications, to restaurant recommendation systems to healthcare systems — they span every area of our society.

“They need to span every battlefield system that we have,” as well, he said, from maneuver to fire control.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

A recently launched Pentagon review comparing F-35C carrier-variant Joint Strike Fighters with F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets will involve Marine Corps aviators and aircraft, the Corps’ deputy commandant of aviation said Wednesday.


Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said the review, commissioned by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Jan. 26, would study the two aircraft “apples to apples” to determine whether the 4th-generation Super Hornet can fill the shoes of the brand-new F-35C.

Related: A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

“Really, it is — looking across the mission sets — does a Block 3 Super Hornet match up, compare to an F-35C,” Davis said. “It’s for the carrier air wing of the future.”

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. This is the first time that the fifth generation fighter has participated in the multi service air-to-air combat training exercise. Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

The Marine Corps, Davis said, has already purchased 10 of the 67 F-35Cs it planned to buy and has six on the flightline at Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 in Beaufort, South Carolina.

While the Navy is planning to purchase most of the F-35Cs, with a strategy to buy 260, the Corps has gone ahead of the other services to hit a number of F-35 milestones. Its F-35B jump jet variant was the first to reach initial operational capability in July 2015, and it was the first to forward base a squadron overseas in January.

Davis noted that the Marine Corps owns a significant portion of the program’s institutional wisdom as well.

“I probably have the most experienced F-35 pilots in the department of the Navy on my staff right now,” he said.

Mattis’ directive, aimed at finding ways to shave cost off the infamously expensive Joint Strike Fighter program, dictates that the review assess the extent that improvements can be made to the Super Hornet “in order to provide a competitive, cost-effective fighter aircraft alternative.”

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Lightning II aircraft and F-18 Hornets assigned to Naval Air Station Pensacola fly over the northwest coast of Florida May 15, 2013. | Department of Defense photo

Davis said that F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin and Super Hornet maker Boeing would have opportunities to make their case for the aircraft.

However, he said, he expects the study to validate the need to have the technologically advanced F-35C deployed aboard carriers in the future.

“I think it will be a good study, and my sense is we’ll probably have validated the imperative to have a 5th-generation aircraft out there on our nation’s bow,” he said.

If F-35Cs are taken out of the picture as a result of the review, attrition rates of the 4th-generation Super Hornet may become an issue, Davis said, suggesting such a move would limit the aircraft’s ability to deploy in some situations.

“We’re not going backward in time, we’re going forward in time,” he said. “The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, we’re deployed, naval and expeditionary, and we want to make sure our Marines and our sailors have the very best gear in case something bad happens. And that’s 5th-generation airplanes.”

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8 awful songs that make combat camera troops want to die

You let us tag along on your convoy. You let us raid a house in the stack. You watched our ass while our head was in a camera viewfinder. You even let us eat your food. So when you ask us for some of the footage of the unit in action we’re happy to oblige.


This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS
You see how combat camera has to face the opposite direction of where all the grunts are looking? We kinda owe you one for stopping whatever comes that way.

When you want us to make a music video of it, no problem, even though we know using copyrighted music is illegal. We want you to keep letting us roll with you…and for you to keep saving our asses.

But then one of your officers tells us to use one of these eight songs and it makes us die inside.

1. Drowning Pool — “Bodies”

This is by far the most overused song ever paired with combat camera footage (with “Soldiers” a close second). And it’s not just commanders asking combat camera to do this. Civilians do this ad nauseam.

That video has more than a million views. A MILLION. I don’t understand the enduring popularity of this song, but if there’s a better or more obvious song about killing a lot of people, I haven’t heard it.

2. Saliva — “Click Click Boom”

A full 20 percent of YouTube is probably the same video footage of the military with this Saliva song — this Saliva song about how great the lead singer’s childhood was and how totally awesome it is that he’s on the radio now.

I wish Beavis and Butthead were around to rip on this band. Still, it does make it pretty easy to edit a video fast, even if I feel like a complete hack afterward.

3. Outkast — “B.O.B.”

Civilians also like to make videos with this song. Which is understandable but, except for the title “Bombs Over Baghdad,” it’s not really about anything military related.

The only lyric the casual listener probably understands for most of the song is “Bombs Over Baghdad,” so when you send it to your mom, she gets the point of the video, and can’t really hear about the struggles of Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s pre-stardom struggle.

4. Chad Kroeger ft. Josey Scott — “Hero”

The singers from Nickelback AND Saliva. Enough said. Good lord this song was so big in 2002-2003. You’ll be just as proud of a video featuring you clearing houses to this song as you are your trucker hat collection and your flip phone.

This song was supposed to be an uplifting anthem for the first Spider-Man movie but it’s the most depressing song I’ve ever been asked to use in any video ever. I bet if you asked Kirsten Dunst what the low point of her career was, it would be that she didn’t have the choice to be excluded from this music video.

5. P.O.D. — “Boom”

Another band who sings about how they’re a band now. If you haven’t noticed the trend, guitar riffs and shouting “boom” were super popular in the early 2000s.

P.O.D. is the MySpace of metal. They’re still around but no one knows why.

6. Toby Keith — “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue”

This song is so cheesy, I’m actually surprised Chad Kroeger didn’t write it, but maybe there are some things even Pop Rock Jesus won’t do. Some of you might think this song is awesome but I doubt you’d play it at a party in front of all your friends.

Also Toby Keith got more awards and plaques from military units just for singing this song than some people got for actually enlisting after 9/11.

7. Godsmack — “I Stand Alone”

Forget for a moment that the frontman sounds like Adam Sandler’s impression of Eddie Vedder. This song’s lyrics read like they were translated from Nepali by Google Translate. Also, unless your unit is the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae (it isn’t), you definitely don’t stand alone.

8. AC/DC — “Thunderstruck”

Ok, this isn’t an awful song. I mean, I get why you might want six minutes of your squadron or platoon blowing things up to AC/DC. But, aside from the opening minute and a half or so, this is could be any AC/DC song. All AC/DC songs sound like this. That’s why we love them.

Special Award:

Nazareth — Hair of the Dog

To be honest, this request only happened once, but do you really think any young Marine is going to love watching themselves on a dismounted patrol to this song?

Why not just have me choose something from Chicago’s greatest hits? If I gave any grunt a music video of themselves with this song, they’d beat my Air Force ass so hard.

There’s no joke here, I’d just get my ass kicked.

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