This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet - We Are The Mighty
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This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

Lockheed Martin announced Oct. 25 the successful conduct of the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) Program Training Systems Critical Design Review. This event prepares the CRH program to proceed to assembly, test, and evaluation of the HH-60W helicopter’s training systems.


This marks an important step in developing maintenance and aircrew training devices, courseware products, and the training required to support the initial CRH maintenance and aircrew cadre. This progress is critical to the smooth entry of the HH-60W aircraft into the US Air Force fleet.

The joint Sikorsky and Air Force teams met over four days in September with key program participants from government and industry for an in-depth review.

Those attending included leaders from the USAF and key suppliers who took part in technical presentations. Operational combat rescue community representatives from USAF Air Education and Training Command and Air Combat Command also played an important role in the Critical Design Review.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
California Air National Guard pararescuemen of the 129th Rescue Wing, Moffett Federal Airfield, Calif., climb up a moving rope ladder, from the chilly waters outside the Golden Gate Bridge, up to a HH-60G Pave Hawk. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Lance Cheung.

The USAF program of record calls for 112 helicopters to replace the USAF’s aging HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, which perform critical combat search and rescue operations as well as personnel recovery for all US military services.

“I am really excited about achieving yet another program milestone in support of a six-month accelerated schedule. This capability is badly needed by the USAF rescue warriors that have continually engaged in combat operations since 1991. Sikorsky is absolutely committed to them and the accelerated schedule,” said Tim Healy, Sikorsky CRH program director. “The aircraft production is well under way, and with our training system design well understood by all parties, we can now begin assembly of the training devices and courseware as well.”

Also Read: These photos show how many amazing jobs the H-60 helicopter can do

The $1.5 billion Engineering Manufacturing Development contract includes development and integration of the next generation combat rescue helicopter and mission systems. This includes delivery of nine HH-60W helicopters as well as six aircrew and maintenance training devices and instructional courseware designed specifically for the HH-60W aircraft. The training devices run the spectrum from full motion simulators, full aircraft maintenance trainers, and discrete “part task training devices” for aircraft systems such as avionics, rescue hoist, and landing gear.

The flight simulators will conform to the highest FAA standards and include the capability to link with other simulators on the Combat Air Forces Distributed Mission Operations network. The flight simulators will be used to train the full aircrew allowing pilots and special mission aviators to train together. Avionics desktop trainers will have an array of touch screens mimicking the “glass cockpit” and include the ability to learn aircraft systems troubleshooting while in a classroom or squadron environment.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
Artist rendering of the Sikorsky HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter. Image from Lockheed Martin.

The part task training devices are designed to train maintenance personnel and to provide hands-on training in operations, servicing, inspection, and component removal and installation.

The instructional courseware will provide interactive instruction and computer-based training for HH-60W maintainers and operators.

“This is an important step forward for the CRH program. The CRH team is working hard to provide our warfighters the capability they require to continue to conduct the critical personnel recovery mission far into the future. Having highly capable training devices and courseware that mirror aircraft capability absolutely underpins our ability to perform rescue operations,” said Dave Schairbaum, USAF CRH program manager. “This CRH training system will provide well-trained aircrew and aircraft maintainers to conduct this demanding mission.”

First flight of the HH-60W aircraft is expected in late 2018. Training devices and courseware are expected to be ready for training in early 2020.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the upgrade M2 Browning fans have been waiting for

The M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun — fondly referred to as “Ma Deuce” — is rightly seen as a legend, with over 80 years of service to the troops. This machine gun has outlasted attempts to replace it, including the XM312 in recent years. But if there is one complaint about it – yes, even legendary guns draw complaints – it’s that it’s too heavy and it only shoots about 635 rounds per minute.


Well, there’s not been much progress on the former. The M2 comes in at about 84 pounds, per GlobalSecurity.orgThe GAU-19 did a good job addressing the “slow” rate of fire, but it packed on 22 pounds. So, that and the GAU-19’s need for electricity rules it out as an option for grunts. But they still want to send more lead downrange.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
The GAU-21, also known as the M3M, can fire 1,100 rounds a minute. (Photo from FN America)

Thankfully, there is an answer: the GAU-21, also known as Fabrique Nationale’s M3M machine gun. This is a modified version of Ma Deuce that, according to a handout available at the Association of the United States Army’s expo in Washington, D.C., is able to fire up to 1,100 rounds a minute. Not quite the 1,300 of the GAU-19, but still very impressive.

The real nice thing is that the M3M does this and comes in at just under 80 pounds. That’s a four-pound drop from the baseline M2. Now, the 26-pound difference may not seem like much, but that’s 26 pounds that a grunt doesn’t have to carry, leaving them more space for ammo, rations, or extra first-aid supplies.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
A flight of F-86 Sabres over Korea led by Benjamin O. Davis. Their battery consisted of six M3M machine guns, known today as the GAU-21. (USAF photo)

The M3M can be used on aircraft (one notable user was the F-86 Sabre), land vehicles (often mounted on the same pintles as Ma Deuce), and on naval vessels. It was the secondary armament of the M1097 Avenger, and also was used on OH-58 helicopters. In short, this gun provides a lot of firepower without the weight.

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The 11 best air forces in the world

What makes an air force good? Is it combat capability? Is it their track record? Much of that can stir up debates and cause one heck of a…disagreement among patrons at any watering hole or establishment.


Then again…life gets boring without such things.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
F-35C Lightning IIs, attached to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, and an F/A-18E/F Super Hornets attached to the Naval Aviation Warfighter Development Center (NAWDC) fly over Naval Air Station Fallon’s (NASF) Range Training Complex. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell)

So, here’s a look at the eleven best air forces in the world:

11. Russian Air Force

The Russians have been working on some new planes, but most of their very large force is old. Still, quantity can have a quality all on its own.

Russia also has long-range bombers and some tankers and airborne early warning planes. It’s just they are old, and maintenance levels have fallen off since the Cold War ended.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
Russian Su-30 fighter (Wikimedia photo)

10. Republic of Korea Air Force

South Korea’s air force has come a long way in the same timeframe as China. F-5s and F-4s have been replaced by F-16s, and they developed the T-50 Golden Eagle, which is a very capable advanced trainer — so much so it has also been turned into a multi-role fighter as well.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
A ROKAF T-50 at the Singapore Air Show. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

9. People’s Liberation Army Air Force (includes People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force)

Twenty years ago, the bulk of China’s planes were copies of the MiG-21 Fishbed. Today, many of the planes are from the “Flanker family,” including home-grown versions like the J-11, J-11B, J-15, and J-16.

China also has the indigenous J-10 and JH-7, while also flying two fifth-generation designs.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
Photo: Xinhuanet

8. Indian Air Force (including Indian Navy)

This country has won a few wars, and also has developed some of their own planes in the past and present. The only reason they are behind the Saudis is their reliance on Russian airframes, while the Saudis and Japanese have F-15s.

Having the second-best carrier aviation arm doesn’t hurt.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
An Indian MiG-29K purchased from Russia. (Photo: Indian Navy CC BY 2.5 IN)

7. Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (including Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Japan could rank higher, but they have limited themselves due to Article 9 of their post-World War II constitution.

While they are stretching the boundaries, the lack of real ground-attack capabilities is very telling. But they have very good air-to-air, anti-surface ship, and anti-submarine capabilities.

With four “helicopter destroyers” that are really small carriers, Japan could vault up very quickly.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
A Mitsubishi F-2A taxis during a 2009 exercise. Note the dumb bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

6. Royal Saudi Air Force

In 1990, the Royal Saudi Air Force had nice gear, but there was an open question of how well they could use them. Today, they’ve been upgrading the gear, and they have combat experience. This 1-2 combination is enough to vault them into the top air forces.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S in its hangar. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

5. United States Marine Corps

The Marines really do close-air support well. Not that they haven’t had aces in their history, but the last air-to-air kill a Marine scored was during the Vietnam War.

Then there are the issues with their F/A-18s, and the need to pull airframes from the boneyard.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
Capt. Jonathan Lewenthal and Capt. Eric Scheibe, AV-8B Harrier pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), fly over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gregory Moore)

4. Royal Air Force (including the Fleet Air Arm)

This is a very capable, albeit small, force. The problem is “the Few” are becoming “fewer” — and there have been some uncomfortable gaps, including the early retirement of their Harrier force, which was a poor way to repay the airframe that won the Falklands War.

The fact that the Royal Navy’s new carrier will have to deploy with United States Marines says a lot.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
A Royal Air Force Typhoon in 2012. (Peter Gronemann/Flickr photo)

3. Israeli Defense Force 

The Israelis have had a good air force — much of it based on need. Yes, the airframes are American designs, but the Israelis have installed their own electronics on the F-15I and F-16I planes that are now the backbone of their military.

Plus, their pilots are very, very good.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

1. United States Air Force and United States Navy (tie)

The Air Force and Navy have long been rivals – always trying to one-up each other. But in this case, the two are in a virtual tie. While the United States Air Force has strategic bombers the Navy doesn’t, the Navy, by virtue of its carrier fleet, is much more responsive.

The two services are complimentary and each are very good at what they do.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
An F-15E Strike eagle conducts a mission over Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2008. The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

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Here’s Video Of The US Navy Testing A ‘Game-Changing’ New Missile

The US Navy has successfully altered a Raytheon Tomahawk land attack missile (TLAM) to be able to hit a moving target at sea, USNI News reports.


In a Jan. 27 test off of San Niolas Island, California, the Navy launched a TLAM which was guided into a moving maritime target through directions given by a Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet flying overhead. TLAMs are capable of changing their direction mid-course.

Also Read: DARPA Is Building A Drone That Can Tell What Color Shirt You’re Wearing From 17,500 Feet

Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranked civilian, praised the successful test of the missile during a keynote speech at the WEST 2015 conference. He said the missiles were part of the Pentagon’s “Third Offset Strategy,” an initiative focused on research into new long-range weapons.

“A big part of the Third Offset Strategies is to find new and innovative ways to deploy promising technologies,” Work said. “This is potentially a game changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1000 mile anti-ship cruise missile.”

TLAMs are already used for land attack missions against static targets. By converting TLAMs into missiles capable of penetrating thickly-armored vessels at sea, the Navy plugs a serious gap in its current weapons capabilities. According to USNI News, TLAMs that have been converted into anti-ship missiles that could be used aboard the Navy’s newer guided-missile destroyers, which cannot currently use the service’s antiquated RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.

The new converted TLAMs would have a range of almost 1,000 nautical miles, allowing the US to maintain a considerable edge over rival naval powers. One of China’s most threatening new military advancements is its development of its own advanced anti-ship cruise missiles. However, these missiles would only have half the range of a converted TLAM.

If fully adapted, the newest iteration of the TLAM will function as a stop-gap measure until the Navy’s next-generation Long Range Anti-Ship missile is ready for action.

Here is a video of the converted TLAM in action.

More from Business Insider:

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

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Germany’s Puma is a 40-ton death machine

Germany introduced the world to the concept of blitzkrieg. One of the key elements to this strategy is to have a force of tanks and mechanized infantry strike deeply and (relatively) quickly behind enemy lines. This means that to successfully execute a blitzkrieg, one needs not only effective tanks, but also good infantry carriers.

For decades now, Germany has relied on the Marder to be the infantry fighting vehicle accompanying Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 main battle tanks. The Marder, which entered service in 1971, packs a 20mm autocannon, has a crew of three, and holds seven troops. However, the Marder is starting to show its age — after all, it’s about a decade older than the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. That’s where the Puma comes in.


This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
(Photo by Motorpferd)

A Puma infantry fighting vehicle in the field.

Naturally, Germany have a replacement in mind. This vehicle is called the Puma, and it’s slated to bring a few huge leaps in capability to German armor — but nothing is without its drawbacks. Like the Marder, this vehicle has a crew of three, but only carries six grunts in the rear. That’s a slight hit in one area of capability, but the Puma’s firepower makes up for it.

The Puma is equipped with a 30mm cannon (a big step up from the Marder’s 20mm gun). It also packs a 5.56mm coaxial machine gun and a 76mm grenade launcher. It can reach a top speed of 43 miles per hour and go 373 miles on a tank of gas.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
(U.S. Army photo by Paula Guzman)

The Marder infantry fighting vehicle has served Germany well for almost 50 years.

What’s most notable is that the Puma is only roughly six tons heavier than the Marder, despite the increased firepower. This is due to the use of composite armors that are both more resistant to modern weapons and weigh much less than older armor technology. This enables the Puma to be hauled by the Airbus A400.

Germany is planning to have 320 Pumas delivered by 2020 to replace the Marder. Export possibilities abound, particularly to Canada, which is looking for an infantry fighting vehicles to pair with its Leopard 2 tanks.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New technology keeps survival specialists out of ‘the danger zone’

An Air Force Research Laboratory team recently delivered version 2.0 of the Survival Health Awareness Responders Kit to instructors at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, a 28,000-acre site used to train survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialists.

With SHARK, sensors are embedded into shirts to transmit key metrics including heart rate and estimated core temperature from smartphones to a server. As students undergo physical endurance tests during extended periods of isolation, the system allows instructors to monitor the data in real-time and issues alerts for heart rate spikes and significant increases in temperature. Since the device identifies the user’s location, medical personnel can quickly respond to those in need of care.

Second Lt. Matthew Dickinson, AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing biomechanical engineer, said SHARK 2.0 is user-friendly and more secure. He explained instructors and students are pleased with the streamlined setup process and the new web interface.


Maj. Toby Andrews, 66th Training Squadron, Detachment 3 commander, said he appreciates that SHARK “gives (instructors) real-time alerts on the health and well-being of students.” The system “truly eases my mind as a commander,” he said since it “allows us to provide preventative care (in cases) that could otherwise lead to serious medical situations.”

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

Staff Sgt. Randall Moss and Master Sgt. William Davis,16th Airlift Squadron loadmasters, sort through survival equipment during a survival, evasion, resistance and escape exercise in North, South Carolina Aug. 21, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

Prior to SHARK, instructors checked on trainees at regular intervals to ensure their well-being. In certain cases, they administer ice baths to students with elevated body temperatures, said Tech. Sgt. John Garcia, a SERE instructor. However, since the introduction of this monitoring technology, zero ice baths have been required because the system alerts instructors before students reach what they call “the danger zone.”

To develop version 2.0, the SHARK team enlisted the help of Cedarville University students majoring in computer science. Loren Baum, who now works full time at 711th HPW, improved the code for his senior design project. He optimized the software, added functionality, enhanced security measures and streamlined the startup process.

Baum explained the team moved SHARK from the mobile app arena to the web to make the system usable in a wider variety of scenarios. With the new approach, instructors simply log into a website from any computer to monitor students’ health status instead of launching an application, which requires installation and manual upgrades.

The team simplified the startup process with Quick Response codes that automatically input students’ information when scanned, Baum said. This measure reduced the total setup time from one hour to five minutes and makes it easier for students and instructors to begin a new session.

In June 2019, the team traveled to JB San Antonio-Camp Bullis and conducted initial tests with version 2.0. Once the team integrated additional software improvements, SERE instructors officially launched the upgrade in September 2019.

The SHARK team continues to work with other squadron key leaders to address related needs. One such application involves using the included heart rate variability measurement to provide real-time feedback regarding students’ reactions to various training stressors.

This data would enable instructors to evaluate the effectiveness of interrogation techniques and determine the extent to which they affect individuals, said 1st Lt. David Feibus, a former software team lead who is now a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

A 437th Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist walks across a dirt road during a SERE exercise in North, South Carolina Aug. 21, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

While SHARK is useful in various situations, Air Force instructors currently rely on this tool to offer “strenuous exercises in the safest manner possible,” said Ted Harmer, a 711th HPW engineer who also leads a medical readiness personnel recovery training research team. When administering physical tests, instructors must achieve the purpose of the training and minimize negative impacts, whether they be physical or emotional, he explained.

SHARK technology was born when the U.S. Air Force Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, opted to include more proactive safety measures in its training programs. Since AFRL had experience with wearable monitoring technology, leadership from 711th HPW offered to develop a solution for the SERE instructors during an immersion visit.

“Going in, we knew we needed a broad range of skill sets,” said Dr. James Christensen, a product line lead within the 711th HPW. He explains that to produce an effective system, the team relied on expertise in wearable devices, electronics, software development, communications, human factors and physiology.

“We pulled together capabilities from several different parts of the organization to assemble the sensors, develop the software to pull sensor data together and then build the communications capability to then send that data and be able to monitor it continuously and remotely.”

Following the initial design and development, the team arranged field tests with end-users. Several team members lived with JBSA-Camp Bullis instructors for one week to test SHARK 1.0 in 2018. Now, a year later, an upgraded system is in the field.

In the meantime, the SHARK team is also working with other groups who are interested in acquiring this technology including firefighters, NASA scientists, and Army special forces. Members are currently exploring a version of the system that the Department of Defense Fire Academy can use under fire protection gear to prevent heat injuries.

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

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This stunning video about the Hyuga is crazy impressive

The Hyuga is the lead ship in Japan’s first class of aircraft carriers since World War II.


Okay, they call them “helicopter destroyers,” but put the Hyuga next to a Kongo-class destroyer and a Nimitz-class carrier — or even a World War II Essex — what does Hyuga look like?

According to MilitaryFactory.com, Hyuga displaces 14,000 tons — about as much as the carrier USS Ranger (CV 4). The Hyuga holds 11 helicopters, typically a mix of SH-60J Seahawk and MCH-101 helicopters. Normally, she carries three SH-60s and one MCH-101. The similarly-sized Giuseppe Garibaldi, in service with the Italian Navy, is capable of operating AV-8B Harriers.

In essence, since the Hyuga entered service, Japan has quietly carried out a comeback as a carrier navy.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
JS Hyuga (DDH) with USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and U.S. Navy forces routinely train together to improve interoperability and readiness to provide stability and security for the Indo-Asia Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers/Released)

However, she also carries a suite of weapons, including a 16-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system that carries RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs. This makes her name pretty appropriate. The previous Hyuga was a hybrid battleship-carrier that didn’t work out so well.

Hyuga entered the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force in 2009. Since then it has been used for a number of missions, including exercises off Korea in the wake of North Korean provocations earlier this year. The Marines landed V-22 Ospreys on the Hyuga in 2013, and also during earthquake relief operations in 2016.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH-181) underway in the Pacific Ocean as U.S. Navy Sea Hawk helicopters hover nearby. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Hyuga has one sister ship, the Ise, which entered service in 2011. Two larger “helicopter destroyers,” the Izumo and Kaga, are also in service. The Kaga was commissioned earlier this year, while the Izumo was commissioned in 2015. Both of those vessels displace 19,500 tons, about the size of the British Invincible-class carriers.

A video about the Hyuga — and why she is so important to Japan — is available below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7Rf3zEfAcY
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Hackers are trading stolen passwords ‘like Pokémon cards’ on the darkweb

If you’re reading this, it’s time to change all of your passwords.

That’s because there’s a good chance that your login information — or, at least, a past version of it — is circulating among secret networks where hackers trade stolen passwords or sell them for profit.

These secret networks are only growing, according to Alex Heid, chief research and development officer at SecurityScorecard, a cybersecurity firm.

“Within the hacking underground community, credentials are bought, sold, and traded for free like Pokémon cards,” Heid told Business Insider. “There are dozens of different hacking forums that have terabytes of information going back 10-plus years.”


These forums primarily operate on the darkweb, a network of encrypted sites that don’t show up in search algorithms. Login credentials and passwords that make it to these forums typically come from massive data breaches, which have happened frequently throughout the past year — in one recent example, 4.9 million DoorDash users’ data were stolen just last week.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

(Photo by Alex Ware)

Hackers are using increasingly sophisticated database software to aggregate “combo lists” of millions of login credentials, according to Heid.

Even if hackers only have one set of credentials — for example, a user’s DoorDash login — they can easily make inroads into the user’s accounts on other sites. Hackers use “checkers,” or programs that can take a user’s email address and quickly determine if it’s being used as a login on other sites. From there, hackers typically try to log into those other sites using the same password, betting that their targets use the same password across platforms. In many cases, they’re successful.

“The people who are getting hit by that are the low-hanging fruit who reuse the same passwords,” Heid said.

With hacking becoming increasingly profitable and hackers’ software becoming more sophisticated, there’s no indication that this trend will slow down any time soon. In the meantime, Heid advises that users change their passwords and ensure that passwords are different across different services.

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

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This space plane is still on its secret mission in orbit

A classified unmanned space plane has been in orbit for over 500 days, but no one is telling the public what it’s doing.


Drones are in the news nearly every day. Tiny toys snapping exciting photos for our Instagram accounts. Commercial drones working for farmers and municipal agencies. Missile-armed drones performing strikes on enemy locations. Unmanned craft, in the air, on the ground, and in the sea, are conducting more missions for more people all the time.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
So what was this space drone actually doing on its secret missions up there in outer space? (Photo U.S. Air Force)

Operated by the United States Air Force, the X-37B is at the top of the drone pyramid and is pushing the outside edge of the envelope as you read this.

The X-37B, sometimes called the Orbital Test Vehicle, is a small unmanned reusable spacecraft built by Boeing that looks a lot like a small space shuttle. It’s 29 feet-long with stubby wings and angled tail fins. Unlike the famous shuttle orbiters that it resembles, however, it lacks a vertical stabilizer. It launches atop an Atlas V 501 launch vehicle inside the booster’s payload fairing and, at the end of its mission, returns to earth and lands on a runway like the 80s-era space shuttle.

What the space plane does while it’s up there, though, is mostly a mystery.

The first X-37B mission, OTV-1, flew in 2010 and lasted for 224 days — close to the X-37B’s designed 270-day endurance. The second mission, flown by a second X-37B, flew in 2011 and lasted 468 days. The third mission, performed by the first spacecraft, lasted an astounding 674 days. The current mission, dubbed “OTV-4,” was launched on May 20, 2015, and recently passed 500 days in orbit.

The Air Force is tight-lipped about how long OTV-4 will last, though it must last until at least March 25, 2017, if it’s going to break OTV-3’s record.

The X-37B program began as a NASA project. One of the X-37’s primary missions was to have been satellite rendezvous for refueling and repair, and the small space plane would have been carried to orbit inside a space shuttle’s cargo bay.

As the program progressed, however, the plan shifted to launching atop an expendable booster and, in 2004, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency took over the program. DARPA continued development of the X-37, resulting in the current X-37B for the US Air Force.

Once the project transferred to the military, it became classified.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
Doesn’t exactly look like a friendly little space drone does it? (Photo U.S. Air Force)

The spacecraft itself is not terribly secret. For the past six years, numerous news stories have been run about the “secret” space plane and many photographs have been published.

What the X-37B does while it’s up there on missions lasting well over a year, though, is the source of much conjecture. The fact sheet for the X-37B on the official Air Force web site describes the mission as “an experimental test program to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force. The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth.”

That’s an explanation that doesn’t explain much, however, and doesn’t seem to justify the enormous expense of building, launching, and operating the spacecraft.

Of course, theories on the internet abound. Some have claimed that the X-37B is an advanced spy satellite. Some wonder if the X-37B could be an experimental space bomber. Others believe that the original mission of satellite rendezvous for maintenance could easily have been adapted to more nefarious purposes, such as interfering with or destroying satellites operated by nations such as Russia or China.

Ground observers have watched what they believe to be the X-37B make significant changes to its orbit, a maneuver in line with the space saboteur theory.

In 2012, during the OTV-2 mission, the editor of Spaceflight magazine claimed that the X-37B was probably spying on the Chinese space station Tiangong-1. Other experts, however, publicly doubted and dismissed the idea as improbable at best.

If you spend enough time online, you’re certain to find any number of wild ideas. One of the most outlandish theories about the X-37B is that it’s not unmanned at all. The idea is that a hibernating astronaut is onboard the space plane and that experiments are being conducted to prepare for long-duration manned missions to Mars or, perhaps, to station a quick-reaction force of soldiers in orbit for secret missions anywhere on the globe. Or above it.

Whatever the X-37B is up to, it seems to be doing a good job of it. Work is being done to make it possible for the drone to land at Kennedy Space Center on the space shuttle landing strip. Part of the shuttle Orbiter Processing Facility, without a mission since the shuttle program ended, is being modified to process X-37Bs.

A recent NASA presentation discussed the potential to develop a space ambulance which could service the ISS from the X-37B. An X-37C proposal, more than 50 percent larger than the current model, would possibly be able to carry astronauts.

The classified little space plane is a bit of a mystery but certainly one of the most exciting drones in use today. Even if we aren’t sure what’s it doing.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

7 weapons that are used in the Marine infantry

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

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


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

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

M9 Beretta

M9 Beretta

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

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

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

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

M4 Carbine

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

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

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

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

M240 Bravo

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

“The battlefield is a dance floor, and the machine gunners are the jukeboxes.” — Marine Lance Cpl. Dixon.
This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

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

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

Mark 19

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

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

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

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

M110 SAAS

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

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

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

(DoD)

Browning M2

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

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

The turret-mounted M40A1 Saber anti-tank missile.

(Marine Corps Recruiting)

M40A1 Saber

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

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force will open U-2 training to more pilots

For the first time, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing will open its aperture for recruiting Air Force pilots into the U-2 Dragon Lady through an experimental program beginning in the fall of 2018.

Through the newly established U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program, the 9th RW’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron will broaden its scope of pilots eligible to fly the U-2 by allowing Air Force student pilots in Undergraduate Pilot Training the opportunity to enter a direct pipeline to flying the U-2.


“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” said Col. Andy Clark, 9th RW commander. “This new program is an initiative that delivers a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of (reconnaissance) warfighting capabilities.”

The FACT pipeline

Every undergraduate pilot training student from Air Education and Training Command’s flying training locations, during the designated assignment window, is eligible for the FACT program.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot, assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, pilots the high-altitude reconnaissance platform at approximately 70,000 feet above an undisclosed location.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Ross Franquemont)

UPT students will now have the opportunity to select the U-2 airframe on their dream sheets just like any other airframe.

The first FACT selectee is planned for the fall 2018 UPT assignment cycle and the next selection will happen about six months later.

After selection, the FACT pilot attends the T-38 Pilot Instructor Training Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, before a permanent change in station to Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

For the next two years, the selectee will serve as a T-38 Talon instructor pilot for the U-2 Companion Trainer Program.

“Taking on the task of developing a small portion of our future leaders from the onset of his or her aviation career is something we’re extremely excited about,” said Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, 1st RS commander. “U-2 FACT pilots will have an opportunity to learn from highly qualified and experienced pilots while in turn teaching them to fly T-38s in Northern California. I expect rapid maturation as an aviator and officer for all that get this unique opportunity.”

After the selectee gains an appropriate amount of experience as an instructor pilot, they will perform the standard two-week U-2 interview process, and if hired, begin Basic Qualification Training.

After the first two UPT students are selected and enter the program, the overall direction of the FACT assignment process will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline.

Broadening candidate diversity

Due to the uniquely difficult reconnaissance mission of the U-2, as well as it’s challenging flying characteristics, U-2 pilots are competitively selected from a pool of highly qualified and experienced aviators from airframes across the Department of Defense inventory.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

A mobile chase car pursues a TU-2S Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)

The selection process includes a two-week interview where candidates’ self-confidence, professionalism, and airmanship are evaluated on the ground and in the air while flying three TU-2 sorties.

Traditionally, a U-2 pilot will spend a minimum of six years gaining experience outside of the U-2’s reconnaissance mission before submitting an application.

As modernization efforts continue for the U-2 airframe and its mission sets, pilot acquisition and development efforts are also changing to help advance the next generation of reconnaissance warfighters. The FACT program will advance the next generation through accelerating pilots directly from the UPT programs into the reconnaissance community, mitigating the six years of minimum experience that current U-2 pilots have obtained.

“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Maymi, said. “However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”

Developing the legacy for the future

FACT aims to place future U-2 warfighters in line with the rest of the combat Air Force’s career development timelines to include potential avenues of professional military education and leadership roles. One example would include an opportunity to attend the new reconnaissance weapons instructors course, also known as reconnaissance WIC, which was recently approved to begin the process to be established as first-ever reconnaissance-focused WIC at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet

U-2 pilots prepare to land a TU-2S Dragon Lady at sunset on Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)


“This program offers FACT-selected pilots enhanced developmental experience and prepares them for diverse leadership opportunities, including squadron and senior leadership roles within the reconnaissance community,” Clark said.

The FACT program highlights only one of the many ways the Airmen at Beale AFB work to innovate for the future.

“Beale (AFB) Airmen are the beating heart of reconnaissance; they are always looking for innovative ways to keep Recce Town flexible, adaptable, and absolutely ready to defend our nation and its allies,” Clark said. “(Senior leaders) tasked Airmen to bring the future faster and maximize our lethality — to maintain our tactical and strategic edge over our adversaries. This program is one practical example of (reconnaissance) professionals understanding and supporting the priorities of our senior leaders — and it won’t stop here.”

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

Articles

Is the new Iranian fighter a paper tiger?

Iran has made waves announcing new weapons, like the Bavar 373 and Qaher 313 in recent years, and they’ve been conducting a lot of tests. Iran even claimed to have copied the RQ-170 “Beast of Kandahar” reconnaissance drone after one of the American spy planes made a forced landing in Iran.


But are these systems paper tigers? According to the National Interest, the Iranians may not have thought through their Qaher 313 very well. In fact, the Qaher 313 may be in the pantheon of “most useless combat planes” that includes such luminaries as the Boulton-Paul Defiant and the Brewster F2A Buffalo.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
Lineart of the Qaher-313 mockup based on estimations. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

In fact, when Iranian-made versions of the Chinese C-802 missile were fired at American ships on multiple occasions this past October by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, they failed to score any hits, and drew a retaliatory strike.

The Qaher 313 is touted as Iran’s fifth-generation stealth fighter, capable of carrying 2,000-pound bombs, Chinese PL-12 missiles, and other weapons. That’s the hype. But what is the reality?

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani joins Defense Ministry officials at the unveiling of the Bavar 373 SAM system. (Photo: Tasnim)

The claim drew skepticism, with the National Interest reporter recalling a comparison of the Qaher 313 to a GI Joe toy. One of the reasons is that the Iranians appear to only have the option of using reverse-engineered versions of the J85 engine, which is used on their inventory of F-5E Tiger fighters.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
Public Domain

The aircraft’s size has also caused some discussion, with some believing that the Iranians displayed a small-scale mock-up. Others, though, have claimed that the plane is just a propaganda exercise — and a poorly executed one, at that. Haaretz.com called the plane a “glorified mock-up” that “won’t cause any panic in the Israeli Air Force’s intelligence wing.”

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
Iran has reportedly made a killer drone based on a secret U.S.-designed RQ-170 Sentinel.

This isn’t the only such dispute. Iran’s claims to have copied the RQ-170 also drew skepticism, with some claiming the Iranians had built a static mock-up. It should be noted that Iran has successfully built naval vessels, notably the Jamaran-class frigates and the Peykan-class missile boats, as well as an indigenous coastal submarine.

Articles

Israel stole Iran’s entire nuclear intelligence archive in one night

In 2016, Israeli intelligence officers pulled off one of the most daring but greatest achievements in its history. Mossad discovered the location of where Iran kept its most secret documents related to its nuclear program. It was all kept in a warehouse in Tehran’s Shorabad District.  

Then, in a single night, Israeli officers managed to enter the warehouse, steal a half-ton of top secret documents, and smuggle them all back to Israel. For two years the entire operation was kept secret from the world. 

Until Israel wanted to show the world that Iran had been planning to build a nuclear weapon the entire time. The revelation may have been the catalyst for President Donald Trump’s subsequent pullout of the 2015 Iranian Nuclear Deal. 

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
iran’s Ghadr-110 medium range ballistic missile being tested in March 2016 (Wikimedia Commons)

In February 2016, operatives from Mossad (Israel’s intelligence agency) were working in Tehran when they discovered the warehouse holding Iran’s most stunning nuclear secrets. The Mossad officers said the building looked like a “dilapidated warehouse” in a run-down neighborhood in Iran’s capital city.

They were able to break into the building, steal the documents, and escape back to Israel in one night. It took the Israelis more than a year to analyze the information, as most of it was written in Farsi. The trove of stolen documents consisted of 55,000 pages and another 55,000 files on 183 CDs.

Once analyzed, Israel shared the intelligence bonanza with the United States. Yossi Cohen, then head of Israeli intelligence, briefed President Trump. Cohen retired from his position in June 2021 and provided some insight into Israel’s effort to fight the Iranian nuclear program with Israeli television.

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
Mossad director for the raid, Yossi Cohen (Photo by Kobi Gideon-GPO Israel/ Wikimedia Commons)

Cohen first joined Mossad after graduating from college in 1982. In 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Cohen to the top spot at the agency. He told an Israeli television network that the intelligence raid in Tehran took two years to plan, during which the facility was under constant surveillance. 

Around 20 Mossad agents, of which none were Israeli citizens, were involved in the planning and execution of the raid and subsequent theft. When the raid finally went off in January 2016, Cohen and Mossad’s leadership watched the raid on TV from Tel Aviv.

The agents had to break into the warehouse, then crack 30 or more safes. Everyone survived the raid, although some had to be exfiltrated from Iran in the days and weeks following the break-in. 

According to the BBC, the level of detail the ex-Mossad chief divulges to local media is remarkable. No other intelligence head has ever explained so much about a secret operation in so much detail. 

Cohen said the agency was filled with excitement as they all watched the agents remove a half-ton of classified Iranian documents from the warehouse. Since Israel has discussed the information operation publicly, it’s unlikely to do much harm to ongoing Israeli intelligence operations. 

Later in the interview, Cohen touches on other Mossad operations in the ongoing shadow war between Israel and the Iranian Islamic Republic, including sabotaging the Natanz Nuclear Facility, where Iran is working to enrich much of its uranium. 

This new Combat Rescue Helicopter is one step closer to the fleet
Natanz Nuclear Facility, September 2007 (Wikimedia Commons)

The Mossad head told a journalist that he would be able to show her around the Natanz facility and acknowledged that many top Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated – without admitting to any involvement. 

“If the man constitutes a capability that endangers the citizens of Israel, he must stop existing,” Cohen said. He added that someone could be spared “if he is prepared to change profession and not harm us any longer.”


Feature image: by d-keller from Pixabay

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