The Royal Norwegian Navy had been looking to replace the Cold War-era Oslo-class frigates. These were built in the 1960s, and despite an upgrade in the 1970s, they were becoming less effective. The lead ship, HNoMS Oslo (F300), was lost after running aground in 1994. According to the 1995 edition of Combat Fleets of the World, after modernization, the Oslo-class ships had two three-inch guns, a Mk 29 NATO Sea Sparrow launcher, four Penguin anti-ship missiles, and 324mm torpedo tubes.
To replace the aging ships, Norway turned to a scaled-down version of the Spanish F100 frigate design that became the Alvaro de Bazan class. Naval-Technology.com reports that the Fridjof Nansen-class frigates (named for famous Norwegian explorers) addressed many of the shortcomings of the preceding frigates, including cramped living quarters.
But the biggest change is that the Norwegian Navy went from having one of the weakest frigates in the NATO arsenal to one of the best. The Nansen-class ships have a single 76mm gun of a more modern design than the one used on the Oslos, an eight-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch system carrying 32 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles directed by the Aegis combat system, two quad Naval Strike Missile launchers, as well as the ability to operate a NH90 helicopter.
But that is not all the frigate can carry. MilitaryFactory.com reports that this ship could add a second 76mm gun, or swap out is current 76mm gun for a five-inch gun. A close-in weapon system and an additional eight vertical-launch cells could also be added. In short, Russia’s ships could face a difficult fight in the Arctic.
The Army is testing an exoskeleton technology which uses AI to analyze and replicate individual walk patterns, provide additional torque, power, and mobility for combat infantry, and enable heavier load-carrying, industry officials said.
Army evaluators have been assessing a Lockheed-built FORTIS knee-stress-release-device exoskeleton with soldiers at Fort A.P. Hill as part of a focus on fielding new performance-enhancing soldier technologies.
Using independent actuators, motors, and lightweight, conformal structures, lithium ion battery-powered FORTIS allows soldiers to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs while expending less energy.
“We’ve had this on some of the Army’s elite forces, and they were able to run with high agility, carrying full loads,” said Keith Maxwell, senior program manager, exoskeleton technology, Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed engineers say FORTIS could prove particularly impactful in close-quarters, urban combat because it enhances soldier mobility, speed, and power.
It is built with a conformal upper structure that works on a belt attached to the waist. The belt connects with flexible hip sensors throughout the systems. These sensors tell the computer where the soldier is in space along with the speed and velocity of movements.
“We were showing a decrease in the metabolic cost of transport, the measure of how much energy is required to climb uphill,” said Maxwell.
FORTIS uses a three-pound, rechargeable BB-2590 lithium ion battery.
Developed by Lockheed with internal research and development funds, FORTIS is designed to help soldiers run, maneuver, carry injured comrades, and perform a wide range of combat tasks while preventing hyper-extension of the knee.
Engineers report that FORTIS reduces the amount of energy required to perform a task by nine percent, using on-board AI to learn the gait of an individual soldier. The system integrates an actuator, motor, and transmission all into one device, intended to provide 60 Newton meters of additional torque, Maxwell explained.
Earlier this month, Lockheed Martin was promoting what they call the “DDG DE Laser Enhancement” at the Association of the United States Army expo in Washington, D.C. In essence, it would add at least two lasers to the five-inch gun, Mk 41 vertical-launch-systems (one with 32 cells, the other with 64 cells), a Mk 15 Phalanx close-in weapon system, and 324mm torpedo tubes. In addition to the Standard and Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles, the Mk 41 vertical-launch systems can also carry RUM-139 ASROC launchers and BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Lockheed has been testing laser weapon systems for a while. Last month, WATM reported on a test of the ATHENA laser, in which five MQM-170C Outlaw drones were shot down by the 30-kilowatt system. The test was conducted in conjunction with Army Space and Missile Defense Command. ATHENA was described as “ground mobile” in a Lockheed release about the tests.
The deployment of lasers could improve capabilities against enemy unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles, and even aircraft. The need for counter-drone weapons became very acute when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria deployed UAVs against Coalition forces.
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:
(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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
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.
Chinese military experts said on Oct.9, 2018, that the H-20 nuclear stealth bomber will soon make its maiden flight.
“The trial flight will come soon,” Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times.
The Global Times is under the state-run People’s Daily, and has published hyperbolic articles before, according to The War Zone, but “Song does not officially speak for the Chinese government and his views are his own.”
In August 2018, China Central Television released a documentary disclosing that the H-20 is called Hong-20, meaning “bomber aircraft” in Chinese, Global Times reported.
Zhongping told the Global Times on Oct. 9, 2018, that disclosing the name meant that progress had been made on the Hong-20, and that the bomber’s avionics, hydraulic pressure and electrical supply were probably completed.
Releasing the name might also act as a possible deterrence, Zhongping said. “Usually the development of equipment and weaponry of the People’s Liberation Army is highly confidential.”
B-21 Raider artist rendering.
Indeed, the development and conception of the Hong-20 has been rather murky.
China’s Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation may have begun developing the Hong-20 in the early 2000s, but it was only confirmed by a PLA Air Force commander in 2016.
In 2017, the Pentagon further confirmed that China was “developing a strategic bomber that officials expect to have a nuclear mission,” also noting that “[past] PLA writings expressed the need to develop a ‘stealth strategic bomber,’ suggesting aspirations to field a strategic bomber with a nuclear delivery capability.”
The Hong-20’s specifications are still relatively unknown, but a researcher working with the US Air Force previously told Business Insider that the Hong-20 is a four engine stealth bomber and that the details have not been “revealed except it is to have a dual [nuclear and conventional] role.”
The Hong-20 will also probably carry CJ-10K air-launched cruise missiles, have a range of 5,000 miles and a 10 ton payload, The War Zone reported.
The Asia Times, citing a previous Global Times article, reported that Fu Qianshao, a Chinese aviation pundit, said the goal was for the Hong-20 to have about a 7,500 range and a 20 ton payload.
While the latter estimates may very well be exaggerated, The War Zone reported that a range of 5,000 miles would certainly bolster Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, and pose a threat to Taiwan and even US carriers in the Pacific.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The military has given the civilian world some great technology like satellites, GPS, and the internet. But, in other cases the services have adopted civilian tech and taken it to the next level of awesomeness in the process. Here are 7 examples:
1. Tow trucks
Military tow trucks need to do things like picking up M1 Abrams tanks that weigh 62 metric tons. Plus, they have to be able to defend themselves in hostile environments. Enter the M88A2. It can tow up to 70 tons, has a .50-cal. machine gun, and can survive direct hits from 30mm shells.
Like the M88 above, the WISENT 2 operates in combat zones while doing the hard job of digging and bulldozing. The WISENT is based on a Leopard 2 battle tank. It has different attachments including a bulldozer blade, a mine plough, and an excavator arm that can dig feet 14 ft. deep with a 42 cubic ft. bucket.
The first four-wheeler was the Royal Enfield quadricycle in 1898. Unsurprisingly, when World War I broke out, Royal Enfield sold dozens to the British government for war use. Today, paratroopers and special operators are using the Light Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle, basically a Polaris Razor with better tires and shocks as well as weapons, antennas, and litter mounts strapped to it.
Battlefield commanders need bridges that can go up quickly, survive direct attacks, and be moved rapidly. The military has multiple solutions to this problem, including the Armored, Vehicle-Launched Bridge. The launcher is mounted on an M60 tank platform, and engineers can launch the bridge without ever getting out of the vehicle.
The noise immune stethoscope is designed to help medics hear a patient’s heartbeat around machine gun fire or in a helicopter. It works by sending a signal into the patient’s body, reading the return signal, and playing the information into a headset.
Until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan prosthetics had essentially remained the same since the first known artificial limb. The number of wounded warriors and the nature of their injuries has caused agencies like DARPA to change all of that, bringing prosthetics into the 21st Century in the process. The new devices allow for greater dexterity, greater range of motion, and even a sense of touch.
And while you might think it was cause to spool up the THAAD and drop that plane in its tracks, believe it or not, they were allowed to by a 25-year-old treaty based on an idea that was nearly four decades old at the time.
The Treaty on Open Skies was first proposed by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955. Cold War paranoia meant it went nowhere for 37 years. After the coup that proved the end of the Soviet Union, the treaty was eventually signed by President George H. W. Bush and ratified in 1992. But it didn’t enter into force until 2002.
The treaty allows the U.S. and Russia — as well as a number of other NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries — to make surveillance flights over each other’s territory.
According to a letter to the Senate included with the treaty, this is to “promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.” Certain planes are equipped with four types of sensors, optical panoramic and framing cameras, video cameras with real-time display, infra-red line-scanning devices, and sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar. These suites are used to monitor military forces, and are certified by observers.
Which aircraft is used can vary. The United States uses the OC-135B Open Skies aircraft for this mission. Canada uses a modified C-130. Russia has a version of the Tu-154 airliner. The United Kingdom has used a mix of planes.
The exact number of flights a country may have varies, but the United States and Russia each get 42 such flights a year.
They can fly any sort of flight plan – as long as they give 72 hours notice prior to the arrival. The flight must be completed in 96 hours from the time that the plane arrives. The plane on the Open Skies mission also must embark observers from the host nation on board.
So that’s why a lot of people in the Virginia, Maryland, and DC area got a good look at a Russian Tu-154 — and may still see more if Putin wants another closer look.
Creating a realistic battle scene — whether it’s from World War II or the Napoleonic Wars — demands technical know-how and precise attention to detail.
Paul Biddiss, the military technical adviser on the upcoming World War I movie “1917,” taught the actors everything they needed to know, from proper foot care to how to hold a weapon, “which allows the actor to concentrate on his primary task. Acting!” Biddis told Insider.
Biddiss has worked on projects from a variety of time periods — “large Napoleonic battles through to World War I, World War II, right up to modern-day battles with Special Forces,” Biddiss said.
Read on to learn about how Biddiss prepared “1917” performers for the gruesome, grueling warfare of World War I.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Javier Alvarez)
Biddiss spent 24 years in the British military before finding a career in film.
Biddiss, a former paratrooper, started his film career as an extra on the movie “Monuments Men.”
Since then, he has worked on projects like “Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation,” HBO’s “Catherine the Great,” and “The Crown.”
“I always tell people military film advising is 60% research and 40% of my own military experience added in to the mix,” Biddiss told Insider by email.
To prepare for a shoot, Biddiss obtains authentic training manuals appropriate to the conflict.
“I like to first understand the recruitment and training process, the rank structure and attitude between the ordinary ranks and officers,” he said. “This helps me better understand the battles and tactics used by the men and what must have been going through their heads at the time.”
That helps him structure a training program appropriate to the conflict, and safe for the performers — even when he’s short on prep time.
“When tasked to train 500 supporting artists for [the BBC’s] ‘War and Peace,’ I only had three days to research Napoleonic warfare and prepare a safe structured training program before flying out to Lithuania to train the men before a large battle sequence.”
Director Sam Mendes with actors Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay on the set of “1917.”
Training on “1917” started from the ground up — literally.
“Foot care was one of the first lessons I taught George [MacKay] and Dean [Charles Chapman], the importance of looking after their feet daily,” Biddiss said, referring to two stars of “1917.” “Basic recruits are taught this still even today.”
Trench foot, a common condition in World War I, is caused by wet, cold, and unsanitary conditions. It can be avoided by keeping the feet dry and clean, but left untreated it can lead to gangrene and amputation.
“The boys were wearing authentic period boots, walking and running in the wet mud all day and if not addressed early would have cause them major problems on set,” Biddiss said. “I taught them how to identify hot spots on the feet where the boots rubbed, taping up those hotspots to prevent blisters and applying talc and clean socks at every opportunity.”
A battle scene in “1917.”
Battle scenes require a lot from performers, but Biddiss said he “would never dream of asking an actor to do something I was not physically able to do myself.”
“I naturally train most days to keep myself in shape” and to instill confidence in his abilities, Biddiss told Insider.
“It’s not a good look if you’re a military adviser and you’re carrying around excess weight” and get winded after a short walk, he said.
Shooting a scene from “1917.”
(Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures)
With hundreds of extras, making sure all the performers were right for the movie was a massive task in itself, Biddiss said.
“We first ran local auditions,” Biddiss said. “I then ran assessments before boot camps to make sure we had the right people who not only looked right, but were coordinated and physically robust to take on the task.”
After the performers were selected, “I started with basic arms drill to test coordination, fitness to test stamina,” he said. “Then to weapon handling, historical lessons, and tactics.”
“There so much attention to detail, like I’ve never seen before on set,” Biddiss said.
Mendes with Chapman and MacKay on the set of “1917.”
Biddiss has to teach the performers how to look and feel both natural and accurate when using their weapons.
Weapons handling is one of the main hurdles in preparing an actor for battle.
“There could [be] over 500 supporting artists on set with bayonets fixed and firing blank rounds,” Biddiss said. “The blanks used are very powerful and can still do permanent damage, so if time is not invested in training it could all go horribly wrong.”
It’s also one of the things he notices other productions often don’t get right. Biddiss said he notices performers never reloading their weapons or always having their fingers on a gun’s trigger.
MacKay in a scene from “1917.”
Throughout the production, the mindset of the performers has to be just like that of a soldier, Biddiss said.
“I like to impress on one aspect,” Biddiss said. “Fear and anger.”
“I tell actors and supporting artists that they need to show both feelings on their faces when about to act a battle sequence,” he said. “Fear of dying, but anger towards the people who have brought them to this situation.”
“There is nothing ninja about soldiering,” Biddiss tells the performers he trains. “You have one job. Close in and kill the enemy.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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.
A DARPA graphic illustrates how manned and unmanned systems could work together in fighter engagements.
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.
It was a miracle device. The makers of the Alpha 6 device claimed it could detect ivory, explosives, drugs, and more. The UK, Saudi Arabia, India, and Pakistan all fell for it. Egypt ordered a million dollars’ worth. Thailand paid $33,000 dollars for a single unit.
It was promised to governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially for its reported ability to detected bombs up to three miles away, but it was about as effective as any divining rod. When the British government suspected the fraud, it banned the export of the Alpha 6.
The creators claimed that it used the body’s static electricity to power an antenna, which would make the device point to the contraband material. A card or paper would be attached to the device, with an image of what it was to be looking for.
A single Alpha 6 cost around seven dollars to make. The British couple producing them sold their “devices” for upwards of $105 million over more than 10 years. They sold thousands of the Alpha 6s – no more than a plastic handle with an antenna.
The whole situation would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. The devices were sold to the Iraqi government during much of the Iraq War, and Iraqi troops – often defending allied troops – depended on the Alpha 6 to do its job. No one knows if the bogus detectors led to the death of any allied troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.
When the British justice system caught up to the fraudsters, their assets were seized and they were given prison sentences of up to three years.
The B-1B Lancer bomber, a plane designed with the ability to fly fast and low to the Earth in order to avoid enemy radars, might find itself operating at higher altitudes for the rest of its days in service, as officials weigh options to extend its lifespan.
The move is one of several being considered to keep the aircraft flying for years to come because low-altitude missions increase the wear and tear on the aircraft’s structure, Military.com has learned.
“We’re closely working with aircrews, maintenance, industry engineers and combatant commands to identify and determine what, if any, changes may be made as we balance operational necessity today with the longevity of the B-1 airframe for the future,” said Air Force Global Strike Command spokesman Lt. Col. David Faggard.
Specifically, officials are weighing whether to tell pilots to stop using the B-1’s low-altitude terrain-following capability, known as TERFLW mode, during training. The mode is operated by a basic switch on the plane’s avionics.
A B-1B Lancer bomber.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)
“The B-1 and our airmen have consistently and professionally provided close-air support in the counterterror fight for decades, a mission the aircraft was never designed to fly,” Faggard said. The B-1 was designed for a range of activities, most notably its TERFLW capability, but instead has been used for years in Middle East conflicts — a role for which it was not designed.
“We’re building a viable transition plan to get us from the bomber force we have now to the bomber force of the future. We can change tactics — altering, bringing back or avoiding any tactics or procedures as necessary on any bomber at any time in the future,” Faggard said Friday.
TERFLW, which allows the plane to operate at low altitudes like a jet ski skimming water, was created to allow the B-1 “to sneak in low below enemy radars into Russia during the Cold War, employ nuclear weapons, and get out,” said Maj. Charles “Astro” Kilchrist, then-chief of training for the 9th Bomb Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in a 2017 interview.
Kilchrist, also a pilot, showed off the maneuver when Military.com visited the base that year.
Four B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger)
Fatigue testing on the bomber has shown that low-altitude training may put additional stress on the airframe, according to two Air Force sources familiar with the discussions. Thus, the argument to limit TERFLW flights in future.
It’s not uncommon for bombers to switch up how they fly.
For example, B-52 Stratofortress pilots already tend to avoid low-altitude flights because of the additional stress on the venerable bomber’s airframe, according to Alan Williams, the B-52 deputy program element monitor at Global Strike Command. Williams has been involved in the B-52 community since 1975.
“When I first started flying in the B-52, we went down to 300 to 500 feet above the ground,” he said in an interview in August. “Two o’clock in the morning, we’d fly over western Wyoming and we’d pop out four hours later over eastern Wyoming. That was hard on the aircraft.”
He continued, “Low-level is hard on aircraft. There’s a lot of forces — atmosphere, turbulence, all those things. [But] over the last 30 years, the B-52 has returned to what it was designed to be: a high-altitude bomber.”
Officials haven’t totally forbidden B-52 crews to fly low, especially if they’re testing new weapons, according to a bomber weapons system officer, who asked not to be identified due to not being authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
A B-52H Stratofortress.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele)
While the B-52 is sticking around into the 2050s, keeping the B-1 viable until its 2036 sunset date has been a priority for Air Force Global Strike Command.
Gen. Tim Ray, head of the command, announced in September that the Air Force had proved it can modify the Lancer to hold more ordnance — a step that may pave the way to future hypersonic weapons payloads as the bomber seeks new missions.
In tests with the 419th Flight Test Squadron, teams at Edwards Air Force Base, California, demonstrated how crews could fasten new racks onto the external hardpoints of the B-1, and reconfigure its internal bomb bays to hold heavier weapons.
“The conversation we’re having now is how we take that bomb bay [and] put four, potentially eight, large hypersonic weapons on there,” Ray said during the annual Air Force Association Air Space and Cyber conference.
“Certainly, the ability to put more JASSM-ER [Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range] or LRASM [Long Range Anti-Ship Missile] externally on the hardpoints as we open those up,” he said, as reported by Defense News. “There’s a lot more we can do.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Weapons are like tools; you need the right one for whatever the situation requires. But it’s not always practical to have the most efficient gear on hand. Alexander Arms remedies this pain point with Beowulf, a kit that converts conventional assault rifles into .50 cal destroyers.
“It was designed specifically to fit into the AR-15, M16 platform, and the Beowulf is basically a large caliber drop-in replacement for that system,” said its creator, Bill Alexander in the American Heroes Channel video below.
The assault rifle goes from firing a 5.56 mm to a .50 cal round by switching out the weapon’s upper receiver with the Beowulf kit. In less than a minute, it goes from being an anti-personnel firearm to an anti-material rifle. It still looks and feels like an AR-15, but each blow is now a devastating haymaker. Alexander Arms offers the upper conversion kit for AR-15 owners and fully assembled .50 cal Beowulf rifles on its online store.
This kit is perfect for checkpoints; it has no problem piercing through vehicles. The rounds cut through body panels and windshields like a hot knife through butter. It’s most effective against targets at a short-to-medium distance, according to Alexander Arms product overview page on its website.
In this short two-minute American Heroes Channel video, Bill Alexander demonstrates Beowulf’s awesome firepower and explains his motivation for developing the kit.
A selection of security cameras that are being sold and touted by Amazon on its website come with “huge” security risks, according to findings from an investigation conducted by UK consumer watchdog Which? that were released on Sept. 27, 2019.
After testing six different wireless cameras, Which? found that the devices were easy to hack thanks to weak passwords and unencrypted data that could enable strangers to remotely take control of the camera to spy into people’s homes and view footage as they please.
One of the cameras tested in the investigation has an Amazon Choice label. This essentially means that it is an item that many buyers have purchased and were satisfied with, but it doesn’t mean it has been heavily vetted by Amazon. The Amazon Choice label is important as these are the items that Amazon’s search engine will deliver when you ask Alexa to search for you.
Which? says that the lack of vetting on these Amazon recommended products is extremely concerning.
“There appears to be little to no quality control with these sub-standard products, which risk people’s security yet are being endorsed and sold on Amazon,” Adam French, a consumer rights expert at Which? said in a statement to the press on Sept. 30, 2019.
“Amazon and other online marketplaces must take these cameras off sale and improve the way they scrutinize these products,” he continued. “They certainly should not be endorsing products that put people’s privacy at risk.”
Customers raised safety concerns in some reviews online.
“Someone spied on us,” said one customer who reviewed a .99 Victure security camera that carries the Amazon Choice badge. “They talked through the camera and they turned the camera on at will. Extremely creepy. We told Amazon. Three of us experienced it, yet they’re still selling them.” Business Insider has reached out to Victure for comment.
Another customer wrote that he had “chills down his spine” after hearing a mysterious voice coming from a camera next to his child’s crib after it was apparently hacked, Which? wrote in its press release.
Which? said it asked Amazon to remove these products and is urging the company to monitor customer feedback and investigate cases where consumers have identified issues with security. Amazon declined to comment on Which?’s findings, however. A spokesperson for the company did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
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