NATO wanted a replacement for its 9x19mm Parabellum firearms; what it got is the ultimate special ops weapon.
The FN Herstal P90 is a compact but powerful sub-machine gun. It was designed for vehicle crews, support personnel, special forces and counter-terrorist groups.
It’s an ugly futuristic-looking weapon. The bullpup design with ambidextrous controls and top-mounted magazine make it unconventional. But make no mistake, this is an incredibly useful weapon. It’s so effective that it’s currently in service with military and police forces in over 20 nations throughout the world, according to this video.
Donald Trump never served a day in the military, but he tells a biographer that he “always felt that I was in the military” with his attendance at a military school in his teenage years, according to excerpts from the forthcoming book obtained by The New York Times.
The book, “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success” by Michael D’Antonio, will be published on Sep. 22. In interviews with the author, Trump reflects on his five years spent at the New York Military Academy as something akin to actually serving in uniform.
“My [Vietnam draft] number was so incredible and it was a very high draft number,” Trump told D’Antonio. “Anyway so I never had to do that, but I felt that I was in the military in the true sense because I dealt with those people.”
Of the academy, which notes on its website that most graduates do not pursue a military career, Trump said he received “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.”
This isn’t the first time Trump has spoken on military service. In July, he attacked Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his record in Vietnam, saying “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war against Germany and entered World War I. Since August 1914, the war between the Central and Entente Powers had devolved into a bloody stalemate, particularly on the Western Front. That was where the U.S. would enter the engagement.
How prepared was the country’s military to enter a modern conflict? The war was dominated by industrially made lethal technology, like no war had been before. That meant more death on European battlefields, making U.S. soldiers badly needed in the trenches. But America’s longstanding tradition of isolationism meant that in 1917 U.S. forces needed a lot of support from overseas allies to fight effectively.
In Europe, American combat troops would encounter new weapons systems, including sophisticated machine guns and the newly invented tank, both used widely during World War I. American forces had to learn to fight with these new technologies, even as they brought millions of men to bolster the decimated British and French armies.
Engaging with small arms
In certain areas of military technology, the United States was well-prepared. The basic infantrymen of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps were equipped with the Model 1903 Springfield rifle. Developed after American experience against German-made Mausers in the Spanish American War, it was an excellent firearm, equal or superior to any rifle in the world at the time.
With far more soldiers than supplies of modern machine guns, the U.S. Army had to adopt several systems of foreign design, including the less-than-desirable French Chauchat, which tended to jam in combat and proved difficult to maintain in the trenches.
Meeting tank warfare
American soldiers fared better with the Great War’s truly new innovation, the tank. Developed from the need to successfully cross “No Man’s Land” and clear enemy-held trenches, the tank had been used with limited success in 1917 by the British and the French. Both nations had combat-ready machines available for American troops.
Instead, U.S. ground forces used 239 of the French-built versions of the tank, as well as 47 British Mark V tanks. Though American soldiers had never used tanks before entering the war, they learned quickly. One of the first American tankers in World War I was then-Captain George S. Patton, who later gained international fame as a commander of Allied tanks during World War II.
Also new to Americans was poison gas, an early form of chemical warfare. By 1917 artillery batteries on both sides of the Western Front commonly fired gas shells, either on their own or in combination with other explosives. Before soldiers were routinely equipped with gas masks, thousands died in horrific ways, adding to the already significant British and French casualty totals.
Scientists on both sides of the war effort worked to make gas weapons as effective as possible, including by devising new chemical combinations to make mustard gas, chlorine gas, phosgene gas and tear gas. The American effort was substantial: According to historians Joel Vilensky and Pandy Sinish, “Eventually, more than 10 percent of all the chemists in the United States became directly involved with chemical warfare research during World War I.”
Blinded by German tear gas, British soldiers wait for treatment in Flanders, 1918.
(British Army photo)
Naval power for combat and transport
All the manpower coming from the U.S. would not have meant much without safe transportation to Europe. That meant having a strong navy. The U.S. Navy was the best-prepared and best-equipped of all the country’s armed forces. For many years, it had been focusing much of its energy on preparing for a surface naval confrontation with Germany.
A German submarine surrenders at the end of World War I.
In May 1917, the British Royal Navy pioneered the convoy system, in which merchant ships carrying men and materiel across the Atlantic didn’t travel alone but in large groups. Collectively protected by America’s plentiful armed escort ships, convoys were the key to saving Britain from defeat and allowing American ground forces to arrive in Europe nearly unscathed. In fact, as military historian V.E. Tarrant wrote, “From March 1918 until the end of the war, two million U.S. troops were transported to France, for the loss of only 56 lives.”
A U.S. Navy escorted convoy approaches the French coast, 1918.
(US Navy photo)
Taking to the skies
Some of those Americans who made it to Europe climbed above the rest – right up into the air. The U.S. had pioneered military aviation. And in 1917, air power was coming into its own, showing its potential well beyond just intelligence gathering. Planes were becoming offensive weapons that could actively engage ground targets with sufficient force to make a difference on the battlefield below.
An American-painted British-made Sopwith Camel in France, 1918.
Despite often lacking the weapons and technology required for success, it was ultimately the vast number of Americans – afloat, on the ground and in the air – and their ability to adapt and use foreign weapons on foreign soil that helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Allies.
A new initiative from BAE Defense Systems wants to create a system for “growing” drones in vats in a next-generation version of 3-D printing.
The process would be very quick, allowing military planners to manufacture new drones only weeks after a design is approved. That would allow custom aircraft to be grown for many major operations.
If the Air Force needed to get bombers past next-generation Russian air defenses, they could print drones specifically designed to trick or destroy the new sensors. If a group of troops was cut off in World War III’s version of the Battle of the Bulge, the Army could resupply them with custom-designed drones carrying fuel, batteries, ammo, and more. Different designs could even be grown for each payload.
The drones would grow their own electronics and airframes, though key parts may need to be manufactured the old fashioned way and plugged into new drone designs. BAE’s video shows a freshly grown aircraft receiving a final part, possibly a power source or sensor payload, on an assembly line after the craft leaves its vat and dries.
The 3-D printer that would be used, dubbed the “Chemputer” and trademarked by BAE, could potentially even recycle some of its waste and use environmentally friendly materials.
Since each aircraft is being custom built for specific missions or niche mission types, they can be highly specialized. One vat could print an aircraft optimized for speed that needs to outrun enemy missiles while the one next to it needs to act as a radio relay and has been optimized for loiter time.
The project is headed by University of Glasgow Regius Professor Lee Cronin. Cronin acknowledges that roadblocks exist to getting the Chemputer up and running, but thinks his team is ready to overcome them.
“This is a very exciting time in the development of chemistry,” Cronin said. “We have been developing routes to digitize synthetic and materials chemistry and at some point in the future hope to assemble complex objects in a machine from the bottom up, or with minimal human assistance. Creating small aircraft would be very challenging but I’m confident that creative thinking and convergent digital technologies will eventually lead to the digital programming of complex chemical and material systems.”
Man’s best friend has been fighting on battlefields for centuries, but the modern four-legged battle buddy is much more sophisticated than his predecessor with more advanced gear.
The modern US military has multi-purpose tactical dogs, search and rescue dogs, explosive detection dogs, and tracking dogs, among other types of canines, and the dogs have their own special equipment.
U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Brian Zamiska, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), pulls security with a U.S. Air Force working dog, Jan. 6, 2013, during a patrol with the Afghan Border Police in Tera Zeyi district, Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alex Kirk Amen)
The US Army, which is currently undergoing its largest modernization in decades, has been working hard to modernize the force, equipping soldiers with state-of-the-art gear, such as lightweight helmets that can withstand sniper fire and night-vision goggles that let them shoot around corners.
And military working dogs aren’t being left out of the modernization push.
Insider recently asked a senior scientist at the Army Research Office what’s next for military dogs, and he explained that there are a lot of interesting things on the horizon, despite the challenges of developing gear for canines.
“We are going to be able to help augment the animal with better cameras, better hearing protection, and better vision protection, and put those things all together so that we can get a smarter system out there,” Stephen Lee told Insider.
A military working dog wearing the CAPS with goggles.
(US Army photo by Zeteo Tech)
All military dogs use a collar and a leash, but just as there are different types of dogs for different missions, such as pointy-eared dogs like German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois for tactical operations and floppy-eared dogs like Labrador Retrievers for screening activities, the various types of military dogs tend to have varied gear kits.
“Like the multipurpose dogs might have a harness, a vest that contains stab proofing or some sort of insert armor,” Lee explained, adding that they might also have goggles, hearing protection equipment, and special booties for snow, sandy or rocky environments.
There are also cooling vests and specialized kennels that cool to help the canines better operate in hot areas.
A US soldier carrying a military working dog.
And canine gear is continuously evolving.
“We are learning a lot from the robotics community because they need lightweight electronics. So we’re able to put small cameras on the dogs now and guide them at distances,” Lee said. “I’m excited about putting those new microelectronics on the canine.”
The US military has already made some strides in this area, equipping dogs with cameras, GPS trackers, and radios for better off-leash communication, but there is always the potential for more innovation.
The challenge, Lee told Insider, is that there is technically no military working dog research funding line in the military.
Lee has a PhD in physical organic chemistry and played an important role in the development of an artificial dog nose that is used for screening activities, but while it is an incredible tool, it lacks the ability to provide the full range of capabilities a working dog can.
“We spend billions of dollars making robots that can emulate dogs but don’t even come close,” he explained, adding that the military doesn’t really have any core research and development programs for dogs.
A military working dog surrounded by a soldier’s gear.
Much of the canine-related research is carried out by industry and academia with input from the military and law enforcement and funding pulled from various pools.
For instance, Zeteo Tech, Inc., a Maryland-based outfit, has developed an innovative solution to help prevent hearing loss in dogs with the help of the Small Business Innovation Research grant provided by the Army Research Office.
But, while military working dogs may not receive the same level of attention that human soldiers do, those who work closely with them understand well their value in the fight.
Conan, a military working dog that was recently honored at the White House, helped special forces take down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the murderous leader of ISIS in October. Time and time again, canines have made important contributions to US military missions.
Lee told Insider that “we take for granted all that our dogs can do” on the battlefield.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939. Yes, seriously.
There was nothing peaceful about this brutal tyrant. Under his leadership, the Nazi regime was responsible for the genocide of at least 5.5 million Jews and millions of other people who were deemed “sub-human.” Ironically, his first love was a Jewish girl. As if this weren’t weird enough, here are eight other jaw-dropping facts you didn’t know about Hitler:
How do you make a 51-foot-long, 35-foot-wide fighter jet, with an engine that generates 43,000 pounds of thrust, vanish?
You don’t. There’s no black magic that exists to make something that big disappear.
The F-35A Lightning II isn’t invisible, but it does have a “cloak,” which makes it very difficult to detect, track, or target by radar with surface to air missiles or enemy aircraft.
The real term used to describe the cloak is “low observable” technology, and it takes skilled airmen to maintain.
“You can’t hit a target if you can’t get to it. And you can’t get to a target if you get shot down,” said Master Sgt. Francis Annett, 388th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight NCOIC. “Because of the LO technology, the F-35A can fly missions most other aircraft cannot. We make sure our airmen understand how important their job is. We teach the ‘why’ as much as the ‘how.'”
Low-observable-aircraft structural maintenance airmen from the 33rd Maintenance Squadron work on an F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Aug. 12, 2015.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Andrea Posey)
Several things combine to provide the F-35A’s stealth — the lines and contours of the aircraft’s exterior design, the composite panels and parts that make up the body, and the radar absorbent materiel that coats the entire jet.
All of these contribute to deflecting or absorbing enemy radar and, combined with pilots’ tactics, help the F-35A survive in enemy air space.
Tech. Sgt. Edmundo Pena, 388th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight, does low observable restoration on an F-35A wing tip at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Oct. 3, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
During flight, the exterior paint or coating of any aircraft can get worn down from friction caused by weather, dust, bugs, and the normal movement of flight surfaces.
The F-35A also has several panels that are frequently removed or opened on the flight line for routine maintenance, and there are more than 5,000 fasteners that keep body panels in place. All of these, when worn, can potentially limit the jets stealth capabilities.
Tech. Sgt. Edmundo Pena, 388th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight, does low observable restoration on a F-35A wing tip at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Oct. 3, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
The fabrication flight team inspects and evaluates the jets’ coatings, seams and panels after each flight, looking for anything that could lead to an increased radar signature, recording any damage and prioritizing repairs across the wing’s fleet.
At work in their shop, the LO technicians work in a team, hunched intently over a long table full of composite panels and rubber seals. They wear masks and gloves, and look more like sculptors or painters than fabricators.
The old, heavy equipment used for cutting, pounding, bending and joining sheet metal for F-16 skins, lines the walls behind them, mostly unused. The machines a reminder of the difference between fourth- and fifth-generation technology.
US Air Force Airman 1st Class Evan Green, 33rd Maintenance Squadron Low Observable aircraft structural maintenance journeyman, suits up for media blasting operations, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Feb. 21, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniella Peña-Pavao)
US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jonathan, 33rd Maintenance Squadron Low Observable Corrosion Control Section noncommissioned officer in charge, helps Airman 1st Class Evan Green, 33rd MXS LO aircraft structural maintenance journeyman, dawn a protective helmet, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Feb. 21, 2019.
(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Daniella Peña-Pavao)
“I like that its detail oriented,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Ladson, a low observable journeyman. “All the work that you put in really shows. Any mistake you make, every good thing you do, it all shows in the final product.”
The active-duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW are the Air Force’s only combat-capable F-35 units, working side-by-side, maintaining the jets in a Total Force partnership that utilizes the strengths of both components.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In what the participants call a “unique” collaboration, government agencies and aerospace corporations are working together to develop advanced platforms and technologies for vertical lift that are intended to replace virtually all the current rotary wing and tilt-rotor aircraft being used by the four U.S. military services.
The results of those efforts are likely to also influence future civilian and international vertical lift programs.
The ultimate goal is to produce a family of vertical lift aircraft that can serve as transports for personnel and cargo and perform attack, scout, search and rescue, anti-submarine and anti-surface ship missions from land or sea at speeds and ranges far exceeding existing capabilities.
During a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, the industry and government representatives said the focus was on achieving the maximum commonality of aircraft components and open architecture in mission systems to reduce production and sustainment costs and promote interoperability among individual aircraft and services.
The coalition of talent is working on two separate but closely related programs: Future Vertical Lift and Joint Multi-role Technology Demonstration, which are managed by the Army with participation by the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.
Under the FVL part of the effort, Bell Helicopter is working on an advanced tilt-rotor aircraft called the V-280 Valor, which advances the technologies produced for the V-22 Ospreys that are operated by the Marines and Air Force Special Operations Command and in the future by the Navy.
For FVL, Boeing-Sikorsky team is building a “coaxial” helicopter called the SB-1 Defiant, which uses counter-rotating rotors for vertical operations and a rear-mounted propeller for high-speed level flight. It builds on technology demonstrated by Sikorsky’s X-2 that hit speeds of 260 knots, or 300 miles an hour.
At CSIS, Chris Van Buiten, vice president of Sikorsky Innovations, and Vince Tobin, VP for advanced tilt-rotor systems at Bell, said their aircraft will fly next year in preparation for a competitive “fly off” for the FVL program.
Both of those firms, Rockwell Collins and other companies are participating in the JMR program, which is focused on developing a new generation of mission systems and avionics that would go into any future vertical lift aircraft and, the panelist said, could be retrofitted into some of the legacy platforms that are likely to remain in service for decades.
The Rockwell Collins officials said the advanced computer systems being developed in the JMR effort would allow the future vertical lift platforms to be “optionally manned,” meaning they could be operated as unmanned systems as well as flown by humans.
Bell has also introduced an unmanned tilt-rotor proposal, the V-247 Vigilant, with a folding wing and rotor for the Marines.
Dan Bailey, program director of JMR/FVL for the Army, said the technology demonstration program is expected to culminate in 2020, and will “set the conditions for the future” as they seek to replace all the military’s vertical lift systems over decades.
The FVL competition for the air frame should conclude in 2019, he said.
Bailey said the vertical lift “airframe designs we have today are very limited on what we can get out of them.” And the ability to increase efficiency in those platforms “is limited.”
“We need new platforms,” he said.
Bailey and the others stressed the importance of pushing open architecture capabilities in the systems developed under JMR. Open architecture generally means the software within mission systems and other aircraft avionics is independent of the hardware. That allows rapid and relatively inexpensive changes in the systems as technology improves or mission requirements change.
Bailey said the FVL/JMR program provides the ability to partner with industry “that is unique” and will allow the government “to do this efficiently.”
To meet the multi-service requirements of the FVL program, Van Buiten and Tobin said their aircraft could be produced with the rotor and wing folding capabilities that the Navy and Marines require for shipboard operations.
A photo taken of the stands at a Texas AM home football game in October captured what the “Aggie Spirit” is all about, according to the school’s Commandant of the Corps of Cadets.
The photo, taken of the stands on Oct. 3 while the Aggies played against Mississippi State, shows a group of cadets cheering and watching the game. One cadet stands silently, holding his young son as he sleeps in his arms.
That cadet is 28-year-old Kevin Ivey, a student at the university who previously served for eight years in the Marine Corps. With a tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Ivey left the Marine Corps a single dad of a six-year-old boy, according to KAGS-TV. His commanding officer was an Aggie, and he decided he wanted to be one himself.
So Ivey and his son Calvin loaded up their pickup truck and headed to College Station, where Ivey had been accepted into Delta Company, a group of 25 veterans in the 2,500 member Corps of Cadets. But when he arrived, he couldn’t immediately find an apartment. A Marine on a limited budget, and with his schooling paid for by the GI Bill, couldn’t dig up the deposits each apartment complex was demanding for him and his son to move in.
“We had money for our bare necessities and that’s it,” Ivey said. “Hotel money just wasn’t in the budget.”
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.
Helmets worn by troops in the U.S. military are getting lighter and stronger every year. Since the 1980s when the Pentagon ditched the old steel pot designs in favor of hardened Kevlar laminate lids, service members have been getting a major boost to the protection of their noggin’.
In the last few years, armor makers have been working with new materials that are even lighter and stronger and can be shaped in a variety of ways to fit certain missions. The technology has evolved enough that now the Army is set to field an entirely new head protection system that’s a lot more than just a helmet.
Dubbed the Integrated Head Protection System, the new helmet has a variety of components that can be tailored for different operations. Whether you’re a door-kicker or a tank driver, the new IHPS has armor that can keep the frags at bay.
“It’s about giving commanders on the battlefield the ability to use the modularity capability of the equipment to fit their particular mission profile or protective posture level,” said Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, the product manager for Personal Protective Equipment at PEO Soldier, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
From face-protecting “mandibles” to integrated radio headset attachments to NVG bases, the IHPS is way higher tech than the K-pots of old.
The helmet system even has additional “applique” armor for when the sht really hits the fan.
Recently the Army has been testing the IHPS in a variety of operations, including infantry maneuver and airborne drops.
The new IHPS is due to be deployed with Army troops starting in 2018.
Editor’s Note: The original article appeared on Marine Corps Systems Command’s website Nov. 16, 2017. The following article provides an update to reflect the current status of the program.
The Marine Corps continues to upgrade the turret system for one of its longest-serving fighting vehicles — the Light Armored Vehicle-Anti-Tank.
In September 2017, Marine Corps Systems Command’s LAV-AT Modernization Program Team achieved initial operational capability by completing the fielding of its first four Anti-Tank Light Armored Vehicles with the upgraded Anti-Tank Weapon Systems to Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Marines.
The ATWS fires the tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided — or TOW — missiles. It provides long-range stand-off anti-armor fire support to maneuvering Light Armored Reconnaissance companies and platoons. The ATWS also provides an observational capability in all climates, as well as other environments of limited visibility, thanks to an improved thermal sight system that is similar to the Light Armored Vehicle 25mm variant fielded in 2007.
The Marine Corps continues to upgrade the turret system for the Light Armored Vehicle-Anti-Tank.
(US Marine Corps photo)
“Marines using the new ATWS are immediately noticing the changes, including a new far target location capability, a commander/gunner video sight display, a relocated gunner’s station, and an electric elevation and azimuth drive system, which replaced the previous noisy hydraulic system,” said Steve Myers, LAV program manager.
The ATWS also possesses a built-in test capability, allowing the operators and maintainers to conduct an automated basic systems check of the ATWS, he said.
The LAV-ATM Team continues to provide new equipment training to units receiving the ATWS upgrade, with the final two training evolutions scheduled for early 2019. Training consists of a 10-day evolution with three days devoted to the operator and seven days devoted to maintaining the weapon system. Follow-on training can be conducted by the unit using the embedded training mode within the ATWS.
“This vehicle equips anti-tank gunner Marines with a modern capability that helps them maintain readiness and lethality to complete their mission,” said Maj. Christopher Dell, LAV Operations officer.
Full operational capability for the ATWS is expected at the end of fiscal year 2019.
“Currently, there are 58 in service within the active fleet,” said Myers. “The original equipment manufacturer delivered 91 of the 106 contracted kits and is ahead of schedule. Now MCSC’s focus is directed at the Marine Corps Forces Reserve, ensuring they receive the same quality NET and support as their active counterparts.”
This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
One of the Army’s biggest modernization programs is the development of the “future armed reconnaissance aircraft,” a new recon aircraft that would take, roughly, the place of the retired OH-58 Kiowa, but would actually be much more capable than anything the Army has fielded before.
An S-97 Raider, a small and fast compound helicopter, flies in this promotional image from Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky.
First, the service isn’t necessarily looking for a new helicopter, and it’s not even necessarily looking to directly replace the Kiowa. That’s because the Army’s doctrine has significantly changed since it last shopped for a reconnaissance aircraft. Instead, the Army wants something that can support operations across the land, air, and sea. If the best option is a helicopter, great, but tilt-rotors are definitely in the mix.
Maybe most importantly, it needs to be able to operate in cities, hiding in “urban canyons,” the gaps between buildings. Enemy radar would find it hard to detect and attack aircraft in these canyons, allowing aircraft that can navigate them to move through contested territory with less risk. As part of this requirement, the aircraft needs to have a maximum 40-foot rotor diameter and fuselage width.
Anything over that would put crews at enormous risk when attempting to navigate tight skylines.
And the Army wants it to be fast, reaching speeds somewhere between 180 and 205 knots, far faster than the 130 knots the Kiowa could fly.
While there’s no stated requirement for the next scout to have stealth capabilities, scouts always want to stay sneaky and getting howitzers and rockets on the ground to take out your targets is much more stealthy than firing your own weapons. But another great option is having another, unmanned aircraft take the shot or laze the target, that’s why the final aircraft is expected to work well with drones.
A soldier launches a Puma drone during an exercise. The future FARA aircraft will be able to coordinate the actions of drones if the Army gets its
(U.S. Army Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
The pilots could conduct the actions of unmanned aerial vehicles that would also need to be able to operate without runways and in tight spaces. This would increase the area that a single helicopter pilot or crew can search, stalk, and attack. With the drones, helicopter, and artillery all working together, they should be able to breach enemy air defenses and open a lane for follow-on attackers.
The Bell V-280 Valor is a strong contender to be the Army’s next medium-lift aircraft, but is much too large for the FARA competition.
There are few aircraft currently in the hopper that could fulfill the Army’s vision. That’s why the Army is looking to accept design proposals and then go into a competitive process. The first prototypes would start flying in the 2020s.
But there are currently flying aircraft that could become competitive with just a little re-working. The Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant is a prototype competing in the Army’s future vertical lift fly off. It’s little sister is the S-97 Raider, a seemingly good option for FARA right out of the box.
An S-97 Raider, widely seen as an obvious contender for the future armed reconnaissance attack program, flies through a narrow canyon in a promotional graphic.
But other manufacturers will certainly throw their hats in the ring, and Bell could advance a new design for the requirement.
The Army is keen to make sure the aircraft is built on proven technologies, though. It has failed to get a final product out of its last three attempts to buy a reconnaissance helicopter. With the Kiowas already retired and expensive Apaches filling the role, Apaches that will have lots of other jobs in a full war, there’s real pressure to make sure this program doesn’t fail and is done quickly.
Ultimately, though, it’s not up to just the Army. While the Army is expected to be the largest purchaser of helicopters in the coming years, replacing a massive fleet of aircraft, the overall future of vertical lift program is at the Department of Defense-level. The Army will have a lot of say, but not necessarily the final decision. That means the Secretary of Defense can re-stack the Army’s priorities to purchase medium-lift before recon, but that seems unlikely given the complete absence of a proper vertical lift reconnaissance aircraft in the military.