Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

Lasers have long been a staple of science fiction weaponry — but they are also becoming much closer to reality on the battlefields of today.


American weapons maker Lockheed Martin recently proved it can shoot down enemy drones with a live-fire test of its ATHENA laser weapon system.

Also read: ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance

According to a company release, the 30-kilowatt laser was fired against five unmanned aerial vehicles and “defeated airborne targets in flight by causing loss of control and structural failure” during the test, which was conducted in conjunction with Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones
The Athena laser weapon system. (Youtube Screenshot from Lockheed video)

A video released by Lockheed showed that the targets, MQM-170C Outlaw drones, based on the Griffon Aerospace G2, were destroyed in crashes caused by the damage inflicted on the tail by the laser. Designation-Systems.net notes that the MQM-170A version of the Outlaw, based on Griffon’s G1 has a top speed of 120 miles per hour, can fly as high as 16,000 feet, and has as much as four hours of flight time.

Related: This is the laser that will take out enemy drones

The need to take down enemy drones has been acutely demonstrated in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. During the fighting for Mosul, the radical Islamic terrorist group made extensive use of UAVs, including spotting for mortar gunners, as well as to carry out small bomb attacks.

One particularly insidious tactic was to land a booby-trapped drone, and then to detonate it as coalition troops attempted to recover it.

The development of lasers has been advancing in recent years, and while right now they’re being used to target drones, that’s not all defense planners have planned for beam weapons.

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones
One of five MQM-170C Outlaws moments before impact after its tail surface was damaged by Lockheed’s ATHENA laser. (Youtube Screenshot from Lockheed video)

“As we mature the technology behind laser weapon systems, we’re making the entire system more effective and moving closer to a laser weapon that will provide greater protection to our warfighters by taking on more sophisticated threats from a longer range,” Lockheed Martin’s Chief Technology Officer, Keoki Jackson, said.

You can see a video of the Outlaws being put into the ground by the laser below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Military wants ‘vision enhancement’ for combat troops

The Pentagon wants a new style of sophisticated protective eyewear that features adjustable vision enhancement so Marines and soldiers can identify and sight in on targets more quickly than ever before.

The goal of Vision Enhancement for the Dismounted Soldier is to “enhance natural eyesight to aid in visual detection, identification, and acquisition of targets, friendlies, and other items of interest that would otherwise be obscured or difficult to see in military relevant environments with the unaided eye,” according to a Sept. 24, 2018 solicitation posted on the government website for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which is designed to encourage small businesses to engage in federal research and development.


The research effort is looking to defense firms to present designs that “take into consideration the pupil location of the individual wearer, as needed, to optimize performance and compatibility with weapon technologies,” the solicitation states.

“Hands-free activation (such as voice command) is also of interest, but not necessary for the purposes of this effort. In the event of power loss, imaging shall revert to an unaided mode for unobstructed vision,” the document states. “Ultimately, the objective of the effort is to increase lethality and survivability through enhanced vision, and faster target detection and identification times, of persons and items of interest in military environments, without limiting capabilities naturally afforded by unaided vision.”

Currently, soldiers and Marines rely on a combination of natural vision and optical aids such as scopes, binoculars, image intensifiers and thermal imagers to enhance combat vision.

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

Soldiers observe the impact zone during a howitzer live-fire exercise at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, Jan. 17, 2018.

(Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)

“Donning and doffing of individual visual aids takes time and are impractical in situations when seconds count,” according to the solicitation.

The effort, however, is not intended to duplicate or replace current weapons’ optics and other sensors, it states.

The program is searching for concepts that:

  • Reduce time needed to detect targets or friendly forces as compared to performance when relying on unaided vision.
  • Ensure natural vision is not degraded in the event of power failure.
  • Ensure performance is reasonably stable in different operating environments, such as temperatures, lighting conditions and humidity levels.
  • Minimize distracting or confusing images that may decrease situational awareness, such as unwanted reflections, glare, ghost images, erratic flickering and image distortion.

Companies wishing to participate have until Oct. 24, 2018, to submit proposals, the solicitation states.

The document does not provide a timeline, contract awards or fielding goals except to say that phase one deliverables shall include monthly reports and conceptual drawings and designs.

Phase two deliverables include schematics and 12 working prototypes of spectacles or goggles.

“End item cost shall be considered early on,” the solicitation states. “Target cost is 0 or less (with an ultimate goal of 0 or less once in production).”

The target weight of the entire system — including batteries — is less than 3 ounces if a “spectacle platform is chosen” and less than 6 ounces if a “goggle platform is chosen,” the solicitation states.

“The ability to enhance vision and increase lethality shall be validated through testing,” according to the solicitation.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Former SEAL and founder of Blackhawk! has launched a new … Blackhawk!

It was for many years considered the gold standard in after-market tactical gear. Packs, pouches and carriers developed by a SEAL for SEALs — or anyone else who needed gear that stood up to the abuse of America’s commandos.


For Mike Noell, what started as a small business sewing together specialized tactical equipment for his fellow frogmen out of his Virginia Beach garage, blossomed into the multi-million dollar, internationally-known Blackhawk! (yes, with the exclamation point). From plate carriers to Halligan tools, Blackhawk! became the one-stop-shop for special operators, police SWAT teams and even weekend warriors who wanted to look the part.

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones
Former SEAL Mike Noell made millions when he sold Blackhawk! to ATK. So why does he want to build a new Blackhawk!? (Photo from Sentry Products Group)

When he sold Blackhawk! to ATK — which later established the outdoor and shooting sports product conglomerate Vista Outdoors — for an untold sum in 2010, it seemed Noell was on the top of the world, using his newfound financial influence to work with upstart companies and take a little break from a lifetime of kicking in doors and running big businesses.

But that all changed when he dropped another flash bang on the industry at this year’s SHOT Show in Las Vegas, announcing his new company, Sentry.

“It’s a new Blackhawk!,” Noell told WATM during a visit to his company’s booth at this year’s SHOT Show. “This time we’re going with a higher-end set of products.”

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Sentry engineers say they’re building gear that’s durable and uses high tech materials. (Photo from Sentry Products Group)

Like the earlier Blackhawk!, Sentry is a combination of several smaller companies, including optic and firearm covers from ScopeCoat, gun cleaning products from Sentry Solutions and a new line of high-end bags and packs under the new Sentry brand.

While ScopeCoat and SlideCoat products have been around for a while, the wow factor comes from the new Sentry packs. Each features a waterproof ripstop nylon construction with rugged, rubberized zippers to keep the contents dry. And Noell’s team has added new, lightweight MOLLE-style webbing dubbed “1080” that allows the user to attach pouches at various angles.

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones
With Hypalon material, waterproof zippers and new 1080 MOLLE attachment system, the Tumalo pack is Sentry’s first performance product of its new line. (Photo from Sentry Products Group)

“We basically made these packs for the type of activities we like to do,” said Sentry’s Nick Ferros. “I’m a fisherman, so I just design what I need.”

Noell said he’s resurrected the old Uncle Mike’s (which was part of the Blackhawk! family of brands) manufacturing facility in Boise, Idaho, and is reaching out to old employees there to get band back together. He’s also teamed with longtime Blackhawk! exec Terry Naughton, who’s serving as Sentry’s president.

With a building roster of products and a focus on the technology of today, it’ll be interesting to see whether Sentry becomes the tactical colossus that Blackhawk! once was.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Air Force is on a mission to fix its uniforms

The U.S. Air Force for months has been working to redesign gear and flight suits used by female pilots after many years of ill-fitting equipment.

But why stop there? It’s also updating current flight suit and gear designs to improve comfort and ease of wear, according to officials working on the project. At the same time, officials want to streamline and expedite the process of shipping these uniforms and support gear anywhere across the world to meet a unit’s requirement.

Since his tenure in the Air Force, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has called for improved, better-fitting uniforms — not only for comfort, but also for safety.


“We have women performing in every combat mission, and we owe it to them to have gear that fits, is suited for a woman’s frame and can be [worn] for hours on end,” Goldfein told reporters at a Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C. last year.

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

Capt. Lauren Kram, assigned to the 13th Bomb Squadron, poses for a portrait on Feb. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

Officials have been eager to create and field uniforms and flight equipment with better fit and performance, and make them more readily available for female aircrew, said Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manager for the human systems program office.

The problem for decades has been limited sizes, which has resulted in female airmen tailoring their own flight suits, or just wearing a suit too tight or too loose.

Rodriguez and her team have been tasked to “specifically … look at how the female body is shaped,” with a goal of “tailoring that flight suit to be able to accommodate the female shape,” she said in an interview with Military.com Thursday.

The project was launched within the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, with Rodriguez focused on the female perspective for better-fitted uniforms and gear.

“Everything that touches an aircrew member’s body, we manage in the program office,” she said. That includes everything from flight vests; G-suits, which prevents the loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration or gravity pressure; helmets; boots; and intricate gear such as bladder relief apparatus.

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Participants of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop demonstrate the issues women face with the current survival vests at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)


Some improvements have been made already. In November 2018, the service began delivering upgraded Aircrew Mission Extender Devices, also known as AMXDmax, for bladder relief. The device collects urine in a cup for men and a pad for women, and can hold 1.7 quarts of urine, according to the service. The Air Force said it had expected to deliver roughly 2,000 to crews service-wide by the end of this month.

Beyond female flight equipment, the office is gearing up for improved uniforms and devices for all.

“We’re going to be adding on what’s called the ‘combat-ready airman,'” Rodriguez said, “which is going to look at more roles than just aircrew members to ensure that those airmen, men and women, are being outfitted in standardized uniforms as well, that suit their need to be able to properly do their duties they’re assigned.”

Officials are still defining what a ‘combat-ready airman’ is, but the term eventually will “encompass the larger Air Force” beyond aviators, she said. As an example, work has begun on better-fitting vests for female security forces airmen.

“It all comes down to making sure that airmen have gear that they can use and … perform their missions,” Rodriguez said.

Getting uniforms Amazon-quick

On the shipment management side, leaders are using the Battlefield Airmen Rapid Resource Replenishment System, or BARS, a central equipment hub that sorts various gear and can ship the clothing directly to airmen across the globe.

The system was created to quickly field resources to deployed airmen, such as Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) airmen, pararescue and special tactics operations in Air Force Special Operations Command, said Todd Depoy, the special warfare branch chief for the special operations forces and personnel recovery division within Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. Gear ranges from scuba gear to climbing equipment, Depoy said.

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An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, flies during training on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Feb. 22, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Kevin Tanenbaum)

“BARS is a cloud-based software program … with [an additional] inventory control,” Depoy told Military.com. The program has been around a little over a year, he added.

The internal system, created and hosted by Amazon, gives individuals the authority to head to a computer and mark what they need and have it shipped over — with the proper military approvals, Depoy said.

“There is a checkpoint, but if they need something, they can go in and order it, and those items are on the shelf,” he said.

The items are stored and managed by the Air Force at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana.

Unlike in years past where it could take months to get gear overseas, it now takes between a few days and a few weeks, depending on the location, Depoy said.

The goal now is to speed up the existing process for men’s gear, and implement a similar one for female flight suits.

“BARS is an existing system, but I’m currently adding our ACC female aviators into the system,” said Shaunn Hummel, the aircrew flight equipment program analyst at Air Combat Command’s A3TO training and operations office.

Lately, Hummel has been working to add female flight suits, jackets, boots and glove to the list of available gear in the system. His job is to work with the Defense Logistics Agency to appropriately stock facilities so airmen can access items via BARS.

In September 2018, ACC made a bulk buy of roughly id=”listicle-2635292502″ million worth of these items, Hummel said.

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

Capt. Christine Durham (left), Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, gives a briefing to her students prior to a training mission at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Austin, Texas, Feb. 5, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

“We’re working with DLA to try and decrease the lead time and increase productivity for the manufacturing of these suits,” Hummel said April 16, 2019. Female flight suits “are not manufactured all the time until there is a consistent demand of them.”

Hummel explained there are 110 different flight suits — between the “women” category, for curvier women, and the “misses” category, for those with slimmer builds — and they also have different zipper configurations.

Zippers have been a problem for men as well as women. Very tall or very short airmen may find their zippers ill-placed to relieve themselves conveniently, the service said in a recent release.

“We’re making sure we’re using data … to assess what are the sizes we need to get women outfitted” by cross-referencing stockpiles through the various offices, Rodriguez added.

Right now, the teams are working together to get more feedback on how the programs are working, and what else could be done to improve standard gear to keep pilots and aircrew safe in flight.

The service has held several collaborative “Female Flight Equipment Workshops,” the release said.

Rodriguez said it wants more airmen speaking up.

“We have an effort underway looking at how we can streamline feedback from the user … so that we can use it when we’re looking for improvements in the future,” she said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how airmen keep B-52 bombers flying on a moment’s notice

The US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress has been in service since the 1950s and is still a major player in the mission of deterrence to our adversaries.

The maintainers of the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, deployed out of Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, traveled to RAF Fairford, England, to ensure the success of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1.

“Our mission is to give confidence to our allies to show we are capable of going anywhere, anytime,” said US Air Force Senior Airman Braedon McMaster, 2nd AMXS 96th AMU electronic warfare journeyman.


Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

US Air Force airmen perform maintenance on a B-52 Stratofortress at RAF Fairford in England, Oct. 18, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Philip Bryant)

Maintainers accomplish their mission by providing routine and unscheduled maintenance to the B-52s to ensure it is ready to fly at a moment’s notice.

“Back home, people are focused on their job and will occasionally help out here and there,” said US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Crowe, 2nd AMXS 96th AMU B-52 expediter.

“Here, what seems to work is that everyone is all hands on deck. You may have an electronic countermeasures airman change an engine or an electrical environmental airman helping crew chiefs change brakes.”

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

US Air Force airmen assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing prepare a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress for take off during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, at RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 23, 2019.

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

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

US Air Force 1st Lt. Kevan Thomas, a pilot assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, does a preflight inspection on a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, at RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 23, 2019.

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

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US Air Force Airmen 1st Class Thomas Chase, left, and Christian Lozada, right, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chiefs, walk around a B-52H Stratofortress to conduct final pre-flight checks at RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Zbinovec, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, inspects the inside of the engine of a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress after it has landed at RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 18, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

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US Air Force Maj. “Feud,” a pilot assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, looks out at two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, over the Baltic Sea, Oct. 23, 2019.

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

The airmen of the 96th AMU are excited to be a part of the BTF for a variety of reasons.

“Being able to join with our allies is exciting,” Crowe said. “We [join them] from home too, but here it feels different.”

Spending time in England not only allows the maintainers to accomplish extra training, but they also use it to become closer and build trust with each other.

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US Air Force Maj. “Feud” and US Air Force 1st Lt. Kevan Thomas, pilots assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, prepare to fly by Tallinn Airport as a show of force during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, in Tallinn, Estonia, Oct. 23, 2019.

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

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

Two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron fly in formation during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, over the Baltic Sea, Oct. 23, 2019.

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

Without the 96th AMU at RAF Fairford, the B-52s would not be able to fly. “It’s like your car,” Crowe said. “If you are driving your car and you don’t have anyone to take care of any of the parts that break, you may be able to drive it once or twice but that will be it.”

The mission of the BTF is to assure our allies and deter our adversaries, and maintainers play a major role in ensuring we are able to accomplish our mission to respond at a moments’ notice.

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

Two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses parked after arriving at RAF Fairford in England, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Philip Bryant)

“The B-52 is capable of going anywhere and in any point of time,” McMaster said. “It launches fast and it puts fear into the hearts of our adversaries.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This JASSM variant could replace the Harpoon

For a long time, the AGM-84/RGM-84 Harpoon missile has been the primary anti-ship weapon of the United States military. Over the years, with improvements, it’s successfully held the line. But, as is perpetually the case, time and technological advances have forced the U.S. Military to look for a missile with even more reach and punch.


Fortunately, the answer is, in some ways, already in service. A version of the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (or JASSM) is going to replace the venerable Harpoon as the military’s primary anti-ship weapon. This new iteration is called the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (or LRASM).

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

The AGM-84 Harpoon served well as the main anti-ship missile of the United States Military.

(USAF)

The AGM-158 was primarily designed to hit land targets. The first version, fielded by the Air Force in 2004, had a range of 200 nautical miles and carried a 1,000-pound warhead. The Navy, however, held out and stuck with a Harpoon variant called the AGM-84 Standoff Land-Attack Missile (or SLAM). The latest versions of SLAM have a 150-nautical-mile range and a carry an 800-pound warhead.

The LRASM is based off of the second version the AGM-158, called the JASSM-ER, or Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range. This missile has a 600-mile reach and carries the same 1,000-pound warhead. Just as with previous iterations, however, the JASSM-ER was intended for land targets. So, how did the newest missile, designed for targets at sea, come to be?

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There’s just one reason for its development — well, three reasons, technically: the Chinese Navy currently has 3 aircraft carriers in their fleet (with plans to build more). Yes, submarines can do the job against carriers – just ask USS Wasp (CV 7) what a sub can do to a carrier — but more often than not, carriers fight carriers. The Harpoon missile, as good as it is, just doesn’t have the oomph to do in an 85,000-ton carrier.

The good news for the United States is that a F/A-18E/F Super Hornet can haul four LRASMs. A B-1B Lancer can haul up to 24 internally. The F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-15E Strike Eagle can also carry this missile. But, more likely, the LRASM will be launched from surface ships like the Zumwalt-class destroyers.

In other words, this missile could very well be a worthy successor — or partner — to the Harpoon for years to come.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s a look at the bomber NASA flew over Afghanistan

The National Aeronautical and Space Administration has done very well with their small force of WB-57 Canberra reconnaissance planes. These planes have flown for nearly 60 years and they continue to serve today. With such a long, storied history, it’s easy to forget why the B-57 came to be in the first place. Let’s stroll down memory lane.

Originally, the B-57 Canberra was designed to be a light bomber that used high performance to avoid interception. The British started development of this plane in the latter years of World War II. While the American-produced versions did see some use as bombers during the Vietnam War, the Canberra truly hit its stride as a high-altitude reconnaissance asset for the Air Force.


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The RB-57D Canberra variant was designed specifically for high-altitude recon missions.

(USAF)

The RB-57A was the first adaptation of the Canberra designed specifically for reconnaissance work, but the RB-57D was the first such plane intended to do so at high altitudes. Three versions of this recon jet were developed: One was for photo-reconnaissance, using advanced (for the time) camera, a second for electronic warfare, and a third that packed a powerful radar for mapping the ground.

The RB-57F, a much later version, which was created from re-manufacturing older Canberras. These souped-up planes featured more powerful engines and longer wings. They were able to operate at higher altitudes and were used for weather reconnaissance and to collect samples from nuclear tests.

Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

This RB-57 started its life in the Air Force, and now flies with NASA as plane number 926.

(DOD)

Today, NASA still operates three B-57 Canberras. Whiles Canberras have now retired, a few are still flying in civilian hands, undertaking mapping missions.

Watch to video below to learn how the RB-57D was introduced to the United States.

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

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MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Pentagon discloses its count of China’s nuclear warheads and says the arsenal could double this decade

The Department of Defense disclosed its count of China’s nuclear warheads for what is believed to be the first time in a new 200-page report on China’s rapidly growing military power and said that the country’s stockpile of nuclear warheads may double this decade.

The department assesses that China has an operational nuclear warhead stockpile in the low 200s, a small but deadly force that could make an adversary with a larger arsenal think twice. “Over the next decade, China will expand and diversify its nuclear forces, likely at least doubling its nuclear warhead stockpile,” the Pentagon argued in its annual China Military Power report, the latest of which was released Tuesday.


The Pentagon report explains that China is believed to have “enough nuclear materials to at least double its warhead stockpile without new fissile material production.”

Discussing the report at a virtual American Enterprise Institute event Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China Chad Sbragia stated that “just looking at number of warheads by itself is not the entire picture.”

He said that “China is expanding and modernizing and diversifying its nuclear forces across the board.”

“China’s nuclear forces will significantly evolve over the next decade as it modernizes, diversifies, and increases the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms,” the new Pentagon report states.

The newly-released report also noted that China intends to put at least a portion of its nuclear forces, particularly its expanding silo-based force, on a “launch on warning” status, which would mean that some weapons would be armed and ready for launch with limited notice during peacetime, as the US does with its intercontinental ballistic missile force.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper previewed the Pentagon’s expectation that China’s nuclear warhead stockpile will double over the weekend, writing in a social media post that “as Communist China moves to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile, modernizing our nuclear force and maintaining readiness is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The US is in the process of modernizing the various legs of the nuclear triad in response to advances by China and Russia. At the same time, the US has been pushing China to join an arms control agreement placing limits on nuclear arms expansion.

“If the US says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese level, China would be happy to participate the next day,” the head of the Chinese foreign ministry’s arms control department said in July, the South China Morning Post reported. “But actually, we know that’s not going to happen.”

The US has several thousand more nuclear warheads than China has in its stockpile. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that the US has a total nuclear weapons inventory of about 5,800, an arsenal only rivaled by Russia.

In addition to its assessments on China’s evolving nuclear force, the Pentagon also reported that “China has already achieved parity with—or even exceeded—the United States in several military modernization areas.”

In particular, China is outpacing the US in shipbuilding, land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles, and integrated air-defense systems.

The Department of Defense says that China has “the largest navy in the world” and “is the top ship-producing nation in the world by tonnage and is increasing its shipbuilding capacity and capability for all naval classes,” it has over 1,250 ground-launched ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles, and it has “one of the largest forces of advanced long-range surface-to-air systems.”

China’s objective as it modernizes its fighting force is to achieve a world-class military by the end of 2049, a goal publicly stated by China’s leadership.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

President Trump’s new nuclear weapon is now in production

The most powerful missile in the United States nuclear arsenal is about to get a new warhead. A $65 million low-yield nuclear weapon design touted by the Trump Administration since 2018 just went into production in the home of American weapons: Texas.


New designs were tasked by the administration after the 2018 nuclear posture review found that the National Nuclear Security Agency could not update or maintain its stock of nuclear weapons with the budget it had. The $65 million design was appropriated from the Department of Energy, the parent agency of the National Nuclear Security Agency. It will be based on the current design of the Navy’s W76-1 warhead, which is currently on the Trident II D5 nuclear missile and is intended to be fired via submarine.

“NNSA is on track to complete the W76-2 Initial Operational Capability warhead quantity and deliver the units to the Navy by the end of Fiscal Year 2019,” an agency spokesman said.

Two factors allow for the warhead’s quick production time: first, it’s based on the current warhead for the Trident II D5 and second, the nuclear weapon is smaller than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which would be today considered a yield nuclear weapon. The two had a yield of 15 and 20 kilotons, respectively. By today’s standard, a low-yield nuke could be upwards of 50-100 kilotons.

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The result of a “low-yield” nuclear weapon.

The U.S. military has roughly 1,000 low-yield nukes in its 4,400-plus nuclear arsenal. Activists worry that an increase in new, low-yield weapons will only increase the likelihood of one of them being used in a tactical move, as some consider the weapons a “less powerful nuclear option.”

A big issue with having two levels of nuclear force is that the target of the potentially low-yield nuclear strike doesn’t know if the attack is low-yield or high-yield until it’s too late – and will likely just respond in kind. Trident II D5 missiles are the most powerful in the nuclear triad and also the most reliable weapon system ever built. More than that, it can deliver multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, which means any Trident launch will likely be seen as an all-out attack on multiple targets, prompting an all-out nuclear response.

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Which your mom might be able to teach you to survive.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

India is going to launch its new homegrown fighter design

The Indian Air Force has been one of the more underrated air forces in the world for a while now. But what’s most impressive is that India has been able to build some of the planes it relies on for defense domestically. The Jaguar and MiG-27 “Flogger” are two such planes currently serving, while India also developed an upgrade kit for their force of MiG-21 “Fishbeds.”


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An upgraded Indian MiG-27 Flogger. (Wikimedia Commons)

Now, the Indian Air Force could see a new multi-role fighter in service, one that is not a licensed copy, but rather indigenously designed and built. India did this before, with the Ajeet and Marut. However, both of these planes were very simple and were rapidly replaced by designs from the United States, Western Europe, and the Soviet Union.

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HAL Marut, a home-grown combat aircraft that served in the Indian Air Force. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

India turned to licensed production, the development of upgrades, and imports to meet its needs for combat aircraft. Being a neutral party in the Cold War, they were able to leverage relatively cheap Soviet aircraft technology on the one hand, and advanced Western tech on the other. With India’s force of MiG-21s getting older — despite the “Bison” upgrade program that gave it the ability to fire advanced AA-11 “Archer” and AA-12 “Adder” air-to-air missiles — the country began to pursue a home-built project.

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A HAL Tejas in front of a F-16 Fighting Falcon and a Eurofighter Typhoon. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Tejas, also known as the LCA, is a multi-role fighter that was intended for use by not only the Indian Air Force (which sought to replace its force of MiG-21s), but also the Indian Navy (seeking to supplement its force of MiG-29s).

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An Indian Navy prototype HAL Tejas takes off during tests to determine if it could operate off carriers. (Youtube Screenshot)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Tejas has a top speed of 1,370 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,056 miles, has a twin 23mm GSh-23 cannon, and can carry a wide variety of air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, bombs, and rockets.

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A HAL Tejas flies overhead. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The Indian Air Force has already ordered 123 of these planes, and the Indian Navy had planned to order 57 before backing off due to weight issues. You can learn more about this plane in the video below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmtMszY8z0M
(New Update Defence | YouTube)
MIGHTY MOVIES

Why grenades in movies look nothing like real life

Yeah, yeah, yeah… We know grenades in movies aren’t like the real thing. But that could make you wonder, “Why?”

Real grenades are puffs of smoke with a bit of high-moving metal. Why not give troops mobile fireballs that instill fear and awe in the hearts of all that see them? Why not arm our troops with something akin to Super Mario’s fire flower?


First, we should take a look at what, exactly is going on with a real grenade versus a movie grenade.

The grenades you’re probably thinking of when you hear the term “grenade” are likely fragmentation grenades, consisting of strong explosives wrapped up in a metal casing. When the explosives go off, either the case or a special wrapping is torn into lots of small bits of metal or ceramic. Those bits fly outwards at high speed, and the people they hit die.

The U.S. military uses the M67 Fragmentation Hand Grenade. 6.5 ounces of high explosive destroys a 2.5-inch diameter steel casing and sends the bits of steel out up to 230 meters. Deaths are commonly caused up to 5 meters away from the grenade.

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U.S. Army soldiers throw live grenades during training in Alaska.

(U.S. Army)

That’s because grenades are made to maximize the efficiency of their components. See, explosive power is determined by a number of factors. Time, pressure, and temperature all play a role. Maximum boom comes from maximizing the temperature and pressure increase in as little time as possible.

That’s actually a big part of why M67s have a steel casing. The user pulls the pin and throws the grenade, starting the chemical timer. When the explosion initiates, it’s contained for a fraction of a second inside that steel casing. The strength of the steel allows more of the explosive to burn — and for the temperature and pressure to rise further — before it bursts through the steel.

As the pressure breaks out, it picks up all the little bits of steel from the casing that was containing it, and it carries those pieces into the flesh and bones of its enemies.

Movie grenades, meanwhile, are either created digitally from scratch, cobbled together digitally from a few different fires and explosions, or created in the physical world with pyrotechnics. If engineers wanted to create movie-like grenades, they would need to do it the third way, obviously, with real materials.

The explosion is easy enough. The 6.5 ounces in a typical M67 would work just fine. Enough for a little boom, not so much that it would kill the thrower.

But to get that movie-like fire, you need a new material. To get fire, you need unburnt explosives or fuel to be carried on the pressure wave, mixing with the air, picking up the heat from the initial explosion, and then burning in flight.

And that’s where the problems lie for weapon designers. If they wanted to give infantrymen the chance to spit fire like a dragon, they would need to wrap something like the M67 in a new fuel that would burn after the initial explosion.

Makers of movie magic use liquid fuels, like gasoline, diesel, or oil, to get their effects (depending on what colors and amount of smoke they want). Alcohols, flammable gels, etc. all work great as well, but it takes quite a bit of fuel to get a relatively small fireball. The M1 flamethrower used half a gallon of fuel per second.

But liquid fuels are unwieldy, and even a quart of gasoline per grenade would add some serious weight to a soldier’s load.

So, yeah, there’s little chance of getting that sweet movie fireball onto a MOLLE vest. But there is another way. Instead of using liquids, you could use solid fuels, especially reactive metals and similar elements, such as aluminum, magnesium, or sodium.

The military went with phosphorous for incendiary weapons. It burns extremely hot and can melt its way through most metals. Still, the AN-M14 TH3 Incendiary Hand Grenade doesn’t exactly create a fireball and doesn’t even have a blast. Along with thermite, thermate, and similar munitions, it burns relatively slowly.

But if you combine the two grenades, the blast power of something like the M67 and the burning metals of something like the AN-M14 TH3, and you can create actual fireballs. That’s how thermobaric weapons work.

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U.S. Marines train with the SMAW, a weapon that can fire thermobaric warheads.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brian J. Slaght)

In thermobaric weapons, an initial blast distributes a cloud of small pieces of highly reactive metal or fuel. Then, a moment later, a secondary charge ignites the cloud. The fire races out from the center, consuming the oxygen from the air and the fuel mixed in with it, creating a huge fireball.

If the weapon was sent into a cave, a building, or some other enclosed space, this turns the secondary fire into a large explosion of its own. In other words, shoot these things into a room on the first floor of a building, and that room itself becomes a bomb, leveling the larger building.

But throwing one of these things would be risky. Remember, creating the big fireball can turn an entire enclosed space into a massive bomb. And if you throw one in the open, you run the risk of the still-burning fuel landing on your skin. If that’s something like phosphorous, magnesium, or aluminum, that metal has to be carved out of your flesh with a knife. It doesn’t stop burning.

So, troops should leave the flashy grenades to the movies. It’s better to get the quick, lethal pop of a fragmentation grenade than to carry the additional weight for a liquid-fueled fireball or a world-ending thermobaric weapon. Movie grenades aren’t impossible, but they aren’t worth the trouble.

popular

How the F6F Hellcat became America’s answer to the Japanese Zero

In some ways, we know the story of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. It was a dominant fighter plane in the early portion of World War II in the Pacific Theater, only to become an easy target. But how did this happen?


 

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In some ways, the story we know about the Grumman F6F Hellcat isn’t the whole truth. Yes, the discovery of the Akutan Zero helped the United States beat this plane. But MilitaryFactory.com notes that the Hellcat’s first flight was on June 26, 1942 – three weeks after the raid on Dutch Harbor that lead to the fateful crash-landing of the Mitsubishi A6M flown by Tadayoshi Koga.

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U.S. Navy personnel inspect the Akutan Zero. (U.S. Navy photo)

Less than six months before Pearl Harbor, the Navy signed a contract with Grumman for a replacement for the F4F Wildcat. Feedback from pilots like Butch O’Hare and other encounters lead to the addition of the Wright R-2800 engine. It also was designed with improved landing gear and visibility. Then, America built a lot of these planes – 12,272 of them. Compare that production run to the 187 F-22 Raptors that the Air Force bought!

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The XF6F-1 Hellcat – which used a R-2600 engine. Feedback from pilots like Butch O’Hare in early 1942 lead to the more powerful R-2800 being used. (U.S. Navy photo)

What the Akutan Zero did, though, was to provide information that let American pilots make the most of the Hellcat’s advantages. History.com described one ace, Marine Captain Kenneth Walsh described how he knew to roll to the right at high speed to lose a Zero on his tail. Walsh would end World War II with 17 kills. The Zero also had trouble in dives, thanks to a bad carburetor (the famous Spitfire also had carburetor problems).

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Navy pilots celebrate scoring 17 kills after one of the first combat missions of the Hellcat over Tarawa. (U.S. Navy photo)

 

The Hellcat truly brought hell to the Axis in World War II. It notched 5,165 kills over World War II, and was the primary plane that was in the Marianas Turkey Shoot. The Hellcat even saw action in Korea as a guided bomb, and served until the 1960s in some air forces. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why US troops don’t use ballistic shields

Note: For the sake of brevity, I will use the term “ballistic shields” to be an all-inclusive term for III-A rated shields used by law enforcement.

Even the Ballistic Resistant Protective Materials NIJ Standard 0108.01, a publication that is used by the U.S. Department of Justice, warns of highly technical jargon that may be confusing for the uninitiated when defining a ballistic shield:

“Because this NIJ standard is designed as a procurement aid, it is necessarily highly technical. For those who seek general guidance concerning the selection and application of law enforcement equipment, user guides have also been published. The guides explain, in non-technical language, how to select equipment capable of performance required by an agency.” – Lester D. Shubin, Program Manager for Standards, National Institute of Justice.

Related video:



An edge for the Thin Blue Line

Imagine, for a moment, a metropolis of crowded buildings, hours after nightfall. Strobes of red and blue paint the virtually empty streets. Police vehicles and personnel are poised with a single structure at their center. Negotiations are faltering, their demands are too ambitious, and the hostages are too far out of reach.

Your uniform declares “Special Weapons and Tactics” to the world. Your radio comes to life and the order is issued. Everyone is on high alert for what may happen next.

Leading a four-man formation with a shield and side arm, you glide, skirting the wall, right up to the front door. The second team arrives behind your stack. Protected by eyes and weapons pointed in all directions, you check the handle:

Locked.

After a moment of communication with a team member known as the breacher, he crosses to the opposite end of the door. You feel someone squeeze your arm; that’s the signal. You make eye contact with the breacher and he gives you a nod. The adrenaline pumping through your veins fuels a moment of clarity: You trained for this. You are ready for this. It’s time to lay down the f *cking law.

Every hallway, room, and staircase are methodically cleared using slow, but deliberate movements. Your shield never lowers, but the weight begins to take its toll on your strength.

Hostiles attempt to repel your advance by firing everything they’ve got. The roar of .44 magnums and 9mm pistols fill the air. Whatever your ballistic shield doesn’t block impacts around you.

You return the greeting — with interest — and push forward.

The outside world holds their breath, transfixed on the live-stream broadcast. The eyes of millions scan for every flash, boom, and bust from the safety of their phones. After what feels like an eternity, your team and the hostages emerge.

This is one of countless scenarios that law enforcement faces as “the thin blue line” separating the civilized world from the savagery of gangs and terror. Ballistic shields give officers an edge against an enemy that would otherwise prey on the innocent with impunity.

Could this edge be transferable to the battlefield?

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A ballistic shield loses its edge on a battlefield – and more so against an unconventional foe.

First, its cumbersome size and weight reduces a rifleman’s speed and mobility — two very important traits that are not easily sacrificed by warriors. It’s always better to dodge a bullet than to block it (for obvious reasons). A modern troop will be equipped with heavy gear, ammo, and a chest full of patriotism.

The ballistic shield is lightweight only in the sense that it weighs under 20 pounds.

It just becomes another thing to lug around with no comfortable method of carry. It would be another asinine piece of gear that could potentially get you killed because some congressman and a defense firm shook hands. Firefights can sometimes last hours, days, or (in some of the most brutal circumstances) months, and you can literally and metaphorically find yourself fighting single-handed.

Second, unconventional enemies use high-caliber, armor-piercing rounds. Most of what you would find when fighting communists or terror organizations would turn a ballistic shield into Swiss cheese.

You won’t find the Islamic State imposing their twisted ideologies with a 9mm. An Improvised Explosive Device buried underneath the ground will effectively neutralize any benefit of that additional armor.

Third, most battles don’t devolve into a “Mexican Stand-Off,” sealed away from the rest of the city. If the enemy is fortified, but there are no hostages or prisoners of war, there are other options…

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Ballistic shields have earned their place as a staple for law enforcement because they have a specific purpose. Those same shields offer little to no benefit in combat.

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