US tests another ground-launched cruise missile - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

The US conducted its second flight test of a missile that would have been banned under the restrictions of a now-defunct arms control agreement with Russia, Air Force officials told Insider on Thursday.

The US military tested a prototype conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) Thursday morning at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

“We are currently evaluating the results of the test,” officials told Insider.


Thursday’s missile launch marks the second such test since the US formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in August in response to alleged Russian violations of the 1987 agreement.

On Aug. 18, 2019, the Defense Department conducted a flight test of a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile.

The first post-INF Treaty test was conducted in mid-August, when a conventional GLCM “exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight,” the Pentagon said at the time.

Thursday’s test saw the missile travel over 500 kilometers as well, Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Carver said in a statement. “Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” he said.

The INF treaty prohibited the US and Russia from developing, testing, and fielding missiles with intermediate ranges, ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles). Earlier this year, the US accused Russia of violating the accord with its Novator 9M729 missile, a weapon NATO refers to as SSC-8.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has said that the “Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles,” calling efforts to develop ground-launched intermediate-range missile capabilities a “prudent response to Russia’s actions.”

Esper has also indicated that the US is looking at the development of these weapon systems to counter China.

“Eighty percent plus of their [missile] inventory is intermediate-range systems,” the secretary has said, adding that it “shouldn’t surprise [China] that we would want to have a like capability.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy awards contract for long-awaited ‘Stingray’

The Navy awarded a contract to The Boeing Co. Aug. 30, 2018, for the MQ-25A Stingray, the first operational carrier-based unmanned refueling aircraft.

This fixed-price-incentive-firm-target contract with a ceiling price of $805.3 million provides for the design, development, fabrication, test, delivery, and support of four MQ-25A unmanned air vehicles, including integration into the carrier air wing for an initial operational capability by 2024.


“MQ-25A is a hallmark acquisition program,” said Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James F. Geurts. “This program is a great example of how the acquisition and requirements communities work hand in hand to rapidly deliver capabilities to our sailors and Marines in the fleet.”

When operational, MQ-25 will improve the performance, efficiency, and safety of the carrier air wing and provide longer range and greater persistence tanking capability to execute missions that otherwise could not be performed.

US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

MQ-25A Stingray.

(Boeing photo)

“This is a historic day,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. “We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the lethality of the airwing — all at relevant speed. Everyone who helped achieve this milestone should be proud we’re here. But we have a lot more to do. It’s not the time to take our foot off the gas. Let’s keep charging.”

The award is the culmination of a competitive source selection process supported by personnel from Naval Air Systems Command and the Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office (PMA-268) at Patuxent River.

MQ-25 is an accelerated acquisition program that expedites decisions that will enable rapid actions with less overhead. The intent is to significantly reduce development timelines from contract award to initial operational capability by five to six years. By reducing the number of key performance parameters to mission tanking and carrier suitability, industry has increased flexibility to rapidly design a system that meets those requirements.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why bulletproof glass doesn’t exist but is still awesome

Myth: There is such a thing as true bulletproof glass

In movies and TV shows, bulletproof glass is often depicted to be indestructible. No matter what weapon is used, no matter how many bullets are fired, bulletproof glass remains intact and unchanged. The only problem is, in real life, bulletproof glass isn’t really bulletproof and it isn’t really glass.

The correct term for “bulletproof” glass is bullet resistant. Why? Because with enough time and concentrated effort or just a big enough caliber bullet, a person can become victorious over the supposed indestructibility of “bulletproof” glass. The strength and durability of bullet-resistant glass depends on how it is made and the thickness of the final product.


Fire a bullet at a normal sheet of glass and the glass will shatter, right? So, how exactly does glass become bullet resistant? There are three main kinds of bullet-resistant glass:

1) Acrylic: Acrylic is a hard, clear plastic that resembles glass. A single piece of acrylic with a thickness over one inch is considered bullet resistant. The advantage of acrylic is that it is stronger than glass, more impact resistant, and weighs 50 percent less than glass. Although acrylic can be used to create bullet-resistant glass, there is no actual glass in the final product.

2) Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate is also a type of plastic, but it differs from acrylic in many ways. Polycarbonate is a versatile, soft plastic with unbeatable strength. It is a third of the weight of acrylic and a sixth of the weight of glass, making it easier to work with, especially when dealing with thickness. Polycarbonate is combined in layers to create a bullet resistant product. Whereas, acrylic repels bullets, polycarbonate catches the bullet and absorbs its energy, preventing it from exiting out the other side. Polycarbonate is more expensive than other types of materials, including glass and acrylic, so it is often used in combination with other materials for bullet-resistant glass.

US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

3) Glass-Clad Polycarbonate Bullet-Resistant Glass: This type of bullet-resistant glass uses a combination of materials to create the desired result. We are all familiar with the process of lamination. It is what teachers do to paper to protect it from the unidentifiable substances of kids’ fingers so it will last longer. Manufacturers of glass-clad polycarbonate bullet-resistant glass use the same process. A piece of polycarbonate material is laminated, or sandwiched, between ordinary sheets of glass and then it undergoes a heating and cooling process to mold the materials together into one piece. The end result is a product that resembles glass but is thicker and more durable.

Thickness plays a huge part in a product’s ability to resist bullets. Bullet-resistant glass is designed to remain intact for one bullet or one round of bullets. Depending on the force of the bullet being fired and what type of weapon is used, a thicker piece of bullet-resistant glass is needed to stop a bullet with more force. For instance, a shot fired from a 9mm pistol is less powerful than one fired from a rifle. Therefore, the required thickness of bullet-resistant glass for a 9mm pistol is less than is needed for a rifle. The final thickness of bullet-resistant glass usually ranges from about .25 inches to 3 inches.

The latest and greatest design for bullet-resistant glass is one-way bullet-resistant glass. Yes, it is exactly what is sounds like. One-way bullet-resistant glass consists of two layers–brittle glass and a flexible material such as the polycarbonate plastic material described above. When a bullet hits the brittle glass layer first, the glass breaks inward toward the plastic, which absorbs some of the bullet’s energy and spreads it over a larger area so the polycarbonate material is able to stop the bullet from exiting. When a fired bullet hits the polycarbonate material first, the bulk of the force is concentrated on a small area that prevents much energy from being absorbed. Then, since the glass material breaks outward away from the polycarbonate, the bullet maintains enough energy to break through the glass and travel toward its destination. One-way bullet-resistant glass is most ideal for armored vehicles.

The moral of the story is don’t believe everything you see. Although movies do a good job to entertain us and teach us a thing or two, the truth about bullet-resistant glass is not one of them.

Bonus Facts:

  • Depending on the size and type of bullet-resistant glass, it can cost between and 0 per square foot.
  • Although polycarbonate plastic can bond with glass to resist bullets, paper towels can scratch its surface and ammonia-based window cleaning liquids will damage the material.
  • Obtaining bullet-resistant glass is completely legal in the United States. You don’t even need a permit.
  • The most popular bullet-resistant product in demand is bulletproof transaction windows like those used in banks.
  • Ever thought about making your beloved iPad bulletproof? A company in California created an iPad cover made of polycarbonate material to better protect the device. Although the new transparent cover will protect the screen from scratches, dents, and shattered glass, there is no guarantee that the bullet-resistant material will actually stop a bullet.
  • A sheet of polycarbonate plastic can take an hour beating with a sledgehammer, whereas, an acrylic piece of comparable thickness might succumb in minutes.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Apparently this is what it takes to trust a robot

What does it take for a human to trust a robot? That is what Army researchers are uncovering in a new study into how humans and robots work together.

Research into human-agent teaming, or HAT, has examined how the transparency of agents — such as robots, unmanned vehicles or software agents — influences human trust, task performance, workload and perceptions of the agent. Agent transparency refers to its ability to convey to humans its intent, reasoning process and future plans.

New Army-led research finds that human confidence in robots decreases after the robot makes a mistake, even when it is transparent with its reasoning process. The paper, “Agent Transparency and Reliability in Human — Robot Interaction: The Influence on User Confidence and Perceived Reliability,” has been published in the August issue of IEEE-Transactions on Human-Machine Systems.


To date, research has largely focused on HAT with perfectly reliable intelligent agents — meaning the agents do not make mistakes — but this is one of the few studies that has explored how agent transparency interacts with agent reliability. In this latest study, humans witnessed a robot making a mistake, and researchers focused on whether the humans perceived the robot to be less reliable, even when the human was provided insight into the robot’s reasoning process.

US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

ASM experimental interface: The left-side monitor displays the lead soldier’s point of view of the task environment.

(U.S. Army illustration)

“Understanding how the robot’s behavior influences their human teammates is crucial to the development of effective human-robot teams, as well as the design of interfaces and communication methods between team members,” said Dr. Julia Wright, principal investigator for this project and researcher at U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, also known as ARL. “This research contributes to the Army’s Multi-Domain Operations efforts to ensure overmatch in artificial intelligence-enabled capabilities. But it is also interdisciplinary, as its findings will inform the work of psychologists, roboticists, engineers, and system designers who are working toward facilitating better understanding between humans and autonomous agents in the effort to make autonomous teammates rather than simply tools.

This research was a joint effort between ARL and the University of Central Florida Institute for Simulations and Training, and is the third and final study in the Autonomous Squad Member project, sponsored by the Office of Secretary of Defense’s Autonomy Research Pilot Initiative. The ASM is a small ground robot that interacts with and communicates with an infantry squad.

Prior ASM studies investigated how a robot would communicate with a human teammate. Using the situation awareness-based Agent Transparency model as a guide, various visualization methods to convey the agent’s goals, intents, reasoning, constraints, and projected outcomes were explored and tested. An at-a-glance iconographic module was developed based on these early study findings, and then was used in subsequent studies to explore the efficacy of agent transparency in HAT.

US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

Researchers conducted this study in a simulated environment, in which participants observed a human-agent soldier team, which included the ASM, traversing a training course. The participants’ task was to monitor the team and evaluate the robot. The soldier-robot team encountered various events along the course and responded accordingly. While the soldiers always responded correctly to the event, occasionally the robot misunderstood the situation, leading to incorrect actions. The amount of information the robot shared varied between trials. While the robot always explained its actions, the reasons behind its actions and the expected outcome of its actions, in some trials the robot also shared the reasoning behind its decisions, its underlying logic. Participants viewed multiple soldier-robot teams, and their assessments of the robots were compared.

The study found that regardless of the robot’s transparency in explaining its reasoning, the robot’s reliability was the ultimate determining factor in influencing the participants’ projections of the robot’s future reliability, trust in the robot and perceptions of the robot. That is, after participants witnessed an error, they continued to rate the robot’s reliability lower, even when the robot did not make any subsequent errors. While these evaluations slowly improved over time as long as the robot committed no further errors, participants’ confidence in their own assessments of the robot’s reliability remained lowered throughout the remainder of the trials, when compared to participants who never saw an error. Furthermore, participants who witnessed a robot error reported lower trust in the robot, when compared to those who never witnessed a robot error.

Increasing agent transparency was found to improve participants’ trust in the robot, but only when the robot was collecting or filtering information. This could indicate that sharing in-depth information may mitigate some of the effects of unreliable automation for specific tasks, Wright said. Additionally, participants rated the unreliable robot as less animate, likable, intelligent, and safe than the reliable robot.

“Earlier studies suggest that context matters in determining the usefulness of transparency information,” Wright said. “We need to better understand which tasks require more in-depth understanding of the agent’s reasoning, and how to discern what that depth would entail. Future research should explore ways to deliver transparency information based on the tasking requirements.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

COVID-19 is the epitome of Deliberate Discomfort

I’m a Green Beret, US Army Special Forces. Right after I earned my green beret and reported to my unit for this first time, I found out we were going to combat in a few weeks and I would be leading a team of older, battle hardened green berets into battle. My commander told me right before he introduced me to my team, “You’re in command now…. Do something with it.”

Now, I’m a veteran and I find myself wearing a few hats – I’m a business owner, Executive Director of a non-profit, and author. COVID-19 has really hurt my companies – all of my business contracts this year are canceled / postponed. I have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Its forced me to grow my hair out – I look like Moses from the ten commandments.

I’m sure a lot of you are in the same boat.
US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

What do you do? Do you sit and wait for something good to happen? Do you close shop and use COVID-19 as an excuse for why you failed?

Or do you follow my company commander’s advice and do something about it?

Things are tough for everyone.

People are feeling uncomfortable to say the least.

Let’s be honest about who we are and what we are experiencing. That feeling of discomfort isn’t something we should hide or pretend we’re not going through. Let’s embrace this deliberate discomfort and be vulnerable. Most of the time, we put up a front – we fake it until we make it. We’re pretending to be someone we are not. COVID-19 has given us a beautiful gift. This is a time where there’s no more faking. Its just us – stripped down – stressed out – trying to hold it together.

No more pretending that everything is fine.

Here’s what I believe – If COVID-19 is affecting you, I believe that YOU can do something about your situation. I believe you can dare to win by getting comfortable being uncomfortable. I believe that its only through discomfort that we find solutions, learn, grow, and improve. It’s only through deliberate discomfort that you can achieve your full potential.

In the past 8 years, my company has worked with 13 x NFL teams, MLB teams, and numerous corporate clients to identify, assess, and develop the leadership behaviors required to win. We help them to do this by showing them the DELIBERATE DISCOMFORT mindset.

Now I appreciate that you may not have served in the military, but I know that at some point all of you realize that something needs to change. I hope that you don’t wait for something bad to happen to be the person you were destined to be.

There are a million “experts” out there telling you to seek comfort, to look for the easy path. I’m telling you the opposite. I’m telling you to seek discomfort. To take the road less traveled. To be vulnerable. To dare.

I am looking at COVID-19 as a blessing. I took my company commander’s advice and did something. I transitioned my business model to online training. One of the ways we reach our tribe is through our best-selling book, Deliberate Discomfort: How US Special Operations Forces Overcome Fear and Dare to Win By Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.

If you want to learn more, Deliberate Discomfort is available in hardback and e-book on Amazon, Barnes Noble, and other book sellers. This week we are launching our e-book for a limited, one-week only .99 price.
US tests another ground-launched cruise missile
MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 uses for the beloved woobie that aren’t lining a poncho

The single most cherished item that Uncle Sam has given its fighting men and women since the Vietnam War has got to be the poncho liner or, as it’s affectionately known within the military community as, the “woobie.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the one piece of military gear that was designed with a troop’s comfort in mind has a huge fan base.

It’s more often than not called the “woobie” because, in practice, very few people use it for its intended purpose: lining a poncho. Obviously, there’s no hole for your head to go through, so you’re not actually wearing the woobie with the poncho at the same time. The designers want you to use the little holes on the side that correspond with poncho straps to tie it together, but show of hands: How many people have actually taken those steps each and every time instead of just using the woobie as its own individual item? Thought so.

Here’s how the woobie is actually being used by troops:


US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

It’s funny. Just one one piece of fabric can make 48-hour patrols suck a little less.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

1. Blanket… obviously

The sleeping bag system that the military offers is nice, but it’s not enough. It’s missing a nice, homey touch that you can only get with a warm and cozy woobie.

And this doesn’t end when troops go on their last field exercise. It’s not uncommon for vets to snag a poncho liner (or two) and keep them laying around the house or in an emergency kit — or on their bed, just like it used to be.

US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

When this is your life for 12 months, you might be willing to bite that bullet to get a bit of privacy.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)

2. Tent divider

While deployed, troops aren’t typically given enough room for personal space. Your “personal space,” at best, is usually just a single bunk that everyone can walk past.

If you need some alone time and you’re willing to part with your precious poncho liner, you can string it across the tent to mark off your side.

US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

Now, the real question is, are you willing to destroy your woobie to make it into something else?

(Photo via Reddit user Hellsniperr)

3. Clothing

Cutting a hole in the poncho liner to actually line a poncho is ridiculous — but walking around the barracks wrapped in a poncho liner like it’s a cape is some how… not?

Troops and vets have been known to step their woobie game up by having it made into a wide assortment of apparel — like a bathrobe or a smoker’s jacket. Fashion and function!

US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

This is basically the one thing every troop wishes they could have done with their woobie while in the field.

(Screengrab via YouTube: PrepareToPaddle)

4. Hammock insulator

The mesh pattern and all-weather durability of a poncho liner means it’s perfectly suited to surviving outside for long periods of time. This quality is best exemplified by the fact that you’ll find it in the backyard of nearly every veteran who owns a hammock. You’ll probably find their old woobie inside it.

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How can you say no to that face? You can’t.

(Image via Northwest Firearms Blog)

5. Dog bed

Even animals aren’t immune to the draw of a good poncho liner. A folded-up woobie is the perfect comforter for the bottom of a dog’s kennel.

Maybe it’s the texture or maybe it’s the fact that it almost always smells like the animal’s veteran parent — whatever the case, expect your dog to fight you for woobie ownership.

US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

Sleep well, future soldier. Sleep well.

(HighSpeed Daddy)

6. Family heirloom

The overly silly name that troops and vets gave a woobie makes a bit more sense when it’s given to their kids. Yeah, it’s kind of small for a full-grown warfighter, but it’s the perfect size for their kid.

When vets pass down a woobie to their kid or grandkid, it typically comes with a long, drawn-out origin story — but it’s so comfortable that the recipient probably doesn’t mind curling up and listening to the same story for the tenth time.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Airmen will soon be able to 3D print entire weapons systems on the flightline

Ever since word got out that the Pentagon spent $436 on a hammer in the 1980s, citizen watchdogs have kept a close eye on how much the Defense Department spends on its maintenance and upkeep. To keep costs low on an aging fleet of airplanes, the USAF turned to 3D printing to cut the acquisition time and cost for spare parts. Its first 3D printed part was a toilet seat cover – instead of paying $10,000 for one.

Now the Air Force may be turning to 3D print for a lot more than spare parts and toilet seats. It may start printing entire weapons systems – directly from the flightline.


3D printing is also known as “additive construction,” as explained in the video above. The traditional method of creating objects is known as “subtractive construction,” where a solid mass of raw material is shaped to form various parts. 3D printing starts with nothing and layers on material to form a solid part. Right now, the Air Force uses 3D printing to create parts for aircraft on a small scale, but according to the thought leaders of these projects, there’s “no reason the technology couldn’t grow to create items weighing 50,000 pounds or more.”

Maintainers across the Air Force are already using 3D printing technology to save time and money by creating objects that would otherwise be costly and could take weeks to arrive – if they come at all. The aforementioned toilet seat cost ,000 because the original manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, doesn’t make the C-5 Galaxy anymore, and they don’t have a bunch of C-5 toilet seats lying around. It was a custom order. At places like RAF Mildenhall, the Air Force uses 3D printers to create individual parts not individually available. Instead of ordering an entirely new system for things like tow swivel legs, they can just replace the parts of individual tow swivel legs that break.

US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

In 70 years, 3-D printing could build assets on the scale of 50,000 pounds, including manned-fighter class capability.

(Illustration by Chris Desrocher)

The video also mentions that universities have 3D printed entire aircraft and flown them successfully. The Air Force is bringing that technology in and moving it forward with its considerable resources.

“Maybe you need a new sensor package, maybe you need a new weapons truck,” says Ed Alyanak, an engineer with the Aerospace Systems Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory. “What we’re doing is we’re linking the operational analysis assessment and the computational design phase of a new asset, be it a weapons system or a new vehicle, some small scale UAV, maybe even a large-scale manned asset, with the phase of acquiring that asset.”

The process already saves the Air Force millions in developing small-scale design models, but the future of the process is the most exciting part. Within 70 years, the Air Force could go from printing parts and wings for A-10 aircraft (as it does today) to printing entire airframes right there on the flightline.

It’s a concept that Airman Magazine called going from “Global Reach” to “Global Already There.” For more about 3D printing weapons and aircraft, check out the story at Airman Magazine.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How US troops could get climbing powers like Spider-Man

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is more apt to describe their new climbing technology to be more like geckos than Spider-Man. Despite being less awesome, DARPA’s comparison is much more accurate – but only because Spider-Man isn’t real and geckos are. Still, the tech would allow troops to scale surfaces like glass walls in full kit with no extra noise.

Sound too good to be true? It’s called the Z-Man project, and it has already been tested.


American troops never know where they could end up until they’re prepping to go. Even then they don’t really know what kinds of obstacles they’ll encounter during the missions – or more importantly, how they’ll overcome those obstacles. The how is part of DARPA’s job. Its mission is to develop technology that creates transformational change across industries in order to give American troops an edge on the battlefields of tomorrow. For the last couple of years, it’s been notoriously adept at making our superhero dreams become a reality. Now they’ve gone and done it again: this time it’s Spider-Man.

Which is a really good choice, not only because of the urban environments U.S. troops frequently encounter but because all branches encounter unending problems when working in a foreign environment and could rely on the flexibility provided by the kinds of powers Spider-Man has. The first test was the development of polymer microstructures that would allow wearers to scale any surface.

US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

Intermolecular forces between its toes and a surface means the gecko easily attaches to and from any surface.

Geckos have hundreds of stalk-like setae that are around 100 microns in length and 2 microns in radius all over their feet. From individual setae, a bundle of hundreds of terminal tips called spatulae, approximately 200 nanometers in diameter at their widest, branch out and contact the climbing surface. A Gecko can hold itself up with one toe, making it the animal world’s expert on climbing. Until now.

DARPA demonstrated the power of the new climbing system on a glass wall. A 218-pound man ascended a 25-foot tall wall with an additional carrying load of 25 pounds. He had no other climbing equipment than the gecko-inspired climbing gear. The climber used paddles with the gecko tech to ascend the structure.

US tests another ground-launched cruise missile

A DARPA engineer scales a wall using the new Z-Man technology.

(DARPA)

“Like many of the capabilities that the Department of Defense pursues, we saw with vertical climbing that nature had long since evolved the means to efficiently achieve it,” said Dr. Matt Goodman, the DARPA program manager for Z-Man. “The challenge to our performer team was to understand the biology and physics in play when geckos climb and then reverse-engineer those dynamics into an artificial system for use by humans.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army to use Israeli defense missiles instead of Patriots

The US Army on Feb. 6, 2019, announced that it would buy an Israeli missile-defense system to protect its soldiers in a de facto admission that existing US missile defenses just don’t work.

“The U.S. Army has announced its intent to procure a limited number of Iron Dome weapon systems to fill its short-term need for an interim Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC),” a US Army statement sent to Business Insider read.


Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, indigenously designed with a 9 million US investment backing it, represents the world’s only example of working missile defense.

While the US, Russia, and China work on high-end missile systems meant to shoot down stealth aircraft in ultra-high-tech wars with electronic and cyber warfare raging along the sidelines, none of these countries’ systems actually block many missiles, rockets, or mortars.

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Iron Dome launches during operation Pillar of Defense, November 2012.

On the other hand, Israel’s Iron Dome has shot down more than 1,200 projectiles since going operational in 2011. Constant and sporadic attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria have turned Israel into a hotbed of rocket and mortar activity, and the system just plain works.

Not only do the sensors and shooters track and hit targets reliably, the Iron Dome, unlike other systems, can tell if a projectile is going to miss a target and thereby save a 0,000 interceptor fire.

While the system does not run entirely without error, US and Israeli officials consistently rate the dome as having a 90% success rate on the Gaza border, one of the most active places in the world for ballistic projectiles.

But the US already has missile defenses for its forces.

The 2019 Missile Defense Review said the US’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile-defense system has a “proven combat record,” though US officials inflated its success rate during Operation Desert Storm.

The US, unlike Israel, which is surrounded by enemies bent on its ultimate destruction, doesn’t get many enemies firing ballistic missiles at its forces. Still, to protect its soldiers, the Army typically deploys Patriot defenses to its bases to protect against short-range missile attacks. In Iraq, the US Army also experimented with a Phalanx gun system that would rapid fire 20mm rounds at incoming rockets and mortars.

But Saudi Arabia, a weaker US ally, has put its Patriot defenses to the test and found them severely wanting either through user error or failings of the system itself.

In repeated missile strikes from Houthi rebels using relatively unsophisticated Iranian ballistic missiles, the Patriot missile defenses have failed, sometimes spectacularly.

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MIM-104 Patriot.

Despite Saudi Arabia claiming a high success rate for the missile system, it proceeded to talk to Russia about obtaining advanced S-400 missile defenses after the Patriot failures. NATO allies such as Turkey have also sought to augment their defenses with the Russian system, causing friction with the US and others.

Overall, the US Army’s statement announcing the Iron Dome purchase made it clear that this would just be a short-term buy while the US assesses its options.

“The Iron Dome will be assessed and experimented as a system that is currently available to protect deployed U.S. military service members against a wide variety of indirect fire threats and aerial threats… it should be noted that the U.S. Army will assess a variety of options for” the long term, the statement continued.

But the Army is well aware of its own Patriot system and any planned or possible updates.

By buying an Israel system with a great track record and overlooking a US system with a checkered past, the US may have finally admitted its shortcomings in missile defense.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what it takes to maintain ‘world’s most powerful Air Force’

Maintenance is the backbone of the world’s most powerful Air Force. In recent years the maintenance career field has been battling manning challenges. With the help of Airmen like Staff Sgt. Jonathan Dantuma of Travis Air Force Base, California, the solutions will come from the airmen on the flightline.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the F-86 was so deadly over Korea

During the Korean War, the North American F-86 Sabre helped the United States keep control of the skies. As aviation historian Joe Baugher notes, the Sabre shot down at least 792 MiG-15s during the conflict (another 118 were scored as “probable” kills). MiGs, on the other hand, had only 78 kills against the Sabre.


That’s about a 10.15-to-1 ratio. If you include the probable kills, that ratio climbs to 11.67-to-1. That’s a pretty decisive edge for the Sabre. So, why was the F-86 so dominant?

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F-86 Sabres on patrol over Korea. Sabres shot down at least 792 MiGs. (USAF photo)

First, many American F-86 pilots were World War II vets. Among the better-known dual-war pilots were James Jabara (15 kills in Korea, 1.5 in World War II), Francis Gabreski (6 kills in Korea, 28.5 in World War II), and John W. Mitchell (11 kills in World War II, 4 in Korea. He also lead the mission that killed Isoroku Yamamoto). Pilot quality matters — just ask Japan.

Second, the F-86’s armament was better for the air-superiority mission. The F-86 packed six M3 .50-caliber machine guns. These were faster-firing versions of the M2 machine guns used on the North American P-51 Mustang. By comparison, the MiG-15 had two NR-23 23mm cannon and one N-37 37mm cannon. This was designed to kill a lumbering bomber, not to deal with a fast, maneuvering fighter. Having the right tool for the job matters.

US tests another ground-launched cruise missile
This series of four pictures taken from gun camera film shows the beginning of the end of a Russian-built MiG in an air battle high over North Korea. The “kill” was recorded by the camera in a U.S. Air Force F-86 “Sabre” jet flown by 2nd Lt James L. Thompson, a member of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing who was credited with the destruction. (USAF photo)

Third, the F-86 had a new, crucial piece of technology: the AN/APG-30, a radar gunsight. This made aiming the weapons much easier for the Sabre pilots. It used to be that a pilot (or anyone firing at an enemy plane) needed to judge angle and deflection on their own. With the AN/APG-30, the radar handled all that. All a pilot needed to do was to put the enemy plane in the center of his gunsight, squeeze the trigger, and bam, the MiG becomes a “good MiG.” Making it easier to put lead on-target matters.

In short, the F-86 came in with three big advantages over the MiG-15. Those advantages helped the Sabre keep South Korea free from Communist domination.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

The Air Force has begun early testing, software development, and weapons integration for its upcoming Block 4 variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an emerging model intended to give the multi-role fighter a new dimension of weapons and attack mission possibilities, service leaders said.

The new version, to emerge in the early 2020s, will add new long-range precision-tracking weapons such as the newly named StormBreaker weapon — previously called the Small Diameter Bomb II.


“StormBreaker™ successfully completed Developmental Testing and the Government Confidence Testing phase in early 2018. StormBreaker demonstrated all operating modes, the capability to send, receive, and process data-link messages via both link-16 and UHF, Tara Wood, an official with Raytheon’s weapons development unit, told Warrior Maven.

The Air Force and F-35 weapons integration office are also integrating a new upgraded AIM-9x air to air missile, which will enable pilots to attack enemy fighters “off-boresight,” a term which refers to an increased target envelope.

An “off-boresight” AIM-9s will give pilots an ability to target and destroy enemies behind and to the sides of the F-35, Joe Dellavedova, an official with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

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US Navy F-35C.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King)

“The next step for F-35 weapons integration will be to address the weapon requirements within Block 4. Integration of the Small Diameter Bomb II has already begun, and flight test is scheduled to start as early as 2019,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a statement a short time ago.

StormBreaker – Small Diameter Bomb II

StormBreaker, described as a key element of Block 4, is a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.

Wood further explained that StormBreaker detects, classifies, and tracks a wide array of targets, both moving and stationary. It also has an ability to prosecute moving targets through adverse weather conditions. StormBreaker™ is currently in Operational Test, Wood said.

GPS and laser-guided weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions have been around for decades, however, they have primarily been designed for use against fixed or stationary targets. StormBreaker has already completed a series of wind tunnel tests.

While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, the SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight, Raytheon developers told Warrior Maven.

Operational Testing will utilize the weapon in real world conditions in operationally relevant scenarios, she explained.

A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.

Raytheon weapons developers say the tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.

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Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground, Raytheon officials told Warrior.

One Raytheon SDB II developer told Warrior in a previous interview that “the millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology.”

The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air dropped bombs, so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.

If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.

About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.

The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could for example be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.s, this will no longer remain the case.

StormBreaker, which is also being integrated on the F-15E, is carried on the BRU-61, a 4 place miniature munitions rack that fits in the F-35’s internal weapons bays. The weapons will be integrated on the F/A-18E/F and F-35B for the Navy and Marine Corps before the F-35A and F-35C, developers explained.

“StormBreaker™ uses Universal Armament Interface protocol to make the weapon/aircraft interface compatible with a wide range of aircraft, including F-35,” Wood added.

AIM-9X

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, previous test-firings of the AIM-9X were intended to further the missile’s ability to demonstrate this “off-boresight,” attack technology. Previous test data and observers have confirmed the F-35 identified and targeted the drone with its mission systems sensors, passed the target ‘track’ information to the missile, enabled the pilot to verify targeting information using the high off-boresight capability of the helmet mounted display and launched the AIM-9X from the aircraft to engage the target drone, a statement from the F-35 JPO said.

F-35 to 2070

The current consensus among senior Pentagon weapons developers holds that, at the moment, the F-35 is the most capable 5th generation plane in the world. Maintaining this edge, however, is anticipated to quickly become more and more difficult now that both Russia and China are building 5th-gen stealth fighters.

“Block 4 is important with the national defense strategy to make sure we are modernizing the plane to keep it dominant on the battlefield. We are close to knowing the strategy for how to go after it,” Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told a group of reporters in early 2018.

While the applied impact of Block 4 will incorporate a range of mission-expanding technologies, much of the ongoing preparation work is in the realm of software development, Roper said.

“The physical pieces of the plane are moving in a good direction. Most of what we have left to do is software. The department (DoD) has not historically been good at software development. That will take a little longer. I cannot imagine building anything for the Air Force that is not software intensive,” Roper said.

The Block 4 initiative is part of a long range trajectory planned for the F-35 described by Pentagon developers as C2D2 – Continuous Capability Development and Delivery. The idea, officials say, is to position the multi-role fighter such that it can consistently accommodate new weapons, stealth materials, sensors, and guidance technology as it becomes available

“We own today’s fight,” said Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, F-35 Test Director, Edwards AFB, told reporters in early 2018. However, Tucker went on to say that, in the absence of aggressive modernization, sustainment and various improvement efforts.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

High school students designed this part of the B-2 stealth bomber

The US Air Force’s $2.2 billion B-2 Spirit bombers, a key component of US nuclear deterrence, are protected from “catastrophic” accidents by a $1.25 part designed by a group of high-school students.

Switch covers designed by the Stealth Panthers robotics team at Knob Noster High School are installed in the cockpits of all operational B-2 bombers at Whiteman Air Force Base, Air Force officials told Stars and Stripes.


The B-2 is one of the most advanced bombers in the world, as its low-observable characteristics render the 172-foot-wide bomber almost invisible to radar, allowing it to slip past enemy defenses and put valuable targets at risk.

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A B-2 Spirit bomber taxis on a flightline.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester)

Designed with Soviet air-defense systems in mind, the bomber has been serving since the late 1980s. Recently, a handful of B-2 bombers have been training alongside F-22 Raptors in the Pacific, where China has been expanding its military footprint.

But even the best technology can often be improved.

A B-2 stealth bomber from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman made an emergency landing at an airport in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after an in-flight emergency last fall, Air Force Times reported, saying at the time that the incident was under investigation.

Apparently, the emergency was triggered by the accidental flip of a switch, among other unusual malfunctions.

“The B-2 Spirit cockpit is equipped with state-of-the-art, cutting-edge technology, but is a very cramped space, so something was needed to keep the pilots or other items from bumping into the switches,” Capt. Keenan Kunst told Stars and Stripes.

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A B-2 Spirit bomber.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

There are a series of four switches that are of particular concern. “The consequences could be catastrophic — especially if all four were flipped, in which case, ejection would be the only option,” Kunst told Stars and Stripes. “We recognized the switch posed a certain risk of inadvertent actuation and that we should take action to minimize this risk — no matter how small.”

And that’s where a handful of Missouri high schoolers had the answer to this particular problem.

Base leaders already had an established relationship the school, and some of the pilots had been mentoring members of the robotics team. Base personnel presented the issue to the students, and they began developing a solution. Working with pilots in a B-2 simulator, they were able to design and test the suitable switch cover.

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

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