In 2009, during some of the heaviest fighting of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Marine Corps was involved in a number of operations in western Iraq. However, things got tougher as Taliban lookouts were typically posted to provide a warning of the Leathernecks’ approach.
The Taliban also figured out to time the helicopters when they left, allowing them to get a rough idea of when the Marines would arrive.
So, when a Taliban warlord was using poppy proceeds to buy more weapons, the Marines wanted to take him down, but they were worried that it could turn into a major firefight, since this warlord had taken over a village about 100 miles from Camp Bastion, a major Marine base.
Even at top speed, it would take a helicopter like the CH-53E Super Stallion about a half hour to get to that warlord’s base – and to do that, it would have to fly in a straight line. That sort of approach doesn’t help you catch the Taliban warlord by surprise.
But by 2009, MV-22 Ospreys were also available in theater. The tiltrotors weren’t just faster (a top speed of 316 miles per hour), they also had much longer range (just over 1,000 miles). In essence, it was hoped that the Ospreys could not only evade the Taliban lookouts, but they’d also get to the location before the enemy could react.
On the day of the raid, Marines boarded four MV-22s. The tiltrotors took off, evaded the Taliban, and the Marines were delivered into the center of the village – catching the Taliban by surprise.
In roughly five minutes, the warlord was in cuffs and on one of the Ospreys. The Marines then made their getaway, having pulled off a major operational success.
Check out the Smithsonian Channel video below to see a recreation of that raid.
Over the last 10 days, DARPA has announced two developments in their ongoing quest to build swarms of drones to protect warfighters on the ground, and the British Ministry of Defence has announced a $3.26 million investment in similar technology, so it looks like the swarms may be here sooner rather than later.
Currently, most drones on the battlefield are remotely operated aircraft, meaning that there is a pilot, just not in a cockpit in the aircraft. So, remote pilots control aircraft around the world, and the time for the signal to travel from aircraft to pilot and back means there’s a serious gap between a pilot seeing something in the drone’s path, the pilot giving a command to the aircraft, and then the aircraft following that command.
When drones are flying on their own over a battlefield, that’s fine. But the U.S. and allied militaries have expressed interest in swarms of drones supporting each other and soldiers on the ground. Some of this support would be lethal, dropping bombs on targets like current models. Some would be non-lethal, providing surveillance, acting as signal relays, providing medical assistance, logistics, or even scaring enemies.
To do all of this, drones have to be able to make a lot of decisions on their own, allowing an operator to act as a commander of multiple aircraft rather than the pilot of a single one. This requires that the drones avoid crashing on their own, but also that they can continue their mission, even if the human operators lose connection or are jammed.
RQ-23 Tigersharks line up on a runway at Yuma Proving Ground for the CODE demonstration.
On the U.S. side, this effort falls under the CODE, Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment. The program is funded and ran by the Navy, but the workers in the program wanted to make it clear that they want to support the whole DoD, and so they’ve made the technology as adaptable as possible and will make the computer code available to other services.
“What we’re doing with the laboratory we set up is not just for the Navy or NAVAIR. We’re trying to make our capabilities available throughout the entire DoD community,” said Stephen Kracinovich, director of autonomy strategy for the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division. “If the Army wanted to leverage the DARPA prototype, we’d provide them not just with the software, but an open development environment with all the security protocols already taken care of.”
It’s probably not surprising that the Navy would be at the forefront of this since Iran developed its own swarm tactics to attack Navy assets. The Navy responded by ensuring its ships had plenty of close-in weapons systems like the Mk. 15 Phalanx, but it also eyed the idea of creating its own offensive swarms.
Watch the Navy’s LOCUST launcher fire a swarm of drones
A few programs were greenlit to support the effort, but the most emblematic of CODE comes from the Locust launcher. With Locust, the Navy can launch drone after drone from a launcher that looks like rocket, missile, or torpedo tubes, but actually quickly fires small aircraft. Locust can launch drones at a rate of about a drone every 1.33 seconds.
If CODE ends up being everything the Navy wants it to be, then those drones will increasingly be able to work together to achieve missions, even if an enemy manages to jam the control signals from the ship or ground operators.
This would be especially valuable if the Pentagon is right about fighting in megacities in the near to mid-future.
British drones that are part of the country’s military transformation.
(U.K. Ministry of Defence)
The Brits are pursuing their own project dubbed “Many Drones Make Light Work,” which is pretty great. It’s being pushed forward by the Defence and Security Accelerator.
“The MOD continues to invest in pioneering technology that enhances capability, reduces risk to personnel and enables us to better perform our tasks,” Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said. “Drone swarm technology can revolutionise how we conduct intelligence gathering, humanitarian aid, disposal of explosives and supply our troops on the battlefield.”
Britain’s new .26 million investment follows million put into mini-drones and is part of an over 8 million program to prepare the British military and its equipment for future conflicts.
During the Cold War, America developed a single air-to-air nuke that could devastate entire bomber fleets in mid-air. Thankfully, it was only ever fired in testing.
In today’s world, nuclear weapons are seen primarily as strategic weapons, rather than tactical, as the second and third order effects of a nuclear detonation are quite possibly further reaching than the first. Even the use of a low-yield nuclear weapon is now seen as perhaps the most egregious violation of international norms a nation can undertake, as leveraging a single weapon could bring about a cascade of nuclear attacks that could end life as we know it. But then, it wasn’t always this way.
There was a time when nuclear weapons were held in a similar regard to other conventional ordnance — when the tactical applications of nuclear weapon systems were the primary consideration for development. Long before the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction, the United States and its Soviet competitors established a variety of nuclear weapons that, in hindsight, seem more like the musings of a Bond villain than a defense program.
Some of these weapons, like the B-54 Special Atomic Demolition Munition, were little more than miniaturized nuclear bombs that could be smuggled into a target zone via Special Operations troops in a backpack. Others, like the McDonnell Douglas Air-2A Genie Rocket, were designed for even more dramatic uses: Namely, destroying an entire fleet of Soviet bombers in mid-air with a single weapon.
DAYTON, Ohio – McDonnell Douglas Air-2A Genie Rocket on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The threat of Soviet nuclear bombers
In 1949, the Soviet Union conducted its first successful nuclear weapons test, codenamed RDS-1. The 22-kiloton test was more powerful than the 15-kiloton weapon the United States had dropped just a few years prior on Hiroshima, and in an instant, America’s concerns about the Soviet Union were significantly amplified. Almost immediately, President Truman announced the development of a new, even more powerful atom bomb — a “super bomb” as it was called at the time, which is now commonly known as a hydrogen bomb. Of course, Soviet efforts to develop their own super bomb mirrored America’s, raising the stakes on the burgeoning Cold War ever higher.
With the first operational intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) still years away, the understanding at the time was that any hydrogen bomb attack would have to come by way of heavy bomber — with development already underway for what would become the Soviet Tu-95. This new heavy payload bomber was designed by upscaling the previous Soviet Tu-4, which had been based largely on America’s B-29 Superfortress; widely considered the most advanced bomber of World War II.
The Tupolev Tu-95 Bear first flew in 1952 and remains in service to this day. (WikiMedia Commons)
Aware that the Soviet Union’s atomic arsenal could eventually be brought to bear with heavy payload bombers prompted the United States to invest heavily in aircraft and weapons systems that could intercept inbound bombers before they could reach American shores. The driving need to monitor, deter, and potentially intercept Soviet nuclear bombers led to the development of a number of weapons and aircraft in the United States, but few were quite so far-reaching as the McDonnell Douglas Air-2A Genie program.
AIR-2A Genie 2 (USAF Photo)
The world’s first nuclear air-to-air weapon
The U.S. Air Force had its sights set squarely on neutering the Soviet Union’s nuclear bomber threat, but the vast majority of air-to-air weapon systems at the time were based on machine guns and cannons. America knew that stopping a fleet of Soviet bombers before they reached the United States would require far more effective weapons systems than were readily available at the time, and the first air-to-air missiles were still in their relative infancy. As a result, rockets became an area of increasing focus.
In 1954, one such rocket program, under the banner of Douglas Aircraft, began playing with the idea of a rocket that was armed with a nuclear weapon. In theory, the premise was rather straightforward: Rockets had proven to be an effective weapon for intercept aircraft to leverage, and in fact, a nuclear tipped air-to-air weapon could be developed as a fairly simple package, as the massive blast radius would eliminate the need for any sort of guidance system.
By 1955, development was officially underway on what would come to be called the McDonnell Douglas Air-2A Genie. This new nuclear rocket carried a 1.5 kiloton W25 nuclear warhead and was propelled through the air by a solid-fuel Thiokol SR49-TC-1 rocket engine. The engine would fire for just two seconds, propelling the rocket up to Mach 3.3. The fuse mechanism did not begin until the engine itself had burned out, giving the weapon a total of about 12 second of flight time prior to detonation — giving the launching aircraft just enough time to turn tail and get out of dodge before the massive 1,000 foot blast radius erupted from the warhead.
Because of the Genie’s short flight time and massive blast radius, it would be nearly impossible for a bomber to get out of the way fast enough to avoid utter destruction, and in fact, a single Genie could be used to engage and destroy an entire fleet of Soviet bombers approaching the United States in a formation.
A Convair F-106 of the California Air National Guard fires an inert version of the Genie (USAF Photo)
Production on the Genie, which was dubbed the MB-1 Genie in service, continued until 1963, with a total of around 3,150 built. A fleet of 268 U.S. Air Force F-89 Scorpion interceptors were modified to be able to carry the nuclear rocket on hard points, and over time, the weapons were even modified to include longer burning rocket engines to give the F-89 more time to escape the fury of the rocket’s detonation.
Testing the Genie over American troops
Although the Genie would remain in service until the decidedly recently past of 1985, only one Genie was ever actually fired and detonated.
Operation Plumbbob (yes, that’s really how it’s spelled) was a series of nuclear tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site between May 28 and October 7 of 1957, and would go on to be considered by many to be the most controversial series of nuclear tests conducted by the United States. A total of 27 nuclear detonations and 29 total explosions were carried out under the supervision of twenty-one different laboratories and government agencies — one them being the test fire and detonation of a Genie nuclear rocket.
An F-89 Scorpion firing the live Genie used in the Plumbbob John test. (USAF photo)
Firing a live Genie from beneath an F-89J was a dangerous undertaking to begin with. In order to escape the blast radius of the weapon, the F-89’s pilot, Captain Eric William Hutchison, would have to immediately execute a high-G turn, placing the rocket behind the aircraft. While Hutchison and his radar operator, Captain Alfred C. Barbee, would need nerves of steel to complete the test, they wouldn’t be the only people putting their lives on the line for the Genie’s only test detonation. Five U.S. Air Force officers also volunteered to stand at ground level, directly beneath where the nuclear weapon would detonate in the skies, to prove that the Genie could be utilized without causing any harm to those on the ground below.
Estimates of the altitude in which the Genie detonated vary from source to source, with some claiming an attitude as low as 10,000 feet and others claiming an altitude as high as 20,000. The five volunteer officers stood below utterly unprotected, wearing only their summer uniforms.
The only live test ever of a Genie rocket, on 19 July 1957. Fired from a US Air Force F-89J over Yucca Flats, Nevada Test Site (USAF Photo)
“I was busy behind the camera. Then I could see the flash go off out of the corner of my eye. There was this huge, doughnut-shaped cloud in the sky where the blast went off.” -George Yoshitake, U. S. army cameraman
The five men were exposed to negligible amounts of radiation, and seemed to prove that the Genie could be used above ground troops with little risk.
You can actually watch footage of that very test below:
The Genie remained in service until the mid-1980s, though by then, American concerns about Soviet bombers dropping hydrogen bombs on American soil had given way to the ICBM age. By 1974, the Soviet Union had their R-36 series of nuclear missiles in service, each of which could cover nearly ten thousand miles and carry a positively massive25 megaton –or 25,000 kiloton– nuclear warhead.
In truth, it was the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction that would come to replace the Genie as a nuclear deterrent. America now knew they had no hope of intercepting the full breadth of Soviet nuclear missiles as they careened toward the United States, so the nation opted to leverage a good offense as the best form of defense; developing America’s nuclear triad to ensure its ability to respond. In other words, Mutually Assured Destruction promised exactly what the name suggested: If the Soviets launched a nuclear attack, America would as well. There would be no winners in such an apocalyptic exhchange, and that alone has served as a powerful deterrent for nuclear aggression ever since.
Despite an underperforming economy and budget cutbacks, Russia has still managed to keep their place at the forefront of American discussion when it comes to looming military threats, and that’s certainly no coincidence. Russia is keen to make themselves the weapons supplier of choice for nations America won’t sell to, and snagging media coverage for their advanced weapons programs is an essential part of that endeavor.
Unlike the free (though certainly flawed) media infrastructure we have in the United States, Russia’s media is almost entirely state-owned. That means there are no dissenting views or lively debates regarding Russian domestic or foreign policy to be found in their news media, but more importantly to us on this side of the Red Curtain, they employ the same state-sanctioned approach to foreign reaching outlets as well.
Russia owns lots of news outlets all over the world (some of which recently had to register as foreign agents in the United States), and they use this reach to shape perceptions of their military hardware. Stories produced by these state actors then get picked up in good faith by other outlets that know their audiences will love a video of Russian infantry robots storming muddy battlefields and before you know it, Russia’s in the news again… and this time there’s lasers!
Here are just some of the “advanced” Russian weapons that littered American headlines last year… and the ugly truth behind them.
Russian robot tank in action: Uran-9 performs fire drill
Russia pretended their Uran-9 Unmanned Combat Vehicle fought in Syria
In May of 2018, Russia announced that their new infantry drone, the Uran-9, had officially entered the fight in Syria, where Russian forces have been bolstering Bashar al Assad’s regime against Syrian Democratic Forces for years. The drone’s combat successes stole headlines the world over, and one even participated in Russia’s Victory Day Parade last year.
According to Russian-based media, the semi-autonomous combat vehicle comes equipped with a 30 mm 2A72 autocannon as its primary weapon, along with a 7.62 chambered PKTM machine gun, four anti-tank missiles, and six thermobaric rocket launchers. It all sounded really impressive until June when Russian officials speaking at a security conference called “Actual Problems of Protection and Security” admitted that despite footage of it rolling around Syria… the drone tank plain old doesn’t work. Soon after, mentions of the Uran-9 and Russia’s Terminator-like plans for future wars declined rapidly.
Dude’s practically invisible!
Russia announced developed “Predator-style” active camouflage… then quickly forgot
Russian arms manufacturer Rostec also announced a breakthrough in camouflage technology last year, claiming that their new “electrically-controllable material” could instantly change color based on the environment it was in, providing Russian troops and even vehicles with the most advanced and effective camouflage ever seen on the battlefield. This game-changing technology again drew headlines all over the world as Rostec and Russian officials touted an upcoming demonstration of the tech.
Of course, after thousands of stories were written about this breakthrough technology, Rostech never followed through on any kind of demonstration, releasing stills of what looks like a guy in a motorcycle helmet and hockey pads instead. It didn’t matter — by then, the story had already become much larger than any corrections ever would be.
About as far as it goes.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
Putin’s “invincible” nuclear powered missile is a national embarrassment
In a speech Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered last March, he touted a number of new weapons programs, but none with as much vigor as the new nuclear-powered cruise missile called the 9M730 Burevestnik. That’s right — nuclear powered. The concept makes some sense: nuclear power offers the ability to travel a great distance on a tiny amount of fuel, and as Putin himself claimed, this new missile would have a near limitless range as a result.
But once again, this concept may make for some great headlines, but in practice, the missile has been a dud. Russia conducted four different tests with this missile between November of 2017 and February of 2018 with the nuclear drive failing to engage in every test. According to U.S. estimates, the furthest this missile has made it so far is 22 miles (under conventional rocket propulsion), and the last test resulted in losing the missile somewhere in the Barents Sea. When this program last hit the headlines, it was because the Russian Navy was still out there looking for it. According to Russia, they had another “breakthrough” this past January, however, so be prepared for a new slew of headlines.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants the bomb you’ve been tinkering with at home. DARPA’s latest initiative is identifying emerging threats by mining everyday technologies. According to the agency’s press release, this effort, called Improv, “asks the innovation community to identify commercial products and processes that could yield unanticipated threats.” So DARPA wants that homemade bomb you’ve been building in your garage.
This means they want to see what you can make out of everyday household items so they can prepare a countermeasure. This kind of thinking is meant to tap into the natural resourcefulness and creativity of humans.
“DARPA’s mission is to create strategic surprise, and the agency primarily does so by pursuing radically innovative and even seemingly impossible technologies,” said program manager John Main, who will oversee the new effort. “Improv is being launched in recognition that strategic surprise can also come from more familiar technologies, adapted and applied in novel ways.”
The agency is looking to see how everyday household materials can be used to threaten U.S. national security. It may sound odd to think of American wreaking havoc with common materials, but it isn’t unheard of. In 1996, Timothy McVeigh purchased only enough ammonium nitrate to fertilize 4.25 acres of farmland at a rate of 160 pounds of nitrogen per acre, a formula commonly used to grow corn. This did not raise any eyebrows in Kansas. McVeigh later used the fertilizer to blow up Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing at least 168 people.
“U.S. national security was ensured in large part by a simple advantage: a near-monopoly on access to the most advanced technologies,” DARPA said in a press release. “Increasingly, off-the-shelf equipment… features highly sophisticated components, which resourceful adversaries can modify or combine to create novel and unanticipated security threats.”
To enter, interested parties must submit a plan for their prototype for the chance at a potential $40,000 in funding. Then, a smaller number of candidates will be chosen to build their device with $70,000 in potential funding. Finally, top candidates will enter the final phase, which includes a thorough analysis of the invention and a military demonstration.
The Department of Defense would like remind potential contributors that they should only build weapons within the bounds of their local, state, and federal laws.
Existing 155 mm artillery rounds have a range of about 30 kilometers when fired from systems such as the M109A7, which feature a standard, 39-caliber-length gun tube.
But a longer gun tube is only one part of the extended range effort, Rafferty said.
“The thing about ERCA that makes it more complicated than others is it is as much about the ammunition as is it is about the armament,” he said. “We can’t take our current family of projectiles and shoot them 70 kilometers; they are not designed for it.”
M109A7 155mm self propelled howitzer.
The Army is finalizing a new version of a rocket-assisted projectile (RAP) round that testers have shot out to 62 kilometers at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, said Col. Will McDonough, who runs Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems.
The XM1113 is an upgrade to the M549A1 rocket-assisted projectile round, which was first fielded in 1989, he said.
“It’s going to have 20 percent more impulse than the RAP round had,” McDonough said. “So I look at that and say, ‘Wow, we moved the ball 20 percent in 30 years.’ Obviously not acceptable, but we … shot it out of a 58-caliber system and shot holes in the ground at Yuma out to 62 kilometers.”
The Army will add improvements to the round that should enable testers to “put holes in the ground out to 70 kilometers,” he said. “One of the things our leadership has been adamant about is don’t talk about range. Show range, shoot range, and then you can talk about it. But if you haven’t put a hole in the ground in the desert, don’t advertise that you can go do it.”
Though women have made a lot of progress in recent years, especially in the military and defense sectors, there are still very few women in senior positions in the U.S. military-industrial complex. Only a third of the senior positions at the Department of State are women, and less than a fifth hold such positions at the Defense Department.
Alexis Visser is a 19-year-old international relations student and Army Reservist who helped game the South Korean and American forces.
(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)
The RAND Corporation, a global, nonprofit policy research center created in 1948, wanted to bring a much-needed female perspective to the fields of defense policy and national security. The group of women are in age groups ranging from their late teens to early 20s, and most have never had any kind of wargaming or strategy experience before. Still, they are leading command discussion about scenarios facing troops in a war with North Korea in a conference room overlooking the Pentagon.
In the scenario, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a long-range missile that can target locations on the U.S. West Coast. The North threatens “grave consequences” if the United States and South Korea conduct their annual joint exercises to practice their responses to a North Korean invasion. The warning from the DPRK is the same the Stalinist country gives the Southern Allies every year. This time, when the allies begin their drills, the North fires an artillery barrage into Seoul. South Korea responds with missile strikes. The new Korean War is on.
(Photo by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation)
RAND uses wargames like this one to study almost every national security scenario and has since the earliest days of the Cold War. It was the RAND Corporation who was at the center of the 1967 Pentagon Papers case that determined why the United States had not been successful in Vietnam. It’s very unlikely this is the first time RAND has wargamed a war between North and South Korea, but it’s the first time young girls were given command of the allied forces.
That isn’t to say no women have wargamed at the Pentagon. Many of the women who have participated in wargames at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including in the Pentagon, often admit to being the only woman in the room. RAND wants to create a pipeline for young women to be able to participate in such wargames – as professionals.
In the game, the women determine where to deploy infantry, how to stop North Korean advances, and even when to use tactical nuclear weapons, all under the advice and counsel of RAND’s expert and veteran women advisors.
Samina Mondal, right, listens as RAND’s Stacie Pettyjohn reviews the blue team’s tactics.
(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)
The game is working, and not just against North Korea. History majors decide to turn their attention instead to National Security Studies. Eighteen-year-olds decide on careers in nuclear security. Soon, women will begin to change the way we look at the defense of the United States.
The Navy recently approved low-rate initial production (LRIP) for a special, underwater drone system designed to conduct counter-mine operations for the service’s littoral combat ship.
Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants recently granted Milestone C approval to the Knifefish Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Program, according to a news release from Naval Sea Systems Command.
The Navy is expected to award an LRIP contract to Knifefish prime contractor General Dynamics Mission Systems, the release states.
The Knifefish system is designed to deploy from an LCS as well as from other offshore vessels to detect and classify “buried, bottom and volume mines” in highly cluttered environments, according to the release.
Knifefish consists of two unmanned undersea vehicles, along with support systems and equipment. It uses cutting-edge low-frequency broadband sonar and automated target recognition software technology to act as an off-board sensor while the host ship stays outside the minefield boundaries, the release states.
A Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle training model undergoes crane operations aboard the Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead as part of a training exercise enabling mine countermeasure missions from an EPF as a Vessel of Opportunity.
(U.S. Navy photo by Master-at-Arms 1st Class Alexander Knapp)
The Navy hopes to approve a full-rate production decision for the system in fiscal 2021 after additional testing of LRIP systems, according to the release. The service plans to buy 30 Knifefish systems in all — 24 in support of LCS mine countermeasure mission packages and an additional six systems for deployment from other vessels.
The Navy conducted formal developmental testing and operational assessment from January through May 2019 in multiple locations off the coast of Massachusetts and Florida, according to the release. The Knifefish tests involved operational mine-hunting missions against a simulated target field.
The Knifefish was developed from technology designed for General Dynamics’ Bluefin Robotics Bluefin-21 deep-water Autonomous Undersea Vehicle, a system that was involved in the unsuccessful search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
China has tested a new anti-satellite weapon, marking a new threat to American space assets like reconnaissance satellites and the Global Positioning System. The Dong Neng 3 missile was previously tested on two occasions, including this past December.
According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the test took place late last month, and was not successful due to a problem with an upper stage of the missile. The test was broadcast on the Internet by a number of users in China near the launch facility. This has been part of a long process as China has pushed to acquire the means to carry out warfare in space.
“Since the early 1990s China has developed four, possibly five, attack-capable space-combat systems,” Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center said. “China may be the only country developing such variety of space weapons to include: ground-based and air-launched counter-space weapons; unmanned space combat and Earth-attack platforms; and dual-use manned platforms.”
Harsh Vasani from Manpaul University in India, noted that the purpose of those systems would be to “counter the United States’ conventional strength and gain strategic parity, Chinese strategists believe, Beijing will need to strike at the U.S. Achilles heel—Washington’s over-reliance on satellites for [command, control, communications, computer, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance]. Beijing plans to exploit the vulnerable space infrastructure of the United States in the case of a war.”
The United States has carried out a number of its own anti-satellite tests in the past. Most notable was the 1980s-vintage ASM-135 ASAT missile, capable of being launched by F-15 Eagle air-superiority fighters. After a 1985 test, though, Congress prohibited further tests against satellites, and the program was ended in 1988. The ASM-135 could destroy satellites anywhere from 350 to 620 miles above the Earth.
In 2008, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) used a RIM-161 Standard Missile SM-3 to destroy a failed satellite. Operation Burnt Frost was a success, with the failed satellite being destroyed 133 nautical miles above sea level. China and Russia protested the operation.
American defense officials claim that the United States has “very robust” capabilities in space. But Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten says that China and Russia have been developing space-warfare capabilities.
Hyten noted that Chinese and Russian threats to American space systems will be “a much nearer-term issue for the commander after me, and for the commander after that person, it will be more significant because the gap is narrowing quickly” between American capabilities and those of China and Russia. A 2013 test of an earlier missile in the Dong Neng series reached up to 18,600 miles over the earth.
“It’s not very complicated. You treat it as a war-fighting domain. And when you do that, the answers are not that complicated. You have to have increased maneuver capabilities on our satellites. We have to have defensive capabilities to defend ourselves. These are just war fighting problems,” he said.
While the United States Navy has not used the flying boat in a long time, other countries have kept these planes around. After all, they do have some advantages in a military setting. You can’t exactly ground them by bombing a runway, it’s easy to re-deploy them to a new forward base, and flying boats are versatile assets – just look at the PBY Catalina.
One of the countries that is keeping the flying boat alive is China. This country operated the Harbin SH-5 flying boat as a maritime patrol and search-and-rescue asset. It has a top speed of 345 miles per hour and a range of just under 3,000 miles, according to MilitaryFactory.com. It can carry 13,000 pounds of bombs, missiles, or torpedoes. The Chinese only built seven of these planes, and FlightGlobal.com notes that three are still in service.
China has not stopped with the SH-5. According to a report by CNBC.com, the AG600, a four-engine flying boat roughly the size of the 737 has just made its first flight. Officially, the aircraft is intended to carry out firefighting and search-and-rescue missions. MilitaryFactory.com reports that has a top speed of 311 miles per hour and a range of just over 2,700 miles. So far, at least 17 airframes have been ordered.
Some Chinese media outlets are reporting the AG600 – or a variant – could be useful for military operations in the South China Sea. China has been building “unsinkable aircraft carriers” in the maritime flashpoint, enabling the People’s Liberation Army Navy and People’s Liberation Army Air Force to operate fighters in the area. This sort of development prompted the United States military to retire its flying boats.
China’s continued pursuit of flying boats could be seen as a hedge against the United States being able to disable the island bases in the South China Sea. The AG600 does have the capability to haul cargo and specialists to either repair a base, or to maintain a presence until a base can be fixed.
Four members of the Thai soccer team that survived being trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks now want to be Navy SEALS.
Three boys, and the team coach, said they now aspired to the join the SEALs, whose divers swam into the cave and helped get all 12 boys and the 25-year-old coach out alive.
Asked during a press conference on July 18, 2018, about his future plans, the 14-year-old goalkeeper Ekarat Wongsukchan said: “I still want to pursue my dream to be a professional soccer player, but there might be a new dream, which is to become part of the Navy SEALs.”
Wongsukchan and three other members of the team — including the coach, Ekapol Chantawong — then raised their hand when asked how many of them wanted to be Navy SEALs.
Members of the rescued Thai soccer team, including some who want to be Thai Navy SEALs.
(Channel News Asia)
It was met with applause from the SEALs onstage at the conference as well as many members of the audience.
Six other members of the team also said they hoped to one day be professional soccer players.
Rescuers found the team huddled on a dry ledge in the partially flooded cave complex after nine days of searches.
Three Thai Navy SEALs and a doctor stayed with the boys over the ensuing week until they were extracted one by one as part of a three-day mission that ended July 9, 2018.
Sanam Kunam, a former SEAL who volunteered to help, died while placing oxygen tanks in the cave.
The team paid condolences to Kunam toward the end of the conference while holding a portrait of the diver with personal messages written around it.
Chanin Vibulrungruang, 11, the youngest of the team, said in his message:
“I would like to thank both Lt. Saman and everyone involved in this. I hope that Lt. Saman has a good sleep and I hope that he rests in peace.
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
In the early 1980s, the Mil Mi-24 Hind and the Bell AH-1 Cobra were the major attack helicopters on either side of the Cold War. Had the Russians tried to storm the Fulda Gap, these two choppers would’ve butt heads — often — in between efforts to blast the other side’s tanks and troops to hell.
Both these helicopters saw their fair share of action. The Hind proved itself in Afghanistan and elsewhere, while the Cobra saw extensive use in the Vietnam War. By the 80s, these were mature, proven designs — and both packed a lot of punch.
The Mi-24 Hind entered service in 1973. The definitive Hind D packed a 12.7mm Gatling gun in the nose and could carry a mix of rocket pods (usually 57mm rockets) and anti-tank missiles (usually AT-2 or AT-6) on six pylons. UH-1s, on the other hand, often carried some 7.62mm machine guns and had pylons enough for two rocket pods. In a sense, the Hind took some concepts from the UH-1 and put them on steroids. Like the UH-1, the Hind could also carry troops into battle — usually eight personnel.
Its likely opponent, the AH-1 Cobra, was somewhat different. In the middle of the Vietnam War, the United States Army wanted a dedicated gunship. Eventually, their search resulted in the HueyCobra. The Cobra was a much smaller target than its predecessor since, unlike the Huey, it didn’t haul infantry around. By the 1980s, the Cobra was armed with a M197 20mm cannon, a three-barrel Gatling gun, and could carry a mix of rocket pods and BGM-71 TOW missiles.
So, in a fictional fight, which of these helicopters would come out on top? As always, much depends on the mission. The Mi-24 Hind would have been very useful for air assault missions. A typical loadout was composed of four rocket pods, each carrying 32 57mm rockets, along with four anti-tank missiles. This would be devastating for rear-area troops, who not only would have to deal with being hit by rockets, but also with the infantry that would soon follow. The Cobra, on the other hand, packed a lot more of an anti-tank punch.
If it came down to a helicopter dogfight, though, the Cobra would have a clear edge. While the Hind does have the speed edge, the Cobra is much smaller and its 20mm cannon packs more of a punch. Were the two to go head-to-head, the Soviets would quickly find themselves down both a chopper and, potentially, an entire infantry section, too.
It’s called the Metal Storm. This Australian-made, U.S.-funded behemoth of a cannon uses the same idea behind a Roman candle to fire round after round out of its 36 barrels. The prototype managed to achieve a maximum rate of fire of 1.62 million rounds per minute as it fired 180 rounds in a 0.01 second burst. At its peak, it can send, almost literally, a wall of 24,000 9mm rounds moving at Mach 5 that can eat through any armor it faces.
In 2007, the U.S. Navy announced that it would buy the Metal Storm grenade variant, but shy of that… nothing. The first prototype was created in June, 1997. It’s been over 20 years now and it’s never been fielded in combat.
These could revolutionize drone warfare.
(Metal Storm Limited)
In short, the reason why this potential game-changer has never seen combat is mostly tied to legal issues surrounding contracts. But there’s also the rarely-brought-up question of, “how would we use it?”
Originally developed by J. Mike O’Dwyer under a company of the same name, Metal Storm Limited, the technology behind how the gun electronically fires caseless rounds has been tossed between several countries’ governments and many more companies, acquiring the intellectual property and trademark claims along the way. The rights ultimately landed in the hands of Australian-owned DefendTex.
Owning this patent not only keeps the original Metal Storm under their corporate thumb, but also any variations, including the 3GL grenade launcher, which fires three rounds from one of its four barrels in seconds, and the MAUL (Multi-shot Accessory Under-barrel Launcher), an under-barrel 5-round shotgun using the same technology.
On the bright side, if you were turned to paste by this thing, you’d be obliterated in milliseconds and wouldn’t even have a chance to blink.
(Screengrab via YouTube)
Outside of legal issues, there are some very obvious downsides: cost and weight. Its applications, as is, are very circumstantial. It’s extremely heavy and requires plenty of prep time to set up effectively just for a single use. Then, there’s the insane amount of money that goes into fully loading it, only to have it waste nearly all of its ammunition.
Aiming this thing is also a challenge. It was originally conceived to remain stationary and to be used in setting up ambushes. Anything in its line of fire would be effectively turned into a paste, but by stepping a few feet to either side, the target remains fully composed solid.
These extreme limitations aren’t factors for the easier-to-sell versions, the MAUL and the 3GL, which can all easily be manned, moved, and loaded. The MAUL can easily be modified to fire less-lethal rounds and has been issued to Papau New Guinean prison guards while the 3GL has been fitted onto the Cerberus UAV with 3 rounds in a single barrel.
There is still hope for the Metal Storm’s technology. The caseless, electronically fired, multi-stacked rounds will change future wars. But, for now, don’t hold your breath on getting your hands on one of the 9mm versions.