As tensions grow in the South China Sea due to Communist China’s aggressive posture, other countries are trying to build up their military forces. One such country is Vietnam, which has a bit of history with China that includes a naval battle fought nearly 45 years ago.
In 1974, Chinese Communist and South Vietnamese naval forces fought a battle off the Paracel Islands. The South Vietnamese lost both the battle and a corvette while China took the Paracels. At the time, the major surface combatants for the Vietnam People’s Navy were five Petya-class light corvettes, World War II-era destroyer escorts, and eight Osa II-class missile boats armed with the SS-N-2c Styx anti-ship missile. These were older designs and the Chinese simply had more capable vessels.
Today, the situation has changed. Vietnam took advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union to get big upgrades at bargain prices, including the acquisition of six diesel-electric subs. But the big buy was the purchase of a half-dozen Gepard-class frigates from Russia, two of which are now in service.
The Soviets designed the Gepard in the last years of the Cold War to replace older Mirka and Petya-class light frigates. The basic weapons suite includes a SAN-4 launcher, two quad SS-N-25 launchers, a 76mm gun, two AK-630 close-in weapon systems, and two twin 21-inch torpedo tube mounts.
The Russians planned to use a single hull type for five different designs. Gepard 1 would have a helicopter deck. Gepard 2 replaced the SA-N-4 with a hangar for a Ka-27 type chopper. Gepard 3 was larger and packed a CADS-N-1. Gepard 4 was an unarmed rescue ship that still could be fitted with some weapons and, finally, Gepard 5 was a long-range patrol ship that was slower, but still carried a heavier gun armament than a littoral combat ship.
These six frigates join at least a dozen Vietnamese Tarantul-class corvettes (eight armed with SS-N-25, four with SS-N-2) and at least two BPS 500 corvettes.
If Vietnam and China fight over the Paracels again, the Vietnamese will likely put up one heck of a fight.
When the Playstation 2 was first released to the public, it was said the computer inside was so powerful it could be used to launch nuclear weapons. It was a stunning comparison. In response, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein opted to try and buy up thousands of the gaming consoles – so much so the U.S. government had to impose export restrictions.
But it seems Saddam gave the Air Force an idea: building a supercomputer from many Playstations.
Just 10 years after Saddam Hussein tried to take over the world using thousands of gaming consoles, the United States Air Force took over the role of mad computer scientist and created the worlds 33rd fastest computer inside its own Air Force Research Laboratory. Only instead of Playstation 2, the Air Force used 1,760 Sony PlayStation 3 consoles. They called it the “Condor Cluster,” and it was the Department of Defense’s fastest computer.
The USAF put the computer in Rome, New York near Syracuse and intended to use the computer for radar enhancement, pattern recognition, satellite imagery processing, and artificial intelligence research for current and future Air Force projects and operations.
Processing imagery is the computer’s primary function, and it performs that function miraculously well. It can analyze ultra-high-resolution images very quickly, at a rate of billions of pixels per minute. But why use Playstation consoles instead of an actual computer or other proprietary technology? Because a Playstation cost 0 at the time and the latest and greatest tech in imagery processing would have run the USAF nearly ,000 per unit. Together, the Playstations formed the core of the computer for a cost of roughly million.
The result was a 500 TeraFLOPS Heterogeneous Cluster powered by PS3s but connected to subcluster heads of dual-quad Xeons with multiple GPGPUs. The video game consoles consumed 90 percent less energy than any alternative and building a special machine with more traditional components to create a processing center, the Air Force could have paid upwards of ten million dollars, and the system would not have been as energy-efficient.
It was the Playstation’s ability to install other operating systems that allowed for this cluster – and is what endangered the program.
If only Saddam had lived to see this…
In 2010, Sony pushed a Playstation firmware update that revoked the device’s ability to install alternate operating systems, like the Linux OS the Air Force used in its supercomputer cluster. The Air Force unboxed hundreds of Playstations and then imaging each unit to run Linux only to have Sony run updates on them a few weeks later. The Air Force, of course, didn’t need the firmware update, nor could Sony force it on those devices. But if one of the USAF’s Playstations goes down, it would be the end of the cluster. Any device refurbished or newly purchased would lack the ability to run Linux.
The firmware update was the death knell for the supercomputer and others like it that had been produced by academic institutions. There was never any word on whether Saddam ever created his supercomputer.
The Air Force recently released a bunch of crazy pictures of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs getting refueled over Afghanistan, where the US recently redeployed a squadron of 12 Warthogs.
The A-10s were deployed in late January 2018 to Kandahar Air Base as part of a new campaign announced in November 2017. The US is increasing airstrikes on Taliban revenue sources, much of which is opium and heroin drug-producing facilities.
Since then, the US has released several videos of A-10s striking Taliban vehicles, as well as training and drug-producing facilities.
China offered an unprecedented look at its new DF-26 “carrier killer” missile in a video seen by military experts as a direct warning to US aircraft carriers that they’re in danger of being sunk.
The footage of the DF-26 broke with norms in several ways. China strictly controls its media, and any data on a its ballistic missiles or supporting infrastructure amounts to military intelligence for the US, which considers China a leading rival.
And a close look at the video reveals a capable weapon with several strengths and features that seriously threaten the US Navy’s entire operating concept.
“This is the first time, to my knowledge, the DF-26 has really been materially visible in any video,” Scott LaFoy, an open-source missile analyst at ArmsControlWonk.com tweeted in response to the video. “This sort of imagery wasn’t released for literally decades with the DF-21!” he continued, referencing China’s earlier, shorter-range “carrier killer” missile type.
The DF-26 warhead revealed.
(CCTV / YouTube)
What we know about the missile
The DF-26 has a known range of 1,860 to 3,500 miles, putting much of China’s near periphery in range, along with much of the US military’s Pacific basing and infrastructure.
With at least a 2,500-pound throw weight, China can use the missile to carry conventional, nuclear, or anti-ship warheads.
First off, the missile is road-mobile, meaning that if the US sought to kill the missiles before they’re fired, they’d likely be able to run and hide.
Second, the missile is solid-fueled. This means the missile has fuel already inside it. When North Korea launched its intercontinental-ballistic-missile prototypes in 2017, it used liquid fuels.
The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, and warships.
(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)
Liquid-fueled missiles must take fuel before the launch, which for road-mobile missiles, requires a large team of fueling and support trucks. The long convoy makes the mobile missiles easier to track and would give the US about 30 minutes to hunt the missile down.
Third, the missile is cold-launched, according to LaFoy. This makes a minor difference, but essentially allows the missile to maximize its range by relying on compressed gas to eject it from the tube to get it going, rather than a powerful blast of fuel.
Submarines, for example, shoot cold-launched missiles near the surface before letting their engines rip.
Finally, according to LaFoy’s close analysis of the launch, the DF-26 may carry field reloads, or essentially get close to rapid fire — which could allow China’s batteries to overwhelm a carrier’s robust defensive systems.
If the DF-26 units carry with them additional rounds and operate as portrayed in the video, China may truly have a weapon that they can confidently show off knowing the US can scrutinize it but likely not defeat it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Technology wasn’t actually the method by which the military tried to create an army of super soldiers. It wasn’t a special armor or a Captain America-like serum either. No, like most harebrained schemes of the Cold War, the military tried to create a kind of “warrior monk soldier” with paranormal abilities that would take on the defense of the United States when technology could not.
The Army and the CIA, it turns out, could spend money on anything.
The Marines got the Warrior Monk anyway.
The First Earth Battalion was more than just a bunch of men staring at goats. The idea was derived from the human potential movement, a counterculture phenomenon of the 1960s which believed humans were not using their full mental and physical capacity in their lives and could thus be and do more when properly trained or motivated. After the end of the Vietnam War, the Army was ready to review how it fought wars and try an approach less focused on filling body bags.
When the Army sent word that it was seeking new ways of fighting and training its soldiers, it was bombarded with suggestions that seemed bogus but had some merit, like sleep learning and mental rehearsal. It was also offered some of the less down-to-earth ideas in American culture. It attempted to create an Army focused on unleashing the human potential locked within the bodies of its soldiers, unused.
Admit right now that unleashing an army of Tony Robbinses would be terrifying for the enemy.
So the U.S. military was divided over how to proceed. One side wanted to invest in developing weapons, technology, armor, and ways to train its soldiers. You know, Army stuff. The other side wanted to train soldiers to master extra-sensory perception, leaving their body at will to fight on the astral plane, levitation, psychic healing techniques, and the ability to walk through walls – they were asking for a “super soldier.”
Forget that there was no scientific evidence that this stuff actually worked. Or that the Army didn’t really ask if there was concrete evidence. And forget that the Army had no real plans to integrate these super soldiers into its order of battle against the Soviet Union when and if they did work. All they cared about were reports that the Soviets were seeking the same technology and powers, and the Americans wanted it too.
In Marvel Comics, the Soviet superhero is the “Red Guardian” and I really need him to fight the First Earth Battalion now, thanks.
To settle the matter, the Army researched a report on all things parapsychology, from remote viewing to psychokinesis. This comprehensive study took two years and was released at a whopping 425,000 pages by the National Research Council. Their findings? Spoiler Alert: the evidence in favor of nearly all of these techniques and powers were “scientifically unsupported.”
What they did find to work were things like mental rehearsals before physically performing a task. Still, the 0,000 allocated toward the potential research in 1981 was never spent and was still unspent seven years later.
The competition allowed Marines stationed in Japan to test and enhance their shooting abilities.
“The concept of every Marine a rifleman goes back to our basics,” said Sgt. Christian Lee Burdette, an ordinance maintenance chief with Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “We learn basic infantry skills before we learn our military occupational specialty. Every Marine in general has the capabilities to engage any threat with a weapon. With this training, it provides that confidence for a Marine to engage effectively.”
The first day of the competition included a brief morning class to brush the competitors up on their marksmanship knowledge followed by competitors zeroing their rifles. Zeroing is the process of calibrating the rifle combat optic, so the weapon is accurate to where the shooter is aiming. The shooters’ zero is essential, as a faulty zero can disrupt a shooters’ ability to hit their target.
The following week allowed the shooters to practice the various courses of fire. To complete certain courses, the shooters were forced to shoot with their off-hand and eye.
U.S. Marines competing in the Far East Marksmanship Competition engage targets at Range 18 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)
“It puts you into unknown situations, instead of just shooting on a flat range and known distances,” said Sgt. Shane Holum, an emergency service crew chief with MCIPAC. “You have multiple targets and you are shooting and moving. You have to work through problems and malfunctions.”
The final week was for score. All of the shooters’ shots were marked and recorded. Marines were able to compete as an individual, a team, or both. Each shooter had to complete the standard Marine Corps rifle and pistol qualification course along with other courses. The additional courses required shooters to fire and maneuver obstacles, and switch weapons while engaging targets at different distances.
Sixteen teams competed on Dec. 13, 2018, in a rifle and pistol competition. To enter and compete as a team, each team must include four shooters. A team must have an officer and a first time shooter. The first time shooter must be at least a noncommissioned officer.
A U.S. Marine shooter and spotters assess the target in the Team Pistol Match finals at Range 1 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)
“Any command that is stationed on Okinawa or mainland Japan can come out to the competition,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Ferguson, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “You can bring as large as a team as you want, or bring a single shooter. Either way, you can come out and compete.”
The Marine Corps Base Camp Butler’s team won the team rifle competition. The Communication Strategy and Operations Company on Camp Hansen won the team pistol competition, the same day the unit became officially activated. On Dec. 14, 2018, the MCB rifle team was presented with the Calvin A. Lloyd Memorial Trophy, and the CommStrat pistol team was presented with the Shively Trophy.
“Annual qualification is once a year,” said Sgt. Cameron Patrick, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “Shooting is a very perishable skill so we want you to not just do the qualification, but to try and get out and practice on your own time. Actually refine your skills by yourself. Don’t wait for that one year to come around.”
The top 10 percent of shooters are invited to participate in the United States Marine Corps Marksmanship Championship Competition in Quantico, Virginia, in April 2019. From there they will be evaluated to see if the individual has the qualities of becoming a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team, according to Patrick.
The Far East Competition is held annually on Okinawa. Marines that want to participate are encouraged to sign up early as slots fill up quickly.
You may think that when a plane is retired by the Air Force, the Department of Defense is simply done with it. The only options from here are being sold second-hand, getting scrapped, becoming a museum installation, or getting lucky and becoming a civilian warbird. Well, there is another option – planes can continue to serve, but that service usually comes to a fiery end.
That’s because old fighters make for useful target drones. These eight successful fighters all found use well after retirement.
A F6F Hellcat meets its end at the hands of an AIM-9B Sidewinder missile in 1957, more than a decade after the end of World War II.
1. F6F Hellcat
Over 11,000 F6F Hellcats were produced, so it’s no surprise that this classic ended up doing target drone duty. In the late 1950s, Hellcats served as targets for the early versions of the AIM-9 Sidewinder. Today, the FAA shows only 11 registered Hellcats.
The QF-86 Sabre was still in service with the United States military in 1991 – four decades after F-86 Sabres blasted Commies out of the sky.
(U.S. Navy photo by PH2 Bruce Trombecky)
2. F-86 Sabre
The most famous plane of the Korean War didn’t leave service when the Air National Guard retired its last F-86 in the 1970s. Instead, F-86s served as target drones in the 1990s — long after they dominated MiG Alley.
A F-16 Fighting Falcon takes down a QF-100 Super Sabre in a test of the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
3. F-100 Super Sabre
The F-100 Super Sabre also saw years of post-retirement service as a target for missiles. The AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile’s deadliness was honed on QF-100 Super Sabres.
The F-102 served as a target drone into the 1980s.
Former President George W. Bush’s old steed saw some service as a target drone for a decade after its retirement. The last of the QF-102/PQM-102s were shot down in 1986.
The Air Force bought less than 300 F-104s, but some became target drones.
5. F-104 Starfighter
This plane didn’t see much service with the United States, but was purchased in large numbers by American allies. The QF-104 extended the F-104’s otherwise brief service with the United States military.
The F-106 Delta Dart was replaced by the F-15 in the 1980s, but those that were turned into target drones came within a couple of years of serving into the 21st century.
6. F-106 Delta Dart
The F-106 Delta Dart succeeded the F-102 as an interceptor in the 1960s, so it seems natural the QF-106 would succeed the QF-102/PQM-102 force as targets. The Delta Dart’s last mission as a target drone was in 1997.
The QF-4 Phantom served for over two decades as an oversized clay pigeon for various missile tests.
(Wikimedia Commons photo by Jon Hurd)
7. F-4 Phantom
The F-4 was a workhorse for the United States Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps for decades. However, it also put in roughly two decades as a drone. It finally flew its last mission in 2016.
The QF-16 Fighting Falcon will be serving as a target drone for the foreseeable future.
(USAF photo by MSgt. J. Scott Wilcox)
8. F-16 Fighting Falcon
The F-16 replaced some F-4s in active United States Air Force service – as well as in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Now, the first QF-16 target drones are taking flight as targets for missile tests.
The fighters that end up as target drones meet a noble end. Though they no longer fly missions in-theater, they ensure that the missiles used by American military personnel are reliable.
China “is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to strike regional and global targets,” the report reads. “Stealth technology continues to play a key role in the development of these new bombers, which probably will reach initial operational capability no sooner than 2025,” it continued.
Today, China holds perhaps the world’s most passive nuclear arsenal with nuclear warheads that never arm missiles and nominally “nuclear-capable” bombers that have never flown missions with nuclear warheads on board.
China’s only current bomber is the H-6K, an updated, licensed knock off of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16, which entered into service in 1954 and was retired by Moscow in 1993.
Plans and some potential images have leaked for the H-20, a long-range replacement for the H-6K, but until now the second Chinese stealth bomber has remained a rumor and a mystery.
Could China combine the stealth of the B-2 with the fighter prowess of an F-22?
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester)
Experts who spoke to Business Insider about China’s H-20 described the bomber as likely looking a lot like the US’s B-2, a big, flat, flying wing type design.
But the DIA hinted at something a bit more sporty in its report for the second mystery bomber.
“These new bombers will have additional capabilities, with full-spectrum upgrades compared with current operational bomber fleets, and will employ many fifth-generation fighter technologies in their design,” the report said.
While a long-range flying wing type bomber like the H-20 has little use for fighter maneuvers, a medium-range fighter/bomber aircraft could easily make use of the avionics and tactics China gained in developing its stealth fighter, the J-20.
The DIA in a table later in the report refers to the second bomber as a “tactical bomber” and with a fighter/bomber mission, an advanced radar and long-range air-to-air missiles.
The Drive points out that a bomber like the one described by the DIA would have increased endurance and wouldn’t rely so heavily on refueling tankers, thought to be a weak link with US combat aircraft.
Image shows the unnamed Chinese long range missile that could be a big problem for the US.
China has long been developing a massive, 19-foot long very long range air-to-air missile that experts say could pose a direct challenge to top US fighters like the F-35, F-22, and all legacy aircraft.
But the J-20 likely can’t carry this long missile. A stealthy platform with a large internal weapons bay, like the fighter/bomber describe by the DIA, in theory, could handle this weapon.
With both an air-to-air and an air-to-ground mission, the mysterious new bomber may represent a missing link in China’s emerging vision of air supremacy against the US.
“The best solution to this problem I can figure out is to send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets,” Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese media of its new long-range missile.
(Times Asi / Flickr)
Super-maneuverability is one of the fifth-generation fighter characteristics that China may employ on its new bomber, according to the DIA.
But China, by following through on a medium range fighter bomber with long range missiles, may have cracked the code of how to dominate the skies of the Pacific while the US pours money into short range fighters like the F-35 or long-range bombers like the B-21.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Black Death. The Monster. The Rifleman of the Sky.
The Apache is a lethal and feared military monstrosity that rakes its claws across the battlefield and leaves shattered bodies and buckets of gore in its wake. Here’s how it kills you — and anyone nearby. And anyone within a few miles.
An Apache sits on the airfield in Germany in 2018. The Apaches main armament in the U.S. consists of rockets, missiles, and a chain gun. The chain gun is visible under the cockpit. The missile racks are mounted on either side of the Apache body and the rocket pods are the pieces with the honeycomb pattern mounted on the outside of the wing stubs.
(U.S. Army Charles Rosemond)
First, lets take a look at the Apache armament. While it can be fitted with other missiles and guns, Apaches are usually deployed with three offensive weapons: Hellfire missiles, guided and unguided rockets, and a 30mm chain gun that’s often described as an automatic grenade launcher.
All three of them are highly capable, and all of them kill in their own special way.
First, the chain gun. It’s commonly loaded with M789 High-Explosive, dual-purpose ammunition. When this is fired at personnel on the ground, it does look a lot like they’re getting attacked by an automatic grenade launcher. The weapon is fired in bursts with over two rounds per second striking the ground, all of which explode soon after, shredding the bodies of those targeted.
A U.S. Army Apache helicopter fires its M203 chain gun during an exercise in Georgia in 2018.
(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ellen Babo)
The chain gun ammunition is dual-purpose and is designed to penetrate armor at ranges of up to 3 kilometers. Against older tanks, these rounds pierce the hull and blow up inside or nearly pierce it and then explode, turning the remaining armor into shrapnel that flies through the crew compartment. The helicopters carries up to 1,200 of these rounds.
Most modern tanks can survive this onslaught, but they’ll likely lose any externally mounted equipment, potentially including their main gun. For these rugged targets, the Apache will typically turn to its Hellfire missiles.
There isn’t a known tank that the Hellfire missile can’t kill, and the Apache can carry up to 16 of these bad boys if it foregoes rockets. The Apache originally carried laser-guided Hellfires, but now it often carries radar-guided Longbow variants of the missile which the pilot can fire and forget about. It’ll get to the target on its own.
A U.S. Army Apache helicopter flies over Georgian tanks during a live-fire exercise in Georgia in 2018.
(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ellen Babo)
While there are now air-to-air and surface-to-air versions of the Hellfire, the Apache is essentially always equipped with the air-to-ground version in the U.S. arsenal. It has a variety of available warheads, including thermobaric, tandem charges, shaped charges, and blast fragmentation.
That basically means that the Apache can use the missile against enclosed structures, any-and-all tanks, and soft vehicles and personnel, but it does have to decide what it will likely be attacking before departing the base.
An Army Apache helicopter fires rockets during a live-fire range in Korea in 2014.
(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Abril)
Finally, the Apache carries rockets. Historically, this was the Hydra rocket, a 70mm unguided weapon. But then BAE Systems rolled out the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, a kit that gives guidance to dumb rockets. So now, the pilots can send their rockets with warheads between 8 and 15 pounds.
These rockets’ payloads can be high explosive, but they can also be filled with darts called flechettes that zip through human flesh and bones, shredding arteries, nerves, and other flesh, and quickly ending life. Occasionally, the rockets are used with parachuting illumination payloads or CS gas.
So, when Apaches are flying at you, they can choose to kill you with a chain gun, a warhead, or rockets, all of which can explode on impact or carry a variety of other payloads. But what really makes the Apache so dangerous is how far away it can kill you from.
A U.S. Army Apache helicopter returns from a maintenance test flight in 2018. The disc on top is a radar that allows to Apache to detect and engage targets from up to 3 miles away.
(U.S. Army Charles Rosemond)
The Apache has a super sensitive camera mounted under its nose and a variety of other sensors. One of the most powerful sensors is the radar mounted over the rotor blades.
These sensors and the on-board computers allow the helicopter to track up to 256 targets from up to 3 miles away. That’s further away than the sound of their rotor blades carries, especially if there is vegetation or uneven ground to break up the waves. So, for many people being hunted by an Apache, the first sign of trouble is the sudden sound of high-explosive chain gun rounds landing all around them.
This sound is quickly followed by the noise of the gun firing, since the rounds leave the gun at over Mach 2 at normal temperatures. Around the same time that the sound wave comes, the rounds begin exploding. You likely won’t hear anything else after that.
Unless you’re in a tank! But, then you likely wouldn’t hear any explosive rounds. Instead, you’d just take a Hellfire missile to the turret and be dead from the tandem warhead before you realize anything is wrong. Tandem warheads fire twice. The first explosive opens a gap in your reactive armor. The second pierces the remaining armor and sends you to your maker.
But it might hit you with rockets, shredding you with darts or destroying you with explosives and fragmentation.
So, uh, maybe don’t get caught burying an IED when any of these things are around. It’ll be a bad day.
Tesla Cybertruck’s controversial style and decked out armor-like exterior and towing capability seem like overkill for everyday driving, but they could be perfect for camping just about anywhere.
During the presentation, Tesla emphasized that the Cybertruck is “completely adaptable for your needs.” The company is marketing the truck as the best of a truck and a sports car, but information on its website hints at other future possibilities.
The most expensive edition of the Cybertruck has 100 cubic feet of storage space, which would be useful for camping gear.
Tesla’s renderings at least show that the company is thinking about the possibility of a camper conversion, with one image showing a tent attached over the truck bed and what appears to be cooking attachments on the tailgate.
Tesla fans have shown an interest in converting their electric vehicles into more comfortable places to sleep in the past. Dreamcase sells mattresses designed for specific car models, designed to “transform your car into a luxury double bed.” It already sells mattresses for three current Tesla models.
Regardless of whether Tesla releases more information about possible camper conversions, the Cybertruck design already has the ability to tow an RV. The Cybertruck has a towing capacity of up to 14,000 lbs, which is more than enough to tow even the heaviest Airstream on the market.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Cluster bombs and napalm are two of the most underappreciated yet effective types of munition that a plane can drop on the bad guys, but they’re not suited for every purpose. Yes, cluster bombs can do thing JDAMs can’t and yes, napalm does provide the age-old “smell of victory,” but when the bad guys are using local civilians as human shields, precision is paramount.
Thankfully, there’s a bomb for exactly that. On display at SeaAirSpace Expo 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland, Lockheed’s newly developed bomb is appropriately called the “Scalpel.” The Scalpel is a “precise, small weapon system with low collateral damage” designed for use “particularly in urban close air support (CAS) environments.”
The bomb weighs all of 100 pounds. That’s about the size of the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, a weapon that’s proven extremely effective against terrorists and tanks facing American troops. Like the Hellfire, the Scalpel is laser-guided, but there is one big difference: While the Hellfire has a relatively small, 20-pound, high-explosive warhead that detonates on impact, the Scalpel has options.
This new, laser-guided system has a “kinetic” option. What this means, simply, is that it can be set to not explode if not needed. This might sound like a waste of a bomb, but even without an explosion, a long (six feet, three inches), thin, 100-pound rod dropped from at least 15,000 feet doesn’t need to go off to put a world of hurt on some bad guys.
The Scalpel weighs about as much as a Hellfire, and uses Paveway mountings and settings.
The Scalpel is also quite easy for pilots to employ. The guidance system is the same as that of the Paveway series of laser-guided bombs, and the Scalpel uses the same computer settings as the GBU-12 laser-guided bomb. It has been used on the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, Mirage 2000, Mirage F-1, and the Jaguar.
The Scalpel is capable of hitting within about six feet of its aim point. It’s a safe bet that, with more military operations taking place in urban environments, the Scalpel will be used to tactically cut apart enemy positions without making too much of a mess.
Spinoffs are a curse of entertainment. Any successful TV series soon spawns one or two others that are of suspect quality and have a vague connection to the original. For instance, the overwhelmingly popular Friends led to the creation of the underwhelming Joey. AfterMASH tried (and failed) to piggyback off of the successes of M*A*S*H.
But did you know warships also generate spinoffs? In fact, Russia pulled off a one-of-a-kind spinoff from one of its most successful ships.
The Russian navy destroyer ADM Chabanenko (DD650), right, moves past the French navy frigate FS Ventose (F733) while getting underway during the 2011 FRUKUS (French, Russia, United Kingdom, United States) event.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marie Brindovas)
The Udaloy-class destroyers were built for protecting high-value assets, like Kiev-class carriers and Kirov-class battlecruisers, from NATO submarines. Udaloy-class vessels carried two 100mm guns, two quad SS-N-14 Silex launchers, 64 SA-N-9 Gauntlet point-defense surface-to-air missiles in eight eight-round launchers, four quad 53mm torpedo tube mounts, and four AK-630 close-in weapon systems. The destroyer could also operate two Ka-27 Helix anti-ship helicopters.
The Russian navy destroyer RFS ADM Chabanenko (DD 650) fires the AK-130-MR-184 130 mm gun at a distant target during a gunnery exercise as part of the at-sea phase of FRUKUS 2011.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Darren Moore)
That’s some serious firepower — a submarine captain would have some trepidation having to take those on. But the Udaloy was a little weak in one crucial area: fighting surface ships. The SS-N-14 and the 533mm torpedoes could be used against ships, but they were primarily intended to hunt subs. In short, the Udaloy was out-ranged by the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, which was in service with U.S. Navy three years before the first Udaloy was commissioned. So, in 1989, the Soviet Union laid down what they hoped would be the answer to this shortcoming.
Despite plans to build several, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union would leave this vessel as the only one of its kind. The Admiral Chabanenko underwent a lengthy construction process — it took ten years to be commissioned. For this ship, the Soviets turned to the Udaloy’s contemporary, the Sovremennyy, as a baseline. The Admiral Chabanenko replaced the two 100mm guns with a twin 130mm gun mount, the quad SS-N-14 mounts were replaced with quad SS-N-22 Sunburn launchers, and the four AK-630s were replaced with CADS-N-1 close-in weapon systems.
Anyone who has watched a lot of Japanese anime knows that giant robots are a major theme. Heck, the first four “Transformers” films have netted almost $3.8 billion at the box office since making their debut in 2007. In August, American and Japanese robots will go head-to-head in real life – and we could be seeing some of the classic military sci-fi coming to life.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the American company Megabots issued the challenge to the Japanese robotics firm Suidobashi in 2015 after Megabots had completed the 15-foot tall, six-ton Megabot Mark II. The Japanese company accepted the challenge, but insisted that hand-to-hand combat be allowed before agreeing to commit their battle bot, KURATAS.
Megabots then spent two years re-designing its robot warrior to address the changed dynamics of the duel. They also needed to be able to transport the robot inside a standard shipping container. That meant the company had to be able to quickly deploy the Megabot Mark III — a 16-foot tall, 12-ton behemoth — from an air transportable configuration. That’s not an easy task when you consider there are 3,000 wires, 26 hydraulic pumps, and 300 hydraulic hoses to bolt into place.
Plus, the robot’s 430-horsepower engine was originally designed to move a car, not power a piloted robot in a duel to the death – of the robot, that is.
“When we show our robot to people who haven’t heard of us, the reaction is always ‘Oh! I saw that in…’ and then they list any of 60 or 70 different video games, movies, [or] animated shows that feature giant robots fighting. We’re trying to bring the fantasies of sci-fi fans around the world to life,” Megabots co-founder and CEO Gui Cavalcanti said.
Which robot will emerge victorious, and which one will turn into scrap? We’ll find out this summer. Will we eventually see these robots in the military? Don’t bet against it. Meanwhile, watch the challenge Megabots issued to Suidobashi.