What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the term, “gadfly?” Do you think of some annoying person you wish you could just smack? Maybe you’re a rancher and you immediately think about an insect that bites your livestock. If you hear an Air Force or Navy pilot say “gadfly,” however, they’re not talking about some nuisance. They’re talking about a very deadly threat to themselves and their fellow aviators.
They’re talking about the SA-11/SA-N-7 “Gadfly,” a radar-guided surface-to-air missile fired from land-based mobile launchers and from a number of Russian, Chinese, and Indian warships. This missile earned infamy in 2014 when it was used by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine to shoot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, killing 298 people.
The SA-11 is a radar-guided missile with a range of 20 miles. The system entered service with land forces in 1980 and was deployed by the Soviet Navy on the first Sovremennyy-class guided-missile destroyers in 1983.
The missile did not see combat action, however, until 2008, when both Russia and Georgia used it during the South Ossetia War of 2008. Russian forces shot down four Georgian drones. The Georgian military used the SA-11 to down a Tu-22M Backfire and three Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes.
In the 1990s, the system was widely exported for use within a number of land-based and naval-based units. India initially used the SA-N-7 on its Delhi-class destroyers and later went on to use it on Talwar-class frigates. China bought SA-N-7s when it acquired Sovremennyy-class destroyers from Russia, and eventually put together a land-based version they call the HQ-17.
Learn more about this infamous Russian missile in the video below.
“We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission,” is a sentence no one should ever have had to say.
That was Harry Schoell, CEO of one of the companies making this robot, after a panic-filled scientific world started rumors of corpse-eating robots. The rest of that statement goes:
“We are focused on demonstrating that our engines can create usable, green power from plentiful, renewable plant matter. The commercial applications alone for this earth-friendly energy solution are enormous.”
This robot was then given the appropriate acronym, EATR (Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot). The project began in 2003 and is a DARPA-funded venture between Cyclone Power Technologies and Robotic Technology, Inc.
The robot was designed for long-range operations that also require extreme endurance but its designers stress that it can provide material support to units requiring intensive labor or just by carrying the unit’s packs. They also designed it for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition or casualty extraction.
Before we all go crazy – this is an old story, so the internet already did, but still – the desecration of corpses is specifically forbidden by the Geneva Conventions. The designers of the phase I engine stressed heavily that the robot is not going to eat the dead. Instead, it runs on “fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings, and wood chips — small, plant-based items.”
The only problem with that is how many times I’ve watched a vegan/vegetarian order a meat-dipped meat pizza slice with extra cheese after six hours of drinking.
As of April 2009, RTI estimated that 150 pounds of biofuel vegetation could provide sufficient energy to drive the to vehicle 100 miles. The second phase of the project will have the engine determine which materials are suitable (edible) for conversion into fuel, locate those materials, and then ingest them. Basically, the machine is going to learn to eat on its own.
The final phase will determine what military or civil applications a robot that can feed itself by living off the land will actually have and where such a system can be successfully installed.
If you’re a precision shooter, or have ever been to the range with one, you know that at some point you’re going to have to stop and let a rifle cool down. A hot barrel is a less accurate one, and usually long range shooters aren’t the type that want to turn money into noise. To reduce the dreaded waiting period, MagnetoSpeed launched an active cooling system they named Riflekühl.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen devices like this; several years ago Caldwell released their Accumax Barrel Cooler. However, there were some downsides. First and foremost it only worked with the AR-15 and then only those that used 5.56-sized receivers – that limits the application severely. MagnetoSpeed tells us they have a more efficient system that can drop the temperature of a barrel to ambient levels with an average of seven minutes. Inserted through the ejection port, the Riflekühl has a magnet to keep it snugged up against the bolt and the nozzle seals against the chamber to allow for the most efficient airflow. As a bonus, the Riflekühl has a replaceable 50-micron air filter (especially handy for those in desert environments) and the red color means it can also serve double duty as a chamber flag.
Of course, this being MagnetoSpeed, their target market is going to be for the bolt action crowd. With that said, we’re told that so far it has fit into every AR-15 and AR-10 style rifle that they’ve tried it in (.22LR not included!).
Here’s some more information from MagnetoSpeed:
Tired of waiting and waiting for your rifle to cool down? MagnetoSpeed’s new barrel cooler, Riflekühl, is designed to get barrel temperatures down to intended operating levels quickly. The turbocharger inspired impeller is engineered to produce great air flow in a small package. Powered by a single CR123A Lithium battery (included), ambient air is forced through the extendable nozzle down the bore of the rifle. Designed to seal and push air flow down the barrel where it’s needed to efficiently cool barrels, typically under 7 minutes. Riflekühl doubles as a chamber flag and features an exclusive built-in air filter to prevent dust and dirt from being blown into your rifle. Spend less time waiting and more time shooting with the MagnetoSpeed Riflekühl.
Other features include:
‣Replaceable dust filter (50 Microns) ‣Strong neodymium magnet secures device to chamber ‣Included CR123 lithium battery lasts for dozens of range sessions ‣Spring loaded retractable nozzle designed for compact and durable storage ‣Belt/Pocket clip included for easy carry ‣Chamber seal for increased cooling efficiency ‣Red body serves as an empty chamber flag
Check out the video below or visit MagnetoSpeed online here for more information.
The Lockheed SR-71 was an awesome plane. It could go fast, it could go high, and it was very hard to detect on radar. The problem was, the United States didn’t build that many of them — a grand total of 32 planes were built. The SR-71 was retired in 1990 by George H. W. Bush but was brought back, briefly, in the ’90s before being sent out to pasture for good.
But there have been rumors of a replacement — something called the “Aurora.” This rumored replacement appeared in a 1985 budget line item in the same category as the U-2 Dragon Lady and the SR-71. The name stuck as the speculated successor to the SR-71, which the Air Force seemed all too happy to retire.
In 2006, Aviation Week editor, Bill Sweetman, declared he’d found budgetary evidence that the Aurora had been operating, saying,
My investigations continue to turn up evidence that suggests current activity. For example, having spent years sifting through military budgets, tracking untraceable dollars and code names, I learned how to sort out where money was going. This year, when I looked at the Air Force operations budget in detail, I found a $9-billion black hole that seems a perfect fit for a project like Aurora.
But there is another successor — one that doesn’t require a crew. This is the SR-72, and it may be twice as fast as the Mach 3 Blackbird. The Mach 6 drone is said to be able to reach some of the same heights as the SR-71. What’s unique about this unmanned aircraft is that it will carry two types of engines. There will be a normal jet engine to get the plane up to Mach 3 and a ramjet to push it to its top speed.
The SR-72 may be slated to enter service in 2030, but Popular Mechanics reported that Lockheed had announced progress on the project. More tellingly, that same publication reported that a demonstrator was seen at the Skunk Works plant. America’s super-fast eye in the sky may be here sooner than expected.
Learn more about this new plane in the video below:
The Army recently demonstrated extended ranges for the guided multiple launch rocket system, and two 155mm cannon artillery precision munitions.
Aligning with the Army’s top priority — Long-Range Precision Fires — these changes support the force’s need for both close and deep-strike capabilities against a near-peer adversary.
Last fall, the Army conducted demonstrations of the new XM1113 and Excalibur M982 munitions from a prototype Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA self-propelled howitzer
The XM1113 Insensitive Munition High Explosive Rocket Assisted Projectile is slated to replace the Army’s aging M549A1 rounds. Currently, the M549 rounds can reach about 30 km.
The XM1113 reached 72 km during a demonstration, said Rich Granitzki, Long-Range Precision Fires Science and Technology Advisor for Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.
The XM1113 consists of a high fragmentation steel body with a streamlined ogive, the curved portion of a projectile between the fuze well and the bourrelet, and a high performance rocket motor. The projectile body is filled with insensitive munition high explosive and a supplementary charge. On gun launch, propellant gases initiate a delay device that will ignite the rocket motor, boosting velocity at an optimal time in the trajectory to maximize range.
(US Army photo)
Similarly, the Excalibur M982 is a Global Positioning System-guided, extended-range artillery projectile, supporting the Army’s next generation of cannon artillery.
During a limited-range test, the M982 exhibited an increase in range, going from 40 to 62 km, Granitzki added.
Moving forward, ammo modernization and improvements to cannon technologies will play a vital role in optimizing these and other armaments technologies to reach “extended ranges and to get increased rates of fire,” Granitzki said.
“We are still maturing our demonstrators, component technology and subsystems, in advance of future demonstrations to transition our systems to programs of record,” he added.
The Army has also made improvements to the XM30 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or GMLRS, nearly doubling its range.
The current XM30 rocket is a GPS-guided high-speed rocket equipped with small wing-like controls on the nose of the projectile to enhance accuracy. The XM30 system has an advertised range of 70 km, said Mike Turner, fire support capability area lead supporting CCDC Aviation Missile Center.
To extend the XM30’s range, the Army moved the control fins to the rear of the device, Turner said. In addition to the tail controls, the Army redesigned the nose of the rocket to make it aerodynamic, equipped the device with a light-weight composite motor, and added propellant.
Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.
(US Army photo)
In result, the new Tail Controlled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or TC-G, reached 139 km during a demonstration at altitude.
“This takes a product that exists in the Army’s inventory and nearly doubles the range,” he said. “By moving the control surfaces to the rear, we’re giving it more control, maneuverability, and range.”
To support the new device, the Army fabricated a composite smooth-bore tube, ensuring a clean launch for the guided rocket,” said Brett Wilks, a TC-G program manager.
In theory, these tubes could be retrofitted to existing launch systems, resulting in no significant impact to current Army software or hardware, he added
CCDC completed the science and technology phase of the program in September 2018. The Army looks to transition the program to an initial operating capability in the next couple of years, Turner said.
“It is our mission at CCDC AvMC to look at future concepts and reduce risk. We showed the Army what’s capable for long-range missile systems,” he added.
For the first time, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing will open its aperture for recruiting Air Force pilots into the U-2 Dragon Lady through an experimental program beginning in the fall of 2018.
Through the newly established U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program, the 9th RW’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron will broaden its scope of pilots eligible to fly the U-2 by allowing Air Force student pilots in Undergraduate Pilot Training the opportunity to enter a direct pipeline to flying the U-2.
“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” said Col. Andy Clark, 9th RW commander. “This new program is an initiative that delivers a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of (reconnaissance) warfighting capabilities.”
The FACT pipeline
Every undergraduate pilot training student from Air Education and Training Command’s flying training locations, during the designated assignment window, is eligible for the FACT program.
A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot, assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, pilots the high-altitude reconnaissance platform at approximately 70,000 feet above an undisclosed location.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Ross Franquemont)
UPT students will now have the opportunity to select the U-2 airframe on their dream sheets just like any other airframe.
The first FACT selectee is planned for the fall 2018 UPT assignment cycle and the next selection will happen about six months later.
After selection, the FACT pilot attends the T-38 Pilot Instructor Training Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, before a permanent change in station to Beale Air Force Base, Calif.
For the next two years, the selectee will serve as a T-38 Talon instructor pilot for the U-2 Companion Trainer Program.
“Taking on the task of developing a small portion of our future leaders from the onset of his or her aviation career is something we’re extremely excited about,” said Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, 1st RS commander. “U-2 FACT pilots will have an opportunity to learn from highly qualified and experienced pilots while in turn teaching them to fly T-38s in Northern California. I expect rapid maturation as an aviator and officer for all that get this unique opportunity.”
After the selectee gains an appropriate amount of experience as an instructor pilot, they will perform the standard two-week U-2 interview process, and if hired, begin Basic Qualification Training.
After the first two UPT students are selected and enter the program, the overall direction of the FACT assignment process will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline.
Broadening candidate diversity
Due to the uniquely difficult reconnaissance mission of the U-2, as well as it’s challenging flying characteristics, U-2 pilots are competitively selected from a pool of highly qualified and experienced aviators from airframes across the Department of Defense inventory.
A mobile chase car pursues a TU-2S Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)
The selection process includes a two-week interview where candidates’ self-confidence, professionalism, and airmanship are evaluated on the ground and in the air while flying three TU-2 sorties.
Traditionally, a U-2 pilot will spend a minimum of six years gaining experience outside of the U-2’s reconnaissance mission before submitting an application.
As modernization efforts continue for the U-2 airframe and its mission sets, pilot acquisition and development efforts are also changing to help advance the next generation of reconnaissance warfighters. The FACT program will advance the next generation through accelerating pilots directly from the UPT programs into the reconnaissance community, mitigating the six years of minimum experience that current U-2 pilots have obtained.
“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Maymi, said. “However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”
Developing the legacy for the future
FACT aims to place future U-2 warfighters in line with the rest of the combat Air Force’s career development timelines to include potential avenues of professional military education and leadership roles. One example would include an opportunity to attend the new reconnaissance weapons instructors course, also known as reconnaissance WIC, which was recently approved to begin the process to be established as first-ever reconnaissance-focused WIC at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
U-2 pilots prepare to land a TU-2S Dragon Lady at sunset on Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)
“This program offers FACT-selected pilots enhanced developmental experience and prepares them for diverse leadership opportunities, including squadron and senior leadership roles within the reconnaissance community,” Clark said.
The FACT program highlights only one of the many ways the Airmen at Beale AFB work to innovate for the future.
“Beale (AFB) Airmen are the beating heart of reconnaissance; they are always looking for innovative ways to keep Recce Town flexible, adaptable, and absolutely ready to defend our nation and its allies,” Clark said. “(Senior leaders) tasked Airmen to bring the future faster and maximize our lethality — to maintain our tactical and strategic edge over our adversaries. This program is one practical example of (reconnaissance) professionals understanding and supporting the priorities of our senior leaders — and it won’t stop here.”
In early February, the vice chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines testified before before lawmakers on Capitol Hill about the state of the U.S. military as the Trump administration takes office.
And many of the revelations from that testimony are disconcerting, to put it mildly. Here are some of the moments that will have you saying, “Oh, crap!”
1. The average age of Air Force aircraft is 27 years old
Take an average Air Force plane, and it was made in 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The last KC-135 was produced in 1965, the last B-52 was produced in 1962, the last F-15C was built in 1985, and the last F-16C for the Air Force was built in 2001. These are planes that will be around well into the next decade and beyond.
In other words, many of the planes the Air Force relies on are OLD.
2. The Air Force has only 55 fighter squadrons
Not only are the planes old, the number of fighter squadrons in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard has declined from 134 in 1991, the year of Operation Desert Storm, to 55 today. That is a decline of nearly 60 percent.
Yes, today’s precision weapons allow fighters to destroy multiples targets in one sortie, but sometimes, you still need numbers. The few active units we have are running their planes into the ground.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet before a flight. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske)
3. The Air Force is short by over 1,500 pilots
The Air Force’s pilot shortage was reported by FoxNews.com to be around 700 last year. Now, the service is reporting the total is over twice that estimate. This is not a good situation, senior leaders say.
Planes are no good without pilots – and even new technology to make any plane an unmanned aerial vehicle will have some limits. If the balloon were to go up, where would the pilots come from? Probably the instructor cadres – which could be bad news for keeping a sufficient supply of pilots trained up in times of war.
4. Only three Brigade Combat Teams are ready to fight in the event of a major war
The Army cut its force structure from 45 brigade combat teams to what became an eventual total of 30. Yet despite the reduction of combat brigades, 1/3 of the Army’s brigade combat teams are considered ready, according to Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn.
Of those 10 brigades supposedly ready for combat, only three of these could fight today if the balloon went up. Three out of 30 – and that is the active-duty component. Just what, exactly, is the state of the National Guard? Do we really want to know?
5. 75 percent of Army Combat Aviation Brigades are not ready
Believe it or not, the Army’s Brigade Combat Teams are in better shape than its Combat Aviation Brigades. Only 1/4 of those units are ready – and these provide AH-64 Apaches for close support, as well as the Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters needed to transport troops and supplies.
6. 80 percent of Marine aviation units can’t train properly
Remember how the Marines had to pull about two dozen Hornets from the boneyard? Well, even with that, four in five Marine units cannot give their pilots and air crews proper training because they do not have planes.
7. The Navy is smaller than it has been since 1916
Today’s ships are very capable combatants. An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer could probably sink or cripple most of a carrier’s escorts from a battle group off the coast of Vietnam fifty years ago.
But today, the Navy has a grand total of 274 ships. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, in 1916, the Navy had all of 245 ships. Even if we were to reach the proposed 355-ship level, it would only have the Navy to roughly the size it was in 1997.
The US Air Force on March 5, 2019, tested the XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, which it calls a “long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle” designed to fight against Russia and China in suicide missions too dangerous for manned fighter jets.
The Air Force tested the Valkyrie as part of its Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology program, which in layman’s terms means a program to create cheap aircraft that can soak up enemy missiles, clearing the way for other jets to follow.
According to Justin Bronk, a combat aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, some threats even these elite jets likely can’t survive.
Chinese HongQi 9 [HQ-9] launcher during China’s 60th anniversary parade, 2009.
(Photo by Jian Kang)
“Missions which are effectively one way, where there’s a campaign-critical target that is realistically too high threat to expect” jets to survive call for drones, said Bronk.
While the F-22 and F-35 represent true all-aspect stealth aircraft optimized to evade detection, tracking, and interception via missiles, they have a fatal weakness.
To drop bombs or fire missiles, both aircraft must open up their bomb bays, ruining their stealth shaping. Additionally, radar or communications emissions may compromise their operations.
“Even if you get there and deliver munitions, you’re probably not getting out of it,” Bronk said of flying manned aircraft in ultra-high threat scenarios.
The cheapest F-35s the US will ever buy will likely cost million. F-22s, bought in small numbers, cost around 0 million each. Perhaps even more valuable than the jet, is the US pilot manning each system.
Instead, why not send a cheap drone? Or at the stated cost of -3 million a pop, why not a swarm of drones?
The Valkyrie can’t carry many weapons. It’s not meant to carry any air-to-air missiles, it can’t go very fast, and it will never be a dogfighter, said Bronk.
“But if you can pump these out for million at 100 or so a year, you could hugely increase the Air Force’s combat edge,” he continued.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle, completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019, at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems to develop the XQ-58A.
(Air Force Research Laboratory)
The battle plan
With a range of between 1,500 and 2,000 nautical miles, the Valkyrie far outranges US stealth fighters or fighters of any kind.
This lends itself to a swarming attack, wherein dozens or even hundreds of Valkyries come flying in at high subsonic speeds to either drop air-to-ground bombs, jam radars with electronic warfare, spy on enemy missile sites, or even just soak up the first wave of enemy missiles, which incidentally would also likely provide targeting data to other US assets.
Next, the US’s manned aircraft could take on a greatly softened up target, which has just weathered a swarm of jamming, bombing, semi-stealthy drones forcing them to fire millions of dollars worth of missiles at cheap jets essentially meant to be shot down.
“XQ-58A is the first example of a class of UAV that is defined by low procurement and operating costs while providing game changing combat capability,” Doug Szczublewski, the Air Force’s XQ-58A Program Manager said in a release.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Facial recognition is being widely embraced as a security tool — law enforcement and corporations alike are rolling it out to keep tabs on who’s accessing airports, stores, and smartphones.
As it turns out, the technology is fallible. Researchers with the artificial-intelligence firm Kneron announced that they were able to fool some facial-recognition systems using a printed mask depicting a different person’s face.
The researchers, who tested systems across three continents, said they fooled payment tablets run by the Chinese companies Alipay and WeChat, as well as a system at a border checkpoint in China. In Amsterdam, a printed mask fooled facial recognition at a passport-control gate at Schiphol Airport, they said.
The researchers said their findings suggested that a person who prints a lifelike mask resembling someone else could bypass security checkpoints to fly or shop on their behalf.
“Technology providers should be held accountable if they do not safeguard users to the highest standards,” Kneron CEO Albert Liu said in a statement. “There are so many companies involved that it highlights an industry-wide issue with substandard facial recognition tech.”
Some facial-recognition software proved impervious to the printed-mask test, however. The researchers said Apple’s Face ID and Huawei’s system passed; both use more sophisticated technology known as structured light imaging. Kneron said its own facial recognition software also passes the test.
Researchers said that tests at security checkpoints were carried out with the permission of security guards supervising them — suggesting that as long as humans are present to notice the mask, facial-recognition checkpoints aren’t entirely unsecured.
In the month after its mask study went viral, Kneron announced that it raised million from investors including Alibaba, Qualcomm, and Horizons Ventures.
“We are excited to continue our journey with partners like Horizons Ventures who share our passion and dedication towards our mission to enable AI on any device [and] democratize AI,” Liu told Business Insider after the fundraising was announced.
Here’s the pitch deck Kneron used to raise million.
The US Air Force has decided to pull nearly a third of its C-130 transport aircraft out of service after discovering “atypical cracks” on the wings, Air Mobility Command (AMC) revealed.
After consulting with maintenance and engineering teams, AMC Commander Gen. Maryanne Miller decided that it was necessary to temporarily remove 123 of the Air Force’s 450 available C-130s from service after cracks were discovered on the lower center wing joint, or “rainbow fitting,” during depot maintenance.
“General Miller directed an immediate time compliance technical order inspection to identify and correct any cracking to ensure airworthiness of these C-130 aircraft,” Air Mobility Command said in a statement Aug. 8, 2019. “The Air Force takes the safety of its airmen and aircraft very seriously and is working diligently to identify and repair affected aircraft as soon as possible.”
AMC says that that the removal of more than one hundred C-130s, a workhorse for the Air Force, will not affect overseas operations.
A C-130 Hercules.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)
Each C-130 transport aircraft requires roughly eight hours to fully inspect. If a plane is found to have a problem, it will be repaired; otherwise, it will be returned to service. Eight aircraft have been inspected and returned to service, Task Purpose reported, citing an AMC spokesman.
The latest move, as Air Force Magazine notes, follows a decision earlier this year to ground around 60 C-130s due to propeller issues. The Air Force began looking closely at these issues after a damaged blade caused a C-130 tanker crash that killed 16 US service members; a maintenance depot failed to properly fix the blade.
The Air Force has been struggling as mission capable rates for aircraft have declined in recent years, dropping from 77.9 percent in 2012 to 69.97 percent last year. It recently came to light that only 7 of the Air Force’s 61 B-1 bombers are ready to fly.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the early years of the Cold War, huge propeller-driven bombers began to give way to bombers equipped with jet engines. These first jet bombers, like the Boeing B-47 Stratojet, had performance, but very short range. The first B-47s entered service in 1950.
The Soviet Union answered the B-47 with the Tupolev Tu-16 bomber, code-named Badger by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This plane entered service in 1954, eventually proved to be a versatile airframe, and included tanker, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare versions. While the United States didn’t export the B-47, the Soviets had no compunctions when it came to exporting its jet-powered medium bomber. The fall of the Soviet Union saw the Badger and its variants retire in 1998.
One of those potential export customers was the People’s Republic of China. The Soviets had even sent some kits for China to assemble the plane locally (something also done with the MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21). According to MilitaryFactory.com, some Soviet-built examples entered service in 1959 as the Xian H-6. Reflecting the fact that it is a Chinese copy of the Soviet plane, NATO calls the H-6 the Badger.
Then came the break-up of the Sino-Soviet friendship. Suddenly, China had to spend time reverse-engineering the Badger. Eventually, they were able to produce as many as 180 of their own. China’s newest variants have longer range and are optimized more for the cruise-missile shooter role.
The H-6 can reach a top speed of 652 miles per hour, and has a range of 3,728 miles. The plane can carry up to 20,000 pounds of bombs, or it can carry C-601, C-602, or KD-88 missiles. China has been introducing newer versions of this bomber in recent years, and even made some exports of their own!
You can see more about this bomber in the video below.
Aluminum has served in war since ancient times, but its most common application today is as armor, allowing for well-protected but light vehicles that can tear through rough terrain where steel would get bogged down. But aluminum has an unearned reputation for burning, so troops don’t line up to ride in them under fire.
Crewmen in the coupla of an M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle elevate the barrel during a 1987 exercise.
(U.S. Army Pfc. Prince Hearns)
Aluminum got its start in war as alum, a salt composed of aluminum and potassium. This was one of the earliest uses of aluminum in military history. Ancient commanders learned you could apply a solution of the stuff to wood and reduce the chances it would burn when an enemy hit it with fire.
As chemists and scientists learned how to create pure aluminum in the 1800s, some military leaders looked to it for a new age of weaponry. At the time, extracting and smelting aluminum was challenging and super expensive, but Napoleon sponsored research as he sought to create aluminum artillery.
Because aluminum is so much lighter than steel, it could’ve given rise to more mobile artillery units, capable of navigating muddy lanes that would stop heavier units. Napoleon’s scientists could never get the process right to mass produce the metal, so the ideas never came to fruition.
But aluminum has some drawbacks when it comes to weapon barrels. It’s soft, and it has a relatively low melting point. So, start churning out cannon balls from aluminum guns, and you run the risk of warping the barrels right when you need them.
Instead, the modern military uses aluminum, now relatively cheap to mine and refine, to serve as armor. It’s light, and it can take a hit, making it perfect for protection. The softness isn’t ideal for all purposes, but it does mean that the armor isn’t prone to spalling when hit.
But aluminum’s differences from steel extend deep into the thermal sphere. While aluminum does have a lower melting point than steel, it also has a higher thermal conductivity and specific energy (basically, it takes more heat to heat up aluminum than it does to heat up steel). So it can take plenty of localized heat without melting away.
An armored personnel carrier burns in the streets of Egypt during 2011 protests.
(In industrial applications that rely on aluminum burning, the process is usually started by burning another metal, like magnesium, which burns more easily and releases enough heat, and the aluminum is crushed into a fine powder and mixed with oxygen so that the soot doesn’t halt the reaction.)
In a book published in 1993, after the Bradley became one of the heroes of Desert Storm, he claimed that the vehicles survived because of changes made after those tests. But while the Army might have switched the locations where ammo was stored and other design details, they didn’t change the hull material.
But, again, aluminum does melt. And the few Bradley’s that did suffer extended ammo fires did melt quite extensively, sometimes resulting in puddles of aluminum with the steel frame sitting on top of it. This spurred on the belief that the aluminum, itself, had burnt.
The M2A3 Bradley is capable, but troops don’t love its aluminum hull.
(Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)
But aluminum melts at over 1,200 Fahrenheit, hot enough that any crew in a melting aluminum vehicle would’ve died long before the armor plates drip off. Aluminum is great at normal temperatures, providing protection at light weights.
And so aluminum protects vehicles like the M2 Bradley and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is slated to replace the M113 has, you guessed it, an aluminum hull. But while troops might enjoy the increased space, they’ll probably leave off any discussion of the vehicle’s material while bragging.
Top defense contractors are competing to give America’s longest-serving bomber a big-time upgrade to its onboard sensors to improve the aircraft’s lethality in combat.
The radars on US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers are old and haven’t been updated since the 1980s.
To keep these decades-old aircraft fighting into the foreseeable future, the Air Force is pursuing new advanced radar systems that can unlock the full fighting capabilities of the older bombers, allowing them to eliminate ground targets, as well as take on non-traditional combat roles, such as taking out ships at sea and engaging in aerial combat.
Northrop Grumman, a major US defense contractor, is currently pushing to replace the B-52 bomber’s outdated AN/APQ-166 radars with its AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) as part of the B-52 Radar Modernization Program, Inside Defense reported Feb. 26, 2019.
A B-52 Stratofortress.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo)
The SABR system pitched for the B-52 is the same as that being installed on Air Force F-16s. Northrop Grumman has an enhanced SABR variant for the B-1B Lancer as well.
Also in the running to provide improved radar systems for the B-52, Raytheon is pulling radar capabilities from the F-15’s APG-63(v)3 and APG-82 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars and the APG-79 on the Super Hornets and Growlers, according to an earlier statement from the company.
The US Air Force is determined to see the 60-year-old bombers wage war for at least a century, so the heavy, long-range bombers are receiving a variety of upgrades to extend their length of service. Improvements include an upgraded weapons rack for smart munitions, new engines, and a new radar system, among other things.
Northrop Grumman submitted a proposal this week to Boeing, which is handling source selection for the radar upgrades for the Air Force.
The company states its SABR system “leverages [the] proven, fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array radar capabilities of the AN/APG-77 on the F-22 Raptor and the AN/APG-81 on the F-35 Lightning II.”
Incorporating AESA radar capabilities into the B-52’s sensor suite would be a big deal, The War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway explains, noting that an advanced radar system like Northrop Grumman’s SABR could improve targeting, surveillance, and situational awareness.
A B-52 taking off from Tinker AFB.
The upgrade would allow the bomber’s six-man crew to simultaneously engage ground and naval targets in all weather conditions and at greater distances, target enemies using advanced electronic attack capabilities, and even engage in air-to-air combat if necessary.
With these enhanced capabilities and the B-52’s ability to carry a large arsenal of weaponry into battle, the aircraft will be better prepared to fight in contested anti-access zones and defend friendly forces.
China and Russia, both of which are locked in military competition with the US, have been pursuing standoff capabilities to create anti-access/area-denial environments, and the US military is working hard to counter emerging challenges to American operations by developing its own standoff capabilities.
For instance, during 2018’s Valiant Shield exercises, B-52 bombers practiced dropping new 2,000-pound derivatives of the Quickstrike-ER (extended range) naval mine. The bombers can lay devastating mine fields from 50 miles away.
Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are also competing to replace the AN/APG-73 radar systems on older-model F/A-18 Hornets, with Northrop offering the SABR system and Raytheon offering its APG-79, according to Inside Defense.
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