Watch Russia's radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work

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.

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work
A look at the SA-11 system shows a command vehicle and two of the launchers. Each launcher has four missiles and a tracking radar. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

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.

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work
The Gadfly went to sea as the SA-N-7, used on Sovremenny-class destroyers and other ships in the Russian and Chinese Communist navies. It’s also used on Indian Navy vessels, like the INS Talwar. (Indian Navy photo)

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.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcOJyq13rlU
Articles

These are the differences between Airborne and Air Assault

Short answer: One is still used as a tactically viable way of getting troops into the fray and the other is more ceremonial.


Benjamin Franklin once said “Where is the prince who can afford to cover his country with troops for its defense, so that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?”

Both of these troops fit that bill over two hundred years later.

Out of all of the current military rivalries, this one still ranks pretty high on the list. As someone who’s Air Assault and let his personal rivalry simmer a bit, there’s no reason to keep it up. The differences between the two just keeps growing with each conflict.

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Sean McCollum, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

 

By World War II, many forces developed their own form of Airborne infantry that soared into combat. Allied forces captivated folks back home with the tales of jumping into the European theater. Over the years, airborne operations can be performed in essentially two ways: static jumps (think of the age-old cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door! Jump right out on the count of Four!”) and HALO/HAHO, or High Altitude, Low Opening and High Opening (free-falling).

Air Assault rose in the Cold War and became more prominent in the Vietnam War. There are usually two means for getting troops into combat, FRIES, or Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction, where you grab a piece of rope and slide out of a hovering helicopter and just Air Insertion, where the helicopter lands on the ground and troops hop out. Technically, there’s also Sling Load operations, where you attach things underneath a helicopter, but that’s more of a special task that’s assigned to Air Assault qualified troops.

 

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work
There’s several more ways of leaving a helicopter. Like SPIES and Helocasting, as seen above (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Codie Mendenhall)

 

But in the wars since 9/11, you can count on one hand the number of combat jumps performed by US troops. They were done twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan — and all three to command and control airfields.

Making a combat jump authorizes you to wear a Combat Jump Device. It’s a gold star that adorns the Parachutist Badge and is often referred to as a “mustard stain.” Finding one of these bad asses outside of Jump School is like finding a CW5 — you know they have to exist somewhere because you’ve seen the badges at the PX, but it still sounds as plausible as any other barracks rumor.

There isn’t as comprehensive list on total Air Assault missions because it’s far more common. It’s just another way to get around.

Many combat arms guys can tell you that they never went to Air Assault school, but still do Air Assault operations in country. The only Air Assault task restricted to someone who actually went to the school is the previously mentioned sling load operations. Even that has its “volun-told” feel to it. Sling loading has a risk to it that could be deadly if not done properly. Only Airborne school qualified personnel are allowed to complete airborne jumps (because of the weeks they spend just learning how to fall properly).

 

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work
(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston)

Sure. We have our disagreements and will probably flame each other in the comment section. They’re both ways to get men out of a perfectly good aircraft.

We both deal with a heavy amount of prop / rotor wash that training can never prepare you for. And both of our badges are still highly sought after by badge-hunters — usually a staff lieutenant or junior NCO. And they both will probably correct you by saying “well actually, according to Army regulation…”

Wear your blood wings proud, my brothers and sisters.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how to safely land NASA’s bomber with an engine out

When soaring through the skies, thousands of feet above the ground, the last thing a pilot wants to deal with a faulty engine. Those in single-engine jets are typically left with one option: Getting out of the plane. For most military planes, this means it’s time to grab the “loud handle” and trigger the ejection seat.

But if you’re in a multi-engine plane, you have a chance to bring the plane back safely. The key word here is chance.


How big or small that chance is depends greatly on circumstance. What type of plane is it? How did the engine go out? Is there any other damage to the plane? How well-trained is the pilot?

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work

B-57 Canberra bombers were tricky enough to fly — when both engines worked.

(USAF)

This last question is crucial. Flying a plane back to base with an engine out is no simple task. The thrust propelling a plane is going to be very different — and if you don’t adjust, you’ll lose control.

One plane for which that recovery is especially tricky is the B-57, three of which are still in service with NASA today. The plane, when fully functional, is very touchy — as evidenced by its high accident rate. This plane has two engines, so if you lose one, you lose half your thrust. What remains is uneven. So, pilots had to be specially trained for such an event — but conducting that training in the plane could make for some very costly lessons.

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work

NASA has three B-57s in its inventory — including this one, with the tail number 928.

(NASA)

Check out the video below from 1955 to see how pilots were trained to conduct a single-engine landing. The instructions might be over 50 years old, but some lessons are timeless.

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

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Everything you need to know about the B-1B Lancer

For more than 30 years the B-1B Lancer has proven itself as an essential part of America’s long-range strategic bomber force. Capable of carrying the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force, the B-1 can rapidly deliver massive quantities of precision and non-precision weapons against any adversary, anywhere in the world, at any time.


Development

The Air Force’s newly acquired B-52 Stratofortress hadn’t even taken off for it’s first flight before studies for its replacement began. Research started in the realm of a supersonic bomber resulting in the development of the B-58 Hustler and XB-70 Valkyrie in the late 50s. Although cancelled, a joint NASA-U.S. Air Force flight research program continued to use the XB-70 prototypes, which were capable of reaching Mach 3.0, for research purposes into the late 60s.

During that decade Air Force began to move away from developing high and fast bombers in favor of low-flying aircraft capable of penetrating enemy defenses.

In 1970 Rockwell International was awarded the contract to develop the B-1A, a new bomber capable of high efficiency cruising flight whether at subsonic speeds or at Mach 2.2. To meet all set mission requirements, such as takeoff and landing on runways shorter than those at established large bases, the B-1A was equipped with variable-sweep wings.

The first prototype flight occurred on December 23, 1974, and by the late 70’s four prototypes had been built, however, the program was canceled in 1977 before going into production.

Flight-testing of the prototypes continued through 1981 when, during the Reagan administration, the B-1 program was revived. For the B1-B, the Mach 2.2 number was dropped and the maximum speed limit set to about Mach 1.2 at high altitude due, in part, to changes from a variable air inlet to a fixed inlet. Other major changes included, an additional structure to increase payload to 74,000 pounds, an improved radar and reduction of the radar cross section.

The first production B-1 flew in October 1984, and the first B-1B was delivered to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in June 1985. Initial operational capability was achieved on Oct. 1, 1986. The final B-1B was delivered May 2, 1988.

The B-1B holds almost 50 world records for speed, payload, range, and time of climb in its class.

Operational history

The B-1B was first used in combat in support of operations against Iraq during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998. In 1999, six B-1s were used in Yugoslavia during Operation Allied Force, delivering more than 20 percent of the total ordnance while flying less than 2 percent of the combat sorties.

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work
A B-1B Lancer takes off from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to conduct combat operations April 8, 2015. Al Udeid is a strategic coalition air base in Qatar that supports over 90 combat and support aircraft and houses more than 5,000 military personnel.
(Photo by James Richardson)

During the first six months of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, eight B-1s dropped nearly 40 percent of the total tonnage delivered by coalition air forces. This included nearly 3,900 JDAMs, or 67 percent of the total. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the aircraft flew less than 1 percent of the combat missions while delivering 43 percent of the JDAMs used. The B-1 continues to be deployed today, flying missions daily in support of continuing operations.

Active squadrons

The 9th and 28th Bomb Squadrons, 7th Bomb Wing, and the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Dyess AFB, Texas

34th and 37th Bomb Squadrons, 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota

Did you know?

  • The B-1B is nicknamed “The Bone” due to the phonetic spelling of its model designation B-ONE.
  • The B-1B has flown 12,000-plus sorties since 2001 in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • With it’s rapid deployment capability and long-range the B-1B can strike targets anywhere in the world from it’s home station.

Aircraft stats

Primary function: Long-range, multi-role, heavy bomber
Contractor: Boeing
Power plant: Four General Electric F101-GE-102 turbofan engines with afterburner
Thrust: 30,000-plus pounds each engine
Wingspan: 137 feet (41.8 meters) extended forward, 79 feet (24.1 meters) swept aft
Length: 146 feet, (44.5 meters)
Height: 34 feet (10.4 meters)
Payload: 75,000 pounds Internal (34,019 kilograms)
Speed: 900-plus mph (Mach 1 plus)
Ceiling: More than 30,000 feet (9,144 meters)
Armament: Approximately 75,000 pounds of mixed ordnance: bombs, mines and missiles
Crew: Four (aircraft commander, copilot, and two combat systems officers)
Unit Cost: $317 million
Initial operating capability: October 1986
Inventory: Active Duty, 62 (2 test); Air Force Reserve, 0; Air National Guard, 0

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work
(Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

7 weapons could give Russia an edge in World War 3

We’ve slammed the Russian defense industry for their failures before, but those mostly the result of bureaucratic missteps, when the Russian Ministry of Defense overreaches on requirements and underfunds budgets. Russian weapons designers are, however, perfectly capable and they can come up with some gems when given the money and time.

Here are seven weapons to watch out for if a new war kicks off:


Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work

The S-400 launch vehicle needs to be combined with a radar and a command vehicle to get the job done, but it’s absolutely lethal.

(Vitaly Ragulin, CC BY-SA 3.0)

S-400/S-300 surface-to-air missile systems

The S-300 was a game-changer in the Cold War, allowing the Soviets to drive a few trucks that could detect enemy planes, track multiple targets, and guide multiple missiles to multiple targets at once. They can carry two types of missiles at once, a long-range missile and a short range one — it’s like having anti-aircraft rifles and shotguns in one package. Decades of upgrades have kept the system fully capable.

But while the S-300 is still potent, its descendant, the S-400, is better. It retains all of the S-300’s power while being capable of carrying four missile types. To continue the comparison above, it adds a submachine gun and a SAW to the mix as it targets American jets. And while it isn’t certain that it can detect and track F-22s or F-35s, it is possible. Upcoming missiles could extend its range out to 250 miles.

In a war, things could turn into a quick-draw competition between jets and air defense crews to find and kill each other first, but Russia can build and export missiles faster and more effectively than we can make jets.

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work

The Saint Petersburg, a Lada-class diesel-electric attack submarine in 2011.

(Mike1979 Russia, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Diesel submarines

It’s generally accepted that top-of-the-line diesel submarines are quieter than their nuclear counterparts, and Russia has the best. While diesel’s drawbacks in range make them a poor choice for offensive warfare, their greater stealth is valuable when you’re defending your own waters.

The Kilo- and Lada-class diesel attack submarines are fast, stealthy, and well-armed with torpedoes and missiles. Luckily for the U.S., their sensors often aren’t top notch and nuclear attack submarines have a huge advantage over traditional diesels in a protracted fight: the nukes can stay underwater indefinitely, even while maneuvering and fighting, while diesels need to surface for air after a few hours.

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work

The Kirov-class nuclear-powered Frunze underway in the 1980s. These ships were specifically designed to down American aircraft carrier.

(Defense Intelligence Agency)

Kirov-Class battlecruiser

The Kirov Class is a nuclear-powered Cold War weapon that doesn’t get discussed as often as it should. While there are only four of them and they are aged, they were specifically designed to take out American aircraft carriers while defending themselves with anti-aircraft missiles — and they are still capable of that today.

The Kirov-Class ships can find U.S. targets with satellite feeds, an onboard helicopter, or their own systems, and then can engage them with 20 supersonic missiles carrying 1,653-pound warheads up to 300 miles. And, sure, American jets can fly further than that, but the Kirovs carry the same anti-air missiles as are on the S-300 as well as shorter range anti-air, making attacks against them risky.

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work

Russia’s Krasukha-4 is a potent electronic warfare platform.

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Krasukha-4

It may seem odd to see an electronics warfare platform on a list like this, but cutting the enemy’s lines of communications is always valuable, especially in modern warfare. It gives you the ability to blind ISR platforms and cutoff forces in the field from their headquarters and other assets.

And that’s what the Krasukha-4 does: drives around the battlefield and allows commanders a quick option to suppress communications and networked capabilities as well as radars. Not sexy, but it can tip battles if the enemy commander isn’t prepared.

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work

A Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter flies in an air show.

(Sergey Vladimirov, CC BY 2.0)

Ka-52 Alligator

While it’s sometimes billed as the fastest military helicopter or fastest attack helicopter in the world, it’s actually neither of those things, but it’s still quick at 186 mph (the Chinook is faster). And it’s a tank buster, carrying a 30mm gun that’s similar to that on America’s Apaches, 80mm unguided rockets that are larger than Apaches, and anti-tank missiles.

Since the Army hasn’t had armored anti-air defense since the Linebacker was retired, that means it would have to rely on Patriot and Stinger missiles to defend formations. A less-than-ideal solution against enemy attack helicopters.

2S35 Koalitsiya-SV 152mm self propelled tracked howitzer Russia Russian army rehearsal Victory Day

www.youtube.com

Koalitsiya 152 mm Self-Propelled Howitzer

The Koalitsiya 152mm self-propelled howitzer is a powerful weapon that, like the T-14 Armata, Russia won’t be able to buy in significant numbers as long as sanctions and mid-range oil prices remain the norm. But it does boast a huge range — 43 miles compared to America’s Paladin firing 18 miles and Britain’s Braveheart, which only fires 24.

Its automated turret can pump out rounds, reportedly firing up to 15-20 per minute. Paladins top out at 8 rounds per minute and have to drop to one round per three minutes during a sustained fight. That gives the Koalitsiya a massive advantage in a battery vs. battery duel.

Hypersonic anti-ship missiles

These would be ranked higher, but the entire hypersonic missile vs. ship threat is still theoretical and Russia has a recent history of lying about these and other bleeding-edge missiles. So, take any Russian military claims with a grain of salt, especially when it comes to these missiles. But Russia has multiple promising contenders in development like an upgraded Brahmos, the Kinzhal, and the Zircon.

If any of them do become operational, they’re game-changers, flying so fast that many anti-missile defenses can’t hit them, and punching with enough power that even missiles with small warheads can do insane damage. But successful deployments of the missiles are likely years away.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This company has just developed ammo that can hunt drones

Let’s face it. Enemy troops behind cover can be a real pain. In fact, someone was gonna have to root them out. Thankfully, that is no longer the case, thanks to new ammunition coming from Nammo.


Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work
A drone that was shot down by some of Nammo’s programmable ammo rounds. (Photo from Nammo)

According to a report by Soldier Systems, this programmable ammo is available for a variety of weapon systems, including 40mm grenades from rifle-mounted grenade launchers or automatic grenade launchers like the Mk 19, the 66mm rockets used in the M72 Light Antitank Weapon, the 120mm guns used on the M1A2 Abrams main battle tank, and the 30mm chain gun used on some U.S. Navy ships and the M1296 Dragoon infantry fighting vehicle.

However, Nammo has also reported that the programmable ammo may also be able to deal with enemy drones. This is a huge development, given that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria made use of drones as a means to deliver improvised explosive devices. As a result, friendly troops could be that much safer (if not completely safe) on the battlefield.

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work
The XM25 fires a programmable airburst 25mm smart round. It proved itself in Afghanistan, but it was placed on hold. (US Army photo)

Nammo is displaying some of the programmable ammo at the Defence and Security Equipment International show in London this week. In a release, Nammo claimed that its 40mm grenade has been combat proven. Nammo also stated that the use of programmable ammunition against drones would reduce collateral damage or damage from stray rounds.

Programmable ammo was used as part of the XM25 Punisher weapon system, a semi-automatic 25mm grenade launcher which proved itself in Afghanistan before being placed on hold. ModernFirearms.net notes that the XM25 had a range of up to 700 meters against area targets, and had a six-shot magazine.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s new mobile SAM had a bad combat debut in Syria

The Syrian Civil War has been a testing ground for some of Russia’s latest weapons. Russia even sent their piece-of-crap carrier, the Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, to do a “combat deployment” in Syria (though the carrier’s planes operated from land). Russia made a big deal about the deployment but, as is typical of much of Russia’s arsenal, there wasn’t much behind the hype.


Now, it looks like the new Pantsir mobile air-defense system may join that list of weapons that fail to meet expectations. The Pantsir is a combined gun-missile system armed with enough SA-22 Greyhound missiles to, theoretically, shoot down an entire squadron of fighters.

As it turns out, the Pantsir made its combat debut as a result of the recent contretemps between Iran and Israel after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal. Unfortunately for the Russians, this debut was less than stellar. The video above, released by the Israeli Defense Forces, shows the last seconds of a Pantsir’s existence, right up to the moment of impact.

According to an IDF release, the Israeli Air Force carried out an attack in response to rocket-launcher fire from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force. Israeli defense systems, like Iron Dome, destroyed four of the Iranian rockets, preventing any casualties and damages.

During the IDF’s response, Syrian air-defense systems fired on Israeli planes. All IDF aircraft returned home safely. Conversely, Israel claims that it destroyed several Syrian aerial interception systems, including the Pantsir.

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work

A Pantsir air-defense system takes part in a 2016 live-fire demonstration.

(Photo by Sergey Bobylev, Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

This isn’t the only time that Syria has taken the latest gear from Russia into battle only to see it perform poorly. In the 1982 Lebanon War, Syria sent T-72 main battle tanks into combat with the Israelis. The T-72s lost in action against Israel’s home-grown Merkava in what would prove to be a preview of that tank’s abysmal performance in Operation Desert Storm.

To see more on the Israeli Defense Forces’ recent operations in Syria, check out the video below.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The difference between the two Swiss Army Knife brands

Certain brand names become synonymous with their primary product, despite other companies making similar products. ArmaLite with AR-15 style rifles, Kleenex with facial tissues, Sharpie with permanent marker, etc. When it comes to the famous Swiss Army Knife, Victorinox is the brand that most people think of. However, it wasn’t the only brand.

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The classic Victorinox knife (Victorinox)

Victorinox was founded in Switzerland in 1884. Later in the 19th century, the company began supplying knives to the Swiss Army. In 1897, the company patented its knife design which was later marketed as the Original Swiss Army Knife. Twelve years later, Victorinox adopted the Swiss coat of arms as its logo which it still uses today. However, between 1908 and 2005, there was one other supplier of knives to the Swiss Army.

Wenger was founded in Switzerland after Victorinox in 1893. Originally a manufacturer of utensils, the company expanded from spoons and forks and into knives to meet a contract for the Swiss Army. The contract was split 50/50 between Wenger and Victornix. Interestingly, the split contract also represented the two sides of Switzerland itself. Wenger was located in a French-speaking area of the country whereas Victorinox was located in a German-speaking area.

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A Wenger knife. Note the slightly different logo that still features the Swiss cross (Wenger)

With both companies vying for their share of the civilian market, a compromise was reached between the Swiss Army Knife manufacturers. Victorinox marketed itself as Original Swiss Army Knifes while Wenger marketed itself as Genuine Swiss Army Knives. Though both claims were true, the two slogans led to some confusion between the two red pocket knives for the average consumer.

Following the events of 9/11, these types of knives suffered in the market. Increased security regulations prevented the carrying of pocket knives and eliminated a huge portion of sales through duty-free airport shops. On April 26, 2005, Victornix bought out Wenger and eliminated their competition. The Wenger brand was kept intact until 2013 when it was completely merged into Victorinox.

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work
The Victorinox Wenger pays tribute to the bygone brand (Victorinox)

Today, the last remnant of the separate Wenger brand is the Victorinox Wenger knife. It features Wenger’s original logo and classic 7 functions. Still, original Wenger products can be found on the used market for the discerning enthusiast who appreciates a quality Swiss product from the past.

Articles

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

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Naval Research Labs


Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.

Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.

Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.

Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.

“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.

An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.

“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work

Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology.  A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects.  The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.

Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.”  Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.

In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.

Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.

Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.

Pentagon Effort

The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.

The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.

While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.

Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.

“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains.  In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant.  They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk.  Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”

Navy Effort

Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.

“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.

A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.

Army Defends Against Mini-Drones

While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.

This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.

The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.

Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.

As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.

The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.

The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.

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“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.

There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.

“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Did you know Timex was once a major U.S. defense contractor?

That’s right; the same company that makes affordable watches that you can buy at Walmart was once a major player in the world of defense contracting. It’s difficult to imagine, but Timex used to be mentioned in the same sentences as industry giants like Lockheed and Northrop.

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An advertisement of the company’s production capacity (Timex)

Timex was originally founded in 1854 as the Waterbury Clock Company in Waterbury, Connecticut. Located in the Naugatuck River Valley, the Waterbury Clock Company was one of dozens of companies that produced millions of clocks every year there and earned the region the nickname, “The Switzerland of America”.

The Waterbury Clock Company branded itself as an affordable and American-made alternative to more expensive and high-end European clocks. In 1887, the company introduced the Jumbo pocket watch named for P. T. Barnum’s famous elephant. The Jumbo caught the attention of salesman and marketing pioneer Robert H. Ingersoll. The Waterbury Clock Company went on to produce millions of watches for Ingersoll including the popular Ingersoll Yankee. Priced at just one dollar, the Yankee became known as the watch that made the dollar famous.

The Waterbury Clock Company fell into bankruptcy during the turn of the century as a result of poor marketing strategies that cheapened the brand’s image. The company discontinued business in 1912 and its Waterbury plant was purchased by Ingersoll who began manufacturing his own watches there in 1914.

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A modern reissue of the WCC WWI watch with Timex branding (Timex)

However, the onset of WWI brought a new demand for wristwatches that the Waterbury Clock Company was able to satisfy. They did this by modifying their Ingersoll ladies’ Midget pocket watch. Lugs were added to allow for wear on a canvas strap, the crown was moved to 3 o’clock, and luminescent material was applied to the hands and indices for nighttime legibility.

Following the armistice, the Waterbury Clock Company hit hard times again. The reduced demand for watches combined with the Great Depression forced the company to sell off many of its assets during the 1920s. However, the company was able to regain its identity in the consumer market with an advantageous business deal.

In 1930, the Waterbury Clock Company reached a license agreement with Walt Disney to produce Mickey Mouse watches and clocks under the Ingersoll brand name. The famous timepieces featured America’s favorite mouse displaying the time with his arms and hands. Introduced to the public in 1933, the Mickey Mouse line quickly gained popularity and became the company’s first million-dollar line.

The partnership with Disney was enough to keep the Waterbury Clock Company afloat until they were called upon to supply the military again. WWII saw an increased demand for precision timekeeping devices for military use. In 1942, the company built a new concrete plant in just 88 days to produce vast quantities of precision timers under government contract. In 1943, the Under-Secretary of War awarded the Waterbury Clock Company the Army-Navy “E” Award for excellence for their “Anglo-American fuse.” The next year, the company was renamed the United States Time Corporation.

Following the end of the Korean War, U.S. Time sales dropped again due to reduced demand from the military. Using wartime research, the company introduced affordable, accurate, and durable watches made from a proprietary material called Armalloy. The new alloy was used to produce long-wearing bearings as an affordable alternative to the expensive jewels that are traditionally used in time-keeping instruments. This led to the debut of the Timex brand in 1950.

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A Terrier missile launches from the USS Josephus Daniels equipped with a U.S. Time gyro-stabilizer (U.S. Navy)

Consequently, the company’s reputation for accuracy and durability earned more government contracts during the American missile development boom of the late 1950s. U.S. Time produced mechanical missile components like fuses, gyroscopes, accelerometers, guidance sub-systems, and other miniature precision items. As a result, the company marketed itself as, “The world’s largest manufacturer of watches and mechanical time fuses.”

Additionally, U.S Time applied its precision manufacturing knowledge to ammunition and ordnance production. This lasted through the Vietnam War into the 1970s and saw the company operate the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant as well as privately-owned plants and storage facilities.

Moreover, U.S. Time marketed the durability of its products to the civilian market with live torture tests. John Cameron Swayze was regarded as the most credible newsman in America at the time. The company hired him as the spokesperson for these torture tests of Timex brand watches. These tests included baseball players, boxers, golfers, and even turtles torturing a Timex watch.

As a result, popularity of Timex watches skyrocketed. By 1962, one out of every three watches sold in the U.S. was a Timex. The foreign market was also booming and production was expanded to Europe and Asia to meet the demand. In 1969, U.S. Time was renamed accordingly with the popularity of its watch brand to the Timex Corporation.

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Timex watches were tough enough for Mickey Mantle (Timex)

Unfortunately, the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s devastated the mechanical watch industry. More affordable and precise battery-powered watches from Asia killed off dozens of watch companies. Although Timex survived, the company lost its Disney license and Swayze as a spokesperson. They were forced to abandon all other products and focus solely on timepieces.

In the mid-1980s, Timex attempted to revive its reputation for accurate and durable watches. With the help of top athletes, Timex created a watch that was simple, durable, accurate, and boasted a longer battery life that any of its competitors. The watch was released in 1986 as the Ironman Triathlon, named for the famous Hawaiian triathlon that the company began sponsoring two years before. Within its first year, the Ironman became the best-selling watch in the United States and went on to become the world’s best-selling sports watch of the decade.

Timex again made headlines with its pioneering Indiglo technology. The glowing watch backlight was used by an office worker during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to guide a group of evacuees down 40 dark flights of stairs. The story led to a huge boost in sales and regained Timex a large portion of the American market share.

In the 21st century, Timex has continued to innovate with the introduction of affordable GPS watches and heart rate monitor exercise devices. In addition, the company is reissuing many of its classic mechanical watches from the 1960s alongside modern mechanical watches. Timex has also seen great success with its Peanuts licensed watches. Although the company no longer retains any government contracts, its long history of durability and innovation make Timex a name that any American can be proud to wear.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines take Amphibious Combat Vehicle out for nighttime ocean test

The world is constantly advancing around us. As the most feared fighting force in the world, it is imperative Marines advance their capabilities along with it. The Corps’ new Amphibious Combat Vehicle is here to improve Marines’ amphibious capabilities.

Marines with the Amphibious Vehicle Test Branch, Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity, tested the ACV’s maneuverability and performance during low-light and night operations on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton’s beaches, Dec. 16-18, 2019.

The Marines spent hours driving ACVs the Southern California surf and in the open ocean to assess how well they could interface with the vehicle and conduct operations in low light.


“AVTB has been on Camp Pendleton since 1943,” said David Sandvold, the director of operations for AVTB. “We are the only branch in the military who uses our warfighters to test equipment that is in development.”

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Marines take a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle out for open ocean low-light testing at Camp Pendleton, December 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

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Marines drive a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle ashore during low-light surf transit testing at Camp Pendleton, December 18, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

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Marines drive a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle into the ocean during low-light surf transit testing at Camp Pendleton, December 18, 2019

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

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Marines drive a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle into the ocean during low-light surf transit testing at Camp Pendleton, December 18, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

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Marines take a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle out for open ocean low-light testing at Camp Pendleton, December 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

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Marines take a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle out for open ocean low-light testing at Camp Pendleton, December 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

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Marines take a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle out for open ocean low-light testing at Camp Pendleton, December 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

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Marines drive a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle along the beach during low-light surf transit testing at Camp Pendleton, December 18, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

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Marines drive a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle out of the water after open ocean low-light testing at Camp Pendleton, December 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

“I am loyal to tracks, but the more I learn about these vehicles, the more impressed I get with all its features and how it will improve our warfighting capabilities,” said Sandvold.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Dogfighting at 9Gs: Like ‘aiming through a toilet paper roll’

If you have any hope of winning, your strength has to be greater than your opponent’s weakness. As a young second lieutenant in pilot training, I learned that lesson the hard way.

I was flying a Basic Fighter Maneuver Flight, also known as dogfighting. The objective was for me to point at my instructor, who was in his own F-16, and as soon as we passed—with over 1,000 miles per hour of closure—maneuver my jet so I could gun him.


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(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

On the first set I hit the merge at just under the speed of sound and pulled back on the stick. At 50 pounds of force, the stick was fully-aft, yet only moved one inch—a design feature to make the jet as responsive as possible. The big stabilizers on the tail dug in and in less than a second I was at 9G’s.

At 9 times the force of gravity, my body weighed over 2,000 pounds. The crushing force pushed me into my seat as blood drained from my head into my arms and legs. If enough drained out, I would lose consciousness and, more likely than not, impact the ground before I woke up. To counteract this, I performed an anti-G straining maneuver—squeezing my legs and abs, while making short, crisp breaths to keep pressure in my lungs. Even with an effective G-strain, I lost my peripheral vision as the world closed in until it looked like I was watching it through a toilet-paper roll.

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Pilot fitness has a significant effect on performance while dogfighting. (USAF Photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

For the next minute or so I struggled to maneuver my jet into a position to gun my instructor. He was able to easily neutralize my game-plan and called “knock it off” so that we could set up the fight again. The next three fights ended the same way. By this point, I was out of breath and exhausted from fighting him and the G’s. We ended up doing two more sets, but instead of just neutralizing the fight, he gunned me on both of them.

In the debrief, after the flight, my labored breathing was evident in the tape. He paused it and said, “How did you ever expect to win today? I have 15 years of experience flying fighters, and granted, you don’t have anywhere near that, but I’m also in better shape than you.”

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(Ben on Flickr)

He was right. Being in my mid-20’s, I should have been in better shape than someone in their early 40’s. Having far more experience than me, there was no way I was going to be tactically superior. But, my fitness, and my poor performance towards the end of the flight was completely in my control. His weakness was greater than my strength which meant there was a zero percent chance of me winning that day.

I’ve reflected that lesson many times since; not only for myself, but also as a package commander in charge of upwards of a hundred aircraft. As the weaker force, you must find an area on the battlefield where your strength is greater than the enemy’s weakness. If you can’t find it, you’re in for a bad day. Likewise, if you are the incumbent, stronger force, it’s important to shore up your weaknesses so that hopefully they are greater than your enemies strength.

Want to learn more about dogfighting, flying, and the most successful professionals in any industry? Make sure to check out F-35 pilot Justin Lee’s podcast, The Professionals Playbook!

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


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