There’s no hiding from a SPICE enabled bomb, it will find you in the dark and chase you on the battlefield. The kit is highly precise in that it combines GPS and EO technology. The GPS side enables the bomb to engage camouflaged or hidden targets in all weather conditions by inputting coordinates. On the other hand, the EO side provides the flexibility of remote control guidance to engage relocatable targets.
With 12 control surfaces on three groups (fore, mid-body and tail), the kit provides a glide range of about 60 kilometers (approx. 37 miles), turning any bomb into a true fire-and-forget weapon. With this much distance between the target, the striking aircraft is safe from short and medium range defense systems.
The fighting in the South Pacific during World War II was vicious. One of the big reasons was how evenly-matched the two sides were. One plane called the Black Cat, though, helped the Allies gain a big advantage – and was an omen of ill fortune for the Japanese navy.
According to the Pacific War Encyclopedia, that plane was a modified version of the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina. This flying boat was a well-proven maritime patrol aircraft – sighting the German battleship Bismarck in time for the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal to launch the strikes that crippled the Nazi vessel in May, 1941.
The PBY had also detected the Japanese fleets at the Battle of Midway.
The Catalina had one very big asset: long range. It could fly over 3,000 miles, and was also capable of carrying two torpedoes or up to 4,000 pounds of bombs. The PBY drew first blood at Midway, putting a torpedo in the side of the tanker Akebono Maru. But the long legs came with a price in performance. The PBYs had a top speed of just under 200 mph – making them easy prey if a Japanese A6M Zero saw them.
The planes also were lightly armed, with three .30-caliber machine guns and two .50-caliber machine guns. In “Incredible Victory,” Walter Lord related about how two PBYs were shot up in the space of an hour during the run-up to the Battle of Midway by a Japanese patrol plane. One “sea story” related by Morison had it that one PBY once radioed, “Sighted enemy carrier. Please notify next of kin.”
Planner found, however, that flying PBY missions at night helped keep them alive. During the the Guadalcanal campaign, the first PBY-5As equipped with radar arrived and the first full squadron of “Black Cats” intended for night operations arrived later that year. According to Samuel Eliot Morison’s “The Struggle For Guadalcanal,” the “Black Cats” were a game-changer.
These Black Cats did a little bit of everything. They could carry bombs – often set for a delay so as to create a “mining” effect. In essence, it would be using the shockwave of the bomb to cause flooding and to damage equipment on the enemy vessel. They also attacked airfields, carried torpedoes, spotted naval gunfire during night-time bombardment raids, and of course, searched for enemy ships.
Morison wrote about how the crews of the “Black Cats” would have a tradition of gradually filling out the drawing of a cat. The second mission would add eyes, then following missions would add whiskers and other features.
Japan would try to catch the Black Cats – knowing that they not only packed a punch, but could bring in other Allied planes. Often, the planes, painted black, would fly at extremely low level, thwarting the Zeros sent to find them.
The FY15 cost per flying hour for Air Force One (VC-25A) includes “fuel, flight consumables, depot level repairables, aircraft overhaul, and engine overhaul,” according to the letter from the Department of the Air Force Headquarters Air Mobility Command to Judicial Watch.
According to the National Taxpayer Union Foundation, President Barack Obama has traveled internationally more than any other president, and he has done it on the “most expensive-to-operate Air Force One to date.”
• Flights for Obama’s 2014 Labor Day weekend fundraising trips to Westchester, New York, and Providence, Rhode Island, cost taxpayers $527,192.50
• Transportation for Obama’s round-trip flight from Washington, D.C., to Westchester, New York, to attend a wedding cost taxpayers $358,490.90
• The flight for Obama’s trip to Milwaukee to speak at “Laborfest 2014” cost taxpayers $653,718.70
• Obama’s June 17-19, 2013, trip to Belfast, Ireland, including a Dublin sightseeing side trip by Michelle Obama, her daughters, and her entourage, cost taxpayers $7,921,638.66
Within the US, Obama has visited all but three states during his presidency. According to The Washington Post, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush were the only two presidents to visit all 50 states in the past 38 years.
The three-leveled “flying Oval Office” has 4,000 square feet of interior floor space and boasts a conference room, a dining room, a private quarters for the president, offices for senior staff members, a medical operating room (a doctor flies on every flight), a press area, two food-preparation galleys that can provide 100 meals, and multifrequency radios for air-to-air and air-to-ground communication, according to the aircraft manufacturer Boeing.
According to the White House, the retrofitted Boeing 747 can fly 6,205 miles from Washington, D.C., to Baghdad without stopping for fuel. The plane can also be refueled while in flight in case of an emergency, The Post reports.
America is hooked on true crime stories. One of the most engrossing among those true crime stories is “Forensic Files,” the true stories of murder and intrigue solved by scientific professionals who think of creative ways to link a crime with its perpetrator.
For decades, forensic investigators have used everything from DNA analysis to gas chromatography to determine who killed who and where and with what – like a giant, real-world game of Clue.
Military scientists have been at the same game for around the same amount of time. The only trouble is that these scientists know who killed the dead men and how they died. In the military, they don’t know who the dead men are. For Americans and the U.S. military, that’s the most important puzzle to solve.
In the days of wars past, the quest to identify America’s honored dead was limited by the technology of the times. This is why the United States has Unknown Soldiers from World War I, World War II and Korea. Only the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War could be identified.
But new forensic technology offers hope to scientists who spend their days trying to identify soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, despite the lack of evidence.
Advanced forensic technology used to catch serial killers along with the rise of publicly available DNA ancestry databases has given them new methods of finding clues that could lead to more positive identifications – even if the dead were killed 70 years ago.
As the New York Times reported in April of 2021, traditional methods used by the POW/MIA Accounting Agency usually use DNA samples from found remains and try to match them with a known relative. But if there are no known relatives from which to draw a sample, the case quickly runs cold. The agency can’t even exhume remains of unknown war dead unless there is a 50% chance of identification.
This means they have to have a known relative to compare the sample. IF there is no known relative, the remains are unlikely to ever be identified.
So some analysts believe all the remains should be exhumed, DNA samples taken, and run through every available DNA database, including those used by the public for ancestry identification.
While this sounds like a good idea, it could also be a massive invasion of privacy. Genetic testing open to the public has done a lot of good, such as finding the true identity of the Golden State Killer. It has also led to the inadvertent discovery of deeply hidden family secrets, such as extra-marital affairs, children who didn’t know they were adopted, and so on.
In World War II alone, more than 73,000 American service members were unaccounted for by the end of the war. An estimated 41,000 of those are considered to be lost at sea. In the years since, researchers at the POW/MIA Accounting Agency have been able to find and identify 280,000 of the 400,000 who died during World War II.
There are also more than 7,800 missing from the Korean War, 1,626 missing from the Vietnam War, 126 from the Cold War and six from conflicts fought since 1991. As technology advances, so does the likelihood of finding and identifying the remains of the missing, but there’s still more work to do for those who gave their lives in the great power conflicts of America’s past.
Two decades after the Marines predicted most warfare would be in urban areas, the Air Force is coming to the same conclusions. Simply put, the great majority of humans live in cities these days, and Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein has added urban warfare to his list of top focus areas.
Part of the reason for increasing the emphasis on urban conflict, which isn’t something you might traditionally think of about the service that brings us fighters, bombers, and satellites, is that the Air Force may not be well equipped to handle it.
“How do we design an Air Force for this kind of conflict?” Goldfein asked during his speech here. “Today, I think we are more designed for working in open spaces.”
By contrast, the Army and Marines are focused on urban areas like a, well, laser. The Marines had Fallujah — with the Army joining in to retake the city — and smaller versions in Afghanistan. The Army had Sadr City, Mosul (before ISIS), Samarra, and more. The largest service also has some institutional memories of urban battle from World War II, but hasn’t trained for full-out war in cities for some time.
As Goldfein noted in his speech, 80 percent of humanity will live in cities by 2050. And megacities, those with more than 10 million people. will grow from a dozen to 50.
One of the greatest problems with urban warfare is limiting civilian casualties and leaving much of the city standing, as the latest battle for Mosul illustrates in Iraq. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, during a Q and A with reporters, pointed to directed energy weapons (think fricking lasers! and related technologies like electronics-frying microwaves) as potentially useful tools. She also repeated a point she’s been making recently, that no one will tolerate the US using dumb munitions any more.
“The world can no longer tolerate imprecise weapons, at least from the United States of America,” she said when I asked her and the chief about what might an urban warfare Air Force look like. During her recent tour of Central Command, she learned about an airstrike against Daesh.
“They needed a weapon so precisely placed it would destroy ISIS and make the wall fall the other way,” she said, shaking her head to show how impressed she was. Friendly forces were only 13 meters away, she said. The fire request went out. A tasking order was drawn up. Fuzes were set. What may have been a Small Diameter Bomb was dropped and the wall did fall toward ISIS.
When I pressed Goldfein about what platforms and what weapons might be best suited to urban air support, given his comment about the force being designed for open spaces, he said the focus needed to be on modes and networks, as well as on range, persistence, and payload. That echoes such of what the Army has said for the last five years when discussing its next round of weapons: the network is the key, not the new tank.
Could this also have implications for the Light Attack experiment? One Air Force colonel was convinced it would help make the argument for such aircraft to be combined with precision weapons and, perhaps, lasers. But Goldfein made clear he had elevated urban warfare recently and didn’t have all the answers yet.
Recently, Army pilots got to tool around with an autonomous helicopter kit that could one day make all Army rotorcraft capable of autonomous flight, completing tasks as varied as take off and landing, flying across the ground and behind trees, and even selecting its own landing zone and landing in it with just a simple command.
US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight
The pilots were given access to the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), an optionally-piloted helicopter filled with tech being developed under a DARPA grant. The idea isn’t to create a fleet of ghost helicopters that can fly all on their own; it’s to give pilots the ability to let go of the stick for a few minutes and concentrate on other tasks.
During the hour-long flight demonstration, [Lt. Col. Carl Ott, chief of Flight Test for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Aviation Development Directorate] interfaced with the autonomous capabilities of the system to conduct a series of realistic missions, including aircrew tasks such as low-level terrain flight, confined area takeoffs and landings, landing zone selection, trajectory planning, and wire-obstacle avoidance.
Lockheed Martin’ MATRIX Technology is created to help pilots by allowing them to focus on complex tasks while the helicopter pilots itself.
“The Army refers to this as Mission Adaptive Autonomy. It’s there when the pilot needs the aircraft to fly itself and keep it free of obstacles, so the pilot can focus on more of the mission commander type role. But the pilot is able to interact with the system to re-suggest, re-route or re-plan on the fly,” said Ott.
But SARA has a pretty robust bag of tricks. When pilots call on it, the helicopter can land or take off on its own, select its own safe landing zones using LIDAR, avoid obstacles including wires and moving vehicles, and can even fly across the ground and behind obstructions, like trees, to hide itself.
A U.S. Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter lands during training with U.S. Marines.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rachel K. Young)
Of course, the Army needs the technology from SARA to be ported over to Army helicopters, like the UH-60 Blackhawk, and that’s coming in the next few months, according to Sikorsky. The package, known as MATRIX Technology, should theoretically work on any aircraft, and porting it to rotary aircraft should be fairly easy.
“We’re demonstrating a certifiable autonomy solution that is going to drastically change the way pilots fly,” said Mark Ward, Sikorsky Chief Pilot, Stratford, Conn. Flight Test Center. “We’re confident that MATRIX Technology will allow pilots to focus on their missions. This technology will ultimately decrease instances of the number one cause of helicopter crashes: Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).”
An optionally piloted UH-1H helicopter drops off supplies during a May 2018 exercise at Twentynine Palms, California.
(Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory Matt Lyman)
The Marine Corps has been doing its own experiments with autonomous rotary flight. Their primary program is the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System on the Bell UH-1H platform, which can take off, fly, land, plan its route, and select landing sites on its own using LiDAR. So, similar to the MATRIX platform.
Anticipating a deployment is at once stressful, exhilarating, and boring as hell. Here are the 8 basic steps:
The announcement comes down from the Pentagon that your unit is headed overseas at some point. Everyone will respond to this differently. Newer troops will walk with a swagger as they think about becoming combat veterans. Actual combat veterans will sigh heavily.
2. Keeping it a secret (while telling everyone)
Sure, operational security and all that. But you have to tell your family. And your best buddies need to know. Also, those guys at the bar won’t buy you drinks just for sitting there. Is that hot girl over there into deploying troops?
3. First stage of training
“Time for pre-deployment training! Time to become the most elite, modern warriors in the world!” you think for the first 15 minutes of the first training session.
4. The rest of training
“Oh my god, how much of this is done via PowerPoint?” Also, your weapon will be completely caked in carbon from those blanks.
5. Culmination exercise
Suddenly, it’s exciting again. Pyrotechnics, laser tag, a bunch of awesome pictures that can become your Facebook cover photo so those girls from high school can see them. Someone in your squad can edit out the blank firing adapters.
6. Packing (and packing, and packing …)
That brief adrenaline rush at the final culmination exercise will not last. You will realize you still have to clean and pack the gear to go home. Then pack the connexes to send to country. Then pack your bags to go into other connexes. Then pack the …
7. Pre-deployment leave
Finally! After months of hard work, a brief rest before more months of hard work. Also, a chance to “not” tell more hometown girls that you’re deploying.
8. Getting on the plane (or ship or whatever)
Time to go somewhere really “fun” and live there for a year or so. But hey, only [balance of deployment] left until redeployment.
Days after the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford sailed out of a “challenging” post-shakedown work period that was extended three months because of maintenance problems, the dry dock holding the second Ford-class carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, was flooded, launching the carrier three months early.
The Kennedy’s builders and crew have gotten a boost from the Ford, according to the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Todd Marzano.
“We are definitely benefiting from being the second aircraft carrier in the class,” Marzano told Business Insider last week. “We’re leveraging their lessons learned, which has helped not only from the construction side but from our sailor training.”
Capt. Todd Marzano, the Kennedy’s commanding officer.
(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)
A graduate of Naval Fighter Weapons School, or Top Gun, Marzano has gone to sea aboard Kitty Hawk-, Nimitz-, and Ford-class carriers, serving as a fighter squadron commander as well as executive officer and commanding officer of the carrier itself.
At a ceremony in May, Marzano recalled driving past the Ford as construction began in late 2015 and thinking that “some lucky captain” would get to be its first skipper. In a mast-stepping ceremony after that speech, he put his first set of gold aviator’s wings under the 650-ton island as it was lowered onto the flight deck.
That “signified my commitment as the CO of the ship to ensure … that I’m going make sure that the crew is ready to do their job and operate the ship when we take it out to sea,” Marzano said. “So it meant a lot to me. This is definitely a pinnacle tour in my career.”
(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)
Marzano assumed command of the Kennedy, designated CVN-79, on October 1, at a ceremony attended by the carrier’s first 43 sailors, who were handpicked for the assignment.
“We officially stood up the command on October 1, and as of today we have just over 150 crew members on board, and that number just continues to grow daily,” Marzano said on Nov. 19, 2019. “The current focus since they’ve shown up is to create a solid foundation, which means getting our programs, our procedures established. We’re also focusing on a lot of training and, most importantly, developing a healthy culture throughout all levels of the command.”
Marzano added that “some of the sailors on the Ford have now been transferred over to our ship, so we can benefit from their knowledge … gained on their tour.”
The Ford-class carriers — the Ford, the Kennedy, the Enterprise, and the unnamed CVN-81 — are or will be equipped with new technology the Navy believes will keep them effective for decades to come. The Ford’s first sailors, with months or even years of hands-on experience with that tech, were creating “basically instructions on how to operate this ship with its systems and its new design,” as one sailor put it.
“Now we’re going to benefit from that, and they can help train our new sailors,” Marzano said.
The island of the Kennedy is placed on the flight deck during a mast-stepping ceremony in Newport News, Virginia, on May 29, 2019.
In addition to changing or excluding some features, the Navy and the carrier’s builder, Huntington Ingalls Industries, have made changes to the Kennedy’s build strategy to control costs and stay on schedule.
The Ford was being built as it was being designed, according to Mike Butler, Huntington Ingalls’ program manager for the Kennedy. But the Kennedy had a complete model, saving time.
“Every piece of pipe, every cable, every other piece of equipment was loaded in a three-dimensional product model, and that gave us the ability, for example, [to do] hole cuts, where you have a bulkhead or a deck and you have to cut a hole in it for a pipe to go through or an electrical cable,” Butler told Business Insider on Nov. 29, 2019.
On Nimitz-class carriers, “prior to the product model,” Butler said, “we probably cut 75% of those holes on ship once we ran the pipe and saw where it went through the bulkhead.”
There was “much less” cutting on ship on the Ford because of the product model, Butler said. But on the Kennedy, “with the complete product model, I virtually cut 100% of all of those hole cuts in the ship.”
“While the shop was still fabricating the deck plates and bulkhead panels, they could go in and robotically locate and cut all of those holes in those structural members while it was still in the shop environment, which is a big deal because there are probably close to 100,000 holes that go through decks and bulkheads that have to be cut,” Butler added.
The upper bow unit of the Kennedy is fitted to the primary structure of the ship on July 10, 2019.
The design and planning documents for the Kennedy were updated as work continued on the Ford. But the biggest change was in how the second Ford-class carrier was actually put together, Butler said.
About 1,100 structural boxes are built to assemble the carrier, each outfitted with components like wiring. Those boxes are put together into larger sections called super lifts, which are outfitted further. The carrier is then assembled from those super lifts — “sort of like a Lego build,” Butler said.
On the Kennedy, “particularly early in the program, we did a lot more outfitting,” Butler said. “We built larger boxes in our steel fabrication division. We brought those to our final assembly plant. We built larger super lifts than we did on [the Ford] in some areas, and we put more outfitting in a lot of those super lifts, particularly early in the program.
“So we ended up with less lifts into the dock and many cases of larger super lifts that had more outfitting … which drives your cost down as well,” Butler added.
“We’re definitely aggressively seeking the lessons learned and then applying them to the Kennedy, and we’re already seeing benefits of that. Construction progress has gone much more efficiently,” Marzano said. “So both on the construction and the level-of-knowledge side for the sailors, that’s paying off. Being the second in class is definitely easier in that regard for sure.”
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer is briefed by the USS Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer on Jan. 17, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)
The Ford’s marquee features have been among the most troublesome, particularly the advanced weapons elevators, drawing congressional scrutiny and the ire of former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who excoriated Huntington Ingalls, saying last month that the shipbuilder had “no idea” what it was doing.
Those electromagnetically powered elevators are supposed to carry more ordnance faster — up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute over Nimitz-class elevators’ 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute — from storage magazines deep in the hull. But just four of the Ford’s 11 elevators have been certified and turned over to the crew.
Those new elevators have new electrical and mechanical technology and are “a lot more complex than traditional weapons elevators,” with “a lot tighter tolerances because of that,” Butler said.
Work on the Kennedy’s elevators was delayed to incorporate lessons from the Ford, Butler added.
“A lot of the areas where they’ve had issues that they’ve had to resolve we’ve been able to hold back, get those issues resolved, change the design, change the work documents,” Butler said. “That allows us now to go in and do that work the first time with those lessons learned already.”
Sailors review safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator in the Ford’s weapons department on Jan. 16, 2019.
Those pauses didn’t affect work on the hull and parts of the ship exposed to seawater, allowing it to be launched ahead of schedule in October 2019, Butler said.
In addition to being ahead of schedule, the Kennedy was also 5% more complete than the Ford at the time of its launch, according to James Geurts, the Navy’s acquisitions chief.
Like Marzano’s crew, Butler’s team has also benefitted from an influx of personnel from the Ford.
Butler said that “working through all those different technical issues” on the Ford, they had “developed a set of industry experts at the shipyard, and our design, manufacturing, construction, and testing of those elevators.”
“Now that expert team is beginning to migrate to my ship, bringing those people and those lessons learned, working with my team,” Butler added, “so that we’ve got people on the deck plate who’ve been through these elevators, helping us modify our build plan to improve that process.”
Butler declined to comment on Spencer’s criticisms, saying he was “laser-focused” the Kennedy.
“Morale is great. We know we’ve worked through a lot of the first-in-class problems,” Butler added. “We are building this ship cheaper; we’re building the ship faster. And to us that is showing that first-of-class-to-second-of-class improvement is exactly what we thought it would be.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Based on Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN humanoid robot, ATLAS will most likely go through an I, Robot puberty stage before reaching Terminator adulthood. The robot is being developed with some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world through DARPA’s Robotic Challenge. The competition’s goal is to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters, according to DARPA.
Inspired by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a robot like ATLAS could mitigate future accidents by sending in a machine where it would otherwise be hazardous to humans. Like in I, Robot, these humanoids should be capable of opening doors, move debris, turn valves, and perform other human tasks.
The fact these robots are being developed to provide relief has done little to mollify the concerns over the threat of killer robots. “At the end of the day people need to remember what the D in DARPA stands for. It stands for Defense,” said Peter Singer, in an interview with NPR. Singer is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century:
Singer argues that if researchers build a robot that can drive cars, climb a ladder and operate a jackhammer that they can also be used for war. “That means that that robot can manipulate an AK-47,” Singer told NPR.
The challenge finals will take place from June 5-6, 2015 at Fairplex in Pomona, California where robots will be judged on their ability to perform semi-autonomous tasks. The winning team will receive a $2 million prize; runner-up will be awarded $1 million and $500,000 for third place.
Here’s a short of video of the robot’s current capabilities:
General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems has received a $39.6 million contract to provide MQ-9 Reapers to a Marine advisory unit in Afghanistan for air overwatch and reconnaissance, according to Pentagon announcements.
The Reapers, the first Group 5 unmanned aerial systems to be assigned exclusively to a Marine unit, may arrive in theater very soon, documents show. Group 5 is the largest class of UAS and includes platforms such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-4C Triton.
According to the contract announcement, General Atomics contractors, not Marines, will operate the systems in Afghanistan. The award was first reported June 27, 2018, by The Drive.
While Task Force Southwest, a small contingent of several hundred Marines on the ground in Helmand Province, Afghanistan is primarily charged with providing advice and assistance to Afghan National Security Forces in their fight with local Taliban elements, a significant portion of the unit’s work involves coordinating strikes on enemy targets using UAS.
When Military.com visited the unit in December 2017 and toured its operations center, Marines coordinated three deadly strikes in a single morning, using small ScanEagle drones to identify targets and Air ForceF-16 Fighting Falcons to drop ordnance to take them out.
“This is what we do on a daily basis, is provide overwatch,” Capt. Brian Hubert, battle captain for Task Force Southwest, told Military.com at the time. “And then also, there’s a little bit of advising, because we will call them and say, ‘Hey, think about doing this, or we see you doing this, that looks good, you should go here.’ We’re trying to get them to the point where eventually, with their Afghan Air Force, they can do all themselves.”
Having Reapers, which can fly at top speeds of 300 miles per hour and can carry more than 3,700 pounds of ordnance, including Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II bombs and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, would allow the Marine task force to operate more independently rather than depending on other units for deadly force from the air.
“Task Force Southwest currently uses Group 5 [Unmanned Aerial Systems] extensively when they are provided from available assets in theater,” Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, commander of the task force, told Military.com in January 2018. “An organic Group 5 UAS capability will give us more capacity to assist our Afghan partners as they conduct continuous offensive operations against the enemy in Helmand province.”
(U.S. Air Force photo)
As an additional benefit, having the Reapers available may help the Marines prepare to receive and operate their own Group 5 drone, the MUX, which is now in the requirements phase.
That system, which will be designed to take off vertically from a ship and provide surveillance and network capabilities from the air, is planned to reach initial operational capability around 2027.
The contract award notice for the Reapers does not specify when the systems will arrive in Afghanistan. Earlier solicitations called for the capability by March 2018. But all work on the contract is set to be completed by November 2018, the announcement states.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
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.
Weapons are like tools; you need the right one for whatever the situation requires. But it’s not always practical to have the most efficient gear on hand. Alexander Arms remedies this pain point with Beowulf, a kit that converts conventional assault rifles into .50 cal destroyers.
“It was designed specifically to fit into the AR-15, M16 platform, and the Beowulf is basically a large caliber drop-in replacement for that system,” said its creator, Bill Alexander in the American Heroes Channel video below.
The assault rifle goes from firing a 5.56 mm to a .50 cal round by switching out the weapon’s upper receiver with the Beowulf kit. In less than a minute, it goes from being an anti-personnel firearm to an anti-material rifle. It still looks and feels like an AR-15, but each blow is now a devastating haymaker. Alexander Arms offers the upper conversion kit for AR-15 owners and fully assembled .50 cal Beowulf rifles on its online store.
This kit is perfect for checkpoints; it has no problem piercing through vehicles. The rounds cut through body panels and windshields like a hot knife through butter. It’s most effective against targets at a short-to-medium distance, according to Alexander Arms product overview page on its website.
In this short two-minute American Heroes Channel video, Bill Alexander demonstrates Beowulf’s awesome firepower and explains his motivation for developing the kit.