“Oh, man … It’s amazing,” an A-10 Warthog pilot, who preferred to be called “McGraw,” told Business Insider when asked what it’s like to fly the aircraft.
It’s “incredibly easy to fly, outstanding performance,” McGraw said on the phone from Afghanistan, adding that it’s very reliable, which he partially credited to the maintenance teams.
“If you’re employing bombs, bullets, rockets, or missiles, obviously that’s rewarding because you know you’re impacting the battlefield to help save Coalition forces,” McGraw said. “But even if you’re just overhead and nothing’s going on on the ground, and you know that the ground forces are sleeping well because they simply know the A-10s are overtop, that’s a very rewarding and self-fulfilling mission.”
“Plus it’s just cool to fly A-10s,” McGraw added.
When asked what it’s like to shoot the 30mm gun, McGraw said, “I wish I had better terms for it — but it’s amazing.”
(DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)
“To just feel the airplane shake and to know that you can employ a gun from an airplane diving at the ground [at] 400-plus mph [and at] a 45 degree dive angle, and [that] I can confidently, on every single pass, put 30mm exactly on target … it’s very rewarding,” McGraw said.
McGraw, who has completed five tours in Afghanistan, said he’s flown about 300 combat missions in the wartorn country, deploying his weapons about 25% of the time.
“That gun is incredibly accurate, and it obviously delivers fearsome effects and devastating effects … so when I pull that trigger, I know those bullets are going where I want them [to],” he said.
“The whole heads-up display shakes,” McGraw said. “You’re engulfed in the gun exhaust … it’s a pretty awesome feeling.”
The US sent a squadron of 12 A-10s back to Afghanistan in January 2018, where its quietly ramping up the longest-running war in US history.
Saudi Arabia’s state media on Aug 6, 2018, tweeted a graphic appearing to show an Air Canada airliner heading toward the Toronto skyline in a way that recalled the September 11, 2001, terrorist hijackings of airliners that struck the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
The graphic warned of “Sticking one’s nose where it doesn’t belong!” and included the text: “As the Arabic saying goes: ‘He who interferes with what doesn’t concern him finds what doesn’t please him.'”
Last week, Global Affairs Canada tweeted that it was “gravely concerned” about a new wave of arrests in the kingdom targeting women’s rights activists and urged their immediate release. Saudi Arabia has expelled Canada’s ambassador and frozen all new trade and investment with Ottawa in response to the criticism.
The tweet came from @Infographic_ksa, an account that had just hours earlier tweeted another graphic titled “Death to the dictator” featuring an image of the supreme leader of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival.
Saudi Arabia has long stood accused of funding radical Muslim Imams around the world and spreading a violent ideology called Wahhabism. Under the leadership of its new young ruler, Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has undertaken several sweeping reforms looking to reduce the funding for and spread of radical ideology as well as to elevate human rights.
But a surge of arrests appearing to target prominent women’s rights activists who previously campaigned to abolish Saudi Arabia’s ban on driving for women has caused international alarm and prompted the tweet from Canada.
The Saudi account deleted the tweet featuring the graphic with the plane and later reuploaded one without the airliner pictured.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The United States Army recently demonstrated some new killer robots at Fort Benning, near the city of Columbus, Georgia. While these robots are new, some of the gear they used looks awfully familiar to grunts.
While it might seem odd to use the older vehicles as the basis for robots, keep this in mind: The military has thousands of M113s and thousands of HMMWVs on inventory. The vehicles have also been widely exported. In fact, the M113 is so widely used, it’s hard to imagine anyone would want the used M113s the United States Army has to offer. The same goes for the HMMWV.
Furthermore, while these vehicles may not be ones that you can keep troops in during combat, they can still drive. They can carry cargo. Or, they can carry some firepower. With today’s ability to either drive vehicles by remote control, or to program them to carry out missions, these vehicles could have a lot of useful service left to give.
An Army release had details about how the old platforms helped. One M113 was used to deploy other robots from its troop compartment – one that could hold 11 grunts. Another M113 was used to provide smoke – and conceal a pair of M1A2 Abrams tanks. An unnamed HMMWV demonstrated its ability to use a remote weapon station and a target acquisition system.
That’s not all. The military also had a modified Polaris all-terrain vehicle show its stuff. The ATV also featured an unmanned aerial vehicle on a tether. Such an eye in the sky can have huge benefits. Furthermore, the ATV has a much lower profile.
If these experiments are any indication, American grunts will still be seeing the M113 and HMMWV on the battlefield. This time, though, they will be fighting alongside them, not riding in them.
Getting married can be one of the most exciting times in one’s life, and marrying someone who serves is no different. That said, marrying into the military lifestyle can often come with an adjustment period. Ten military spouses agreed to speak candidly about aspects of military life – from moving to education – that they wish they would have known before marrying their spouse.
“I wish I knew that friendship would be so, so hard. And that the people I truly view as friends are never close because we move away. Yes, I knew we’d move. But after restarting my life four times now, I am really struggling to make friends and have my own tribe because it’s so much effort. And at some duty stations, it’s great. Others are terrible and you just never really connect with anyone the entire time (or you do and they of course move one second later). I feel like a lot of people won’t be my friend, because they know I will leave too. I also wish I knew that most of the country does not understand our lifestyle, like, at all.” – Melissa Sheridan, Air Force spouse
“Be diligent in finding your people – however many that may be for you – and you’ll thrive. Above all else, you will experience the best and worst in the world, but your mindset is everything.” – Missy Moore, Army spouse
“Life can be a real adventure if you stay open minded and flexible to new people, places and cultures! In my wildest dreams I would have never imagined where this path has led my husband and I. From meeting in Honduras while stationed there, getting stationed in an amazing area of Texas to living in a tropical paradise in Hawaii – just bizarre in all the most amazing ways!” – Katie Whitehurst, Air Force reservist and Army spouse
“I’ve never felt more supported than in this community, but I’ve also never felt so alone. Sometimes you can’t wait for that PCS to roll around and others you absolutely dread leaving a place that feels more like home than anywhere else. I wish I’d known that grief can include the giant loss you feel when you are forced to leave a place and people you love. I wish I’d known the guilt I would feel for not giving my children roots.” – Chelsea Coulston, Navy spouse
“It’s OK to find a new home and you are going to find friendships that are more meaningful than any in your life prior.” – Jaci Greggs, Army spouse
“Accept that nearly nothing will go according to plan. Write plans down in pencil and buy the refundable tickets! Dates, missions, locations, etc., change often and with little notice.” – Alex Fernandez Rubio, Army spouse
“I didn’t expect that we would have a bunch of curtains that will never fit in the next house! I also didn’t expect to love the adventure so much. Military life truly is that. It’s hard, yes, but it’s also allowed me to see the world from a different perspective. Having a baby abroad was an unexpected surprise blessing that we really enjoyed! I also didn’t expect how intense the stress levels would be. Stress that isn’t what the average person experiences—like traffic—stress that not only cripples the military member, but cripples the entire family both physically and emotionally.” – Caroline Potter, Navy spouse
“I appreciate the college opportunity offered to me as a spouse of an enlisted soldier and I wish more spouses knew about and took advantage of the MyCAA program.” – Jenn Richardson, Army spouse
“I got married at 25. I had no idea at that point how important having a career would be to me, and that maintaining a career would be nearly impossible as a military spouse. We end up taking a backseat to our spouse’s career. It’s hard personally, professionally, and frankly, financially. The military does not prioritize helping spouses [who have] careers maintain them.” – Julie Yaste, Navy spouse
“I wish I would have known how little the military actually cared about the physical and mental health of my spouse. After 15 years, we have realized that it’s all a numbers game and about how much they can get out of their members without much regard for the life they have to live after service. I don’t think it would have changed my husband’s mind regarding his career but I would have approached a lot of things within his job differently regarding health.” – Kylie Martin, Navy spouse
“I wish I had known that my husband would be treated like [a] machine whose mental and physical health doesn’t matter. I wish I had known that the military doesn’t care about individuals, just the overall result and the ability to get results as quickly as possible.” – Hannah O’Melia Sherriff, Navy spouse
Your Advice for New Military Spouses Facing Their First Deployment
We asked our audience what advice they had for new military spouses facing their first deployment. With hundreds of responses from military spouses from all walks of military life, there is no shortage of support out there for you! Here are some of our favorite responses.
Power of Attorney and do NOT listen to all of the freaking horror stories some of the other spouses may impart. Your spouse is not their spouse or their friend’s best friend’s spouse. Have faith in your spouse instead of the b.s. stories. Brush off the gossip and its mouthpiece. Most of all, take time out for you… mind body and soul. You’re strong and you’ve got this. – Holly M.
An amazing spouse told me, “Count paychecks. Because 2 a month is way better than trying to count down 180+ days.” Definitely helped! – Caitlin M.
Have a candid discussion with both sides of the family about what to expect/not to expect as well as what is helpful/hurtful. Examples: best ways to stay in touch, care package ideas, why he/she can’t just come home for special occasions, whether or not RR is allowed and the process, things always change, etc. – Jane T.
Make goals, start a hobby, go back to school. Take care of yourself. Make time for self care. Talk about your spouse being gone, especially with your kids. Routine, routine (whether you have kiddos or not). Think out of the box for friends, we are a diverse community. Remember to send boxes and little things (I am horrible at this and after four deployments I slack) but I know how much my spouse appreciates a piece of home. It will feel like autopilot sometimes and that’s okay. Being sad is okay. Check with all your on post services! I was so young the first time I had no idea all the things I could use like MYCAA scholarships, and spouse get togethers (for parents and child free spouses!) just know you’re not alone. It never gets easier and every tour will have its struggles but you have tools at your disposal; learn to use them, and yes have a POA. – Andrea R.
Well. It seems this “acclimatize the troops to Iraq” heat wave is sweeping the globe and I think it’s a very proper time to mention the silver bullet is very much real and that sick, sadistic medic in your unit has been dying to test it out.
For those of you who aren’t up to speed, it’s a shiny thumb-sized thermometer that is brought out specifically for heat casualties and is, well, inserted rectally. Why they do this is beyond me. I would assume the standard under-the-tongue thermometers would work just fine, but I’m not a medic. Although, I guess that one doesn’t terrify the troops into drinking plenty of water for the ruck march.
So go ahead, high speed. Try drinking all night and wake up to a Monster energy drink for this run. See what happens. I guarantee you that you won’t make this same mistake twice.
To the rest of you smart enough to know how to properly identify pee charts and drink water accordingly, here’s some memes.
Yeah, yeah, yeah… Enemy artillery and bayonet duels and concentrated machine gun fire are all terrifying and all, but those are to be expected, and most people can develop fears of those things after watching a few movies about Vietnam. But actual service members have a lot of fears that aren’t exactly intuitive.
These are the little things that make their lives crappy, and usually for dumb reasons.
Believe it or not, getting smaller, more efficient, and easier-to-handle batteries is actually a big deal for soldiers. We know it sounds boring.
(USARDEC Tom Faulkner)
Changing batteries can be the end
It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain to civilians, or really even to explain to troops that have never relied on radios in the field. For all of you, here’s the footnotes version: SINCGARS is a radio system in wide use with the U.S. military that relies on a bunch of information that has to be uploaded from another device. But if you take too long to change batteries in combat, it will drop all that information and it will need to be re-uploaded.
Re-uploaded from a device you probably don’t have in the field. This can make a low battery embarrassing in exercises, but terrifying in combat. You’re essentially faced with, “Hey, if you screw up this battery swap, you will spend the rest of this battle cut off from the comms network, incapable of receiving timely orders and warnings or calling for help. Good luck.”
Radio operators have to practice this skill like the world’s highest-stakes game of Operation.
Aw, crap, did someone leave the tent poles off of packing list v9.3?
(U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Gregory Camacho)
Is this version of the packing list really the final one?
No matter how many times you check whether something is on the final packing list, it’s virtually guaranteed that you’re going to end up in the field at some point and be asked for a piece of equipment only to find it missing. That’s because you had packing list v7.2 but the final one was v8.3, but your platoon went with v6.4 because the company XO said you have special needs.
If you’ve been around a while, you know the real essentials to bring, so whatever you don’t have will probably result in a slap on the wrist and won’t affect the mission. But new soldiers are always sweating that something they didn’t know to bring will be essential. Forgot your protractor, huh? Well, you’re now nearly useless for land nav. Good work.
There’s a 20 percent chance this heartwarming moment will be broken up when a junior airman gets his junk stuck in the wall of a local bar because he thought it was a glory hole.
(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)
This is a good weekend. Someone is definitely going to ruin it.
Even when you’re relaxing on the weekends or holidays, there’s always a serious risk that everything is about to go sideways with one phone call. Someone gets too drunk and fights a cop? You’re getting recalled into formation. Too many cigarette butts outside the barracks? Come on in. Someone isn’t answering their phone because they’re worried about all the recall formations? Guess what company is being called back in?
Seriously, this whole deal is like the monster from It Follows, except you can’t even delay it with sex.
This is a photo of an airborne operation briefing that we swapped in because, legally, we can’t risk showing you pictures as boring as SAEDA briefings when some of you might be operating heavy machinery.
(U.S. Army Spc. Henry Villarama)
Surprise formation? Crap, here’s a new training requirement.
The worst nightmare comes when you’re just minding your own business, carving phallic symbols into old equipment behind the company headquarters. That’s when you’ll get the mass text that you have to report to the chapel/base theater.
And if you’re not due for training on the Sexual Harassment Assault Response Program, Suicide Awareness, Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the US Army, Anti-Terrorism Level 1, or Citibank Annual Training for Cardholders, then you probably have a new annual training requirement you have to show up for (By the way, every one of those is real.)
Good luck in Magnetic North Pole Drift Awareness Training. Be sure to sign the attendance roster.
Yay, getting to stand around in squares in a different country! So exciting!
(U.S. Army Spc. Gage Hull)
Any acronym that ends in X probably sucks (Cs aren’t great either)
CSTX, MRX, CPX, they all suck. ENDEX is cool. But if you get called into SIFOREXs or NATEXs, forget about it. There goes weeks or even months of your life. SINKEXs will monopolize your time, but at least there’s usually a nice, big explosion you get to see.
Oh, quick translations — those are Combat Support Training Exercise, Mission Readiness Exercise, End of Exercise, Silent Force Exercise, National Terrorism Exercise, and Sink Exercise. Basically, if you hear an acronym with an X in it that you’ve never heard before, there’s a good chance you’re going to spend a few weeks in the field practicing something you know how to do.
This message was brought to you by the letter ‘C.’ ‘C’ is just glad that you hate it a little less next to ‘X,’ because ‘C’ usually gets the blame thanks to things like JRTC, NTC, and JMRC (the Joint Readiness Training Center, National Training Center, and Joint Multinational Readiness Center, respectfully).
Getting supplies to Marines ashore is growing more complex as new threats reach the space between ships and the beach, so leaders are looking to high-tech self-driving ships to get the job done.
The Navy’s mysterious 132-foot-long autonomous Sea Hunter vessel could move fuel, ammunition, and other heavy supplies from large ships out to small teams of Marines, sea service leaders said May 8, 2019, at the Sea-Air-Space expo outside Washington, D.C.
“If we can do what we’ve demonstrated with Sea Hunter … with logistics, to program that connector to meet that force at a location to sustain them and provide them with what they need, that is where we’re going to have to practice, practice, practice and learn and adapt our structure to be responsive to that,” said Rear Adm. Jim Kilby, director of warfare integration.
Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.
(US Navy photo)
Marines and sailors recently practiced sustaining ground troops operating at various points ashore during amassive amphibious exercise called Pacific Blitz. During that exercise, it became clear they must leverage the distance unmanned vessels can travel without risk to personnel, Brig. Gen. Stephen Liszewski, director of operations for Marine Corps Plans, Policies and Operations, told Military.com.
“The unmanned piece is the untapped potential,” Liszewski said. “We know that is one way we can get after this ability to operate in a more distributed and lethal environment.”
Ideally, the services would use a mix of drone aircraft and unmanned ships to get the job done, he added. There are times when they’ll need the speed and range of unmanned aircraft, he said, but they can’t carry everything.
Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.
(US Navy photo)
“With a surface connector, you’re going to be able to move larger volumes of things, particularly if you’re talking ammunition or bulk liquids like water or fuel,” Liszewski said. “Clearly, aviation speed or range is what you get, but it’s not one or the other. You’ve got to have both [surface connectors and air assets].”
Managing an infantry squad is similar to a sports coach shifting players around to positions that best fit their strengths and talents. Since Marines aren’t created equal, capitalizing on those strengths and building up weakness is why the U.S. military is such a juggernaut today.
On special occasions, a Marine infantry squad patrol is comprised of a platoon leader (if he decides to go), a squad leader, three fire team leaders, three SAW gunners, and six riflemen.
This all, of course, depends on how your squad is made up — we’re even going to throw in a Company Gunny for sh*ts and giggles.
French-born Odette Sansom was a sickly child. She wrestled with a slew of childhood illnesses, including a bout with polio that left her blind for three years. The adversity she overcame as a youth was good preparation for what she would do as an adult: joining the British “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.”
Sansom’s accomplishments in World War II earned her the Order of the British Empire, a knighthood of the French Légion d’Honneur, and she was the first woman to be awarded the George Cross for “acts of the greatest heroism.” Her life foreshadowed the fortitude she would require as she was tortured by the Gestapo, to whom she would never give any information.
Sansom’s wartime story begins in 1941, as the British Admiralty was looking for native-born recruits they could send to Nazi-occupied France. Odette Sansom was a French-born woman who initially responded to the office’s request for photos of the French coastline — except she accidentally sent her photos to the War Office instead of the Admiralty. Soon, the Special Operations Executive, the department responsible for infiltrating Hitler’s Fortress Europe, would recruit her for much, much more.
After less than a year of training, Sansom found herself on a boat headed to France, landing near Cassis in 1942. She was picked up by a spy ring run out of Cannes, where she would work as a radio operator for her group leader, Peter Churchill, relaying secret information back to London. This was always a very dangerous task as the Gestapo were always looking for outgoing radio signals.
Sansom and Churchill.
(Imperial War Museum)
For more than a year, Lise, Sansom’s code name, kept one step ahead of the Gestapo. Along with her radio work, she acted as a courier for all of Southern France, sending messages between resistance cells and SOE operatives. Her skill and professionalism kept her alive, but accidents happen to even the best of operatives, and for Lise, it would be her undoing.
An agent riding a train fell asleep while carrying a list of 200 SOE agents operating in France in 1943. Eventually, that list fell into the hands of Nazi counterintelligence agents. A German double agent calling himself “Colonel Henri” infiltrated the group and betrayed them all. Colonel Henri was really Hugo Bleicher, the notorious Nazi spy hunter.
Sansom and Churchill were arrested and sent to Frenses Prison near Paris. The two were tortured and sentenced to death – a sentence that would never be carried out. While Churchill had no relations with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, his famous name saved both their lives.
Sansom told the Nazis that Churchill was related to the Prime Minister and that she was the younger Churchill’s wife – and that she was also his boss, and not the other way around. This served the dual purpose of keeping the pressure off of Churchill, even though the Nazis only tortured Sansom even more, while keeping the two alive.
But while Sansom and Churchill survived the torture and execution orders, they spent much of the rest of the war in solitary confinement and suffering cruel, brutal treatment at the hands of her SS captors in the Ravensbrück concentration camp until it was liberated by the Red Army in 1945. But Sansom wasn’t liberated by the Russians. The camp commander drove her to an American position and surrendered himself to the U.S., with a “Churchill” as a bargaining chip.
Ravensbrück was a primary camp for women and political prisoners.
Though she physically came out of the war an emaciated shadow of her former self, the treatment left her with no ill will towards anyone. She would testify against the Nazis who imprisoned and tortured her during the Nuremberg Trials, but her main activities after the war involved helping ease the suffering of those affected by the war.
“How strong the reserves upon which you draw you never realize until you need them, but believe me they do not fail you,” she once said.
A US Air Force F-16 assigned to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada crashed outside of Las Vegas on the morning of April 4, 2018, in the third aircraft crash in two days.
The pilot was killed in the crash, the Air Force confirmed in a statement. He was a member of the Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration squadron.
The F-16 crashed around 10:30 a.m. during a “routine aerial demonstration training flight,” and the cause of the crash is under investigation, according to the Air Force statement.
On the afternoon of April 3, 2018, a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed around El Centro, California, during a routine training mission. Four crew members aboard the helicopter were killed.
Additionally, a Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jet crashed during a training exercise in Djibouti, east Africa on April 3, 2018. The pilot ejected and was being treated at a hospital.
Congress and the military have come under scrutiny amid the spate of aircraft crashes. Military leaders have long argued for an increased budget to combat a “readiness crisis” as foreign adversaries have gained momentum in other areas of the world.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, the Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation, said in November 2017, that although pilot and aircraft readiness was steadily improving, the Corps was still dealing with the effects of “the minimum requirement for tactical proficiency.”
“Newly winged aviators … [are] the foundation of the future of aviation,” a prepared statement from Rudder said, according to Military.com. “When I compare these 2017 ‘graduates’ of their first fleet tour to the 2007 ‘class,’ those pilots today have averaged 20% less flight hours over their three-year tour than the same group in 2007.”
Last week, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk ruffled some feathers during a discussion with Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium. The controversial tech mogul, who is no stranger to drawing headlines and occasionally criticism, voiced concerns over America’s apparent love affair with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, first calling for competition for the advanced fighter, and then going further to say that the era of manned fighter jets was over.
“Locally autonomous drone warfare is where it’s at, where the future will be,” Musk said. “It’s not that I want the future to be this, that’s just what the future will be. … The fighter jet era has passed. Yeah, the fighter jet era has passed. It’s drones.”
Elon Musk, chief engineer of SpaceX, speaks with U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the Space and Missile Systems Center commander and program executive officer for space.
Musk went on to say that even the F-35 wouldn’t stand a chance against a sufficiently advanced drone that coupled computer augmented flying with human control.
When the story broke, we here at Sandboxx pointed out that Musk is right that a technologically advanced drone could potentialy do a lot of things a manned aircraft couldn’t — including manage hypersonic maneuvers that would leave most human pilots unconscious as a result of the G-forces. Scramjet technology has proven effective at propelling unmanned aircraft to hypersonic speeds in the past, and it seems entirely feasible that this tech will find its way into UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) in the future.
An X-51A WaveRider hypersonic flight test vehicle is uploaded to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base.
But, we noted, the problem with Musk’s bright idea is that information traveling at the speed of light is actually too slow for the sort of control drone operators would need for such a platform. Even with a somewhat local operator, as Musk pointed toward, the time it would take to relay sensor data from the drone to the operator, followed my the operator processing the information and making a decision, followed by those commands being transmitted back to the drone is simply too slow a process for the split-second decisions that can be essential in a dog fight.
In other words, Musk’s plan is hypothetically right, but likely won’t work in practice for some time to come.
“For a long time, we’re still going to need the manned aircraft on the fighter and bomber side,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes, an F-15 Eagle pilot, said Wednesday during the annual McAleese Defense Programs Conference. “We will increasingly be experimenting with other options, [and] we’re going to work together.”
U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, watches a mission video during a visit to the 363rd Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
The future of air combat likely will include some combination of manned and unmanned aircraft, which is exactly the future the Air Force’s Skyborg program is aiming for. Using “loyal wingman” armed drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, the Air Force hopes to couple fighters like the F-35 with support drones that can extend sensor range, engage targets, and even sacrifice themselves to protect the manned aircraft. In theory, one F-35 could control a number of drones that bear the majority of the risk, flying ahead of the manned jet.
“We can take risk with some systems to keep others safer,” the Air Force’s service acquisition executive, Dr. Will Roper said. “We can separate the sensor and the shooter. Right now they’re collocated on a single platform with a person in it. In the future, we can separate them out, put sensors ahead of shooters, put our manned systems behind the unmanned. There’s a whole playbook.”
The combination of the sort of technology in play in Skyborg and rapidly developing hypersonic propulsion could put the power of hypersonic platforms in the hands of fighter pilots, just likely not in the jets they’re flying.
Of course, doing so would greatly increase the mental load on pilots in the fight, particularly if their means of controlling their wingmen drones is too complex. One of the selling points of the F-35 that doesn’t get much play in the press is its ability to fuse data from disparate sensors into an overlapping augmented reality display. Prior to this advancement, pilots had to read and manage multiple displays and gauges, combining the data in their minds to make decisions. In the F-35, friendly and enemy assets are clearly identified with colored indicators, as are air speed, altitude, and other essential information. At night, pilots can even use external cameras with their augmented reality helmets to look through the aircraft at the ground below.
This is what an F-15 pilot has to keep track of while flying combat missions.
A complex drone-control interface could be a step backward in a pilot’s ability to manage the flow of data, but a DARPA experiment first revealed in 2018 might just be able to solve that problem.
At the time, Justin Sanchez, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, explained that two years prior, DARPA had successfully utilized what he called a “Brain Computer Interface” to put one volunteer in control of not one, but three simulated aircraft at the same time. The “N3 System,” as they call it, could give pilots the ability to manage their drone wingmen using only their mind.
“As of today, signals from the brain can be used to command and control … not just one aircraft but three simultaneous types of aircraft,” he said at the “Trajectory of Neurotechnology” session at DARPA’s 60thanniversary event
In later experiments, volunteers even experienced feedback from the aircraft, transmitted into their brains to feel like a tingling sensation in the hands when the aircraft was pushing back against steering in a certain direction. The only problem is, currently, this system only works for volunteers who have had surgically implanted electrodes in their brain. The volunteers were all people with varying levels of paralysis, as this same technology could feasibly be used to control exoskeletons that could help a patient regain the ability to walk.
“The envisioned N3 system would be a tool that the user could wield for the duration of a task or mission, then put aside,” said Al Emondi, head of N3, according to a company spokesperson. “I don’t like comparisons to a joystick or keyboard because they don’t reflect the full potential of N3 technology, but they’re useful for conveying the basic notion of an interface with computers.”
So, while it’s true that a drone isn’t subject to same physical limitations a manned aircraft is, the tradeoff is that a drone would need to have an extremely advanced, fully autonomous flight system in order to execute maneuvers at the fuzzy edge of its capabilities, because communications lag would make such performance impossible in a human-controlled drone at a distance. If the drone weren’t under the control of a nearby pilot, the only choice would be to give the drone itself decision making capabilities, either through an on-board processor, or through an encrypted cloud computing process.
To date, that level of tech simply doesn’t exist, and even if it did, it would pose significant moral and ethical questions about what level of war fighting we’re comfortable relinquishing to a computer. Friendly fire incidents or unintentional civilian casualties are complicated enough without having to defend the actions of a Terminator drone, even if they were justified.
In the future, it seems entirely likely that drones will indeed be more capable than manned fighters, but they still won’t be able to fly without their cockpit-carrying-counterparts. A single F-35 pilot, for instance, may head into battle with a bevy of hyper-capable drone wingmen, but the decision to deploy ordnance, to actually take lives, will remain with the pilot, rather than the drone, just as those decisions are currently made by human drone operators.
Elon Musk is right that drones can do incredible things, but he’s wrong about the need for human hands on the stick. The future doesn’t look like Skynet, but it may look like the terrible 2005 movie, “Stealth.”
Elon Musk may be good at building rockets, electric cars, and even tunnel boring machines, but when it comes to predicting the future of warfare, he’s just as fallible as the rest of us.
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared on Oct. 31, 2019, that the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile will “certainly” be onboard the Russian Navy’s newest corvette, set to enter service next month, according to RT. The Zircon missile, while reportedly still under development, cannot be intercepted by any defense systems currently in use, according to Russian state media outlet TASS.
Putin toured the corvette Gremyashchi on a visit to the northwestern Russian city of Kaliningrad last Thursday. “It will certainly have Tsirkon,” Putin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoyu.
The Zircon missile reportedly travels at nine times the speed of sound; the term “hypersonic” is generally understood to mean an object travels at least five times the speed of sound. The missile was still under development as of February 2019, when Russia-1, the state television station, threatened five US positions including the Pentagon, saying that the Zircon missile could hit the targets in less than five minutes.
Also in February 2019, Putin claimed in his Address to the Federal Assembly that the missile’s development was progressing according to schedule.
Putin used the missile to threaten the US should it deploy any new nuclear missiles closer to Russia as the INF treaty began to unravel in February 2019.
Russia’s most lethal weapon hypersonic ZIRCON missile!
“You work it out: Mach nine, and over 1,000 km,” Putin told Russian media at the time, Reuters reported.
While the claims of Russian state media and Russian leadership are impossible to verify, Putin has said that the Zircon can destroy both sea and land targets.
The Zircon, or Tsirkon, is compatible with the Kalibr missile systems, which are already aboard the Gremyashchiy corvette, according to the Center for Strategic International Studies’ Missile Threat project. TASS reports that the Gremyashchiy is the first corvette in the Pacific Fleet to carry the Kalibr missiles.
U.S. authorities have moved to seize a French painting that was taken by Nazi forces from a Ukrainian museum near the end of World War II.
Manhattan federal prosecutors said in a statement on March 21, 2019, that the painting — called An Amorous Couple, by Pierre Louis Goudreaux — was stolen from the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of the Arts in Kyiv around 1943.
U.S. officials said the painting had been missing for years, held by a London private collector and then in Massachusetts. It resurfaced in 2013 when it was listed on a website for an unnamed New York auction house.
The FBI determined it was bought from a Missouri auction house in 1993 by a New York dealer who had consigned it to the auction house.
The Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of the Arts in Kyiv.
The prosecutors said they were seeking a court order to seize the painting and return it to the Kyiv museum.
In recent years, U.S. officials have stepped up efforts to locate art seized from Ukraine by Nazi forces and return it to Ukraine.
In December 2018, U.S. authorities moved to claim a 107-year-old painting of Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible that was stolen from a Ukrainian art museum during World War II.
That painting by Mikhail Panin, called The Secret Departure Of Ivan The Terrible Before The Oprichnina, was part of the permanent collection of a museum in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro before the war.