These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

While infantry carries the title of “Queen of the Battle,” it’s the artillery that’s king. It strikes over vast distances, hits with a lot of force, and remains mobile and accurate. Here are 18 photos of these awesome weapons and their crews:


1. Artillery belches smoke and fire every time it shoots a round.

 

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Ali Azimi

2. When crews emplace the weapons, they anchor them to the ground and set up aiming aids to ensure rounds go exactly where they should.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Army Spc. Nathaniel Mercado

3. While the gun crews are emplacing the cannons, other artillerymen move the rounds to the firing point and prepare them for action.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Love

4. Different guns have different muzzle velocities, but most can fire rounds at over 1,500 feet per second.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Matthew Manning

5. Between shots, crew members quickly remove the spent casing and load a new round.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Army 1st Lt. Zachary Kohl

6. Between shots on 155mm howitzers, the gun is swabbed out. (The white-tipped rod in the left of the photo is the swab.)

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Ali Azimi

7. The guns are often towed around the battlefield behind vehicles, but can also be flown to firing points.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman

8. Even UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters can fly the guns around.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Army 1st Lt. Travis Mueller

9. When they need to travel long distances, the artillerymen can throw their guns out of the backs of planes (with parachutes).

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Army Capt. Joe Bush

10. Some artillery units have self-propelled guns with light armor.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: Capt. Alex Aquino

11. They’re highly mobile, but still put on an awesome light show.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp

12. Back in the day, the Navy’s artillery moved quickly as well, provided there was plenty of water.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Navy

13. Night fires light up the darkness.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Annette B. Andrews

14. Maneuver units can request illumination rounds from artillery, giving them plenty of light with which to see.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Army National Guard Sgt. Joshua S. Edwards

15. Modern artillery carries a lot more than just cannons. Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems can fire a dozen rockets each.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Duane Duimstra

16. MLRS can put on its own amazing light show.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Carlos R. Davis

17. Also back in the day, the U.S. Army fielded atomic artillery that could launch rounds with .5 to 15-kiloton yields.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Federal Archives

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps off-the-shelf utility vehicles are getting some upgrades

The Marine Corps’ Utility Task Vehicles are undergoing several upgrades designed to improve the safety and performance of the vehicle.

Using critical feedback from Marines and taking inspiration spanning the automotive industry to desert racing, engineers and logisticians from the Light Tactical Vehicle program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems have been working diligently to research, test, procure and implement changes to the UTV.

These changes include high clearance control arms, new run-flat tires, floorboard protection, a road march kit, a clutch improvement kit and an environmental protection cover.


“We bought the vehicle as a [commercial-off-the-shelf] solution, so it’s not going to have everything we want right from the factory,” said Jason Engstrom, lead systems engineer for the UTV at PEO Land Systems.

Since PEO Land Systems started fielding the UTV in 2017, Marines have consistently pushed the limits of their vehicles, said Engstrom, in many ways beyond what is expected or imagined with a typical off-the-shelf solution.

“Even though we’re in the operations, maintenance and sustainment phases with the vehicle, it’s such a new vehicle and we’re seeing Marines constantly push the limits of the truck,” said Engstrom. “Every day we’re seeing Marines come up with new ideas on how to use the truck.”

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

US Marines drive a Utility Task Vehicle at Fire Base Um Jorais in Iraq, July 4, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

High Clearance Control Arms

The first of these upgrades involves installing high clearance control arms on the vehicle — a crucial component of the vehicle’s suspension system.

“With the different types of terrain Marines cover in these vehicles, we noticed the [original] control arms were frequently getting bent,” said Engstrom. “Rocks were probably the biggest hazard, and that’s primarily where the Marines were driving.”

A bent or damaged control arm can disable a vehicle, said UTV logistician Rodney Smith.

To address this issue, the team looked to industry and ultimately settled on a control arm comprised of material about twice as strong as the original control arms and that provided an extra 2.5 inches of clearance.

With this upgrade, Marines are better equipped to drive off the beaten path while minimizing their risk of damaging the control arms on their vehicles.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)

Clutch Improvement Kit

The UTV team is also outfitting the vehicle with a clutch improvement kit. The UTV’s clutch is an important component of the vehicle’s transmission system, which is essential in making the vehicle run.

“One of the things that came right from the factory was a belt-driven [transmission] system,” said Engstrom. “Just like with the control arms, a broken belt takes the whole vehicle out of action.”

The upgraded clutch kit reconfigures the clutch system, enabling it to better engage the belt to keep it from breaking, said Engstrom.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)

Floorboard Protection

The team has also began upgrading the vehicle’s floorboard, which showed evidence of damage after a recent deployment.

“When Marines deployed the vehicles to Australia, they found that high-density sticks and branches on the ground have the potential to pop up and puncture the plastic floorboard, which is a safety hazard,” said Engstrom.

Upon receiving this feedback from Marines, the UTV team researched and tested various potential materials to use in protecting the floorboard.

“We wanted to find a solution that kept the weight down because putting too much weight in the design of the vehicle — like a reinforced floorboard — impacts the amount of cargo Marines can carry on it,” said Smith. “Every pound counts.”

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)

Tires

For the UTV’s tire upgrades, the team turned to a novel source for inspiration: the Baja off-road racing industry.

“There’s a new approach to run-flat technology — called ‘Tireballs,'” said Engstrom. “Inside each tire are 16 inflatable cells, so if any one cell pops from running over a spike or nail, you’d still have 15 other cells full of air to continue driving on.”

This, said Engstrom, significantly enhances the UTV’s operational readiness for Marines, allowing them to go farther for longer in the UTV. Along with the Tireballs, the team selected an upgraded tire from BF Goodrich that is more durable than the previous, exceeding performance requirements in various environments that mimic the challenging terrains Marines face.

“The Baja racers are using these tires now while completing 1000-mile races out in the desert,” said Engstrom. “We decided it would be a good upgrade for Marines.”

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

US Marines patrol in their Utility Task Vehicle during a combat readiness evaluation, North Carolina, August 1, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kenny Gomez)

Environmental Protection Cover

The Environmental Protection Cover, another upgrade to the UTV, provides Marines with protection from the elements while they’re out in the field.

“Have you ever been in a convertible on a hot, sunny day and put the roof up? That’s exactly what this is,” said UTV engineer Christopher Swift. “It’s necessary after being out in the field 8-12 hours a day in the hot sun, especially if it’s the only shelter available.”

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)

Road March Kit

The team started fielding the UTV’s Road March Kit — comprising turn signals, a horn, and a rearview mirror — last March. Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force requested these features be added for safety, especially when transitioning between training areas on roads also used by civilian motorists.

The Road March Kit upgrade, along with the other vehicle upgrades, underscores the importance Marines’ user feedback is to the acquisition professionals tasked with delivering products to the warfighter.

“We try to meet customer needs within the requirement [determined by Marine Corps Combat Development and Integration],” said UTV Team Lead Lorrie Owens. “If we can meet the customers’ need to make it more reliable and durable, we will certainly do so within the realm of the requirement.”

The UTV team is taking advantage of the vehicle’s general maintenance schedule to implement the upgrades, which will be done alongside regular maintenance and services.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

In recent years, the United States has begun to shift its military focus away from counter-terror operations and back toward the possibility of a large-scale conflict with near-peer opponents like China. Unfortunately, nearly two straight decades of the Global War on Terror has left the American defense apparatus on the wrong footing for such a war. In some important respects, America now finds itself playing catch up; working to close capability gaps that have presented themselves in Europe and the Pacific.

While America retains the largest military on the planet, it also has further reaching obligations than any other force on the planet as well. In every corner of the globe, America’s military serves in a variety of capacities, from providing a stabilizing presence, to training foreign militaries to defend themselves, to enforcing international norms on the high seas. As we’ve discussed in some depth before, America’s Navy may be huge for this era of relative global stability, but it would find itself significantly outnumbered in a Sino-American war in the Pacific. That issue becomes even more clear when you consider that the U.S. Navy couldn’t deploy the entirety of its fleet to any one waterway without leaving a number of other important interests un-guarded.


When you combine China’s rapidly growing Navy with its well-armed Coast Guard and its maritime militia, you get a positively massive 770-ship Chinese presence in the Pacific. For context, the massive U.S. Navy currently boasts only around 293 ships–and while President Trump has pushed for growth to reach a 355-ship Navy, no real plans to get there have yet to materialize. That means the U.S. Navy would be left to face China’s massive sea fairing presence while outnumbered at least two to one.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

(U.S. Navy)

When the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough

Having a massive fleet alone isn’t enough to win a 21st century conflict on the high seas–It’s equally important that you have the right kinds of ships to leverage for specific roles.

Over the years, advancing technology has enabled the United States to move away from the massive fleets of ships and aircraft it maintained during the Second World War, and toward a lower number of assets that are capable of filling multiple roles. Ships like the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, just like multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are properly outfitted to serve in a number of capacities. This mindset has allowed the United States to expand its capabilities while reducing its personnel requirements and the overhead costs of maintaining far more assets with far more specialized roles.

But there are downsides to America’s love affair with “multi-role” platforms: They dramatically increase the cost of research and acquisition, and that increased cost forces purchases in fewer numbers. It also forces military assets into positions that don’t fully leverage their broad capabilities.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Shoup (DDG 86) steam in formation during a photo exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz)

For some useful context into how more advanced technology has enabled the U.S. to increase capability while decreasing volume, consider that America’s military apparatus wielded a whopping 6,768 ships and an astonishing 300,000 combat airplanes at its peak during World War II. As America poured money into better military technology throughout the Cold War, it transitioned to an era of valuing technology and capability over volume, and today the U.S. Navy boasts just 293 ships, and America maintains a comparatively paltry 13,000 military aircraft.

With so many fewer platforms to utilize, these multi-role ships and airplanes are left doing a wide variety of work that has to be prioritized. Despite being capable of filling multiple roles, these platforms can often only fill one role at a time — making them more effective for strategic posturing, but less effective in a combat situation. Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers are incredibly powerful ships, equipped with a variety of guns, missiles, and torpedoes, but are often relegated to simplistic missile defense operations because of their role within the Aegis missile defense apparatus. These destroyers serve as a shining example of how a ship with a number of uses may get stuck in a single defensive role during large scale conflict.

As former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson put it, BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships are restricted to very confined operating areas that he refers to as “little boxes.”

A cargo ship packed with missiles? Really?

If the United States were to find itself on a collision course with China, one of the nation’s first priorities would be finding ways to rapidly expand both America’s military presence and strategic capabilities in the Pacific. China owns a positively massive ballistic missile stockpile (including hypersonic anti-ship missiles), which would mean missile defense would be considered a significant priority for America’s Aegis destroyers. Unfortunately, that would limit the ability for America’s destroyers to operate in a more offensive capacity, as they steamed in circles around their area of responsibility, waiting to intercept any missiles lobbed their way.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Left to right, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the guided missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) launch a coordinated volley of missiles during a Vandel Exercise (VANDALEX). (US Navy photo)

This would be a significant waste of destroyers, which would in turn limit the capability of other battle groups that couldn’t rely on the offensive power of these warships. In a real way, America would simply need more vertical launch missile tubes (commonly referred to as VLS cells, or Vertical Launch System cells) in the Pacific to bolster both offensive and defensive operations — and it would be essential to get them as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

That’s where the idea for missile barges, or missile ships, comes into play. In a 2019 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, five experts, including a retired Navy captain and a retired Marine Corps colonel, offered their suggestion for rapidly procuring and equipping commercial cargo ships for combat operations.

“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.”
-Captain R. Robinson Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Andrew Kerr; Kenneth Adams; Christopher Abt; Michael Venn; and Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

(Pixnio)

The premise behind missile barges has been around for some time; after all, at its most simplistic levels, this idea boils down to “just stick a bunch of missiles on a ship you have laying around,” but what differentiates this modern missile barge concept from past iterations is the technology of our day. America has long possessed “containerized” missile platforms that would sit comfortably on the deck of large cargo ships. Further, with data-fusing supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America has also already demonstrated the capability of engaging targets with surface-based weapons via targeting data relayed by nearby aircraft.

Put simply, we already have modular weapon systems that would work when operated off the decks of cargo ships, and we’ve already proven that weapons of that sort can be leveraged to engage targets identified by aircraft… That means this concept would require very little in the way of infrastructure building or development–which equates to both cost and time savings.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

(PXHere)

Procuring the hulls

The first step to building a fleet of missile barges would be procuring the hulls of commercial cargo ships, which would likely be a fairly easy endeavor if a war in the Pacific were to occur. It’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of all global commerce sails across the South China Sea on an annual basis, and a conflict between the United States and China would curtail a majority of these trips–due to both the drop in trade between these two economic power houses and the perceived danger of sending commercial ships through what would effectively be the site of the greatest naval conflict in all of recorded history. As a result, purchasing these vessels would likely come at a significantly reduced cost.

Purchasing a new commercial double hulled cargo ship would normally run the United States between and million dollars, but cargo ships that are already in use can be procured on websites like NautiSNP for pennies on the dollar, with some vessels currently on the market for just over id=”listicle-2647023060″ million.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Again, a significant drop in trade through the Pacific would likely result in even greater cost savings as firms liquidate their assets in the region to recoup some of their losses.

Modifying commercial ships into missile barges

Once the U.S. Navy had procured the ships themselves, it could begin the relatively significant task of refitting them for service as missile barges. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.

The Navy could utilize containerized missile and drone assets stacked on the ship, which would make it more difficult to discern from traditional cargo vessels while dramatically reducing the actual work required to convert each ship. While the vessels would have to be marked as U.S. Navy ships and flagged as such, the similar profile to commercial ships would force the Chinese Navy to positively identify each vessel before engaging, as many weapons systems rely on inverse synthetic-aperture radar that assesses targets through little more than low-resolution profiling.

LORA Weapon System Operational Demonstration

www.youtube.com

That front-end investment could be further curbed by relying on external assets like nearby Aegis destroyers for command and control, relying on the warship’s radar, targeting, and command apparatus for what is effectively little more than an arsenal ship or “floating magazine.” In this regard, missile barges would effectively serve as a supplement to a destroyer’s existing weapons loadout.

Conversely, these vessels could be modified to carry traditional VLS tubes just like those employed by America’s guided missile destroyers today. A container ship could be modified to carry a slew of vertical launch tubes carrying Tomahawk missiles in as little as three to six months. The costs would be higher, but the trade off benefit would be utilizing the same basic systems found on other Navy ships, reducing the required training and logistical concerns associated with standing up a different weapon system.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Charles Coleman inspects missile cell hatches on one of two Vertical Launching Systems (VLS) aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66). The VLS is capable of launching numerous missiles including the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and SM-2 Standard Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Charles E. Hill)

As the proposal in Proceedings suggests, it would be important for the Navy to carefully consider how many missile barges they intended to build, and how many missiles they intend to keep on each.

While it’s possible to place more than a hundred VLS tubes and associated missiles on one of these vessels, that would represent both a massive expense and a massive target for the Chinese military. Instead, the proposal suggests converting 10 to 15 cargo ships into missile barges, each carrying between 30 and 50 Tomahawk missiles. That would limit the potential losses if such a vessel were lost, while giving it enough firepower to benefit the Navy’s overarching strategy.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jimmy C. Pan)

The hybrid-crew model

Of course, another shortfall we have yet to discuss in a Pacific conflict could very well be trained Sailors. As the U.S. Navy rapidly procured and modified ships into missile barges, it would also have to rapidly staff these vessels — which likely wouldn’t be feasible leveraging a traditional Navy recruiting pipeline. Instead, the hybrid crew model proposed by Navy Captain Chris Rawley seems most logical.

Each missile barge would have a crew comprised of both U.S. Navy officers and civilian sailors that have experience operating these commercial vessels. By recruiting from the private sector, the U.S. Navy could rapidly field these ships with crews that are already trained and proficient at the tasks they’d be assigned, while placing Naval officers in command of the vessel and in other essential combat roles.

By using a military command element, operating missile barges in war with a crew made up in part of civilians would still be legal under international law. Indeed, this model is already in use aboard some specific Naval vessels, like the recently decommissioned USS Ponce amphibious transport dock.

These missile barges could be crewed with as few as 30 people, split between U.S. Navy and civilian personnel. Because the missile payloads would not come close to these ship’s total capacity, they could also utilize buoyant cargo sealed in the hull to help make these ships more survivable in the event of an attack.

It’s possible that these ships could be crewed by even fewer people in the near future, as the Navy has already earmarked 0 million in the 2020 budget for the development of two large unmanned surface ships. The Navy’s Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel dubbed “Sea Hunter” has already successfully traversed the open ocean between San Diego and Hawaii all on its own, demonstrating the capability for unmanned Navy ships to come.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Are missile barges actually realistic?

Although the U.S. Navy is in the early stages of what may come to be a transformative era, it seems unlikely that the United States would shift away from its current love affair with high-cost, multi-role platforms any time soon. The new USS Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers serve as a good example of how the U.S. military prefers new, shiny, and expensive hardware over old, rusty, and more cost efficient options. While some within the Defense Department are questioning the future of America’s supercarriers, the alternative posited is usually something akin to smaller, but still rather large and expensive Lightning Carriers built for short-take off, vertical landing F-35Bs.

However, it’s important to note that the Navy of today is a product of the past fifty years of foreign policy posturing, but that may not be the right Navy to see us through a return to large scale conflict. Today, war with China remains a distant threat, but as that threat looms closer, we may see a transition in the Navy’s mindset similar to that of the Air Force’s recent push for “attritable” aircraft to bolster our small volume of high-capability assets.

Attritable, a word seemingly designed to give copy editors stress wrinkles, is the term used by the U.S. Air Force to describe platforms that are cheap enough to be used aggressively, with some degree of losses considered acceptable. This has led the Air Force to investing in drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, which is a low-observable drone capable of carrying two small-diameter bombs for ground strikes while costing only a few million dollars a piece.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Kratos Valkyrie (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

While it would cost more than a few million dollars to field each missile barge, the price may still be discounted enough to be considered attritable when compared to billion behemoths like the Ford. As unmanned ships become more common, and as a result, more affordable, it may become even more cost effective to leverage existing commercial hulls as a means of offsetting China’s huge numbers advantage in the Pacific.

Does it seem likely that the U.S. Navy would start strapping missiles to old container ships any time soon? The answer is a resounding no, but if America and China continue on this collision course, America’s defense apparatus may find itself being forced to make some hard decisions about just how much capability it can squeeze out of America’s already massive defense budget. If that day comes, missile barges may represent one of the most cost effective force multipliers America could leverage.

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


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Pentagon has plans for its own mini-space station. Here’s what it would do

Among defense experts the world over, there’s little doubt that warfare in the 21st century will be an orbital affair. From communications and reconnaissance to navigation and logistics, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an element of any modern nation’s military that operates without the use of space-born satellites, and as such, many nations are developing weapons aimed specifically at causing trouble high above our heads.

While the U.S. government may be no exception, as the reigning space-race champ, America has the lead, and as such, much more to lose in orbit than its national competitors. At least one element of the Pentagon has a plan to help keep it that way: an orbiting space station purpose-built to support a fleet of defensive space drones.


These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Which beats out my proposal to just start dropping bombs from the ISS, I suppose.

(NASA Image)

You might be imagining a space station equipped with the latest defense gadgets, science experiments meant to usher in the next era of orbital weapons, and of course, enough utility to support a wide variety of Pentagon directives in the dark skies around our pale blue dot… and you’d be right on all counts… but where this new initiative breaks from fantasy is in its size. The Pentagon’s proposed space station wouldn’t be built to sustain any kind of manned presence whatsoever, at least for now.

The proposed orbital outpost received a great deal of media attention recently thanks to an industry solicitation posted by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). Put simply, the solicitation is seeking companies that want to compete for a chance to help launch a self-contained orbital facility that’s “capable of supporting space assembly, microgravity experimentation, logistics and storage, manufacturing, training, test and evaluation, hosting payloads, and other functions.”

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

“Rock, paper, scissors. Winner gets a new space station.”

(Courtesy of NASA)

The DIU envisions an orbital outpost that’s equipped with robotic arms to manage assembly and even potentially repair duties for other orbital assets. That means this unmanned installation could feasibly be used to build autonomous satellite drones in space meant to help protect America’s large and rather undefended constellation of satellites.

The tiny outpost would have a payload capacity of just 176 pounds (or 80 kilograms if you live in a nation that’s never sent people to the moon), and would offer only a small 3 foot by 3 foot by 4 foot enclosure. That may not be enough room to house any members of the space infantry, but it would be enough to work on things like cube-sats, which are small, inexpensive satellites built to serve specific purposes in orbit and beyond.

Because the reality of war in space could be as mundane as simply nudging a satellite out of its orbit, cube-sats and other small platforms could actually play a massive role in orbital combat operations. A fleet of inexpensive satellites could provide system redundancy by temporarily filling service gaps as other assets are destroyed or interfered with by enemy platforms. They could also engage with or deter enemy systems (be they satellites or weapons themselves).

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

The X-37B sits on the Vandenberg Air Force base runway after spending months in space without any grubby human mitts changing the radio station.

(U.S. Air Force photo/ Michael Stonecypher)

Thanks to advances in 3-D printing and a rash of commercial interest in orbital manufacturing in recent years, it seems entirely possible that an orbital outpost like the one proposed by the DIU could eventually support a broader space defense initiative, but it also seems unlikely that this specific enterprise would ever expand far enough to add human support to the equation, but then, humans may need to be present anyway.

Russia and China are both already believed to operate orbital weapons platforms that behave like autonomous satellites and the Air Force’s secretive space plane known as the X-37B operates in orbit for months at a time without any use for human hands. Star Wars may indeed eventually come to fruition, but at least for now, it looks like the fighting will be up to R2-D2, with all of us Skywalkers just watching anxiously from the ground.

Articles

This is why America bought nearly two dozen Fulcrums

When the former Soviet Union collapsed, many of the former Soviet republics had sizable stocks of military gear. Much of it ended up being sold at bargain prices around the world. One of the countries that had a large stockpile was Moldova.


According to the NationalInterest.org, the former Soviet republic didn’t have much population. They did have a number of MiG-29s, as well as helicopters, and there was a very big worry that Iran, with its bank accounts bloated with oil money, would seek to bolster its force of MiG-29s. This was bad, but some of Moldova’s MiG-29s had been equipped to deliver tactical nukes.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
A MiG-29. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

To prevent this, the United States opened its checkbook. According to a New York Times report in 1997, 21 of Moldova’s MiG-29s – including all of the MiG-29 Fulcrum Cs – were taken apart and shipped to the United States on board cargo planes. Yemen and Eritrea were left to pick over the remainder of the airframes.

After purchase, the MiG-29 were “exploited.” Now, that pervy-sounding term is also somewhat accurate. But really, a lot of what happened with the MiG-29 was a lot of test flights and mock dogfights. In other words, pretty much the standard practice when America gets its hands on enemy gear.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin L. Bishop

Through that testing, it was discovered that the MiG-29 had its virtues: It was easy to fly. The plane also had the ability to help a pilot recover from vertigo. It had great technology to assist in landings. Not to mention the fact that the AA-11 Archer and its helmet-mounted sight made the Fulcrum a very deadly adversary in a dogfight.

That list item, though, would be countered when America deployed the AIM-9X Sidewinder, which had the capability to use a helmet-mounted sight as well. Furthermore, when America and NATO faced Fulcrums over the former Yugoslavia, the United States shot down four MiG-29s, and a Dutch pilot shot down one as well.

The video below discusses how America used the checkbook to get a bunch of MiGs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OE5DWzWhguU
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

It’s likely that whoever US troops fight in the next war, these enemies will be armed with drones. That’s why Army researchers have invented a smart and cost-effective way to bring them down.

The US Army has invented a new grenade in the 40 mm configuration that is packed with a net and specifically designed to take out enemy drones.


The weapon, which was developed by Army engineers at the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) in New Jersey, can be launched from the standard grenade launchers regularly used by the US military and law enforcement.

Here’s how it works, according to a patent…

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Scalable Effects Net Warhead.

(US Army/Patent via United States Patent and Trademark Office)

The projectile contains a net with weights, the patent detailed. As the round nears the target, a signal from a control board releases the net stored inside, according to the recent patent.

The weapon can theoretically be used to counter both single and swarming drones.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Scalable Effects Net Warhead.

(US Army/Patent via United States Patent and Trademark Office)

Terrorist groups and insurgents in the Middle East have used commercial quadcopters for reconnaissance, as well as the dropping of improvised munitions.

The Army’s simple yet effective invention has purportedly outperformed existing net-centric counter-drone techniques, such as drone-operated drag nets, where a pilot must outmaneuver an enemy aerial drone. That tactic would likely be ineffective against a swarm of drones, which a sophisticated adversary like Russia would be capable of wielding.

Furthermore, the new net-packed grenade is a lot cheaper than surface-to-air weapons, such as surface to air missiles, to take out an adversary’s drones. A US ally once used a million Patriot missile to shoot down a quadcopter drone that probably cost no more than 0, US Army Gen. David Perkins last year, calling attention to the need for affordable counter-drone capabilities.

Ground units equipped with the M320 grenade launchers could carry dozens of these grenades to eliminate enemy drones from hundreds of yards away, TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer ,explained, adding that units equipped with the Mk-19 launchers could down enemy drones from even farther away.

The Army wants to eventually expand this concept to disable boats and trucks and much more.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Leaked photo shows China is building a new supercarrier

The Chinese shipbuilder that’s constructing Beijing’s third aircraft carrier, Type 002, leaked an artist’s impression of that carrier on social media in late June 2018 that heightened intrigue about China’s naval ambitions before quickly taking it down.

The China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation photo showed the future Type 002 with a large flight deck that featured an angled landing strip and three electro-magentic catapult launching systems — all of which represent a technologic leap to the kind of supercarriers fielded by the US Navy.


It’s expected to be a 70,000-ton ship that’s finished by 2021, if all goes according to plan.

Compare that to China’s second carrier, Type 001A — it has a built-in ski jump on the flight deck and uses an old-fashioned short take-off but arrested recovery launching system that limits the speed of launches and the size of the armaments fighters carry.

Type 002’s features will be much more advanced than Type 001A , allowing the People’s Liberation Army-Navy to deploy a greater number and variety of aircraft — and to deploy the aircraft more quickly. If the supercarrier works as planned — and that’s a big, if — it would make the Chinese navy one of the most powerful in the world.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Type 001A aircraft carrier after launch at Dalian in 2017.

And this appears to be just the beginning.

China has grand ambitions for a world-class navy, and is even building a fourth carrier , which will reportedly be nuclear-powered and possibly match the specifications of the US’ Nimitz-class carriers the US Navy has operated for half a century.

A modern supercarrier would leap China ahead of Russia, which has only one carrier that’s breakdown-prone, to rival only France and the United States, the only navies that boast nuclear-powered supercarriers that launch planes with catapults.

The “interesting question is what do they intend these carriers to do,” Daniel Kliman, a senior fellow in the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told Business Insider. “What would it enable China to achieve?”

“A lot of it’s prestige,” Kliman said. And prestige is also about domestic politics.

“There’s a lot of popular attention in China to its carrier program,” said Kliman, who added that a supercarrier is also an effective means to project power in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, much as the US has used them for decades.

“Beyond that, China does see a real need to protect its far-flung investments and protect market access overseas,” Kliman said. “Carriers are certainly useful in that role.”

Whatever the intentions, these supercarriers would vastly expand China’s ability to project power into contested areas at sea and to fly missions overland.

“Either they’re going to try to take the fight to the enemy or it’s about prestige,” Eric Wertheim, a naval expert with the US Naval Institute, told Business Insider, adding that it’s probably “a little bit of both.”

Wertheim said that people were seen crying when China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, was commissioned because “there was such pride.”

Wertheim and Kliman also agreed that China would initially use their current and future carriers to project power in the East and South China Seas, especially the latter.

Ultimately though, China really doesn’t need carriers to achieve its territorial objectives in the East and South China Seas. “Everything’s within land-based aircraft,” Kliman said.

So “is their goal to just dominate Asia” or to project power in other waters? Wertheim asked.

In 2017, China opened an overseas military base (its first ever overseas base) in Africa, where it continues to invest and compete for interest.

“We really don’t know what [China’s] intention [are],” Wertheim said.

Featured image: An artist’s impression of Type 002.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Green Beret will make you a mental commando: Holiday Edition

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the aspiring operator or inspired survivalist:

~Tactical training from the man who took Ryan Curtis back to school~

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
A typical Fieldcraft Survival classroom.  (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

For our final installment of the Mighty Holiday Gift Guide, we want to politely remind you that going out and getting active with a group of likeminded individuals is, when all is said and done, the best kind of therapy for what ails the modern psyche.

Whether you deployed to combat zones or burned your PT belt as soon you could specialize into admin; whether you’re a veteran looking for new purpose on the homefront or a civilian curious about what happens when you push beyond the bounds of civilization; let us suggest, with all requisite seasonal jollity, that you seek out a school like Fieldcraft Survival, squad up with their Tribe and give yourself the gift of training under an expert like Mike Glover.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
He’ll make your mind quiet and your aim true.

As a Special Forces Weapons Specialist, Sniper, Assaulter/Operator, Recon Specialist, Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC), Team Sergeant, and Operations SGM, Glover spent 18 years acquiring the kind of skillset that would make him a force multiplier in the field and, upon transitioning, the kind of dude who would have to start a survival school.

Covering a range of topics from Pistol and Carbine Training for Gunfighters and Off Road Survival to Active Shooter Tactical Trauma, Fieldcraft Survival strives to prepare its trainees physically and, more importantly, mentally to competently tackle a murderer’s row of worst case scenarios.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Look, it’s easy to return to the comforts of home and get complacent. Honestly, if that’s what you want to do, you’ve earned the right. But brotherhood is what you miss the most about the military. And those bonds can be made anew, out in the bush and the muck, shoulder to shoulder, facing just the right amount of suck to bring up the best in you. When you give yourself a task and a purpose and a struggle to overcome, you invest this second life of yours with meaning.

The holidays can get pretty materialistic. But if you give yourself the right gift – the gift of a challenge – the person you want to be, or wish you were, might be out there waiting for you, just few weeks hard march into next year.

Go get ’em.

And Happy Holidays, from all of us at We Are The Mighty.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Because obviously yes goddamnit. (Go90 Oscar Mike Screenshot)

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

MIGHTY CULTURE

Forget what you’ve seen in war movies, this is what hazing is like in Delta Force

George Hand is a retired Master Sergeant from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, and the Seventh Special Forces Groups (Airborne). The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own.

Military units are strong on tradition, well, formal tradition anyway. Then… then there are those un-recorded traditions, born and raised and assimilated into every unit’s corporate culture. In my own squadron of Delta, there was the both cherished and despised tradition of birthday hazing.


Everyone suffered from it because, well… everyone has a birthday, and if you tried to keep your date secret, a new birthdate was promptly assigned to you, and you were to be hazed with additional spirit for your insolence. Above all, you were expected to fight, to fight hard against the birthday-boy onslaught.

I fancied myself as one who despised the ritual. Over the years, I looked on in abject horror as men were blindfolded, bound, hung upside down, and dunked repeatedly into the swimming pool hanging by a rope tied to their legs. As you can imagine, I suffered minor nightmares as my birthday approached.

And that day came.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Pictured: definitely not me. The rest of my unit? Oh yes.

I entered my team room to the Cheshire grins of my brothers. Someone was singing Happy Birthday with a chuckle. I readied myself and, embracing the strategy I had devised, I spoke:

“I’ve decided, gentlemen, that I would not be participating in this ‘birthday bash’ Tom-foolery. I’m protesting this with passive resistance; I won’t fight you.”

The Reverend Chill-D got his name when he suddenly, unexpectedly and inexplicable, found Jesus once… for about a week. The Reverend was the pinnacle instigator and executer of the most heinous of hazing events. He loved it; it was in his life’s blood; he could taste it; he was born again into a world where hazing held the only key.

“You’re gonna do what… you’re not gonna do what, Geo??” he questioned with our noses damned-near touching tips.

“I… I… I’m not going to fight you guys, Chill-D.” I stammered.

“Well, well, well…” the Reverend continued, “Boys, looks like we got ourselves a coward! And we all know what we do with cowards!” Suddenly, a great pounce erupted in the room. There was much suffering and gnashing of teeth; sinew and tendon stretched dangerously close to its tinsel edge. Bone creaked and popped and nearly broke… but held fast.

When I came to, I couldn’t move. I was bound, somehow, on every inch of my body and lying supine on the floor. I was gagged with what I recognized by taste as duct tape, a thing all military folk know as “hundred-mile-an-hour tape, roll, green in color, one each.” I divined that my body too was bound in such fashion. From behind, I was lifted vertical at my head by an unseen force. I could understand now that I was duct taped to a moving dolly.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

I don’t think this scene was ever meant to be relatable…

“Time to go to the pool, Great Houdini… we’re throwing you in the pool taped to this dolly. Better start thinking how you’re gonna free yourself!” and I truly did start to ponder that conundrum, as I knew my men not to be simple braggarts. How long could I hold my breath? What tools might I be carrying in my flight suit?

A man shot into the room with a canteen cup and sheet of paper. With the shriek of more stripping of tape, the canteen cup was taped fast to my right hand, and the paper was slapped to my chest.

“We’re taking him right now to the finance window and standing him next to it!” reported the villain.

I was rolled to the finance window and stood. There, in line at the window, was a group of eight women from the Unit waiting to collect travel funds. As the boys left me, there was much staring and blinking between me and the women. I rolled my eyes vigorously to the extent that I became nauseous.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

“Please help…” one of the women began to read the sign on my chest, “…I must raise .56 to buy each of my friends a soda. If I fail to raise this money by 1300hrs, they will kill me.”

And the kind ladies each chipped in their change from their travel funds until I had some .00 and even a roll of Starburst candies. Yet I stood. I stood until some valiant men from our Signal Squadron came and sliced me loose.

As I stepped back to my squadron bay pushing the dolly, I realized there would be more scunion to bear from the boys. I paused… and as the pool door was just to my side, I stepped in and plunged myself into the watery goodness.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

Not the kind of cannonballs the military normally advertises.

I then sloshed my way through the squadron lounge where my brothers languished before the TV, being it still the lunch hour.

“What the hell happened to you?” queried the Reverend.

“Some pipe-hitters from C-Squadron cut me loose… but then they throttled me and threw me in the pool!” I sulked as I headed for my team room. En route, I passed a bubba from our A-Assault team standing in the open doorway smiling at me.

“How that that new passive resistance policy of yours working out for ya, Geo?”

“Go f*ck yourself; that’s how,” said I.

Articles

This is why the Army selected Sig over Glock for its new handgun

The dust has finally settled in the battle between firearms giants Sig Sauer and Glock over the Army’s program to replace more than half a million M9 Beretta handguns after government investigators sided with Sig over a protest that claimed the company was selected unfairly.


In a June 5 report, the Government Accountability Office denied the protest by Glock of the January award of a massive contract to replace nearly 550,000 handguns in the Army and other services with a militarized version of the Sig P320 striker-fired pistol.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
U.S. Marines with Combat Marksmanship Company, Weapons Training Battalion, fire Glock 17 pistols at Altcar Training Camp, Hightown, United Kingdom on May 15, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gregory D. Boyd)

While the GAO said each was very close in performance and other factors that evaluators looked into, Sig came in with a program price nearly $130 million less than Glock.

“Based upon the technical evaluation and my comparative analysis of the proposals, the Sig Sauer proposal has a slight technical advantage over the Glock proposal,” the GAO said in its final report. “The advantage of the Sig Sauer proposal is increased when the license rights and production manufacturing factors are brought into consideration … making the Sig Sauer proposal overall the best value to the government.”

The evaluators said the Sig and Glock basically ran neck in neck when it came to reliability, accuracy, and ergonomics. But the Army hit Glock on its safety during the “warfighter evaluation” phase of testing, giving Sig an edge and prompting Glock to factor that into its protest.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Sig Sauer says its Model P320 is the first modular pistol with interchangeable grip modules that can also be adjusted in frame size and caliber by the operator. (Photo courtesy Sig Sauer)

The report is unclear on how the Glock safety negatively impacted the Army’s decision, but most commercial versions of both candidate handguns do not have a thumb safety, so each company had to design that into their submissions.

According to the report, Glock submitted one full-sized handgun (presumably the G17 or G19) and Sig submitted two, a full-sized and compact version of the P320. Sig is the only company of the two that manufactures a fully-modular handgun — one that can convert from a full-sized handgun into a sub-compact for concealed carry by changing out a few parts.

Reports indicated that soldiers at Fort Campbell will be the first issued the new Sig-made M17 later this year.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The ability to detect and identify targets at night and under poor visibility conditions has long been an essential military requirement. History has shown that the ability to maneuver under the cover of darkness gives tacticians a big advantage over the enemy. Since its invention, night-vision technology has taken a firm place not only in individual soldiers’ kits, but in almost every component of the tactical spectrum, ranging from the perimeter defense to helicopter pilots and tank drivers.


These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams)

Today’s reality: Modernizing and retrofitting

Today, many governments face the costly need to upgrade their fleets of armored vehicles (AVs) that have become obsolete with time. Despite budget cuts and insufficient funding, armies around the world still need effective, affordable modernization options for their AV fleets.

India is a good example. Surrounded by hostile neighbors, like China and Pakistan, India’s government has quickly identified the need to modernize its tank fleet. The biggest defense vulnerability were gaps in the night-vision capabilities. Eventually, the government decided to equip its army’s old 3,500 battle tanks with modern night-vision devices.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were great lessons, too, in terms of understanding the usefulness of this modern technology. Many new technologies sprang up during these wars, ranging from unmanned platforms to smart sensors, but night-vision technology offered a completely new dimension to tactical operations and, possibly, changed the course of war.

As a response to similar demand around the world, many companies started offering retrofitted thermal imaging cameras and driver vision enhancement kits that can be installed on refurbished vehicles or added as an upgrade to new vehicles. Using these upgrades, older-generation military machinery can be modernized relatively inexpensively.

But what are these systems capable of? Let’s explore what thermal imaging systems can do and what they cannot.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini)

​Fighting tank blindness: Improved situational awareness

Thermal imaging is a boon to the armed forces, especially for ground troops. Nowadays, armored vehicles are required to operate in all-weather battlefield environments, and there is the need for proactive situational awareness (SA). Modern thermal imaging cameras certainly provide the necessary technological innovation to achieve this end.

A tank, besides being a formidable machine, is also a large target. For tank crews, it is important to detect before they are detected. Modern thermal imaging systems can offer up to 360° visibility and generate higher-resolution images — this will help AV crews get crucial information before they physically encounter a potential threat.

Such systems also typically have a wide-view screen with the ability to select a point of interest anywhere on the screen, and the capability to zoom in to study the object further, or the ability to switch between multiple camera feeds. To improve the operators’ tactical edge, such cameras have different screen orientations with options for secondary views of the periphery. What’s more, these systems can provide supporting analytics and alert operators to important events for faster decision-making and therefore higher survivability.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Richard Wrigley)

​Improved maneuvering

Besides the rich SA about what is happening around them, AV operators need to know the nature of the terrain on which they are advancing to successfully maneuver and tactically position themselves for battle.

This is what modern thermal imaging technology excels at. It gives AV operators the ability to reconnoiter, identify, and tag targets at greater distances or at close range, 24/7 and in any weather conditions. By being able to see the terrain ahead in total darkness, through tall grass, camouflage, dust, light fog, sand storms, and rain, drivers are able to detect obstacles or potential threats sooner and will have more time to react. Thermal imaging can also see through smoke, which is exactly what AV crews need on a smoke-covered street or battleground.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

(DoD photo by Benjamin Faske)

How effective thermal imaging is for AVs?

Since zero-visibility conditions have zero impact on thermal imaging cameras, they are capable of “seeing” in environmental conditions that are impenetrable to any other technology on the market. The types of threats these systems can detect are diverse: IEDs, vehicles, human targets, anti-tank missiles, and various terrain features and obstacles (cliffs, large boulders, waterways etc.).

This technology is not infallible though. Thermal imaging will have difficult time detecting AVs that use invisibility cloaks or other stealth technology, for example, the one in use by the Russian army.

New advances

The modern army’s growing need to operate at night and under poor visibility conditions has led to development of more and more sophisticated thermal imaging devices. One example is a research project that an experimental physicist Dr. Kristan Gurton and electronics engineer Dr Sean Hu are conducting for the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL). Their new camera, which relies on sensing polarized light, can see small hidden objects such as tripwires and booby traps, and it shows images in such detail that AV crews soon may be able to detect and identify specific individuals, for example, in urban environments or in the open field. Other advances, such as battle management systems, can be integrated as well with thermal imaging units for improved capabilities.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force lab on Mars-like island is straight out of sci-fi movie

Space has been the center of conversation in the news and entertainment. There was even a movie about future human inhabitants on Mars! But how would that happen? How would we be able to sustain growing food? Mars, a dry and dusty planet, would not be able to support human life organically.

And just like the case would be on Mars, the food choices on Ascension are very limited and depend completely on what supplies are flown to the island.

“If you’ve ever been to Ascension Island, or even looked at photos online, the island doesn’t differ much from Mars,” said Cathy Little, Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield agricultural specialist.


Supplies, including food, are flown to the island because Ascension’s water cycle, soil and topography make it very difficult for anything to grow on the island — what does grow, you cannot or would not want to eat, until recently.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

The 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield looks quite similar to Mars, per its physical characteristics. Food must be flown in because the topography of the island isn’t able to grow food organically. However, a team from the 45th Mission Support Group’s Detachment 2 has revamped the hydroponics lab so that fresh vegetables can be grown and consumed by the 700 inhabitants of the volcanic island.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Cathy Little)

Introducing Ascension Island’s own personal ‘garden’, the hydroponics laboratory.

Hydroponics, or the process of growing plants in sand, gravel or liquid instead of soil, can be seen in the movie “The Martian.” Though it seems like something only a screenwriter could come up with, the agricultural team on Ascension Island has taken the idea and run with it.

“The hydroponics lab isn’t a laboratory in the traditional sense,” Little said. “Our facility is an 8,721 square foot greenhouse that has two vine crop bays and one leaf crop bay.”

In the greenhouse, the team on Ascension uses two different systems to grow fresh produce on the volcanic island. For vining crops, like tomatoes and peppers, they use a nutrient injection system, bucket system and Perlite, which is a naturally occurring volcanic glass that has a relatively high water content. For leafy crops, like lettuce and herbs, they use a nutrient film technique, where a very shallow stream of nutrient-filled water is re-circulated past the bare roots of the plants.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

The 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield looks quite similar to Mars, per its physical characteristics. Food must be flown in because the topography of the island isn’t able to grow food organically. However, a team from the 45th Mission Support Group’s Detachment 2 has revamped the hydroponics lab so that fresh vegetables can be grown and consumed by the 700 inhabitants of the volcanic island.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Cathy Little)

Though the lab has grown over the years, hydroponics is not new to Ascension Island.

“During World War II, the shipping of fresh vegetables overseas was not practical and remote islands where troops were stationed were not a place where they could be grown in the soil,” said Rick Simmons, hydroponics expert, in a 2008 article. “In 1945, the U.S. Air Force built one of the first large hydroponic farms on Ascension Island, using crushed volcanic rock as a growing medium.”

“Growing conditions haven’t changed since World War II; therefore, the need for hydroponics still exists,” Little said. “Just as it was in 1945, shipping fresh vegetables to a remote island is not cost effective and with the lack of arable soil on the island. We face the same dilemma as our forebears — how to reduce costs and meet the nutritional needs of the troops and contractor personnel stationed here.”

With the revitalization of the hydroponics lab, Little thinks a shift could be on the horizon for Ascension Island.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield

The 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield looks quite similar to Mars, per its physical characteristics. Food must be flown in because the topography of the island isn’t able to grow food organically. However, a team from the 45th Mission Support Group’s Detachment 2 has revamped the hydroponics lab so that fresh vegetables can be grown and consumed by the 700 inhabitants of the volcanic island.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Cathy Little)

“In addition to having a virtually limitless supply of fresh produce and reducing the cost of transportation, morale is greatly improved knowing that produce, picked that very day, is awaiting everyone in the base dining hall,” Little said. “Hydroponics allows us to meet demands, reduce costs and provide nutritional value for our personnel.”

As the team continues to experiment with different crops, they hope to expand the size of the lab and the list of what they’re able to grow.

“If we were to operate at a full greenhouse capacity, we could produce enough fresh produce to feed the entire population of Ascension Island,” Little said. “That’s about 700 people.”

For the 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield, neither the sky, nor Mars, is the limit.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Articles

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

When the B-52 is over 60 years old, and a large number of F-15 Eagles are over 30, it seems surprising that the Air Force is looking to replace a plane that won’t even be in service for twenty years until later this year.


However, according to an Air Force News Service article, the Air Force is looking to replace the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, which didn’t achieve its initial operating capability until December 1997 according to an Air Force fact sheet. This plane is an all-seeing eye that looks for and tracks ground targets, using the AN/APY-7, a 24-foot long synthetic aperture radar, according to a Northrop Grumman data sheet.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System is a joint Air Force – Army program. The Joint STARS uses a multi-mode side looking radar to detect, track, and classify moving ground vehicles in all conditions deep behind enemy lines. The aircraft is the only airborne platform in operation that can maintain realtime surveillance over a corps-sized area of the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

So, why is this system, which isn’t even old enough to drink, suddenly planned for replacement? The answer is in the airframe.

The E-8, like the E-3 Sentry, is based on the Boeing 707, a jet that first flew just over 59 years ago. With the exception of Omega Aerial Refueling Services, nobody operates this aircraft commercially.

Furthermore, according to a 2015 FlightGlobal.com report, the E-8s were produced by acquiring second-hand 707s. A September 2016 Air Force report noted that those second-hand 707s had as many as 60,000 flight hours before they had been purchased for conversion.

One JSTARS that had to be written off was built in 1967, according to DefenseTech.org.

These 17 photos show why artillery is king of the battlefield
Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conduct a post-flight systems check on an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Oct. 20, 2016, following a mission supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. JSTARS uses its communications and radar systems to support ground attack units and direct air support throughout the area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

In other words, these are old airframes and they’ve had a lot of use – even before the Air Force gave the 16-plane fleet over 1 million flight hours collectively (as of this past September). That is an average of 62,500 flight hours per plane — meaning that some of the E-8 aircraft could have in excess of 120,000 total flight hours.

That’s the equivalent of 5,000 days in the air.

What is the Air Force looking towards in replacing the E-8C? The JSTARS recapitalization project is likely to involve a smaller jet. According to a 2014 report by Aviation Week and Space Technology, Northrop Grumman is testing a new JSTARS based off a Gulfstream V business jet.

Boeing’s web site is touting a version of the 737 jet as its entry, attempting to partially piggyback on experience with the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon.

Reports indicate the Air Force plans to start retiring the JSTARS in 2019.