Why the Navy doesn't use cool flying boats anymore - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

Flying boats played an unheralded, but crucial part in some of World War II’s biggest naval battles. For example, pilots in Consolidated PBY Catalinas made the discovery of the Japanese carriers at Midway and helped locate the German battleship Bismarck.


So, why aren’t flying boats still serving in the United States military today? That’s a good question. After all, both China and Russia are still using them and, starting in 2000, have introduced new versions, like the AVIC AG-600 and the Beriev Be-200. Yet the last flying boat in U.S. service was the HU-16 Albratros, which the Coast Guard retired in 1983.

 

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

Flying boats have the advantage of using the ocean as a runway, which, unlike other launching points, can’t be cratered by bombs. Any atoll, bay, or cove could be a forward base for these patrol aircraft. But they are also huge, which imposes range and performance penalties that other, land-based planes don’t face.

The end of the flying boat was largely due to the island-hopping campaign of World War II. The United States military built a lot of airbases throughout the course of that war, many of which had long runways. This allowed long-range, land-based planes, like the Consolidated PB4Y Liberator/Privateer to operate.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore
A Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer, which was able to operate from forward bases built by Seabees. (U.S. Navy photo)

The PB4Y, a version of the B-24 adapted for maritime patrol, was able to haul 12,800 pounds of bombs at a range of 2,796 miles. The Martin P5M Marlin, by comparison, could only haul 8,640 pounds of weapons 2,051 miles. Although land-based planes outclassed flying boats in terms of cargo transport, they remained useful in search-and-rescue missions, but the helicopter soon pushed them out of that role, too.

Flying boats could remain useful, but the fact is global construction and advances in aviation technology have made them largely redundant in many military roles. These majestic vessels will hang around, but there are fewer and fewer taking flight each day.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Jarred ‘JT’ Taylor went from TACP to media and coffee mogul

If you’ve ever watched a video or seen an ad from Black Rifle Coffee Company, you’ve seen the work and style of co-founder Jarred Taylor. “Everything is devoted to creation,” Taylor said, describing his overall philosophy. “So every piece of time, it might seem like I’m having fun, but everything is devoted to creating stuff for the audience base, on my part.”

Taylor grew up in Novato, California, north of San Francisco. His father was in the U.S. Navy, and they lived on a decommissioned U.S. Air Force base, Hamilton Army Airfield. In 1994, he and his family moved to Bangor, Washington.


“I was always fascinated with the military,” Taylor said. “I loved jets specifically.” But his other passion, from an early age, was film. “I would tell people when I was super young, ‘I wanna make movies, I wanna make movies, I wanna make movies.'”

It’s Who We Are: Jarred Taylor

www.youtube.com

At age 13, Taylor started making short skateboarding films using his parents’ 8mm camera and a VCR. When he was in high school, technology improved and he began using iMovie to edit. He took all the classes he could about digital media.

Taylor completed high school a year early and joined the Air Force in 2002. As the war in Iraq started, he was eager to get in on the action. “I was kicking and screaming during basic training, trying to find any way to get to that,” he said. When he had the chance to become a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) — the person responsible for coordinating air strikes on the ground for the Army — he passed selection on his first try.

His role as a TACP meshed nicely with his continuing desire to create movies. “I was in this cool job now where we drop bombs right in front of our face. And I was like, ‘Well shit, no one’s ever really recorded this so I’m gonna do that,'” Taylor said. During two deployments to Iraq, he made films that were eventually used to help with military recruiting.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

Jarred Taylor while in the U.S. Air Force.

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)

Taylor re-enlisted — with a hefty ,000 bonus — and became an instructor at the TACP schoolhouse. “It was one of the biggest signing bonuses they ever had,” Taylor said. “I got it and spent pretty much all of it on camera gear and editing stuff. I was gonna go full force on this.”

He began moonlighting in marketing and design work for a variety of companies in the tactical industry as early as 2005. “I had only been in the military for two years before I was searching for something more, wanting to come home from work and continue to work,” Taylor said. “I went to my first trade show with a shitty photo album from Walgreens with a bunch of 4×6 pictures. Everything was always a stepping stone.”

At the same time, Taylor began studying social media, especially YouTube and Facebook. “I’m face deep in how do you get traffic, how do you get the maximum number of people to see this stuff?”

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)

That was when he saw a YouTube video made by a former U.S. Army Ranger named Mat Best. “I took one look at him and his videos he was making and said, ‘You’re it, man. You’re gonna be it,'” Taylor recalled. “This is what the tactical industry was looking for, this is what I’ve been looking for as a partner, somebody who’s perfect for in front of the camera while I’m doing all the things behind it.”

While Taylor was still active duty in the Air Force and Best was deploying as a CIA contractor, they formed Article 15 Clothing and began posting video content on Best’s YouTube channel. By the time they teamed up with another veteran-owned apparel company, Ranger Up, to crowdfund and produce the feature film “Range 15,” they had already created a wide-reaching community that was passionate about their work.

“The script was so ridiculous that no agents could understand how this movie got funded,” Taylor said with a laugh. They managed to pull in well-known actors Keith David, William Shatner, and Danny Trejo to participate in the film, which brought Article 15 even more notoriety within the veteran community.

Through the Article 15 Facebook page, Taylor met Evan Hafer, a former CIA contractor and entrepreneur. The first time they spoke, “We ended up staying on the phone pretty much from 11 to 1 o’clock — two hours,” Taylor said. “We just went down this rabbit hole.”

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)

Taylor, Best, and Hafer began collaborating on multiple projects, and when Hafer suggested starting a coffee company, Taylor and Best were very interested. “Mat and I went chips in on Black Rifle with Evan,” Taylor recalled, “and said, ‘Okay, this is the future. This is going to be the big one that we’re always talking about, so let’s roll with it.'”

“I’m our business development guy,” said Taylor, who’s official BRCC title is Executive Vice President, Partnerships. “Evan points at things that he wants in different markets, anything that’s out there in the realm of where coffee drinkers that generally think like us, and then I go out and find the people and the influencers and the partnerships that can benefit us. I get them to jump on the Black Rifle train.”

But things weren’t always that clear cut. Taylor said he, Best, and Hafer started by running the entire operation by themselves — including “standing there with Evan while he’s roasting coffee, grinding it, and putting it in a bag, putting it in a box, putting a label on it, shipping it.”

Taylor credits much of the company’s success to the relationship he has with Hafer and Best. “We’ve spent more time with the three of us than any of us have spent with anybody else in our entire lives,” he said. “And we still are the focal point of all the big ideas for the company. It’s still coming from the three of us, in a room together making fun of each other until we find something that’s the next thing.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These were the UK’s massive “earthquake bombs”

The Second World War saw the creation, fielding, and use of some of the most powerful weapons. From massive battleships armed with guns that will never again be matched in size to the atom bomb, these weapons were built to cause shock and awe and bring about destruction like we’ve never seen. England’s legendary “earthquake bombs,” or seismic bombs, were one such invention.

Barnes Wallis was an engineering graduate of the University of London and an incredibly creative mind. Well known for his bouncing bomb of Dambusters fame, Wallis was an integral part of British and Allied war machine programs, churning out improvements in aircraft and munitions design. He came up with the concept of the earthquake bomb in the early years of the War.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

These bombs arose out of a need to hit “hardened” targets — reinforced structures designed to withstand heavy bombardment — and underground installations. Before the deployment of the earthquake bomb, these targets were, in theory, impenetrable.

Wallis took their impregnability as a challenge.


At the time, area bombing was the prevailing method employed by Allied forces to hit German targets in the European Theater. Large cells of bombers would drop hundreds, if not thousands, of bombs with the hope that at least a few would hit their mark. This did little to destroy or even inflict damage upon hardened targets.

Instead, Wallis hypothesized that the ideal way to take out these structures and military installations was with an accurate, concentrated attack using a smaller number of extremely powerful munitions.

Speed and momentum would be the new bomb’s method of penetration. Extremely heavy and built with an armored casing and guiding fins, once dropped from its bomber, the munition would reach near-supersonic speeds as it hurtled toward the ground. This force would be more than enough to punch through the layers of thick concrete used by German military engineers to protect their facilities.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

After boring through the ceiling of its target, the seismic bomb would fall as far as its momentum would take it. Only then would it detonate, giving whoever was inside or nearby a glimpse of utter hell. Aircrew who dropped these bombs reported that, at first, it looked as though the bomb merely punched a hole in the target. Within seconds, entire targets seemed to crumple in on themselves and fall into a sinkhole.

When the seismic bomb detonated deep within its target, the shock waves from the gargantuan warhead didn’t just obliterate anything nearby, it destabilized entire structures, shaking and moving the very earth beneath them, destroying and collapsing their foundations. Soon, a new term for these weapons would surface — “bunker busters.”

The Royal Air Force fielded two types of seismic bombs over the course of the Second World War — the Tallboy and the Grand Slam. Both were used against submarine pens, factories, and underground German bunkers to great effect. The US Army Air Force followed suit not too long after with similar bombs of their own. Tallboys were famously used to disable and sink the legendary Bismarck‘s sister battleship, the Tirpitz, in 1944.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center received formal approval in late October 2018 to enter the production phase for the B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb’s new guided tail-kit assembly, or TKA.

“This marks the completion of a highly successful development effort for the tail kit,” said Col. Dustin Ziegler, AFNWC director for air-delivered capabilities.

The AFNWC program office recently passed the Air Force review of the weapon system’s development and received approval to end its engineering and manufacturing development phase and enter the next phase for production of the tail kit. In the production phase, the testing environment will more closely approach real-world environments.


Known as Milestone C, the decision to enter this next phase marked the completion of a series of developmental flight tests. The program office completed a 27-month test program in less than 11 months, with 100 percent success for all of its 31 bomb drops. The accelerated schedule, as well as other risk mitigation strategies, enabled the program office to save more than 0 million in development costs, according to Ziegler.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

A frontal view of four B-61 nuclear free-fall bombs on a bomb cart.

(DoD photo by Phil Schmitten)

“The flight tests demonstrated the system works very well in its intended environment,” said Col. Paul Rounsavall, AFNWC senior materiel leader for the B61-12 TKA, Eglin AFB, Florida. “This development effort brought the first-ever digital interface to the B61 family of weapons and demonstrated the B61-12 TKA’s compatibility with the Air Force’s B-2 and F-15 aircraft. In addition, the TKA achieved greater than five times its required performance during developmental testing and is ready to start initial operational test and evaluation.”

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is responsible for the B61-12 nuclear bomb assembly. The Air Force is responsible for the B61-12 TKA, joint integration of the bomb assembly and TKA into the “all-up-round” of the weapon, and its integration with aircraft.

Headquartered at Kirtland AFB, AFNWC is responsible for synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command and in direct support of Air Force Global Strike Command. The center has about 1,100 personnel assigned to 18 locations worldwide, including Eglin AFB; Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts; Hill AFB, Utah; Kirtland AFB; and Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, in the U.S. and Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A B-52 bomber part landed in a woman’s yard during training

A part from a US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber fell off and landed in a British woman’s front garden during a training exercise last week, the BBC reports.

The B-52 bomber is part of the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, which is deployed to Royal Air Force Fairford in Gloucestershire.

The aircraft was participating in a training exercise when its wing-tip gear door fell into the yard of a Warwichkshire woman, according to the BBC.


“Yesterday around 5:30 PM in Brailes a resident reported hearing a thud in her front garden,” the nearby Shipston on Stour police department said on its Facebook page on Oct. 24, 2019. “Thankfully no harm to persons/animals/property.”

The woman, who requested anonymity, told local media outlet Gloucestershire Live that it was a “miracle” no one was hurt.

“You won’t find any evidence in the front garden where it landed, we managed to get it back to normal pretty quickly,” the woman said. “I’ve been contacted by the police and even the MOD [Ministry of Defense]. We are on a flight path here but you never expect something like this to happen.”

“The part landed in a local national’s garden and was retrieved by 2nd Bomb Wing personnel, in partnership with the UK Ministry of Defence Police,” the US Air Force told the BBC. “A safety investigation is being conducted, as is the standard with these types of events.”

Insider reached out to the US Air Force and the 2nd Bomb Wing for more information about the aircraft’s status, as well as what led to the incident, but did not receive a response by press time.

Four B-52s and about 350 airmen deployed to the UK earlier in October 2019 to train with the RAF and other NATO partners as part of US Air Force’s Bomber Task Force. The B-52 has been in service since 1955 and can carry both nuclear and conventional weapons.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This carbine was the predecessor to the AK-47

The AK-47 assault rifle is one of the most classic firearms of all time. It has seen combat all across the world — in the both the hands of national armies and various non-governmental entities, like terrorist groups, insurgencies, and drug cartels. But did you know there was a predecessor to the AK-47?


That rifle is the SKS, which, arguably, is responsible for popularizing the 7.62x39mm cartridge used in the AK-47. Officially, it was known as the SKS-45. This rifle, in some senses, is fairly similar to the M1 Garand. It’s semi-automatic (meaning it fires one shot each time the trigger is pulled) and has an internal magazine (albeit one loaded with stripper clips instead of the en bloc clip used by the M1). The SKS holds ten rounds of ammunition.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

Communist China made over eight million SKS rifles, including those held by these sailors with the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Seeing action from World War II to the War on Terror

Some of the SKS prototypes saw action against Nazi Germany in World War II, but the rifle didn’t have a long service career with the Soviet Union. The AK-47’s introduction quickly shifted the stock of SKS rifles into the hands reserve units or allies. Other Soviet-friendly nations, including Communist China, produced it under license. The Chinese made at least eight million of these rifles.

In China, their version of the SKS, the Type 56 carbine, served for a long time alongside their version of the AK-47, called the Type 56 assault rifle. After the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese conflict, both of these weapons were replaced by the Type 81 assault rifle. Despite that, Russian and Chinese SKS rifles continue to see action across the world — the rifles are prominently mentioned in a 2003 report about guerrilla warfare in East Timor and have been spotted in the eastern portion of Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels are fighting the central government.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

Many SKS rifles were passed on to Soviet allies during the Cold War.

(DOD photo by CMSgt Don Sutherland)

Because the rifle is not capable of fully-automatic fire, the SKS has been imported into the United States for the civilian market, where it has gained a lot of popularity. The SKS may have first seen action over 70 years ago, but it will likely see use, in one capacity or another, for decades to come.

Intel

5 of the most expensive military mega-projects of all time

Making planes, tanks, and ships isn’t cheap. Now factor in the cost of personnel, housing benefits and operations and you have a defense budget that balloons into the billions.


Related: Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

In 2011, the U.S. government spent about $718 billion on defense. That’s nearly half of all military spending on the planet. The other top 13 nations combined spent $695 billion.

While the yearly budget is spread out according to defense needs, some projects take the lion share. Case in point are weapon systems like the Virginia Class Submarine with a procurement cost of $76.6 billion and the V-22 Osprey at $95.2 billion. Although costly, they aren’t the most expensive military mega-projects of all time. Here’s the list:

1. Nazi Germany’s Atlantic Wall

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore
TestTube News, YouTube

Final cost: unknown

Although the final cost was never determined, the French portion alone would have cost $200 billion when adjusted for inflation.

2. National Missile Defense

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore
Photo: flickr/mightyohm

Cost: over $300 billion and still rising.

3. DDG-51 Guided Missile Destroyer

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore
USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51). U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Patrick Reilly

Procurement cost: $87.3 billion

4. USS Gerald Ford Aircraft Carrier

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua J. Wahl

Per unit cost: $13 billion

5. F-35 Strike Fighter

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore
Image: Lockheed Martin

Current cost: $400 billion

Estimated total cost: $1.5 trillion

Watch:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Pilots get a chance to test their drone wingmen

The Air Force and DARPA are now testing new hardware and software configured to enable 4th and 5th Generation aircraft to command drones from the cockpit in the air, bringing new levels of autonomy, more attack options, and a host of new reconnaissance advantages to air warfare.

Working with BAE Systems at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Air Force test pilots are combining ground-based simulators with airborne learjets to demonstrate how 4th generation cockpit avionics can direct drones from the air, BAE Systems developers said.


“The airplane was structurally configured to allow us to take our autonomy hardware and connect it directly to the flight control system of the airplane,” Skip Stolz, Director of Strategic Development for Autonomy Control, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Demonstrations with specially configured learjets are intended as an interim step on route to integrating this kind of system into an operational F-15, F-16 or even F-35, developers said.

Using standard data-link technology, the jets operate with a semi-autonomous software called Distributed Battle Management, which enables new levels of compressed airborne data transfer, weapons integration, and sensor operations, Stolz explained.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

A recent Mitchell Institute paper, titled “Manned-Unmanned Aircraft Teaming: Taking Combat Airpower to the Next Level,” cites Distributed Battle Management software as a “system-of-systems future landscape for warfare, in which networks of manned and unmanned platforms, weapons, sensors, and electronic warfare systems interact.”

The paper adds that DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory successfully tested DBM in 2017.

At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators, Global Hawks and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations. However, due at least in part to rapid advances in autonomy, the concept of an autonomous or “semi-autonomous” wingman – is arriving even faster than expected.

DARPA, Air Force Research Laboratory and industry have been developing this concept for quite some time now. The current trajectory, or rapid evolution of processing speed and advanced algorithms is enabling rapid acceleration. A fighter-jet aircraft will be able to provide a drone with tasks and objectives, manage sensor payload and direct flight-path from the air.

For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-15, F-22 or F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

A pilot peers up from his F-22 Raptor while in-flight.

The Mitchell Institute essay also points to a less-frequently discussed, yet highly significant advantage offered by manned-unmanned teaming. Simply put, it could massively help mitigate the current Air Force bomber and fighter jet shortage. It is often mentioned that there simply are not enough Air Force assets available to meet current demand. As a result, having a massive fleet of fighter-jet operated drones could radically increase the operational scope of Air Force missions.

In particular, the Mitchell Institute paper mentions that ever since B-2 and F-22 production were cut well short of the initial intent years ago – the Air Force has since been forced to operate with insufficient air assets.

“A resource of 185 fighters (F-22s) and 20 bombers (B-2s) is fundamentally limited in world where their capabilities are in high demand. Airmen and their aircraft, no matter how well trained or technologically advanced, cannot be in two places at once,” the paper writes.

Fighter-jet controlled drones could also be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots. Furthermore, given the fast-evolving efficacy of modern air-defenses, drones could fly into high-threat or heavily contested areas to conduct ISR, scout enemy assets and even function as a weapons truck to attack enemy targets.

Advances in computer power, processing speed and AI are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Air Force scientists describe as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.

“Different people have different views. We believe in a control-based approach that leverages AI but does not relinquish control to AI. As a pilot develops trust, he knows what that aircraft can do and tells it to do something,” Stolz said.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.

Currently, there is widespread consensus that, according to DoD doctrine, decisions regarding the use of lethal force should always be made by a “human-in-the-loop,” despite advances in autonomy which now enable unmanned systems to track, acquire and destroy targets without needing human intervention.

Nevertheless, the Mitchell Institute paper introduces a way to maintain this key doctrinal premise, yet also improve unmanned enemy attacks through what DARPA and the Air Force Research Lab call “adaptive kill webs.”

“DARPA and AFRL will form adaptive kill webs in which autonomous aircraft flying in collaboration with manned aircraft could receive inputs from a range of actors… such as a pilot of a manned aircraft,” the paper says.

By extension, the paper explains that – in the event that a pilot is shot down – drone command and control operations could shift to a larger manned “battle manager” aircraft such as an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System or E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System.

Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities, the former Air Force Chief Scientist told Warrior Maven in a previous interview.

At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Air Force scientists have explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.

Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.

Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable. Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”

The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet — successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan. Army program managers have told Warrior Maven that manned-unmanned teaming enables Apache pilots to find and identify enemy targets, before they even take off.

Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, the B-21 Raider, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.

Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.

Interestingly, the Mitchell Institute paper references a current Air Force-Boeing effort to engineer older F-16s so that they could function as drones.

“In 2017, Boeing, the prime contractor for the QF-16 charged with reactivating the legacy fighters from their desert storage and making necessary modifications, was awarded a .6 million contract to convert 18 F-16s into QF-16 target drones,” the paper writes.

At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed — given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.

“When it comes to certain kinds of decision making and things requiring an intuitive contextual understanding, machines are not yet able to do those things. Computers can process huge amounts of data,” Stolz said

There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.

Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.

While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to make more subjective determinations or respond quickly to a host of interwoven, fast-changing variables.

However, sensor technology is progressing quickly, the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s stealthy new combat drone just took its first flight

Russia’s stealthy new Su-70 Okhotnik-B heavy combat drone has taken flight for the first time, the Russian defense ministry revealed.

The first flight, which occurred at a military airfield over the weekend, lasted 20 minutes, TASS, a Russian state-run media outlet, reported, citing a defense ministry press statement. “The aerial vehicle flown by the operator made several circles around the airfield at an altitude of 600 meters and then successfully landed,” the ministry said.

It is unclear where the testing occurred, but satellite images from May 2019 showed the drone sitting along the flight line when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the 929th Chkalov State Flight-Test Center in the Astrakhan region on May 14, 2019.


Russian state media announced plans for the aircraft’s maiden flight back in May 2019, revealing that it would occur sometime in July or August 2019. A source in the aircraft manufacturing industry told TASS that the first flight would take place at the Novosibirsk Aircraft Plant.

The drone, a Sukhoi Design Bureau product with a flying wing shape, is quite large, but it has a low radar signature, according to Russian state media. “The drone is equipped with equipment for optical-electronic, radio engineering and other types of reconnaissance activities,” TASS reports.

Some observers have expressed doubts about the Russian drone’s stealth capabilities, suggesting that while its shape offers some advantages, the aircraft might be detectable from behind due to its exposed engine nozzle, perhaps a prototype flaw that will be corrected as Russia moves forward with this project. Russia reportedly lags the US in stealth technology, including coated materials designed to reduce an aircraft’s radar returns.

The first photos of the Okhotnik, also known as the Hunter, appeared online in January, when pictures emerged showing the unmanned combat aerial vehicle being towed at what The War Zone suspects was likely Sukhoi’s Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Plant.

The flight line photos that emerged in May 2019 led observers to conclude that the Okhotnik has a wingspan of about 50 feet, making it about as large as China’s Tian Ying drone or America’s experimental X-47B drone, The National Interest reports.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 Star Wars blasters made from real-life guns

Despite the creation of the United States Space Force, we’re still a long way off from building blasters like ones in the Star Wars universe and defeating our enemies with intense bolts of plasma energy. That’s right, they’re not lasers. In the Star Wars universe, ranged weapons are primarily powered by an energy-rich gas that is converted to a glowing particle beam. A far cry from jacketed lead ammunition propelled by gunpowder, or slugthrowers as they’re known in Star Wars, many of the blasters used in a galaxy far, far away are actually built from real-life firearms that are more familiar to us.

With a very tight budget of $11 million, or just under $50 million today adjusted for inflation, George Lucas and his film crew elected to modify real-life surplus weapons rather than create futuristic weapons from scratch. Weaponry and prop supplier Bapty & Co was contracted to provide Star Wars with modified surplus firearms to serve as space-age blasters. However, because of the aforementioned budget, many of the props could only be rented for the film. As a result, modifications were light and we can easily recognize the base weapons today.
Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

The left-side magazine, large breastplate, and restricted arm movement in their armor forced Stormtrooper actors to hold their E-11s left-handed (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

1. BlasTech E-11 blaster rifle

The standard issue weapon of Imperial stormtroopers, the E-11 was a light, handy, and lethal blaster. The debate about Stormtrooper accuracy aside, the blaster was very effective on the battlefield and even featured three power settings: lethal, stun, and sting. It also came equipped with a telescopic sight and a folding three-position stock, a carryover from the real-life weapon it is based on.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

British soldiers of 2 PARA armed with Sterlings (Ministry of Defence)

The Sterling L2A3 submachine gun is a British firearm designed at the end of WWII to replace the famed Sten submachine gun. Firing the 9x19mm Parabellum round, the Sterling was a favorite of special forces units for its excellent reliability and good accuracy. The Star Wars conversions used a cut-down version of the Sterling’s stick magazine as their power cell.

2. BlasTech A280 blaster rifle

The favored small arm of the Rebel Alliance, the BlasTech A280 was highly effective at piercing armor and provided more power than other standard infantry blasters at long range. Two variants of the A280 existed. The A280C was the preferred weapon of Rebel commandos. The A280-CFE (Covert Field Edition) was a modular weapon system that could be converted from its core heavy pistol to an assault rifle or sniper rifle.

The standard A280 is an amalgamation of an AR-15 receiver with a cut-down magazine and the front of a German StG 44, again with a cut-down magazine. Original StG 44s are extremely rare and expensive, so the ones cut apart to make the A280 were rubber props previously used by Bapty Co. The A280C is based largely on the StG 44; the only notable changes being the alteration of the stock, removal of the magazine, and the addition of a scope and handguard. The A280-CFE is more akin to the base A280, featuring an AR-15 as its core heavy pistol. The assault rifle and sniper rifle conversions feature the addition of the StG 44 front end.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

Did Han shoot first? (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

3. BlasTech DL-44 heavy blaster pistol

Considered one of the most powerful blaster pistols in the galaxy, the DL-44 delivers massive close-range damage at the expense of overheating quickly under sustained fire. A carbine variation with an extended barrel and an attachable stock also exists. This version was used by Tobias Beckett on Mimban before he deconstructed it and gave it Han Solo. Solo further modified the weapon to make his iconic sidearm. After all, “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.”

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

The Waffen-SS soldier on the right shoulders an M712, an automatic variant of the C96 (Bundesarchiv)

The DL-44 is modified from the Mauser C96 pistol, easily identifiable by its rectangular internal magazine and broomhandle grip. Originally produced in Germany beginning in 1896, unlicensed copies were also produced in Spain and China throughout the first half of the 20th century. With the popularity of Han Solo’s DL-44, Star Wars enthusiasts have been known to purchase and modify increasingly rare original C96s to make replicas, much to the dismay of gun collectors.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

Though small in stature, the Defender could still put down an Imperial trooper (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

4. DDC Defender sporting blaster pistol

On the other end of the spectrum, the Defender blaster pistol was a low-powered weapon meant for civilian defense and small-game hunting. It was also popular amongst the nobility of the Star Wars universe who used it in honor duels. The weapon was the sidearm of choice for Princess Leia Organa who wielded it against Imperial Stormtroopers during the boarding of the Tantive IV and the attack on the Endor shield generator bunker.

The Defender is based on the Margolin or MCM practice shooting pistol. The Soviet-made .22lr pistol is used primarily for competitive target shooting in the 25m Standard Pistol class. The weapon was chosen for its diminutive size to keep the prop gun from looking bulky and unwieldy in Carrie Fisher’s hands during filming.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

Death troopers used vocal scramblers that could only be understood by other death troopers (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

5. BlasTech DLT-19 heavy blaster rifle

The DLT-19 was used heavily by Imperial forces as well as bounty hunters and even some Rebel heavy troopers. Although it was not a crew-served weapon, its high rate of fire meant that it could be used to suppress and cut down enemies at long range. The DLT-19D variant, which featured a scope and an under barrel glow rod (flashlight), was used by the elite Imperial death troopers. The DLT-19x targeting blaster was another variant. It featured a scope with greater magnification than the D variant and released all of its power in one shot, making it an extremely accurate and deadly long-range precision weapon.

Very little was changed on the MG 34 to make it into the DLT-19. Introduced in 1934, the German machine gun could be belt-fed or utilize a drum magazine; neither of which were used on the DLT-19. The MG 34 was designed under the new concept of a universal machine gun and is generally considered to be the world’s first general-purpose machine gun. It was the mainstay of German support weapons until it was replaced by the MG 42 in 1942. Even then, because the MG 34’s barrel could be changed out more easily inside of a vehicle than the MG 42, it remained the primary armored vehicle defensive weapon throughout the entirety of the war.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

You can never have too much suppressive fire (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

6. BlasTech T-21 light repeating blaster

If you couldn’t tell, the nationalization of BlasTech industries meant that it was the premier military-grade arms manufacturer in the galaxy. The T-21 was a rarer sight than their more common E-11 or A280 blasters though. It was issued to more elite units like stormtroopers, magma troopers, and shadow troopers. However, its high rate of fire and long-range accuracy were limited by its power capacity of just 30 shots. To remedy this limitation, the T-21 could be hooked up to a power generator to provide sustained fire. The T-21B variant added an optic to increase its lethality at long range.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

Australian soldiers drill with Lewis guns in France (Public Domain)

The Lewis light machine gun was designed in America, but built in Britain and fielded by the British Empire during WWI. It featured a distinctive barrel cooling shroud and a top-mounted pan magazine. Like the magazine of the MG 34, the Lewis gun’s magazine was omitted for its use in the Star Wars universe. It was often used as an aircraft machine gun and served to the end of the Korean War.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy’s $13 billion supercarrier continues to have serious issues

Shipbuilders and sailors have fixed the propulsion plant problems on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new class of supercarriers that is behind schedule, over budget, and still struggling with development issues.

Work on the ship’s propulsion plant was completed toward the end of July 2019, the Navy announced in a statement Aug. 12, 2019.

Problems with the carrier’s propulsion system first popped up in January 2018 during sea trials. A “manufacturing defect” was identified as the problem. Troubles were again noted in May 2019 just three days after the ship set sail for testing and evaluation, forcing it to return to its home port early.


In March 2019, James Geurts, the Navy’s acquisition boss, told US lawmakers that scheduled maintenance on the Ford would require another three months beyond what was initially planned to deal with problems with its nuclear power plant, weapons elevators, and other unspecified areas.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

The USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

The Navy said that the “Ford’s propulsion issues weren’t with the nuclear reactors themselves, rather the issues resided in the mechanical components associated in turning steam created by the nuclear plant into spinning screws that propel the ship through the water.”

While the completion of the work on the Ford’s power plant moves the ship closer to returning to sea, the carrier is still having problems with a critical piece of new technology — the advanced weapons elevators. The elevators are necessary for the movement of munitions to the flight deck, increased aircraft sortie rates, and greater lethality, but only a handful of the elevators are expected to work by the time the ship is returned to the fleet this fall.

Lawmakers recently expressed frustration with the Navy’s handling of the Ford-class carrier program.

“The ship was accepted by the Navy incomplete, nearly two years late, two and a half billion dollars over budget, and nine of eleven weapons still don’t work with costs continuing to grow,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said late July 2019.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

Sailors man the rails of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew J. Sneeringer)

“The Ford was awarded to a sole-source contractor,” which was asked to incorporate immature technologies “that had next to no testing, had never been integrated on a ship — a new radar, catapult, arresting gear, and the weapons elevators,” he continued, adding that the Navy entered into this contract “without understanding the technical risk, the cost, or the schedules.”

Inhofe said that the Navy’s failures “ought to be criminal.”

The Navy has been struggling to incorporate new technologies into the ship, but the service insists that it is making progress with the catapults and arresting gear used to launch and recover aircraft, systems which initially had problems. The elevators are currently the biggest obstacle.

“As a first-in-class ship, some issues were expected,” the Navy said in its recent statement on the completion of relevant work on the Ford’s propulsion system.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

DoD might get awesome stealth target drone thanks to cadets

Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy are working with aerospace instructors and industry partners to develop the Defense Department’s first large stealth target drone to test missile tracking systems.

“As far as we know, this is the first large stealth target drone,” said Thomas McLaughlin, the Academy’s Aeronautic Research Center director.

McLaughlin said the project is the DoD’s first aircraft development with significant contributions by cadets at a service academy.

“It has had cadet involvement in its evolution over several years,” McLaughlin said. “It’s quite rare that a student design has evolved to the point of potential inventory use.”


Dr. Steven Brandt and Cadet 1st Class Joshua Geerinck are among the Academy members who have worked to perfect the drone’s physical design for more than a decade. Brandt teaches aircraft design and is on the team of government and industry experts overseeing contractor work on the project.

“For the first five years, we just did design studies,” Brandt said. “Finally, in the fall of 2007, we said “let’s build an aircraft.”

Cadets and faculty have worked on the drone’s design since 2008 as part of that government industry team. The current version is 40 feet long, with a 24-foot wingspan and 9-foot-high vertical tails.

“It’s the size of a T-38 trainer aircraft,” Brandt said, referring to the Northrop T-38 Talon, a two-seat, twin-jet supersonic jet trainer. “[The target drone] uses two T-38 Trainer engines. We explored multiple options to refine its shape and helped eliminate designs that were not as good.”

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore

A T-38 Talon flies over Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 7, 2018.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Viglianco)

McLaughlin said the project is important because of its implications in the national defense arena.

“The government owns the intellectual property rights, which makes for substantially reduced production and sustainment costs down the road,” he said.

Geerinck is one of three cadets on the project. He’s been testing the flight stability of the target drone in the Academy’s wind tunnel.

“We’re trying to find a combination of flight-control inputs that will always cause the aircraft to enter a backflip that will cause it to crash,” he said. “The system is important because it allows us to prevent injury or damage to other people or persons on the ground in case there is a catastrophic failure or loss of control.”

McLaughlin said cadets will stay involved in the development of the prototype through its initial flight test and beyond, should it go into production.

“The entire project is the validation of the Academy’s emphasis on putting real-world problems before cadets and expecting them to make real contributions to Air Force engineering,” he said. “In the Aeronautics Department, all cadets perform research and aircraft design — it’s not just for top students.”

Cadets don’t just learn about engineering at the Academy, “they perform it,” McLaughlin said.

“They put their heart and soul into their efforts, knowing that an external customer cares about the outcome of their work,” he said. “Our research program relies on a high level of mentorship that is as much about role modeling as it is about learning facts.”

Brandt said the government-industry team plans to demonstrate the target drone in September at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City. Depending on the results of that demo, the Defense Department could purchase the design or select it for prototyping.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This rocket was the 82nd Airborne’s compact tactical nuke

Perhaps the most famous Little John in history was Robin Hood’s sidekick. You know, the guy responsible for driving the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John crazy. But the United States Army had a “Little John” of their own that was designed to give airborne units, like the 82nd and the 101st, one heck of a punch.


During the 1950s, the Army had used the Pentomic structure for a number of its infantry divisions — a structure designed to fight in nuclear war. A problem remained within light units, however: They needed nuclear firepower to hold off hordes of Soviet tanks, but the nukes of the time were bulky things.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore
Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division load a MGR-3 “Little John” rocket on to a CH-47 Chinook. (U.S. Army photo)

By 1959, though, the answer had emerged: the M51, which the Army called “Little John.” It wasn’t based on the Robin Hood legend, though. The name was chosen since the Army had a self-propelled nuclear rocket launcher called the Honest John, and the Little John, as you might guess, was a smaller rocket system.

The Little John was eventually re-designated MGR-3. It had a range of about 11 miles and was unguided. Well, when a missile is packing a W45 thermonuclear warhead with a yield of 10 kilotons (a kiloton is equal to the explosive force of 1,000 tons of TNT) and has a speed of Mach 1.5, you don’t really need guidance to take out a target.

Why the Navy doesn’t use cool flying boats anymore
The MGR-3 Little John was intended to be a lightweight nuke for airborne units.

The MGR-3 stuck around for about a decade, but in 1969, they were quickly retired. The rockets had successfully held the line, but when an even smaller, lighter tactical nuclear weapon was developed — one that could fit inside the shell fired by a typical 155mm howitzer — Little John became redundant. That replacement was the W48 warhead.

See how the Army described the Little John as it entered service in the video below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BogJVtEJ8Xk
(Jeff Quitney | Youtube)
Do Not Sell My Personal Information