Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

When it was first designed, the AGM-114 Hellfire missile was intended to give the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter a way to kill the Soviet tanks of World War II, replacing a combination of the AH-1 Cobra and the BGM-71 TOW missile. But the Hellfire has proven to be far more versatile.


Don’t get us wrong, the Hellfire was indeed a very capable tank killer. As many as 4,000 missiles were fired during Operation Desert Storm and as many as 90% of those hit their targets, which ranged from tanks to bunkers to radar sites.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile
The Hellfire was test-fired from a version of the M113 armored personnel carrier. (US Army photo)

After Desert Storm, the missile was improved. One of the biggest improvements was the addition of a new means of guidance: the Longbow radar system. The Longbow radar is able to automatically search, detect, locate, classify, and prioritize targets in the air, on land, and at sea.

The Hellfire has been added to numerous other helicopters, notably Navy MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawks. It also has been added to the Navy’s littoral combat ships, and it has been tested for launch from a variety of ground vehicles, from the M113 to the High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle. The missile is so versatile, in fact, that they’re used for coastal defense by Norway and Sweden, and they’re also used on the Combat Boat 90, a Swedish coastal boat.

But the missile’s true versatility emerged in the War on Terror.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile
A Sikorsky MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35, fires an AGM-114M Hellfire missile near San Clemente Island, Calif., during a live-fire combat training exercise. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez)

The United States and Israel have used the Hellfire to take out a number of high-ranking terrorists. This includes Hamas leader Ahmed Yasin, Anwar al-Awlaki, and ISIS propagandist, “Jihadi John.” The Hellfire has been exported to over two dozen countries and it will likely be in service for a long time to come, including as an option for the Stryker Mobile Short-range Air Defense vehicle.

Learn more about the highly-versatile Hellfire in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlV4ey_AEOw
MIGHTY MOVIES

Don’t miss this eye-opening documentary about Native American veterans

Throughout history, Native American warriors have given a wide mix of motives for joining the U.S. military. Those include patriotism, pride, rage, courage, practicality, and spirituality, all mingling with an abiding respect for tribal, familial, and national traditions.


The Warrior Tradition on PBS (promo)

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This Veterans Day, explore the complicated ways the Native American culture and traditions have affected their participation in the United States military when The Warrior Tradition airs at 9 pm ET on PBS. The one-hour documentary, co-produced by WNED-TV and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc., tells the stories of Native American warriors from their own points of view – stories of service and pain, of courage and fear.

Warrior Tradition PREVIEW

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The Warrior Tradition premieres on PBS nationwide on Monday, Nov.11, 2019, at 9/8c (check local listings).

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Feed the Rangers: America’s elite left without enough food

Feed the Rangers.

It’s hard to imagine that one of the U.S. military’s premier Special Operations units would fail to sufficiently feed its troops during an extraordinary time. And yet that’s exactly what is been happening in the 1st Battalion, 75th Regiment, which is based at Fort Steward, Georgia.


Last week, approximately 300 Rangers were notified by their leadership that they would be moving to another barracks and undergo a two-week quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The barracks that they relocated to, however, wasn’t prepared to receive them. The main issue with the new housing arrangement was that it didn’t have an adequate Dining Facilities Administration Center (DFAC) that could properly feed the Rangers.

SOFREP understands that in the first days the quarantined troops, several of which have tested positive for the Coronavirus, were being fed twice a day with extremely low quantities and quality of food. The following pictures speak for themselves.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile
Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

To alleviate the quarantined Rangers’ predicament, a support group was set up in order to supplement their nutrition. Word quickly spread via social media, and in just a few days, the support group has managed to raise over ,000 and deliver food to the troops in need.

One of the quarantined troops reached out to those organizing the Ranger version of the Berlin airlift and said, “I’m one of the guys who unfortunately tested positive [for COVID-19] from 1/75, just wanted to reach out and personally say we all appreciate what you guys have done for us. . . before y’all showed up, we would all just get the scraps of whatever came through for food, but now man, that is definitely not the case anymore. We all really do appreciate it!”

The guys who are organizing and running the support service are clear that what they are doing is only to supplement the nutrition of the quarantined Rangers. They don’t have an issue with the leadership.

The whole issue signals a breakdown in communications. Broken down, the core duties of a leader are to achieve the mission and take care of his troops. You can easily discern good officers and non-commissioned officers from their actions. Are they last to eat or sleep while in the field? Do they help clean up after a long day at the range? If yes, then that’s a sign that they put their troops before their welfare and comfort. Good and timely communication is also important. You can honestly care about your troops but if you don’t communicate it or, reversely, encourage productive feedback, then your good intentions will fall short.

Furthermore, the situation suggests that the Army is still having trouble in addressing COVID-19 and potential quarantines. It seems like units just hope it won’t reach them rather be proactive about it and sufficiently prepare. As a consequence, they are forced to such hodgepodge reactions that result in troops not being fed enough.

The 75th Ranger Regiment is the premier direct action Special Operations unit of the U.S. military. It is comprised of three infantry battalions (1/75, 2/75, 3/75), a special troops battalion, and a military intelligence battalion.

This event is sure to produce second-order effects. With such poor treatment during a time of need, several Rangers will be looking to either move to other Special Operations units, such as the Special Forces Regiment or Delta Force, or leave the force altogether.

The quarantine is expected to last for approximately ten more days.

You can help out by visiting the GoFundMe page that has been set up by the members of the community.

It was Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist that said “Please, Sir, I want some more,” but it’s the quarantined Rangers who are living it.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

Articles

Israeli jet downs Hamas drone

An unmanned aerial vehicle being used by the terrorist group Hamas was shot down by an Israeli fighter today.


According to a report from ynetnews.com, the Israeli fighter shot down the drone as it was departing airspace over the Gaza Strip. Such actions are standard policy for the Israeli Defense Forces. A spokesman for the IDF told ynetnews.com that “the IDF will not allow any airspace violation and will act resolutely against any such attempt.”

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile
An Israeli F-15 I fighter jet launches anti-missile flares during an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli pilots at the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 27, 2012. (AFP photo by Jack Guez)

Six months ago, an IDF F-16 Fighting Falcon was scrambled to intercept a similar drone, and shot it down off the coast of Gaza.

The use of drones to deliver explosives has already been seen in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. One attack on Oct. 2, 2016, killed two Kurdish troops and wounded French special operations personnel.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile
A captured ISIS drone on the battlefield. (Photo from Iraq Ministry of Defense)

The halftime show of Super Bowl LI, in which pop superstar Lady Gaga used 300 drones for a light show, also has drawn attention from the deputy commander of United States Special Operations Command, according to a report by WeAreTheMighty.com from earlier this month. WATM’s report on those concerns also noted that ISIS was using small drones to drop hand grenades on Coalition forces.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since June 15, 2007, following over a week of violent fighting with Fatah. The charter of the terrorist group, known as the Hamas Covenant, calls for the absolute destruction of Israel.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Army is figuring out how to predict future weapons

Imagine being a German soldier in the lines of World War I. You know that your government and rival nations are developing new weapons that will either give you a sudden advantage or spell your doom. Then, a rumble comes across No Man’s Land, and the hulking forms of the world’s first tanks break through the mist and smoke as they bear down on you. The die has been cast, and you are doomed.


Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

You know what I wouldn’t have wanted to face with no warning or historical precedent. This. This would be scary.

(Public domain)

Predicting the first tank may seem impossible. After all, what German soldier or leader could have predicted that a new American tractor would be adopted into a rolling fortress with cannons and machine guns? Well, new research from an Army laboratory indicates that a weapon like the tank was nearly pre-ordained.

Alexander Kott has discovered a law-like trend in the development of weapons from early footsoldiers and archers to horsemen and towed artillery to modern tanks. Understanding how this progression has functioned and how it will continue might allow the Army to predict the future weapons it will have to fight against.

Kott’s findings are straight-forward, even if the math that backs it up is super complicated. Basically, the development of military technology follows a steady, exponential growth. It’s similar to Moore’s Law, where the number of transistors per chip doubles about every two years.

Just like how Moore’s Law allows programmers to write software for future computer chips, Kott’s research into weapon progression may allow weapon designers to prepare for new weapons even before they debut.

The math is complicated, but Kott’s general contention is that multiple variables of infantry and armored vehicles, especially the firepower and system weight, rise at a predictable, exponential rate. And Kott did everyone the favor of predicting what a tank and infantryman would look like in 2050, according to his model.

First, the infantryman.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

Alexander Kott used the T-72 tank as part of his data set. This heavy behemoth as part of a trend in weapon design.

(Vivek Patankar, CC-BY 2.0)

The heavy infantryman of 2050 is expected to have an exoskeleton that weighs 55 pounds. That may sound heavy, but the exoskeleton is powered and can carry up to 297 pounds of equipment. That includes armor, a weapon much heavier than the rifles of today, a large combat load of ammunition, and more. Add in the 200-pound soldier, and the heavy infantry of 2050 is a 500-pound, walking weapon.

But the firepower goes up as well. Kott envisions a maximum rate of fire of 700 rounds per minute at a range of up to 1.25 miles. The energy of each shot will likely be about 15,490 joules. That’s roughly similar to the M2 .50-caliber machine gun that has to be mounted on vehicles, ships, or tripods today. Imagine carrying a weapon that powerful everywhere.

But tanks will go through a similar transformation.

Kott predicts a two-person tank crew will ride in a vehicle weighing 55 tons. It will fire up to 10 rounds per minute with an effective range stretching out to over 3 miles. And these rounds will be huge and/or powerful. The expected kinetic energy of each shot is up to 20.9 megajoules. That’s a fast-flying round of something like 135mm.

But as Kott points out in his own writing, there is a possible major change coming to weapons development. As directed energy weapons come into maturity and get deployed, they could change how the model works. Historically, infantrymen and artillery have generated more firepower by firing larger rounds with more explosive energy. But lasers and plasma cannons project relatively little mass.

But Kott still expects future tanks to deliver the equivalent 20.9 megajoules of damage, they may just be able to save a little weight on weapons (weight they may use for power generation within the tank).

So, what’s the value of the research? Kott’s not even releasing sweet designs of what this infantryman and tank will look like.

Well, these trends exist across the world, not just in the U.S. So a tank designer of today knows that they need to design their vehicle to survive hits from a 20.9-megajoule attack. And rifle designers can start thinking about how to deliver a .50-cal’s power in something an exoskeleton-equipped infantryman can get through a door frame.

They also have to figure out how you poop in it.

Kott’s full paper is available here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what it’s like to enlist after growing up in the post-9/11 world

It was a cold February in 2014 when I was staying at a tiny U.S. Army installation right near the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea with the rest of my company. We hadn’t been there long before we got our first mail drop, right before Valentine’s Day. Some of us got care packages, but everyone in my platoon got a letter.

These letters were sent by elementary school kids back in the States — probably around third grade — and they were just as you’d expect: immaculate spelling, artwork that rivaled the classic greats, and fine calligraphy. Jokes aside, receiving that letter put me in an interesting head-space.

At that point, the war in Iraq had mostly died down. Marines were still being sent to Afghanistan, but just a handful of months prior, we were reflecting upon the 12th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks that kick-started the whole shebang.


Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

1st platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in South Korea. C. 2014.

(Dave Grove)

What I realized then and there is that, just a decade earlier, I was the elementary school kid writing a letter to some service member who was, at that time, fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, I was even younger than whoever penned my letter when I saw the events of that fateful September day repeated on the news. The kid who wrote the letter in my hands now wasn’t even around in 2001.

It never occurred to me, especially back at the turn of the century, that I would one day enlist to fight in the same war that started when I was a kid.

When I was growing up, you’d hear this left and right: “Don’t join the military, you’ll go to war and die.” I always dismissed it as ignorant. After all, my father fought in the war before this one and he came back, didn’t he? But, at the time, half of that statement was true. If you enlisted immediately after 9/11, there was a near guarantee you’d go to war.

That sentiment followed me through boot camp.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17 and I was still sure I’d go to war. But, with time comes change — and that’s exactly what happened. From the time I went to MEPS and had an old guy tell me to turn my head and cough to the time I walked across the parade deck at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, everyone said I would go to war. My recruiter, my drill instructors, everyone.

But once I got to the School of Infantry, things had mellowed out a bit.

I never went to war. In fact, a lot of people I served with never did. The crazy thing is that it was the reason we enlisted. We were kids when 9/11 happened and we grew up during the war that it spawned. We had time to grow angry about what had happened and we enlisted for a lot of the same reasons as our predecessors.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

Marine Corps Ball in 2014. That’s me on the left.

(Dave Grove)

What blows my mind the most, however, is that I completed my service over two years ago and that war is still going on, even if the Marine Corps infantry isn’t actively involved. Meanwhile, that kid who wrote me the letter is probably sitting in a high school classroom learning about 9/11 as a historical event — not as something that happened to them.

Makes you feel old, doesn’t it?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghans brace for coronavirus as thousands return from Iran

HERAT, Afghanistan — Officials in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat are bracing for a rise in coronavirus infections, as thousands of Afghans return from neighboring Iran every day.


The provincial Public Health Department told RFE/RL on March 12 that nearly 10,000 Afghans had entered Herat from Iran the previous day alone.

That’s a twofold increase from March 9, when local officials said about 4,800 Afghans had crossed the border from Iran in one day.

Afghanistan has so far reported only seven cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

But provincial Governor Abdul Qayum Rahimi said the situation was certain to worsen soon, creating new challenges for the war-torn country. “Increasingly high numbers of people are crossing the border from Iran and we are seriously concerned that [some of them] will bring more coronavirus to Afghanistan,” Rahimi told RFE/RL on March 10.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

Map of the risk of the virus’s spread in Tehran.

Wikimedia Commons

Tehran reported more than 1,000 new cases on March 12, raising the official number of infections in Iran to more than 10,000. But many Iranians say they distrust the figures released by the authorities and believe the Iranian government is grossly underreporting the extent of the outbreak there.

Iran is home to more than 3 million Afghans — including migrant workers and refugees as well as university and religious students.

Five of Afghanistan’s confirmed COVID-19 patients are from Herat. The other two are from the northern province of Samangan. All of the confirmed cases are Afghans who had recently returned from Iran, local officials say.

Bracing For Worse

Afghanistan has deployed small teams of medics who have been screening Afghans who cross the border from Iran into Herat Province. The medics are checking temperatures of returnees and asking if they’ve had any potential COVID-19 symptoms.

They also are asking returnees whether they’ve been exposed to an infected person, said Abdul Hakim Tamanna, the head of Heart Province’s Public Health Department. Those with high fever or other symptoms are transferred to a special ward at a hospital in the provincial capital.

“We’ve allocated a special ward with 80 beds for COVID-19 patients, both for the suspected and confirmed cases in isolated sections. But this is not enough,” said Muhammad Ibrahim Basem, who oversees the special ward. “The situation is extremely fluid and requires that at least 1,000 beds are ready,” Basem told RFE/RL on March 12.

Similar concerns are being voiced in Samangan Province, where two people tested positive earlier this week. “We’ve been prepared in advance. A hospital ward with 20 beds was prepared for potential COVID-19 patients,” Abdul Khalil Musaddiq, head of Samangan Public Health Department, said on March 10.

But Musaddiq warned that Samangan Province did not have the resources to handle an outbreak beyond the hospital’s capacity.

Health officials in Herat are calling for Afghanistan’s central government to provide equipment for laboratories in provincial regions so that more people can be tested.

Afghanistan, a country of 35 million people, currently has only one laboratory that is able to test for coronavirus. Authorities outside of the Afghan capital must send samples from suspected cases to the laboratory in Kabul for testing.

The Afghan government has allocated million to combat the outbreak. Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said another million “is in a state of reserve if the unwanted incidents escalate and get out of control.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

Low Public Awareness

Provincial authorities in Herat declared an emergency when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed there on February 24. Schools, restaurants, wedding halls, and public baths have been closed and large gatherings are banned.

Officials from Herat’s provincial government told RFE/RL on March 12 that the public spaces were unlikely to reopen in the foreseeable future.

Buses and minibuses that carry a large number of passengers have also been banned as part of Herat’s effort to contain the virus.

Mosques remain open. But RFE/RL’s correspondent in Herat reports that the number of the worshipers has dwindled in recent days.

The war-ravaged country’s poor health-care services, as well as low public awareness about health and hygiene, are adding to difficulties in the battle against coronavirus.

One patient last week briefly escaped from the quarantine ward of Herat hospital, sparking concerns that he could contaminate many more people. Hospital officials said the patient was apprehended and isolated. They said those who came in contact with him have been told to take tests and exercise precautions.

Authorities also have launched an extensive coronavirus-awareness campaign through media in recent weeks.

The Education Ministry, meanwhile, has set up a special working group along with public-health authorities to assess the situation in other high-risk regions and decide whether to suspend schools.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Qataris saved two lost Marines from certain death

It was the height of the short-lived but intense shooting portion of the 1990-91 Gulf War. Two Marines who had been manning an essential listening post in the middle of the desert suddenly found themselves lost and wandering through Saudi Arabia like Moses trying to find his way out.

Unlike Moses, however, they weren’t going to survive for years and years on end. There was a good chance they would soon both be dead, either from Iraqi tanks and helicopters or – more likely – thirst and exposure. But luckily they found salvation in their allies.


Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

There’s a reason even Stormin’ Norman loved the Qataris.

According to Quora user Robert Russell Payne, he and a fellow Jarhead Marine were stumbling around in the desert, unable to locate their unit or even tell anyone where their unit might have been by that point. As Payne says, reading a map in the desert is hard, which sounds like a silly thing to say, unless you’ve ever been in the desert.

Life in the deserts in and around Saudi Arabia is not an easy life. The lack of water for survival is readily apparent, but it’s not just exposure to the elements or dying of thirst that can kill you. Almost everything in the desert is adapted to maximum killability. The weather in the dry sands of the Arabian Peninsula is just the start. The highest temperature recorded on the peninsula is 53 degrees Celsius, or 127 degrees for you American readers. Remember what those Desert Storm Marines were wearing in that?

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

To feel it, just go to the beach wearing everything you own.

Suddenly the wandering troops saw another military post, they just happened to stumble upon. But they weren’t exactly sure who that nearby installation belonged to. If it wasn’t the Americans, then whose was it? Should they approach? Half expecting the base to just light them up as they came closer, the two Marines bravely walked on. IF they were approaching the wrong outpost or if just one of the guards had an itchy trigger finger, the whole thing could have gone belly up.

But it didn’t. It turns out the base belonged to a U.S. ally: Qatar. Payne admits the Qataris could have just lit the two men up, but they didn’t. Instead, like true professional soldiers, the Qatari troops held their ground while not just lighting up the evening sky with their remains. The Qataris didn’t speak English. They were in the middle of the same war. Yet they allowed these strangers to approach the base and explain their situation on a dark and moonless night.

Even though the Qatari troops didn’t speak much English, they were able to determine where the Marines belonged. Under the cover of darkness, the two were quickly packed up in a truck and hauled away to their unit. If it were not for the Qatari troops, those two Marines would likely have been lost forever.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Only a handful of the Air Force’s B-1 bombers are ready to deploy

Despite high demand, there are only a handful of B-1B Lancer bombers available to take off at a moment’s notice.

The head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), Air Force Gen. John Hyten, told Senate Armed Services Committee members the service has only six bombers that are ready to deploy.

“We have B-1B bombers; this is the workhorse of the Air Force today,” Hyten said during his tense confirmation hearing to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


“Right now, of all of our B-1 bombers, we have six of them that are fully mission capable: five split between Ellsworth Air Force Base [South Dakota] and Dyess Air Force Base [Texas], one is a test aircraft, 15 B-1s are in depot,” he said. “The remaining 39 of 44 B-1s at Ellsworth and at Dyess are down for a variety of discrepancies and inspections.”

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, Air Force Central Command, takes off from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) officials told Task Purpose on July 31, 2019, there are seven fully mission capable bombers.

Hyten said the B-1 has borne the brunt of constant deployment cycles.

“We saw issues in the B-1 because we’re just beating the heck out of them, deploying them, deploying them. And so we had to pull back a little bit and get after fixing those issues. And the depots can do that if they have stable funding,” he said.

Gen. Tim Ray, commander of AFGSC, agreed that demand has outstripped available aircraft.

During a speech at the Deterrence Symposium in Nebraska on July 31, 2019, Ray spoke about “setting the pace” for deterrence, saying that sometimes the demand for resources wins out.

Earlier in 2019, Ray said the Air Force overcommitted its only supersonic heavy payload bomber to operations in the Middle East over the last decade, causing it to deteriorate more quickly than expected.

“We overextended the B-1s in [U.S. Central Command],” he told reporters during a breakfast with reporters April 17, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Ray said that’s why he recalled the aircraft to the U.S. to receive upgrades and maintenance to prepare for the next high-end fight.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber and F-15E Strike Eagle fly in formation during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Clayton Cupit)

“Normally, you would commit — [with] any bomber or any modern combat aircraft — about 40 percent of the airplanes in your possession as a force, [not including those] in depot,” he explained. “We were probably approaching the 65 to 70 percent commit rate [for] well over a decade. So the wear and tear on the crews, the maintainers, and certainly the airplane, that was my cause for asking for us to get out of the CENTCOM fight.”

Last year, B-1s returned to the Middle East for the first time in nearly two-and-a-half years to take over strike missions from the B-52 Stratofortress. The last rotation of bombers from Dyess returned home March 11, 2019, according to Air Force Magazine.

By the end of March 2019, Ray had ordered a stand-down, marking the second fleetwide pause in about a year.

AFGSC officials said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet. Ray said his immediate concern was for the aircrews’ safety.

The aircraft resumed flights April 23, 2019.

The command again grounded the fleet over safety concerns last year over a problem also related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. Officials ordered a stand-down June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber and F-15E Strike Eagles fly in formation during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Clayton Cupit)

That pause was the direct result of an emergency landing made by a Dyess-based B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.

Then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation that the B-1 had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow during an earlier in-flight problem.

Lawmakers took note this summer: The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee in its markup of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act requested that the Air Force offer a plan for how it will address the B-1’s problems. Committee members were aware that the B-1’s availability rates were in the single digits, according to Air Force Times.

The B-1’s mission-capable rate — the ability to fly at any given time to conduct operations — is 51.75%, according to fiscal 2018 estimates, Air Force Times recently reported. By comparison, its bomber cousins, the B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress, have mission-capable rates of 60.7% and 69.3%, respectively.

The Air Force has 62 Lancers in its fleet. It plans to retire the bombers in 2036.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Air Force may have a spy drone that’s secretly been flying for years

An in-depth report by Guy Norris in Aviation Week presents new evidence that a secretive, stealthy reconnaissance drone is now in operation with the US Air Force — and has been flying since 2010.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), thought to be called the RQ-180, is a large stealth craft used for reconnaissance missions, filling the role left open by the retirement of the SR-71 in 1999. There are no publicly available images of the UAV and an Air Force spokesperson said they were not aware of the drone. It is thought to be modeled after Northrop-Grumman’s X-47B, Foreign Policy reported in 2013, and to have a relatively large wingspan and a trailing edge, similar to the B-21 Raider.


The RQ-180 likely began flying at the Groom Lake testing facility at Area 51, where the government’s secretive U-2 testing was carried out in the 1950s. Aviation Week points to Aug. 3, 2010, as the first flight date for the aircraft.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

The B-21 Raider, from which the RQ-180 reconnaissance drone is thought to have borrowed its trailing edge design.

(US Air Force photo)

In 2014, testing appears to have been moved to Edwards Air Force Base in California, with a long-range test flight — possibly to the North Pole — reportedly taking place in early 2017. Insider reached out to Edwards Air Force Base regarding the test flight, but did not receive a response by press time.

At Beale Air Force Base, also in California, the 427th Reconnaissance Squadron was recently re-commissioned and is now overseeing the operation of the drones, Aviation Week reports. A spokesperson from Beale AFB told Insider that they were not aware of the squadron. However, a press release from April on Beale AFB’s web site celebrates the presence of the 427th Squadron at the ribbon cutting of Beale’s new Common Mission Control Center, which will help provide ISR data in “highly contested areas.”

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

An SR-71B trainer over the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California in 1994.

(US Air Force photo by Judson Brohmer)

According to Aviation Week, there are now at least seven of these UAVs currently in operation, performing a penetrating intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) role. “R” is the designation for a reconnaissance aircraft and “Q” means it is remotely piloted.

The US Air Force declined to comment to Aviation Week. Insider was told by the Air Force press officer on duty that the press desk was not aware of the program.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army drill sergeants save family from burning vehicle

It was after 6 p.m. in the small Midwestern town as people began to end their day.

The warm colors of the mid-August afternoon sky started slipping into the evening. That’s when a handful of Army drill sergeants were inadvertently called into action, and saved a family from a burning vehicle.

Shortly before, people were driving home from work, running errands or just passing through Sparta, Wisconsin, on Highway 21.

Among those driving was David Turner, 62, a retired maintenance worker, who on Aug. 15, 2019, was in his silver SUV with his granddaughters — Delilah, 4, and London, 2 — on an evening cruise along the highway that connects Sparta to his hometown, Tomah, Wisconsin, roughly 17 miles away.


Meanwhile, several drill sergeants with the Army Reserve were also among the passersby.

They had finished a day’s work at Fort McCoy, a nearby Army base located between Sparta and Tomah, and were driving back to their hotels, said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Juhl, a drill sergeant with the 95th Training Division.

The soldiers were on orders, training other Army Reserve drill sergeants vying for U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year later that month.

The right place, at the right time

The drive was cut short after the soldiers had pulled off the road into a nearby parking lot, tending to their first of two unexpected incidents.

The drill sergeants were parked outside of a local flower shop, and had their heads under the hood of a car, trying to pinpoint engine failure in one of the vehicles — but, they weren’t having much luck.

That’s when Sgt. Roger Williams, owner of the inoperable car, and who admits he’s “not a car guy,” called his non-commissioned officer in charge, Sgt. 1st Class Justin McCarthy — who owns a car shop in Charlotte, North Carolina — for back up. Always willing to help, McCarthy arrived shortly after and identified the problem; a serpentine belt had snapped.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

Williams, a Beloit, Wisconsin native, opted to drive his personal vehicle to Fort McCoy. The other soldiers, from various parts of the country, were driving rentals.

“We were meant to be there,” said Sgt. Daniel McElroy, a drill sergeant attached to the 108th Training Command, believing by serendipitous chance they were “at the right place, at the right time” to save lives.

As the men finished checking Williams’ car, Turner, the grandfather in a silver SUV, raced by them. Unbeknownst to the soldiers, Turner was suffering from a medical condition at the time, rendering him unconscious. Yet his foot remained pressed on the vehicle’s accelerator.

“I noticed his vehicle going really fast before hitting a median,” said McElroy, adding that the sound of the engine racing initially caught his attention. They were stopped along a residential area, facing a four-way intersection, where vehicles typically drive slowly.

Within a fragment of a moment, the SUV smashed directly into a utility pole on the other side of the intersection, at full speed, splintering the tree-like column on impact and causing power outages in the area.

A “massive, fiery blue explosion” erupted, McElroy said, and was accompanied with multiple energy blasts shooting from the fractured utility pole. The mangled SUV caught fire.

Answering the call

Although the men were bewildered, working together came naturally. So, without a word or moment of hesitation, all four sprinted toward the burning vehicle. They felt their Army training kick in.

McCarthy, a 25-year service veteran, had experienced a similar situation during a 2007 deployment in Iraq, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. He also has a civilian background with energy, and verified no live wires were touching the vehicle.

However, its motor was in flames, fluid had puddled onto the road around it, and black smoke from the engine poured into the air vents and filled the inside of the vehicle with smoke. It seemed the family was on borrowed time.

“The first person we checked was the driver,” Juhl said, after rushing to the vehicle, adding that Turner was conscious, but “out of it” at the time.

Turner, who suffered a fractured vertebrae among other injuries, was pinned in the driver’s seat. He woke up to the smell of air bag powder blended with engine smoke, he said, and immediately thought about his granddaughters in the back.

When the collision happened, the pole pretzeled the framework of his vehicle as easy as a soda can being crushed. The steering wheel immediately locked Turner into place. The soldiers tried opening the driver’s side door, but it was useless.

Like Turner, the door was pinned in. However, it was bent enough for the soldiers to fold the frame like a banana from the top, McCarthy said. They worked on the door until the glass from the driver’s side window shattered, causing black smoke to roll out from inside.

They could reach Turner with their hands, but were still unable to move him. All Turner could repeat was, “How are the girls?” in a dazed tone.

“I tried getting out on my own,” Turner later said. “The pain was so intense all I could say was ‘get the girls, leave me alone, if I die, I die.'”

At the time, the soldiers were unaware of any passengers. Due to the smoke-filled interior, deployed side airbag curtains, and dark tinted windows of the SUV — their vision was clouded, McCarthy said. In addition, he didn’t hear any crying.

McCarthy “didn’t know what to expect” when he opened the back door, he said, and his “heart sank thinking of the children’s conditions.” He and Juhl rushed to opposite sides of the vehicle to check the children.

McCarthy was greeted by the 2-year-old, London, and he asked “is it okay if I get you out of your chair?” London, safely in her car seat, replied, “I’m 2,” ignoring the question, raising her index and middle fingers. He didn’t see injuries on the girl.

Meanwhile, Juhl checked on Delilah, who also had no visible injuries. They removed the girls without any issues.

The soldiers “relied on their Army training in a civilian environment,” McCarthy said, adding, although it wasn’t a tactical vehicle, and they’ve “never trained with child seats,” it was comparable to “a gunner in a turret,” or similar training scenario.

Around this time, McElroy pulled Turner from the vehicle from the front passenger side door. After ensuring the victims were okay, and local responders arrived, the soldiers slipped into the crowd and left. It wasn’t until the Turner family searched for the men that their story was able to be shared.

The drill sergeants credit readiness training for their actions.

“The Army has done an outstanding job training individual soldiers,” McCarthy said, adding, “Things like combat lifesaving skills prepared me adequately, and without the Army’s training, I don’t know if I would have responded as effectively.”

“Those men were humble; they responded and went home,” Turner said, who is expected to make a full recovery. “But, the word ‘hero’ doesn’t touch who they are. Anybody who is in the military, if they are going through any training, should emulate the people who saved my life.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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Combat on the gridiron: this is playing football for the Marine Corps

For many Americans, joining the military represents a second chance, free of the social obligations, economic pressures, and uncertainty of our civilian lives. For me, however, it represented a bit more: a second chance at playing a sport I thought I’d left behind.

Football in the Marine Corps was unlike anything I’d ever seen before — a league full of men that had spent their entire adult lives training for war, intrinsically tied to the Corps’ own culture of honor, courage, and commitment.

The football field was where we fought our skirmishes, and if there’s one thing Marines take seriously, it’s a fight.


Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

Marine Corps football exists somewhere between where customs and courtesies stop, but duty remains.

Marine Corps football goes on at a number of levels. Players start by trying out for battalion-level teams that compete against one another until a champion emerges. Base champs then compete regionally for a chance to move on and compete against other regional champions, and (at least sometimes) those regional champions compete for the honor of becoming the All-Marine squad.

In order to field the most capable team, there’s little room for the customs and courtesies Marines use when interacting with their seniors. Something about trying to head butt a captain into submission to secure your place on the starting roster makes it tough to find the time for the appropriate greeting of the day. Most of us tend to forgo the pleasantries and just engage with one another as peers.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

Football is, above all else, an exercise in the pursuit of victory. Your rank and MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) mean exactly sh*t between whistles. All that matters is your ability to perform when the team is counting on you. You may stand at parade rest when you bump into your wide receiver at the PX, but come gametime, he’s just another dude with the right colored jersey on.

Playing ball in the Marine Corps is as close as some of us will get to being professional athletes.

While a battalion-level football program is truly a command function, being on the team often isn’t enough to get you out of your normal training requirements. That doesn’t mean football doesn’t become another full time job anyway, however.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

Playing football for the Corps is an honor that isn’t bestowed lightly: you’re expected to give the team three to four hours of practice a day, to train on your own, and to meet the general training requirements of your respective command. At one point, I was participating in a brown belt MCMAP course for four hours each morning, attending unit PT, and then going to practice from 1600 to 2000 each night.

Once the base season was over and my team had earned its place in the regional leagues, my requirements to the team only grew. At that point, the command tends to grant you a reprieve from many of your usual duties. It’s only then that football becomes more than a side gig: it becomes your profession.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

The competition can be downright brutal.

Playing ball for the Marines is just like playing anywhere else, except everyone on the field has trained to some extent in ways to kill you. Marines don’t take failure lightly, they don’t like to lose, and in many cases, they’re eager and willing to sacrifice their own well being to accomplish the mission.

Many players in the Marine Corps leagues played college football and everyone on the field is already in the sort of shape active duty Marines just generally need to be in. Over my years of playing both football and rugby, I’ve never run into a more physically capable group, but to be frank, it’s not the physicality of Marines that makes the competition so daunting… it’s really all about mindset.

My tenure playing football for the Marine Corps resulted in multiple broken bones and torn ligaments (along with the corresponding surgeries to patch me back together). I like to think that’s because I’m mentally tougher than I am physically, but the truth is, I could say the same about most good Marines.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

Out there on the field, the stakes may not be as high as they are in combat, but the drive to succeed for your brothers, to push through the pain and the hardship to accomplish something great, is as alive between the goal posts as it is on any battlefield. Today, the only football trophies I have in my office were earned during my two seasons starting for the Marine Corps’ Best of the West champions — and for good reason.

I still walk with a slight limp and all I had to do was play against Marines. Let that be a lesson for any foreign militaries that might fancy themselves a match for America’s crayon-eating, jar-headed, ego-driven war-fighters, because when the pads come off, the kevlar goes on.

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EFOGM — that anti-tank missile with a 9-mile reach

In the 1980s, the threat of the Soviet armored divisions pouring through the Fulda Gap in Germany was a serious one. The Pentagon was looking for a way to thin out the Red Army’s tanks before they reached contact with the main NATO lines — or even the cavalry screen.


If the thinning out could include the command tanks, even better.

This has been a habit of American fighting forces for a long time. It’s been a part of pop culture military strategy even as far back as the American Revolution (when Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot says, “Shoot the officers first, work your way down”) to a hypothetical World War III in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising, when one Russian explains that NATO trains its troops to shoot the command tanks first.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile
The YGM-157B EFOGM. (U.S. Army photo)

The MGM-157 Enhanced Fiber-Optic Guided Missile, or EFOGM, was intended to help in this sort of mission.

It looks a lot like the BGM-71 Tube-Launched Optically-Tracked, Wire-guided missile, or TOW. Well, it uses a number of TOW components, according to Designation-Systems.net.

The big differences are that the EFOGM weighs more (117 pounds to 50 for the TOW), and can go four times as far as the TOW (9.3 miles to 2.33 miles).

The range makes EFOGM a bit of an indirect-fire weapon. Eight missiles can fit onto a Humvee, and two at a time can be guided. This is a very useful capability when it comes to decapitating an enemy regiment or brigade — often by hitting the tank from above, where its armor is the weakest.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile
XM44 launch vehicle for the YMGM-157 EFOGM. (U.S. Army)

The key is that EFOGM flies higher – at around 1,000 feet. The missile uses a TV camera for guidance with the signal traveling on a fiber-optic cable. That allows EFOGM to serve as a reconnaissance asset en route to the target.

So, why did this missile not make it into the inventory? Simply put, the Army cancelled funding, and EFOGM ended up being just a cool technology demonstrator. Japan did develop a similar system dubbed the “Type 96.”

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the system is for use against enemy tanks, landing craft, and helicopters.

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile
Japan’s Type 96. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Makes you wonder if EFOGM could have helped out during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

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