The Air Force recently released a bunch of crazy pictures of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs getting refueled over Afghanistan, where the US recently redeployed a squadron of 12 Warthogs.
The A-10s were deployed in late January 2018 to Kandahar Air Base as part of a new campaign announced in November 2017. The US is increasing airstrikes on Taliban revenue sources, much of which is opium and heroin drug-producing facilities.
Since then, the US has released several videos of A-10s striking Taliban vehicles, as well as training and drug-producing facilities.
Elon Musk said being one of the first people to colonize Mars won’t be glamorous.
Speaking during a QA at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, on March 11, 2018, the SpaceX founder addressed his plans to colonize Mars and what it will be like for those early pioneers on the red frontier.
According to Musk, there’s a misconception that a base on Mars will serve as “an escape hatch for rich people.”
“It wasn’t that at all,” Musk said of his colonization vision. “For the people who go to Mars, it’ll be far more dangerous. It kind of reads like Shackleton’s ad for Antarctic explorers. ‘Difficult, dangerous, good chance you’ll die. Excitement for those who survive.’ That kind of thing.”
“There’re already people who want to go in the beginning. There will be some for whom the excitement of exploration and the next frontier exceeds the danger,” Musk continued.
Speaking to a packed theater in Austin, Texas, Musk said he expects SpaceX to begin making short trips back and forth to Mars in the first half of 2019. His long-term plan is to put 1 million people on the planet as a sort of Plan B society in case nuclear war wipes out the human race.
In the event of nuclear devastation, Musk said, “we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten the length of the dark ages. I think that’s why it’s important to get a self-sustaining base, ideally on Mars, because it’s more likely to survive than a moon base.”
In order to “regenerate life back here on Earth,” Musk said he prefers to get the backup civilization on Mars operational before an event like World War III begins on Earth.
“I think it’s unlikely that we will never have another world war,” Musk said.
Musk’s plan to build giant reusable spaceships for colonizing the red planet is an ambitious one. He and SpaceX have yet to detail exactly how hypothetical Mars colonists will survive for months or years on end. Many people still have practical questions for the tech billionaire.
Musk has ideas for how Mars might be governed
Musk instead offered some predictions for what he thinks governance on Mars might look like.
The SpaceX founder suggested his title might be “emperor,” adding that it was only a joke.
Musk said he imagines Mars will have a direct democracy instead of the system of government used in the US — a representative democracy — whereby elected officials represent a group of people. On Mars, Musk expects people will vote directly on issues.
He said that the centuries-old representative democracy made more sense during the nation’s founding, before the government could assume most people knew how to read and write.
Musk urged future colonizers to “keep laws short,” so that people can easily read and digest the bills before voting on them. He warned that long laws have “something suspicious” going on.
“If the law exceeds the word count of Lord of the Rings, then something’s wrong,” Musk said.
The quote got a laugh from the audience and sparked speculation that Musk was taking a jab at the Republican tax bill that was passed in December 2017. The bill came in at 503 pages and ran over 1,000 pages including the related conference committee report.
Musk also recommended that laws be easier to repeal than install. Doing so would prevent arbitrary rules from accumulating and restricting freedoms over time, he said.
On creating culture on Mars, Musk said that “Mars should have really great bars.”
On Monday, Politico reported that Michael Flynn, the retired general and national security adviser to President Donald Trump, would advise the Trump administration to back Montenegro’s entrance into NATO — a move sure to infuriate Russia.
Flynn has longstanding ties to Russia — most notably, he received payment to attend a gala event for Russia Today, a Russian propaganda outlet. On that occasion, he dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Despite that, the US backs Montenegro’s bid to join NATO, and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has backed its bid for over a year. During this time, the small Balkan nation faced increasing pressure from Russia — including a failed coup in October that may be tied back to Moscow.
A special prosecutor in Montenegro said in November that Russian nationalists tried to sway the country’s October election with a plot to kill Milo Djukanovic, the Western-leaning prime minister.
“The organizers of this criminal group were nationalists from Russia whose initial premise and conclusion was that the government in Montenegro led by Milo Djukanovic cannot be changed in election and that it should be toppled by force,” Milivoje Katnic, special prosecutor for organized crime in Montenegro, said at the time.
Flynn’s backing of Montenegro’s entrance into NATO would seemingly fly in the face of Trump’s proposal to try to befriend Russia, as Russia sees NATO expansion as aggression against its interests.
Jorge Benitez, a senior fellow and NATO expert at the Atlantic Council, told Politico, “No NATO candidate country has ever faced such a dire attack or threat in the process of finishing its membership into the alliance.”
However, Flynn is not alone among Trump appointees in striking a more hawkish tone toward Moscow. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley also signaled a hawkish approach, saying that “the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” Russia officially denies a military presence in Eastern Ukraine, where fighting has recently reignited.
Before Montenegro can join NATO, it’s accession bid must be approved by all 28 current NATO states and two-thirds of the US Senate.
In a potentially unprecedented violation of privacy, a Navy prosecutor is suspected of spying on the media in an attempt to find leaks in a major war crimes case.
Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher will soon stand trial for stabbing an unarmed ISIS militant to death in Iraq in 2017, as well as shooting two civilians. The Navy SEAL’s defense team recently brought forward allegations that the prosecution sent emails with embedded tracking software to 13 lawyers and paralegals affiliated with the case.
Emails were also sent to attorneys for Lt. Jacob Portier, who allegedly conducted a re-enlistment ceremony for Gallagher next to the body of the very ISIS fighter Gallagher is accused of murdering.
The emails sent by Navy prosecutor Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak contained an unusual image of the American flag with a bald eagle sitting atop the scales of justice, an image that had not appeared in previous emails.
While most of the recipients were members of Gallagher and Portier’s defense teams, one of these peculiar emails was sent to a Carl Prine, a reporter at Navy Times who has broken several important stories related to the case. Czaplak, according to Tim Parlatore, one of Gallagher’s attorneys, recently admitted to sending the emails before a military judge.
Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher.
The emails with the tracking software are suspected to have been sent as part of an ongoing NCIS investigation into leaks to the media, as the case is covered by a gag order imposed by Navy Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh. Still, certain sensitive documents have been leaked to the press.
“It is illegal for the government to use [the emails] in the way they did without a warrant,” Parlatore said to Military Times, parent company for Navy Times. “What this constitutes is a warrantless surveillance of private citizens, including the media, by the military. We should all be terrified.”
The Navy explained to Military Times that the media was and is not the target of the investigations. The embedded image in the email sent by the prosecution reportedly contained a “splunk tool,” a kind of cyber tool capable of facilitating external access to a compromised computer and the files stored within, although there is the possibility the tracking software in the emails may have been more benign.
The prosecution is suspected of pursuing IP addresses and other relevant metadata, information which can only be pursued with a subpoena or court order.
U.S. Navy SEAL candidates.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)
While such behavior is decidedly unethical in the legal world, the targeting of reporters may be without precedent. “This is the first case I am aware of that something like this has happened,” Gabe Rottman, the director of the Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told Military Times. “If a prosecutor sent an email to a reporter with a tracking device intending to identify a leak, that is certainly concerning.”
“If it is true that a government official included tracking software in an email to a reporter surreptitiously to find out who the reporter is talking to, that potentially exposes that reporter’s other sources in totally unrelated cases to government scrutiny,” he added.
In response to the alleged actions of the prosecution, Parlatore is filing a motion to dismiss the case, as well as a motion to disqualify Czaplak from prosecuting the case. It remains to be seen if there will be any legal backlash to deal with the suspected blow to press freedom.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The United States needs to “up its game” in the Arctic, which is an increasingly important region as global warming opens up new sea lanes and makes oil and mineral resources there more readily available, the U.S. defense secretary has said.
The Arctic, which lies partly within the territories of Russia, the United States, Canada, and a handful of other countries, by some estimates holds more oil and natural gas reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, and Moscow has been intensifying its energy development there.
Russia has also embarked upon its biggest military push in the Arctic since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, beefing up its military presence and capabilities.
Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is moving to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air, and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and build new ones as it pushes ahead with a claim to almost half a million square miles of the Arctic.
“Certainly America’s got to up its game in the Arctic. There’s no doubt about that,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters in Alaska before leaving on a trip to Asia.
Part of that would be an increased Coast Guard presence, with more icebreakers and other specialized vessels needed in the Arctic, he said.
Mattis said the Pentagon already relied on Alaska as a base for operations in the Pacific, and the interceptor missiles the United States maintains there already constitute the cornerstone of the U.S. homeland defense.
But he said that the warming of the Arctic had spurred a new rush for resources in the region that the United States has been reluctant to join.
“So the reality is that we’re going to have to deal with the developing Arctic… It is also going to open not just to transport but also to energy exploration,” Mattis said.
The United States and Russia have both expressed interest in boosting Arctic drilling, but Russia has gone further in developing its Arctic resources. Currently, the United States prohibits oil drilling in wildlife refuges in its Alaskan Arctic wilderness areas and most offshore areas.
Beyond the competition between Russia and the United States, early 2018 China outlined ambitions to extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes that have been opened up by global warming.
(Photo by Michel Temer)
China also has been helping Greenland, whose territory covers a major portion of the Arctic, develop its vast, mostly untapped mineral resources.
China itself has no Arctic territory or coastline, so its increasing interest in the region has prompted concerns from Arctic states over its long-term strategic objectives, including whether that includes military deployment.
Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan, standing alongside Mattis, said there was bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress to view the Arctic in more strategic terms.
“I agree with the secretary, I think we’re behind, but I think we’re finally starting to catch up,” Sullivan said.
Studies show that much of the oil and gas resources in the Arctic is concentrated in Alaska, which the United States purchased from the Russian Empire in 1867 for $7.2 million. It became the 49th U.S. state in 1959.
Senior U.S. Army officials on March 26, 2018, mapped out a plan to dramatically increase the range of the service’s artillery and missile systems to counter a Russian threat that would leave ground forces without air support in the “first few weeks” of a war in Europe.
The Army has named long-range precision fires as its top modernization priority in a reform effort aimed at replacing the service’s major weapons platforms.
“We’ve got to push the maximum range of all systems under development for close, deep, and strategic, and we have got to outgun the enemy,” Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of United States Army Pacific Command, told an audience during a panel discussion on “improving long-range precision fires” at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.
“We don’t do that right now; it’s a huge gap. … We need cannons that fire as far as rockets today. We need rockets that fire as far as today’s missiles, and we need missiles out to 499 kilometers.”
Currently, Russian air defenses are effective enough to keep fixed-wing aircraft from conducting close-air support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and other support missions vital to ground combat forces, said John Gordon IV, a senior policy researcher at Rand Corp.
Rand conducted a study for officials at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, concluding that in the first seven to 10 days of a conflict with Russia, “the Russians would have very significant advantage in terms of numbers and all aspects of ground combat.”
“Because of the power and the range and the lethality of these Russian air defenses, it’s going to make all forms of air support much more difficult, and the ground forces are going to feel the effects,” Gordon said.
“It’s certainly going to put a premium on U.S. Army field artillery. It’s going to put a premium on long-range fires to compensate for what will, at least initially, be a significant degradation in the amount of air support — less joint ISR, less CAS, less interdiction, less offensive and defensive counter-air, so all that is going to have an effect on Army operations because of the quality of these Russian air defenses,” he said.
Russia also has a larger number of superior artillery systems than the U.S., Gordon said.
“The Russians take this stuff seriously; artillery has been the strong suit of the Russian Army since the days of the czars,” he said.
“They’ve got a range advantage over us in a number of different areas, particularly cannons,” Gordon said. “Typically, modern Russian cannons have got 50 percent to 100 percent greater range than the current generation of U.S. cannons.”
Brig. Gen. Stephen Maranian, commandant of the Army’s Field Artillery School, who now leads the newly formed cross-functional team responsible for the long-range precision fires modernization priority, said the Army is looking at hypervelocity, electromagnetics, and “very large-caliber cannon” to improve long-range fires in the long term.
In the shorter term, the service is working on replacing the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATacMS, with the Precision Strike Missile, Maranian said.
ATacMS, which has a range of 160 kilometers, was terminated in 2007, but the Army has since extended the service life of the program.
“We expect to see [Precision Strike Missile] prototypes fly within the next fiscal year in 2019,” Maranian said. “From there, hopefully, a delivery of the base missile by early 2023.”
The base missile is going to provide a “huge upgrade from ATAcMs,” increasing the range out to 499 kilometers, the limit of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty, he said.
“It’s going to provide 1.5 times the speed, it’s going to be twice the capacity … and it’s also going to have the ability to be even more lethal than the ATAcMs,” he added.
Maranian said the base missile will be able to go after “multi-domain targets — so the ability to hit a ship at sea, the ability to hit moving targets on the land domain, the ability to have sub-munitions that attack heavy armored targets and have effects … and the ability to use sensors to hone in on targets. Those are all aspects of future spirals of this missile that the base Precision Strike Missile will provide.”
In terms of artillery, Maranian said the Army is planning a “dramatic increase to the firepower” that exists in its brigade combat teams.
The Army has been attempting to upgrade its Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzers systems. The M109A6 Paladin Integrated Management, or PIM, just completed its initial operational test and evaluation in March 2018, Maranian said.
The Army is relying on the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA, technology to extend the range of the system.
The upgraded, rocket-assisted projectile, which will increase the range out to 40 kilometers, is scheduled to be ready by fiscal 2021, he said.
An upgraded breech, which will help boost the range out to 70 kilometers, will be ready by the fiscal 2023 timeframe, as will be the “incorporation of an autoloader to improve our four rounds in the initial minute, and one round a minute after that, sustained rate to a six-to-10 round a minute sustained rate of fire,” Maranian said.
“That will be the basis of achieving overmatch against any adversary in any theater,” he said.
As if you needed another reason to avoid what is widely considered the DC-area’s worst option in terms of airports, a CNN investigation revealed that one of Dulles International Airport’s security guards is a Somali man wanted for war crimes.
Yusuf Abdi Ali has lived in the area of Alexandria, Virginia for the past 20 years. He has been employed by the airport, one of an estimated 1,000 war criminals living and working in the United States.
Everyone employed by Master Security, Dulles’ security contractor, undergoes “the full, federally mandated vetting process in order to be approved for an airport badge,” the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority told ABC News. The process includes a background check by the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration. Master Security employees working at Dulles must also be licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state in which Dulles is located.
“We have verified that all of these processes were followed and approved in this instance,” MWAA said in a statement.
Ali is the subject of a lawsuit from The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) on behalf of his alleged victims. He is accused of torturing people, burning villages, and conducting mass executions during The Somali Civil War from 1986 – 1991. Ali denies all accusations listed in the CJA lawsuit.
Yusuf Abdi Ali in a Canadian Broadcasting Company documentary about his a
Ali was a military commander under the regime of Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. He fled Somalia after the fall of the regime, eventually ending up in the United States in 1996.
The suit was dismissed by a circuit court which found the case lacked jurisdictional authority. A higher ruling allowed the suit to proceed and it is now waiting for review by the Supreme Court to determine if foreigners living in the U.S. can be held accountable for crimes committed abroad.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials estimate at least 360 arrests of human rights violators in the U.S. in the past 12 years. ICE has also deported more than 780 such cases. According to CNN, they currently have 125 active investigations. Ali’s airport credentials have been revoked and he is on administrative leave pending an ongoing investigation.
The Marine Corps‘ ground-based laser systems, which can be mounted to the tops of vehicles to take down drones, now have stronger beams to combat airborne threats.
The Corps has a new $2.5 million agreement with Boeing to service its Compact Laser Weapon System for the next five years. The system, which can be attached to combat vehicles, can be used on land or at sea.
Boeing just completed a round of updates to the service’s Compact Laser Weapon Systems, giving Marines the ability to take out bigger drones. The updates also made the laser weapon more reliable and faster, and they allow Marines to target more aircraft from greater distances, according to Boeing.
The changes come as the top U.S. general in the Middle East warned last month that cheap, off-the-shelf drones pose the most concerning tactical development in that region since terrorists began using improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.Advertisement
“These systems are inexpensive, easy to modify and weaponize, and easy to proliferate,” Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the head of U.S. Central Command, said last month.
Militaries are also using drones to target and surveil troops. Marines using another vehicle-mounted system in 2019 jammed at least one Iranian drone that flew within 1,000 yards of their Navy warship in the Strait of Hormuz, sending it plummeting into the sea.
The Compact Laser Weapon System doesn’t just jam drones but destroys them. Josh Roth, a spokesman for Boeing’s missile and weapon systems, said the lasers can take out what the Defense Department refers to as Group 1 and 2 unmanned aircraft, which weigh as much as 55 pounds and can operate below 3,500 feet.
Boeing’s system also has a counter-sensor capability at longer ranges for larger targets, Roth said. The system uses software to spot and track a threat. Once a drone is spotted, the weapon system focuses a high-energy laser beam on the threat until it’s disabled and defeated, he added.
Marines began testing the system, the first ground-based laser approved for military use, in 2019. The laser gives Marines a lightweight option to target drones, Roth said, since it can be carried and operated by just one person.
“It … affords the warfighter the opportunity to save more expensive air defense missiles for other threats and reduces the logistics footprint by eliminating resupply needs for conventional ammunition,” he said.
Roth declined to say how many of the laser systems have gone to the Marine Corps and what units received them, citing operational security. Marine Corps photos and videos show low-altitude air defense battalions on the East and West coasts testing the systems.
Last year, Marines tested the upgraded laser weapon in Yuma, Arizona, where they were able to take down 12 out of 12 drone threats, according to Boeing. Now, those upgraded systems have been delivered to Marine units, Roth said.
The system has also been used in real-world missions, though Roth declined to say where.
“A U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27,” the Navy statement read.
“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash. The duration of the intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes.”
The intercept is the latest in a string of “unsafe” intercepts that the Russian military has conducted.
In November 2017, a Russian Su-30 fighter flew as close as 50 feet before turning on its afterburners while intercepting a US Navy P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft over the same area, and in December 2017, two US Air Force F-22s were intercepted by Russian Su-25 and Su-35 jets.
The US Aircraft had to fire flares as warnings to the Russian jets, one of which “had to aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision.” Russia has denied the incident in Syria took place.
Check out the footage from the Jan. 29 intercept here:
NATO is about to kick off its largest military exercises since the Cold War, which will include more than 50,000 troops from 31 countries.
The military exercises, known as Trident Juncture 2018, will be held from Oct. 25 — Nov. 7, 2018, in Norway.
One of the countries participating in the exercises is non-NATO member Sweden, which has grown increasingly concerned about neighboring Russia, especially after Moscow apparently targeted it during a simulated nuclear strike in 2013.
Now, Sweden is bringing about 1,900 troops to Trident Juncture 2018, along with two stealthy Visby-class corvettes, the HMS Karlstad and HMS Nyköping.
The two corvettes will be integrated into Standing NATO Maritime Group One, which is basically NATO’s standing frigate force, Lt. Jimmie Adamsson, a public affairs officer for the Swedish Navy, told Business Insider.
Here’s what the corvettes can do.
The Swedish Visby-class corvette HMS Nyköping (K34) transits the Baltic Sea during BALTOPS 2017.
(US Navy photo)
Sweden has five Visby-class corvettes, with the first being delivered in 2002 and the last two, the Karlstad and Nyköping, in 2015.
The corvettes are mainly designed for anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures, but the Karlstad is used more as an attack and anti-surface warfare vessel.
HMS Karlstad comes alongside in Trondheim prior participating in Exercise Trident Juncture 18.
Adamsson said that the Swedish Navy has thus far been happy with the Visby-class corvettes. They have yet to see combat, and were delivered later than expected, but the stealth technology has proven capable in all aspects.
The Visby-class is designed to minimize radar signals, optical and infrared signatures, magentic signatures, and more.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Navy may consider alternative aircraft carrier configurations in coming years as it prepares for its new high-tech, next-generation carrier to become operational later this year, service officials have said.
The USS Gerald R. Ford is the first is a series of new Ford-class carriers designed with a host of emerging technologies to address anticipated future threats and bring the power-projecting platform into the next century.
Once it’s delivered, the new carrier will go through “shock trials” wherein its stability is testing in a variety of maritime conditions; the ship will also go through a pre-deployment process known as “post-shakedown availability” designed to further prepare the ship for deployment.
Navy leaders are now working on a special study launched last year to find ways to lower the costs of aircraft carriers and explore alternatives to the big-deck platforms.
The Navy study is expected to last about a year and will examine technologies and acquisition strategies for the long-term future of Navy big-deck aviation in light of a fast-changing global threat environment, service officials said.
Configurations and acquisition plans for the next three Ford-class carriers – the USS Ford, USS Kennedy and USS Enterprise are not expected to change – however the study could impact longer-term Navy plans for carrier designs and platforms beyond those three, service officials have said.
Although no particular plans have been solidified or announced, it seems possible that these future carriers could be engineered with greater high-tech sensors and ship defenses, greater speed and manueverability to avoid enemy fire and configurations which allow for more drones to launch from the deck of the ship. They could be smaller and more manueverable with drones and longer-range precision weapons, analysts have speculated. At the same time, it is possible that the Ford-Class carrier could be adjusted to evolve as technologies mature, in order to accommodate some of the concerns about emerging enemy threats. Navy engineers have designed the Ford-Class platform with this ability to adapt in mind.
The service specifically engineered Ford-class carriers with a host of next-generation technologies designed to address future threat environments. These include a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship, among other things.
The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.
The ship’s larger deck space is, by design, intended to accommodate a potential increase in use of carrier-launched technologies such as unmanned aircraft systems in the future.
The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.
The USS Ford also needs sufficient electrical power to support its new electro-magnetic catapult, dual-band radar and Advanced Arresting Gear, among other electrical systems.
F/A-18 Hornet takes off from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln | Wikipedia
As technology evolves, laser weapons may eventually replace some of the missile systems on board aircraft carriers, Navy leaders have said.
“Lasers need to get up to about 300 kilowatts to start making them effective. The higher the power you get the more you can accomplish. I think there will be a combination of lasers and rail guns in the future. I do think at some point, lasers could replace some existing missile systems. Lasers will provide an overall higher rate of annihilation,” Rear Adm. Thomas Moore, Program Manager for Carriers, said last year.
Should they be employed, laser weapons could offer carriers a high-tech, lower cost offensive and defensive weapon aboard the ship able to potential incinerate incoming enemy missiles in the sky.
The Ford-class ships are engineered with a redesigned island, slightly larger deck space and new weapons elevators in order to achieve a 33-percent increase in sortie-generation rate. The new platforms are built to launch more aircraft and more seamlessly support a high-op tempo.
The new weapons elevators allow for a much more efficient path to move and re-arm weapons systems for aircraft. The elevators can take weapons directly from their magazines to just below the flight deck, therefore greatly improving the sortie-generation rate by making it easier and faster to re-arm planes, service officials explained.
The next-generation technologies and increased automation on board the Ford-Class carriers are also designed to decrease the man-power needs or crew-size of the ship and, ultimately, save more than $4 billion over the life of the ships.
Regarding the potential evaluation of alternatives to carriers, some analysts have raised the question of whether emerging technologies and weapons systems able to attack carriers at increasingly longer distances make the platforms more vulnerable and therefore less significant in a potential future combat environment.
Some have even raised the question about whether carrier might become obsolete in the future, a view not shared by most analysts and Navy leaders. The power-projection ability of a carrier and its air-wing provides a decisive advantage for U.S. forces around the world.
For example, a recently release think tank study from the Center for New American Security says the future threat environment will most likely substantially challenge the primacy or superiority of U.S. Navy carriers.
“While the U.S. Navy has long enjoyed freedom of action throughout the world’s oceans, the days of its unchallenged primacy may be coming to a close. In recent years, a number of countries, including China, Russia, and Iran, have accelerated investments in anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities such as advanced air defense systems, anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles, submarines, and aircraft carriers. These capabilities are likely to proliferate in the coming years, placing greater constraints on U.S. carrier operations than ever before,” the study writes.
In addition, the study maintains that the “United States will be faced with a choice: operate its carriers at ever-increasing ranges – likely beyond the unrefueled combat radiuses of their tactical aircraft – or assume high levels of risk in both blood and treasure,” the CNAS study explains.
Navy officials told Scout Warrior that many of the issues and concerns highlighted in this report and things already being carefully considered by the Navy.
With this in mind, some of the weapons and emerging threats cited in the report are things already receiving significant attention from Navy and Pentagon analysts.
The Chinese military is developing a precision-guided long-range anti-ship cruise missile, the DF-21D, a weapon said by analysts to have ranges up to 900 nautical miles. While there is some speculation as to whether it could succeed in striking moving targets such as aircraft carriers, analysts have said the weapon is in part designed to keep carriers from operating closer to the coastline.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a Congressional panel of experts, published a detailed report in 2014 on the state of Chinese military modernization. The report cites the DF-21D along with numerous other Chinese technologies and weapons. The DF-21D is a weapon referred to as a “carrier killer.”
The commission points out various Chinese tests of hypersonic missiles as well. Hypersonic missiles, if developed and fielded, would have the ability to travel at five times the speed of sound – and change the threat equation regarding how to defend carriers from shore-based, air or sea attacks.
While China presents a particular threat in the Asia Pacific theater, they are by no means the only potential threat in today’s fast-changing global environment. A wide array of potential future adversaries are increasingly likey to acquire next-generation weapons, sensors and technologies.
“Some countries, China particularly, but also Russia and others, are clearly developing sophisticated weapons designed to defeat our power-projection forces,” said Frank Kendall, the Pentagon acquisition chief said in a written statement to Congress in January of last year. “Even if war with the U.S. is unlikely or unintended, it is quite obvious to me that the foreign investments I see in military modernization have the objective of enabling the countries concerned to deter and defeat a regional intervention by the U.S. military.”
Enemy sensors, aircraft, drones and submarines are all advancing their respective technologies at an alarming rate – creating a scenario wherein carriers as they are currently configured could have more trouble operating closer to enemy coastlines.
At the same time – despite these concerns about current and future threat environments, carriers and power projects – few are questioning the value, utility and importance of Navy aircraft carriers.
Future Carrier Air Wing
The Navy is working on number of next-generation ship defenses such as Naval Integrated Fire Control –Counter Air, a system which uses Aegis radar along with an SM-6 interceptor missile and airborne relay sensor to detect and destroy approaching enemy missiles from distances beyond the horizon. The integrated technology deployed last year.
Stealth fighter jets, carrier-launched drones, V-22 Ospreys, submarine-detecting helicopters, laser weapons and electronic jamming are all deemed indispensable to the Navy’s now unfolding future vision of carrier-based air power, senior service leaders said. Last year, the Navy announced that the Osprey will be taking on the Carrier On-Baord Delivery mission wherein it will carry forces and equipment on and off carriers while at sea.
Citing the strategic deterrence value and forward power-projection capabilities of the Navy’s aircraft carrier platforms, the Commander of Naval Air Forces spelled out the services’ future plans for the carrier air wing at a recent event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington D.C think tank.
Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces, argued last year in favor of the continued need for Navy aircraft carriers to project power around the globe. His comments come at a time when some are raising questions about the future of carriers in an increasingly high-tech threat environment.
“Even in contested waters our carrier group can operate, given the maneuverability of the carrier strike group and the composition of the carrier air wing,” Shoemaker told the audience at an event in August of last year.
Shoemaker explained how the shape and technological characteristics of the carrier air wing mentioned will be changing substantially in coming years. The Navy’s carrier-launched F-35C stealth fighter will begin to arrive in the next decade and the service will both upgrade existing platforms and introduce new ones.
The Navy plans to have its F-35C operational by 2018 and have larger numbers of them serving on carriers by the mid-2020s.
The service plans to replace its legacy or “classic” F/A-18s with the F-35C and have the new aircraft fly alongside upgraded F/A-18 Super Hornet’s from the carrier deck.
While the F-35C will bring stealth fighter technology and an ability to carry more ordnance to the carrier air wing, its sensor technologies will greatly distinguish it from other platforms, Shoemaker said.
“The most important thing that the F-35C brings is the ability to fuse information, collect the signals and things that are out in the environment and fuse it all together and deliver that picture to the rest of the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker explained.
At the same time, more than three-quarters of the future air wing will be comprised of F/A-18 Super Hornets, he added.
The submarine hunting technologies of the upgraded MH-60R is a critical component of the future air wing, Navy officials have said.
“The R (MH-60R) comes with a very capable anti-submarine warfare package. It has an airborne low frequency sensor, an advanced periscope detection system combined with a data link, and forward looking infrared radar. With its very capable electronic warfare suite, it is the inner defense zone against the submarine for the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker said.
Electronic warfare also figures prominently in the Navy’s plans for air warfare; the service is now finalizing the retirement of the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft in favor of the EA-18G aircraft, Shoemaker said.
“We’re totally transitioning now to the EA-18G Growler for electromagnetic spectrum dominance. This will give us the ability to protect our strike group and support our joint forces on the ground,” he said.
Also, the Growler will be receiving an electromagnetic weapon called the Next-Generation Jammer. This will greatly expand the electronic attack capability of the aircraft and, among other things, allow it to jam multiple frequencies at the same time.
The Navy is also moving from its E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft to an upgraded E-2D variant with improved radar technology, Shoemaker explained.
“We’ve got two squadrons transitioned — one just about to complete in Norfolk and the first is deployed right now on the Teddy Roosevelt (aircraft carrier). This (the E2-D) brings a new electronically scanned radar which can search and track targets and then command and control missions across the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker also pointed to the Navy’s decision to have the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft take over the carrier onboard delivery mission and transport equipment, personnel and logistical items to and from the carrier deck. The V-22 will be replacing the C-2 Greyhound aircraft, a twin-engine cargo aircraft which has been doing the mission for years.
An F-35B carried out a remarkable test where its sensors spotted an airborne target, sent the data to an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense site, and had the land-based outpost fire a missile to defeat the target — thereby destroying an airborne adversary without firing a single shot of its own.
This development simultaneously vindicates two of the US military’s most important developments: The F-35 and the Naval Integrated Fire Control Counterair Network (NIFC-CA).
Essentially, the NIFC-CA revolutionizes naval targeting systems by combining data from a huge variety of sensors to generate targeting data that could be used to defeat incoming threats.
So now with this development, an F-35 can pass targeting data to the world’s most advanced missile defense system, an Aegis site, that would fire its own missile, likely a SM-6, to take out threats in the air, on land, or at sea.
This means that an F-35 can stealthily enter heavily contested enemy air space, detect threats, and have them destroyed by a missile fired from a remote site, like an Aegis land site or destroyer, without firing a shot and risking giving up its position.
The SM-6, the munition of choice for Aegis destroyers, is a 22-foot long supersonic missile that can seek out, maneuver, and destroy airborne targets like enemy jets or incoming cruise or ballistic missiles.
The SM-6’s massive size prohibits it from being equipped to fighter jets, but now, thanks to the integration of the F-35 with the NIFC-CA, it doesn’t have to.
The SM-6, as effective and versatile as it is, can shoot further than the Aegis sites can see. The F-35, as an ultra connective and stealthy jet, acts as an elevated, highly mobile sensor that extends the effective range of the missile.
This joint capability helps assuage fears over the F-35’s limited capacity to carry ordnance. The jet’s stealth design means that all weapons have to be stored internally, and this strongly limits the plane’s overall ordnance capacity.
This limiting factor has drawn criticism from pundits more fond of traditional jet fighting approaches. However, it seems the F-35’s connectivity has rendered this point a non-issue.
Overall, the F-35 and NIFC-CA integration changes the game when it comes to the supposed anti-access/area denial bubbles created by Russia and China’s advanced air defenses and missiles.
“One of the key defining attributes of a 5th Generation fighter is the force multiplier effect it brings to joint operations through its foremost sensor fusion and external communications capabilities,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in a statement.
“NIFC-CA is a game changer for the US Navy that extends the engagement range we can detect, analyze and intercept targets,” said Dale Bennett, another Lockheed Martin vice president in the statement.
“The F-35 and Aegis Weapon System demonstration brings us another step closer to realizing the true potential and power of the worldwide network of these complex systems to protect and support warfighters, the home front and US allies.”
With a $716 billion budget and the mission to be the best at everything, the Pentagon finds some pretty creative ways of going about it. No, they didn’t have an actual underground boxing club among the military’s highest-ranking chiefs at the Pentagon (that we know of), but they did have some experiments that could have proven fruitful in giving America’s enemies a black eye.
The only problem is that Congress found out about it. That’s why the first rule is not to talk about it.
The Mantis Shrimp, club cocked (more on that later).
In 2015, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake decided he was going to take on wasteful spending, releasing a “Wastebook” that detailed what he believed was government spending run amok.
Quoting the movie Fight Club, Flake says,“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have,” in the Wastebook, which is titled The Farce Awakens. Flake is referring to a 6,800 research grant given to Duke University researchers, who allegedly used it to pit 68 Panamanian mantis shrimp against each other to see who would win and why.
“To see so much money so outlandishly wasted, it’s clear that Washington’s ballyhooing over budget austerity is a farce,” Flake said. “Hopefully, this report gives Congress – which only ever seems to agree when it comes to spending money – something to Chewie on before the taxpayers strike back.”
This is the cover of the wastebook, no joke.
But the study wasn’t really useless, as it turns out. In fact, there’s an entire field of science called biomimetics dedicated to the idea of solving human problems with abilities and designs from animals found in nature. Duke University was doing research in just that vein. So far, they’ve been able to harness the mantis shrimp’s weapons and armor for human needs. It turns out the mantis shrimp (neither mantis nor shrimp) is one of the ocean’s premier brawlers.
The study didn’t really spend 0,000 on a fight club of shrimp. The grant covered the entire span of research on the mantis shrimp. What they discovered is a roving tank on the ocean floor. Its two main appendages act as underwater clubs to knock its prey out in a single punch – and that punch is what had the researchers so fascinated.
Did you see that? I doubt it. Read on!
The mantis shrimp punch goes from an underwater standing start to 50mph in the blink of an eye. It generates 1,500 newtons of force, the equivalent of a 340-pound rock hitting you in the face. If a human could manage 1/10th of that force with its arms, we’d be chucking baseballs into low Earth orbit. To top it all off, those clubs pop out with the velocity of a .22-caliber bullet (one that isn’t underwater) and the sudden change in water pressure causes the water around them to boil at several thousand degrees Kelvin. If the punch doesn’t kill the prey, the punch’s shockwave still can.
But wait, there’s more.
The researchers also wanted to know how mantis shrimp defend against this kind of attack – how their natural armor protects them from other mantis shrimp super weapons. This punch goes right through the shells worn by crabs and clams as well as the natural protections of some species of fish (and aquarium glass, FYI. In case you’re thinking you want one). The clubs themselves are also intensely durable, maintaining their performance throughout the mantis shrimp’s lifespan.
Its primary weapon is a complex system of three main regions, all lightweight and durable, tougher than many engineered ceramics. Civilian applications could improve the performance of cars and airplanes while military applications include body armor and armor for vehicles and potentially aircraft.
“That’s the holy grail for materials engineers,” said University of California professor and researcher David Kisailus, who is pioneering such studies these days.