Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s - We Are The Mighty
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Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

The Air Force is increasing computer simulations and virtual testing for its laser-weapons program to accelerate development and prepare plans to arm fighter jets and other platforms by the early 2020s.


To help model the effects of such technologies, the service has awarded Stellar Science a five-year, $7 million contract for advanced laser modeling and simulation.

Also read: How to bring down a Star Wars AT-AT with an A-10

The Albuquerque-based company is expected to continue the work started in 2014, when the Air Force tapped the group to develop computer simulations and virtual testing of directed energy weapons.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
Image via General Atomics

Aircraft-launched laser weapons could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.

Lasers use intense heat and light energy to incinerate targets without causing a large explosion,  and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, senior Air Force leaders explained.

Low cost is another key advantage of laser weapons, as they can prevent the need for high-cost missiles in many combat scenarios.

Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.

Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, took place last year at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The first airborne tests are slated to take place by 2021, service officials said.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
Artist’s rendering from Air Force Research Lab

The developmental efforts are focused on increasing the power, precision and guidance of existing laser weapon applications with the hope of moving from 10-kilowatts up to 100 kilowatts, Air Force officials said.

Service scientists, such as Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias, have told Scout Warrior that much of the needed development involves engineering the size weight and power trades on an aircraft needed to accommodate an on-board laser weapon. Developing a mobile power source small enough to integrate into a fast-moving fighter jet remains a challenge for laser technology.

Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.

Air Force Special Operations Command has commissioned both the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.

Another advantage of lasers is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapon system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts said.

According to Stellar Science, “The goal of this research project was to compute the three-dimensional (3D) shape and orientation of a satellite from two-dimensional (2D) images of it.”

Stellar Science possesses expertise in scientific, computer-aided modeling and 3D-shape reconstruction, as well as radio-frequency manipulation and laser physics.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
The US Navy’s prototype ship-mounted laser weapon. | US Navy photo

Officials throughout the Department of Defense are optimistic about beam weapons and, more generally, directed-energy technologies.

Laser weapons could be used for ballistic missile defense as well. Vice Adm. James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said during the 2017 fiscal year budget discussion that “Laser technology maturation is critical for us.”

And the U.S. Navy recently announced that their destroyers and cruisers will possess these systems to help ships fend off drones and missiles.

WATCH: AC-130 gunships could be outfitted with lasers

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force has selected bases for its future stealth bomber

On Nov. 16, 2018, the Air Force announced the first two bases that will host its new, highly advanced bomber for testing and maintenance.

The service said in a release that Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma would coordinate maintenance and sustainment for the B-21 Raider and that Edwards Air Force Base in California had been picked to lead testing and evaluation of the next generation long-range strike bomber.

Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and Hill Air Force Base in Utah will support Tinker with maintaining and, when necessary, overhauling and upgrading the new bomber, the Air Force said.


Personnel at those bases will be equipped to rebuild the aircraft’s parts, assemblies, or subassemblies as well as to test and reclaim equipment as necessary for depot activations.

The first B-21 is expected to be delivered in the mid-2020s.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

A B-2A stealth bomber at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma during a visit on April 11, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)

The release noted the “deep and accomplished history” of the Air Logistics Complex of the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker and said officials believe the base has the knowledge and expertise to support the new bomber.

“With a talented workforce and decades of experience in aircraft maintenance, Tinker AFB is the right place for this critical mission,” Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson said.

Edwards Air Force Base is also home to the Air Force Test Center, which leads the service’s testing and evaluation efforts.

“From flight testing the X-15 to the F-117, Edwards AFB in the Mohave Desert [sic] has been at the forefront of keeping our Air Force on the cutting edge,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said. “Now testing the B-21 Raider will begin another historic chapter in the base’s history.”

Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, head of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards, said in 2018 that the B-21 would be tested at the base. Few details about the B-21’s development have been released, and previous reports suggested it could be tested at the Air Force’s secretive Area 51 facility.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

A B-1B Lancer bomber awaits maintenance at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Jan. 27, 2017

(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)

The B-21 acquisition cycle is currently in the engineering and manufacturing-development phase, the Air Force said. The Raider’s design and development headquarters is at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Melbourne, Florida.

The Air Force expects to buy about 100 of the new bomber, with each cost over 0 million, according to Air Force Times.

The Air Force said in May 2018 that once the new bombers begin arriving they will head to three bases in the US — Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

The service said those bases were “reasonable alternatives” for the new bomber, although it will likely not make a final basing decision until 2019.

The B-21 is to replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers at those bases, but the Air Force doesn’t plan to retire the existing bombers until there are enough B-21s to replace them.

Using existing bomber bases would reduce operational impact, lower overhead, and minimize costs, the Air Force said in May. “Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21,” Wilson said at the time.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines see a ‘big-ass fight’ looming and may redeploy to meet it

During a meeting this week with the Marine Corps rotational force stationed in Norway, the Corps’ commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, told Marines that war could be looming and that his command may soon adjust its deployments to meet rising threats.


Neller said he saw a “big-ass fight” in the future, telling members of the U.S. force in the Nordic country to be ready at all times.

“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller said, according to Military.com. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
U.S Marines install cleats on M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks for cold weather driver training in Setermoen, Norway, 7 to 9 Nov., 2016, to improve their ability to operate in mountainous and extreme cold weather environments. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy J. Lutz)

Marines have been in Norway since January, when a rotation from the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines arrived. The rotation was extended during the summer, and a replacement from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines arrived in August. The rotation is the first time a foreign force had been stationed in Norway since World War II.

Neller told Marines in Norway that he expects focus to shift from the Middle East to Russia and the Pacific — areas highlighted by President Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy and home to three parts of the Defense Department’s “4+1” framework: Russia, North Korea, and China (along with Iran and global terrorism).

Marines in Norway have trained with Norwegian and other partner forces for cold-weather operations. Earlier this year, the Marines carried out a timed strategic mobility exercise, organizing the vehicles and equipment that would be needed to outfit a ground combat force.

Also Read: The Marines arrive in Norway

Norway and the Marine Corps have jointly managed weapons and equipment stored in well-maintained caves in the central part of the country since the Cold War. The commander of Marine Corps Europe and Africa told Military.com this summer that Norway could become the service’s hub in Europe.

Places like Norway would become more of a focal point for the Marine Corps, according to Neller, deemphasizing the Middle East after two decades of combat operations there.

“I think probably the focus, the intended focus is not on the Middle East,” Neller said in Norway, when asked by a Marine about where the force saw itself fighting in the future. “The focus is more on the Pacific and Russia.”

A Marine artillery unit recently left Syria after several months supporting the fight against ISIS there (burning out two howitzers in the process), but Marines remain in the region — including 450 training and advising partner forces in Afghanistan and hundreds more in Iraq, where they recently returned to “old stomping grounds” in western Anbar province to support anti-ISIS efforts.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Codey Underwood)

While Neller admitted that U.S. forces would remain in the Middle East for some time to come, he predicted “a slight pullback” from that region and a reorientation toward Russia and the Pacific.

“So I believe we’ll turn our attention there,” he said,according to Military.com.

‘We’ve got them right where we wanted’

Countries throughout Europe have grown wary of an increasingly assertive Russia, especially the Baltic states and others in Eastern Europe.

But Norway and others in Western Europe are concerned as well. Norway has publicly discussed ways to counter Russian armor and boosted its defense spending.

Earlier this year, Oslo decided to buy five P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft — a move that tied it closer to the U.S. and UK, with whom it maintained a surveillance network during the Cold War. In February, Norway decided to shift funds from cost-savings programs into military acquisitions. That same month, Norway teamed up with Germany to buy four new submarines — two for each. (None of Germany’s subs are currently operational.)

Now Read: Norway wants the U.S. Marines to stay another year in their country

In November, Norway accepted the first three F-35A fighters to be permanently stationed in the country, joining the seven Norway has stationed in Arizona for training. This month, Norway signed a contract for 24 South Korean-made K9 self-propelled howitzers and ammunition resupply vehicles.

U.S. forces have also moved throughout Europe in recent months for training and deployments to bolster partners in the region, but the rotational force in Norway has been particularly irksome for Russia, which shares a 120-mile border with Norway.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
US Marines with Black Sea Rotational Force 17.1 prepare to board a bus after arriving in Vaernes, Norway, Jan. 16, 2017. The Marines are part of the newly established Marine Rotational Force-Europe, and will be training with the Norwegian Armed Forces to improve interoperability and enhance their ability to conduct operations in Arctic conditions. (USMC photo by Sgt. Erik Estrada.)

U.S. Marines in Norway have been hesitant to link their deployment directly to Russia — going as far as to avoid saying “Russia” in public — but Moscow has still expressed displeasure with their presence.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said relations between Oslo and Moscow were “put to a test” when Marines arrived in January. Moscow warned its neighbor in June that the Marines’ deployment could “escalate tensions and lead to destabilization” in the region.

Norwegian officials themselves have also questioned their government about what the Marines are doing there, out of concern that the country’s leadership could be shifting its defense policy without debate.

For some of the Marines, Moscow’s displeasure appears to be a point of pride.

“They don’t like the fact that we oppose them, and we like the fact that they don’t like the fact that we oppose them,” Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green told Military.com. “Three hundred of us, surrounded by them. We’ve got them right where we wanted, right? We’ve done this before.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch: President Trump addresses nation on Coronavirus

Today the World Health Organization designated COVID-19, more commonly known as Coronavirus, a global pandemic. President Trump addressed the nation from the White House this evening to talk about what we know, what we’re doing and how we will respond. Watch the full address, here:


Articles

US officials warn that North Korea will test another missile soon

North Korea has made preparations for yet another missile test within the coming days, US officials have told Fox News.


“The test could come as early as the end of the month,” said an unnamed official. Another official told Fox that a US WC-135 Constant Phoenix “nuclear sniffer” plane would patrol the area to detect possible nuclear activity.

The Pentagon, as well as its Japanese and South Korean counterparts, has been closely monitoring North Korea after a string of high-profile and alarming moves within its nuclear infrastructure.

Related: How China could potentially stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

Most recently, Japan detected two missile launches in North Korea that exploded “within seconds” after takeoff, CNN reported. Before that, North Korea tested a “saturation attack” — a salvo of four missiles meant to overwhelm US and allied missile defenses — with much more success.

Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, told Business Insider that North Korea’s ultimate intention with its nuclear program is to create a thermonuclear weapon that can hit the mainland US.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

The increased pace of tests in 2017 shows North Korea is perhaps more serious than ever about hitting this goal, which it is increasingly moving closer to achieving.

Meanwhile, the US has openly floated military action against North Korea, which experts tell Business Insider could easily cost millions of lives and result in the first use of nuclear weapons since World War II.

Articles

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

So this guy is one of my favorite people ever.  His life story sounds like a Dos Equis commercial. His full name is John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, better known as Jack Churchill or “Mad Jack”.  A few of my favorite qualities and accomplishments of his up front:


  • Officer in the British Army from 1926-1936 and 1939-1959.  During WWII, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel.
  • Worked as a newspaper editor and male model in Nairobi, Kenya between 1936 and 1939.
  • His motto was, “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”
  • When the war in Europe ended, he was sent to Burma to fight the Japanese but by the time he arrived, the war was over. He really, really didn’t like this because he wanted to keep fighting.
  • After the war he served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, he became an avid surfer.
  • After retiring from the army in 1959, he regularly scared train conductors and pedestrians by throwing his briefcase from the train. Why? He threw it into his own backyard because he didn’t want to carry it home from the train station.

So now for my favorite part: he carried bagpipes, a Scottish broadsword, and a longbow with arrows into most battles. His unusual gear choices followed him into battle wherever he went, and even played a key role in the Battle of France.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
‘Mad Jack’ Churchill with his War Bow; 6′ tall, with an 80-lb pull. The only documented archer to inflict casualties in WW2.

When Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, Mad Jack Churchill gave up his roles as a male model and newspaper editor in Kenya to resume his service in the British Army.  As part of an expeditionary force to France, he led his unit – the Manchester Regiment – into battle in May 1940.  Near the Belgian border, Churchill and his men set up an ambush on a German patrol, where he instructed his men to begin the ambush once they saw his arrow fly.

As a Nazi sergeant came into range, he fired an arrow from his traditional longbow and killed the German officer.  In doing so, Churchill became the last known person to kill an enemy in battle using a longbow.

In 1941, Churchill was second in command for a raid on a German garrison on the west coast of Norway.  As the landing craft hit the beaches and the ramp went down, Churchill was standing there blasting his bagpipes.  When he finished his song, he launched a grenade toward the German fortifications and sprinted into battle.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
Far right: Mad Jack storms a beach with his Scottish broadsword

Churchill’s bagpipe skills were on display again as the Allies invaded Sicily and also when they invaded the Italian peninsula near Salerno.  At the latter, Churchill led an attack on a German observation post and captured 42 German soldiers with only the help of a Corporal.

In 1944, Churchill’s forces were tasked with assisting Tito’s Partisan forces in Yugoslavia.  Here they were expected to retake the island of Brač.  While the Partisan forces remained on the beach, Churchill and six others reached the objective alone.  While he again played his bagpipes, his six fellow soldiers were killed by a mortar and he was knocked unconscious by a grenade and captured.  He was then sent to Berlin for interrogation, after which he was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just north of Berlin.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
Wikimedia Commons photo

You would think that was the end of his hilarious eccentricity, but it wasn’t.  Being the badass he was, Churchill and another British officer escaped from the concentration camp and headed north to the Baltic coast.  He was captured again just before he got to the coast and sent to an SS-guarded prison in Tyrol, Austria in April 1945.  Once released, he walked over 90 miles to Verona, Italy, where he ran into an American armored group, who helped him get back to Britain.

That was the last action he’d see in World War II, as his arrival in the Pacific was too late.  Churchill then went on to serve in British Palestine until 1948, after which he moved to Australia to be an instructor at the land-air warfare school.  He eventually retired from the Army in 1959, and lived to the age of 89 in Surrey, England.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Senate reportedly advised members to stop using Zoom

US senators have been advised not to use videoconferencing platform Zoom over security concerns, the Financial Times reports.

According to three people briefed on the matter, the Senate sergeant-at-arms — whose job it is to run law enforcement and security on the Capitol — told senators to find alternative methods for remote working, although he did not implement an outright ban.


Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

With the coronavirus outbreak forcing millions to work from home, Zoom has seen a 1,900% increase in use between December and March to 200 million daily users. This has been accompanied by a string of bad press about its security and privacy practices, to the point where CEO Eric Yuan was forced to publicly apologize last week.

This week the company admitted to “mistakenly” routing data through China in a bid to secure more server space to deal with skyrocketing demand. “We failed to fully implement our usual geo-fencing best practices. As a result, it is possible certain meetings were allowed to connect to systems in China, where they should not have been able to connect,” Yuan said.

The news sparked outrage among some senators, and Senate Democrat Richard Blumenthal called for the FTC to launch an investigation into the company.

“As Zoom becomes embedded in Americans’ daily lives, we urgently need a full transparent investigation of its privacy and security,” the senator tweeted.

The slew of privacy issues has also prompted the Taiwanese government to ban its officials from using Zoom, and Google banned use of the app on work computers due to its “security vulnerabilities.”

While the Senate has told its members to stay away from Zoom, the Pentagon told the FT that it would continue to allow its staff to use the platform. A memo sent to top cybersecurity officials from the Department of Homeland Security said that the company was being responsive when questioned about concerns over the security of its software, Reuters reported.

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

Articles

13 memes showing how it feels to get your DD-214

For the uninitiated, the DD-214 is the Department of Defense form issued when a military service member retires, separates, or is otherwise discharged from active-duty service.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

Sometimes the wait seems like forever.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

When it’s so close to your hands, some units try to convince you to reenlist.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

But you’ve done your job and it’s time to move on.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

You might “drop your pack” a little while waiting for that day.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

You’ll never forget the day you first lay eyes on it …

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

… Looking at that glorious golden ticket.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

And then you become a civilian, which comes with its own set of problems.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

Not everyone handles it well.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

But you won’t be deterred:

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

But even so, this is true for all branches:

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

NOW CHECK OUT: Amazing WWII photographs you’ve never seen before 

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s hoping you were too smart to engage in the Black Friday madness. But regardless of whether you’re killing time standing in line at the store or hiding out in the bathroom to get away from your crazy aunts, here are 13 memes to keep you occupied:


1. Number one thing I’m thankful for this year:

(via via Coast Guard Memes).

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
Some cheese with jalapeños would be welcome though.

2. Twinsies! (via Military memes).

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
Forgot to match their helmets though. Sergeant major will be pissed.

SEE ALSO: The 6 rations troops are thankful the military got rid of

3. Just be careful of the buffer spring (via Military Memes).

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
It’s like a little fantasy you can have right at your desk.

4. There’s a new head honcho at Disney World (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
And he’s not afraid of no mouse.

5. If you can’t send Linda, send someone who’s done this:

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
This would release enough energy to end the world.

6. So glorious (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
That first shower after hours of or more of stewing in the gear is so great.

7. Military working dogs are really stepping up their game (via Marine Corps Memes)

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
Dr. Dog will see you now.

8. Coast Guard armored cavalry (via Coast Guard Memes).

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
That’s why you sip from it before you get on the cart.

9. That specialist who is never going to make it in front of the promotion board:

(via Air Force Memes Humor)

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
Maybe they’ll bring back Spec-5 grade

10. It’s hard to keep yourself excited in the civilian world.

(via Air Force Memes Humor)

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
This will prevent you getting too bored.

11. Sounds like a delicious job.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

12. The manual says, “Duct tape will fix anything.”

(via Marine Corps Memes).

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
If the injury is really serious he may give out some Motrin.

13. You should share a coke with ISIS.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
While they’re drinking their coke, you can give a quick class on range safety.

MIGHTY HISTORY

At the Battle of Midway, key decisions shifted tides of war

This article was sponsored by Midway, in theaters November 8!

In 1942, a Japanese fleet of almost 100 ships, led by the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, attempted an even more overwhelming attack that would have kicked the U.S. out of the Central Pacific and allowed the empire to threaten Washington and California. Instead, that fleet stumbled into one of the most unlikely ambushes and naval upsets in the history of warfare.

Thanks to quick and decisive action by key sailors in the fleet, the U.S. ripped victory from the jaws of almost-certain defeat.


The first big decision that saved Midway Atoll came as Pearl Harbor was still burning. Intelligence sailors like Cmdr. Edwin Layton had to figure out what Japan would do next.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

Patrick Wilson as Cmdr. Edwin Layton in 2019’s ‘Midway’

(Lionsgate)

Naval intelligence knew that Japan was readying another major attack. Layton was convinced it was aimed at Midway, but Washington believed it would hit New Guinea or Australia. Layton and his peers, disgraced by the failure to predict Pearl Harbor, nevertheless pushed hard to prove that the Japanese objective “AF” was Midway.

A clever ruse where they secretly told Midway to report a water purification breakdown, then listened for whether Japan reported the breakdown as having occurred at “AF” proved that Midway was the target and allowed the Navy to concentrate valuable resources.

Next, Layton’s new boss, Adm. Chester Nimitz, agreed with his intelligence officers and prepared a task force to take on Japan. But Japanese attacks and other priorities would make that a struggle. The daring Doolittle Raid in April against Tokyo proved that American airpower was capable of striking at the heart of Japan, but it tied up two aircraft carriers.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

Woody Harrelson as Adm. Chester Nimitz in 2019’s ‘Midway’

(Lionsgate)

Then, America lost a carrier at the Battle of the Coral Sea and suffered near-catastrophic damage to another, the USS Yorktown. With only two carriers ready to fight but the attack at Midway imminent, Nimitz made the gutsy decision to prepare an ambush anyway. He gave repair officers at Pearl Harbor just three days to repair the USS Yorktown even though they asked for 90.

Still, Nimitz would have only three carriers to Japan’s six at Midway, and his overall fleet would be outnumbered more than three to one.

If this under-strength U.S. fleet was spotted and destroyed, Japan would finish the victory begun at Pearl Harbor. Cities in Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast would be wide open to attack.

After a few small strikes on June 3, the Battle of Midway got properly underway in the early hours of June 4. The opening clash quickly proved how easily the base at Midway would have been steamrolled without the protection of the carriers. The 28 Marine and Navy fighters on the atoll were largely outdated and took heavy losses in the opening minutes. It quickly fell to the carrier-based fighters to beat back the Japanese attack.

But something crucial happened in this opening exchange: A PBY Catalina patrol plane spotted two of the Japanese carriers. The U.S. could go after the enemy ships while Japan still didn’t know where the U.S. fleet was. The decision to search this patch of ocean and report the sighting would change history.

American bombers and torpedo planes launched from 7 am to 9:08 and headed to the Japanese carriers in waves.

When Ensign George Gay Jr. took off that morning, it was his first time flying into combat and his first time taking off with a torpedo. But he followed his commander straight at the Japanese ships, even though no fighters were available to cover the torpedo attack.

The torpedo bombers arrived just before the dive bombers, yet the Japanese Zeros assigned to defense were able to get to Gay’s squadron. An estimated 32 Zero planes attacked the Douglas TBD Devastators, and all 15 planes of Gay’s squadron were shot down.

Gay survived his crash into the sea and was left bobbing in the middle of the Japanese fleet for hours. But the decision of the torpedo pilots to attack aggressively despite having no fighter cover and little experience drew away the squadron of Mitsubishi Zeroes guarding the Japanese carriers. This risky gambit would allow the dive bombers to be lethal.

One of the dive bomber pilots was Navy Lt. Dick Best. A faulty oxygen canister injured him before he ever saw an adversary, and then a co-pilot suffered a mechanical failure, but he kept his section of planes flying against the Japanese carriers.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

Ed Skrein as Dick Best (left) and Mandy Moore as Anne Best in 2019’s ‘Midway’

(Lionsgate)

Best was forced to decrease altitude and ended up at the lead of the dive bombers right as they reached the Japanese fleet. He took his section through a series of violent maneuvers before they released their bombs over the carrier Akagi at full speed. Two bombs destroyed planes taking off, and another did serious damage to the deck. One of the hits jammed the carrier’s rudder, forcing it into a constant turn that made it useless until it sank. Another two carriers were destroyed in that attack as Gay bobbed in the ocean.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

The Japanese aircraft carrier Soryu circles to avoid bombs while under attack by Army Air Force B-17 bombers from Midway Atoll on the morning of June 4, 1942. Soryu suffered from some near misses, but no direct hits during the attack.

(U.S. Air Force)

Best was injured, and mourning lost friends, but he took part in a later attack that afternoon and bombed the carrier Hiryu despite curtains of fire coming from the carrier and a nearby battleship. Hiryu was the fourth Japanese carrier lost in the battle, and it created a sea change in the war.

Japan was forced out of the Central Pacific, and America was on the warpath, all thanks to the decisions of U.S. sailors like Best, Gay, Nimitz, and Layton.

This article was sponsored by Midway, in theaters November 8!

Articles

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

In the ultimate irony of Cold War-era surveillance, one of America’s most effective spy planes — and literally the fastest plane ever built — could never have happened without the help of its intended target, the Soviet Union.


Turns out the Americans bought the metal it needed to help the SR-71 Blackbird withstand the temperatures of supersonic travel from its longtime rival Russia. These are just a few of the fun facts the Smithsonian revealed in a recent video on the plane.

The documentary features a tour of the SR-71 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Former Blackbird pilot Buz Carpenter joins the tour, giving the lowdown on what kept the stealthy plane up in the air. Carpenter flew the SR-71 hundreds of times during its time in service, and he even flew the airplane that now resides at the Smithsonian.

The SR-71 had three nose options: A training nose, a radar nose, and a camera nose capable of taking a 72-mile wide photo. The film in that camera was 5 inches wide and 2 miles long. It had to be processed in 500-foot rolls.

The radar nose wasn’t required for navigation. The SR-71 had a pod that read the location of the stars in the sky and, as long as you gave the plane its initial position on the planet, the plane would know where it was anywhere in the world. This was 12 years before the global positioning system was first imagined by the U.S. military.

While the radar nose could assist with avoiding enemy ground fire, the Blackbird’s jamming and missile countermeasures usually meant — not to mention its 2,200 miles-per-hour speed — enemy surface-to-air missiles missed by a mile. Literally.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
Photo: US Air Force

That top speed meant the average temperature of the plane’s skin was upwards of 600 degrees. At that temperature, it couldn’t be built with aluminum, so it had to be built with 93 percent titanium – and that titanium came from Russia.

The Russians never knew to whom they were selling the titanium, but they sold enough to build 32 SR-71 Blackbirds — planes used primarily to spy on the Soviet Union. The windows were made of quartz and the plane was built with intentional gaps in the wings and fuselage to account for heat expansion during flight. The airplane grows about 2 inches in width and 4 inches in length because of the frictional heat. The hottest part of the plane could get to 1,200 degrees.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

The plane’s engines are unique to the Blackbird because no jet engine can absorb supersonic air. So they were specially designed to expand and contract with the airspeed. The extremely high airspeed gave the jet a unique sonic boom as it broke the sound barrier, and the Air Force routinely overflew foreign heads of state to remind them the U.S. could see them.

During the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon ordered SR-71 pilots to fly over Hanoi and go supersonic to create a sonic boom as a signal to POWs held at the Hanoi Hilton. The booms let the downed pilots in the prison know that if they could escape, Navy SEALs were waiting on the North Vietnamese coast to help them.

Of the 12 Blackbirds rendered unserviceable (none were shot down), four of those came from tire failure. Engineers solved this by cutting the amount of fuel the plane carried during takeoff. A normal mission would see one or two in-flight refuelings. The plane had to refuel every two hours, either in air or on land.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Audie Murphy: American war hero, actor, advocate

Audie Murphy was an American actor known for his Western films. However, his initial claim to fame came from being the most decorated U.S. combat soldier of World War II. He was born in 1925 in a small Texas town to poor sharecroppers. Murphy joined the Army in 1942 after falsifying his birth certificate to ensure he could enlist before he was eligible.

During WWII, Murphy was credited with killing 240 members of enemy forces and capturing or wounding many others. In his three years of active service, he became a legend among the 3rd Infantry Division, and is considered one of the best fighting combat soldiers of this or any other century. The U.S. Army has declared that there will never be another Audie Murphy. That is most likely the case too, with modern day technology and modern warfare, it is unlikely any soldier will ever live up to the legend of Audie Murphy.


Murphy became the most decorated soldier of WWII by earning 33 awards and decorations. He was awarded every decoration for valor the United States offers, some more than once. These awards included the Medal of Honor, the highest military award for bravery that can be given to an individual. His awards from the war also included five decorations from France and Belgium.

Audie Murphy was released from active duty on September 21, 1945. After his release, he went to Hollywood at the invitation of actor James Cagney who had seen his picture on the cover of Life Magazine. After years of hardship, struggle to find work and sleeping in a local gymnasium, Murphy finally received token roles in his first two films.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

(Wikimedia Commons)

Murphy’s first starring role came in 1949. In 1950, he received a contract with Universal-International (now known as Universal). He starred in 26 films over the next 15 years, 23 of which were Westerns. Murphy also filmed 26 episodes of a Western television series which went to air on NBC in 1961. Despite good reviews, Murphy’s series was deemed too violent. Only 20 episodes were aired before it was cancelled.

Audie Murphy suffered from what is known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was plagued for years by insomnia and depression. By the mid-1960s, Murphy became dependent on a prescribed sleeping medication, Placidyl. When he realized he had become addicted to the medication, he locked himself inside of a motel room, stopped taking the pills and suffered through the withdrawal symptoms for a week.

Murphy used his fame to help advocate for the needs of U.S. veterans. Unlike most during that time, he chose to speak out about his experiences and struggles with PTSD, known as “Battle Fatigue” at the time. He called out the U.S. government to look closer at and study the emotional impacts of war and urged them to extend health benefits to address PTSD and other mental health issues of returning war veterans.

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

(Wikimedia Commons)

On May 28, 1971, while on a business trip, Audie Murphy’s plane crashed just outside of Roanoke, Virginia. He and five others, including the pilot, were killed in the crash. Murphy was 45 at the time of his death.

On June 7, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. His gravesite, which is near the amphitheater, is the second most visited grave at Arlington, surpassed only by John F. Kennedy’s grave.

Audie Murphy remains a legend among the members of the U.S. Army. While he was well known for his work as an actor in Hollywood, his memory will live on as a true American hero.

Articles

This may be the Air Force’s replacement for the F-16 Fighting Falcon

Not every new fighter has to be stealthy. There might be some instances where coming in hot works out fine. Just ask the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the non-stealth jet fighter that’s been coming in like a wrecking ball for around 45 years or longer. 

How does the Air Force replace a workhorse like the F-16 Viper (which is what the latest iteration of the F-16 is called by the pilots who fly it)? Not very easily, it seems. When the current Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Charles Q. Brown, mentioned replacing it, the world seemed to go mad. 

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
“Seriously, you’d think I just told them BAH was cancelled this year.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Hailey Haux)

And then it was introduced to the F-36 Kingsnake.

The F-16 first hit the skies in 1974 and ever since then, it’s been the U.S. Air Force’s (and maybe even America’s) most distinctive military centerpiece since the World War II infantryman. There are very few pieces of military hardware that achieve legendary status, but General Dynamics’ little prodigy completely changed the game.

Since then, the F-16 has served in Desert Storm, NATO intervention in the former Yugoslavia, Operations Northern and Southern Watch, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the current operations in the Global War on Terrorism. All that service also means the average age of an F-16 is around 30 years or so. 

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
The F-16 Fighting Falcon, a living legend. (U.S. Air Force photo)

It also means the F-36 Kingsnake has some big shoes to fill. Luckily it also has plenty of time: it doesn’t exist at all. Luckily, the guys over at Popular Mechanics and the aviation Magazine Hush-Kit put their heads together, used their clout to get an illustrator and two top fighter aircraft experts together to come up with some concept art for the new F-36. 

Illustrator Andy Godrey used the specifications listed by Gen. Brown to come up with a preliminary design for the newest non-stealth fifth-generation-ish fighter. Although there’s no reason to rush a plane into production, the experts estimate the Kingsnake could be operational within the end of the decade. 

Popular Mechanics mentions the new F-36 fighter could be hurried into the skies to replace the F-16’s operational capabilities by reusing the United States’ newest “old” technology. It uses the F-22 Raptor’s afterburning engines and the current F-16’s advanced array radar and existing targeting sensors. 

Its weapon systems would be mounted on its wings’ hard points, but it would also have missiles and guided bombs tucked away in internal bays, like the F-22 and the F-35. Designers also want the F-36 Kingsnake to have a gun, to give it a strafing capability on top of taking over the F-16 Fighting Falcon’s many existing roles. 

Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s
Concept art from PilotPhotog on YouTube

Although a design was created by Hush Kit, there have been no real designs put forth by manufacturers or real proposals laid out by defense contractors. Hush Kit’s design is more of a dream design from a group of fighter aircraft fanboys. 

Hush Kit says the Air Force’s two most advanced fighter aircraft are more luxurious than the Air Force needs in its everyday tasks. On top of all of the bells and whistles, they just cost a lot more to operate per flight hour. To them, the Air Force just needs an affordable, dependable workhorse to replace their current one. 

“The F-35 is a Ferrari, the F-22 a Bugatti Chiron  – the United States Air Force needs a Nissan 300ZX.”


Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube

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