Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones - We Are The Mighty
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Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Naval Research Labs


Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.

Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.

Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.

Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.

“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.

An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.

“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology.  A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects.  The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.

Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.”  Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.

In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.

Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.

Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.

Pentagon Effort

The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.

The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.

While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.

Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.

“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains.  In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant.  They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk.  Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”

Navy Effort

Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.

“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.

A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.

Army Defends Against Mini-Drones

While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.

This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.

The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.

Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.

As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.

The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.

The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.

There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.

“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This combat Cessna can shoot Hellfire missiles

Cessna’s are not the sexiest or most frightening aircraft, but there is a variant that could sneak towards an enemy relatively quietly and from low altitude before blowing that enemy away with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.


The AC-208 Combat Caravan is a modified version of the civilian C-208 that is used for everything from commercial air travel to science research to air ambulances.

The Combat Caravan contains additional sensors and a laser-designator for targets, as well as two points for mounting Hellfire missiles. It also has defensive measures such as ballistic panels and a flare system.

Weapon pylons hold the Hellfire missile, either the laser-designated AGM-114M or the “fire-and-forget” AGM-114K that uses its own radar to stay on target.

 

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
An Iraqi air force pilot from the 3rd Squadron fires of some flares from an Iraqi air force Cessna AC-208 above the Aziziyah test fire range in Iraq on Nov. 8. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Bolick)

 

The ground-attack aircraft is in service with the Iraqi Air Force. It first engaged in combat in 2014, striking ISIS targets near Ramadi and Fallujah.

The Iraqi Air Force originally purchased three of the AC-208s and three C-208s with reconnaissance capabilities but has been buying them at a decent clip since. One of the AC-208s crashed near Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2016, but the Iraqi Air Force still has eight and is asking to buy two more.

 

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
A three-man Iraqi aircrew from Squadron 3 fires an AGM-114 Hellfire missile from an AC-208 Caravan at a target on a bombing range near Al Asad Air Base. (Photo: courtesy Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq Public Affairs)

Other militaries have purchased the Combat Caravan. The planes are in service in Afghanistan, Argentina, Honduras, Kenya, and other countries — typically flying ground-attack and reconnaissance missions against Islamic extremists.

While the AC-208 is not the beefiest of ground-attack aircraft, it does give a lethal capability with relatively little training and infrastructure requirements. This allows air forces with smaller budgets to get Hellfires in the air for use against enemy forces.

Articles

This is the playlist that got this SEAL out the door

Here’s a short list of things we already knew about
Kaj Larsen:


1. He’s a former U.S. Navy SEAL

2. He’s an Emmy-nominated producer and war correspondent for
VICE and he has a masters from Harvard University.

3. He’s
a total hottie a founder of The Mission Continues, an organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact.

But you might not know that he has rather eclectic taste in music and even learned to play while deployed.

“We’d sit around as a platoon. A couple of us played guitar, and we’d play and sing and that was extraordinarily significant for me on that first deployment. It helped carry us through.”

In a conversation with We Are The Mighty, Larsen shares the songs that meant something to him at different moments during his military career — whether it was the shotgun rack in M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” hitting home before a mission, or the patriotism of Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” during a controversial time in American history.

Larsen easily carries the gravitas of a combat-experienced SEAL, but he isn’t concerned about being vulnerable. He can laugh about being afraid of his jump training and how R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” helped get him out the door.

That’s the thing about music — in many ways, it becomes the soundtrack to our lives
, and Larsen’s has been a rather inspiring one.

Check out what he had to say about music and his SEAL career in this video:

And here’s his Battle Mix, just in case you’ve got some ass kicking of your own to do:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran claims its military controls the Persian Gulf

“Everything north of the Strait of Hormuz is under our control,” said Ali Fadavi, a senior commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. If that’s true it would mean the Islamic Republic controls the flow of one-fifth of the world’s oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran also says it controls the American Navy.


Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Let’s see how that works out for Iran.

“American battleships in the region are under the complete control of Iran’s army and the Revolutionary Guards,” Fadavi told Fars News Service, without providing any further details. While Iran isn’t going anywhere near the recent rocket attack that struck the Green Zone just a few days before the IRGC Navy commander made the statement, the provocations against American forces in the region appear to continue.

Meanwhile, the United States is increasing its presence in the Gulf region, sending bomber aircraft along with three more ships to bolster its forces. The Pentagon is also weighing a plan to deploy five to ten thousand more troops to the region.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group entered the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf in 2016

Iran has approximately 20,000 men from the Navy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stationed in and around the Persian Gulf, manning missile boats, torpedo boats, and even speedboats. Of most concern to the ships of the U.S. navy and its allies, however, is the number of coastal and aircraft-fired anti-ship missiles in the region. On top of the IRGC’s naval assets are the approximately 15,000 men and Marines aboard the the dozens of more traditional ships – frigates, destroyers, corvettes – in the Gulf.

As for the buildup of American troops in the Gulf, Iran recently said the power posed by the force have turned from threats to targets.

“If (the Americans) make a move, we will hit them in the head,” A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander told the Iranian Students’ News Agency .

Articles

Iraqi security forces move in to liberate West Mosul

Since operations began over the weekend to retake West Mosul from two years of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria control, Iraqi security forces have already retaken more than 125 square kilometers – more than 48 square miles – of ISIS-held territory near the city, Pentagon director of press operations Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today.


The announcement of the Iraqi forces moving in on West Mosul came from the Iraqi government, the spokesman added.

Five Villages Liberated

Following their retaking of the eastern half of Mosul in recent weeks, the Iraqi forces moving in to liberate the western region are on the west side of the Tigris River and south of Mosul’s airport, he said, noting that they have liberated five villages in the past couple of days.

The most immediate focus is retaking the village of Abu-Saif in the southwestern region of the area surrounding Mosul, where the Iraqi forces are working while continuing to conduct defensive operations.

“The battle for the complete liberation of Mosul comes as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens have lived for more than two years under ISIS oppression in West Mosul, during which time ISIS has committed a number of horrible atrocities, terrorizing the people of Mosul,” Davis emphasized.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Members from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured just outside of Mosul from ISIS. | DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

Proven as Capable

“Over the course of the past two years, and in particular in the past four months in Mosul, the [Iraqi security forces] have proven themselves an increasingly capable, formidable and professional force,” he noted.

The U.S.-led coalition is supporting the Iraqi operations with advice and assistance in addition to airstrikes in the past 24 hours, the captain said. “The coalition has conducted a total of eight strikes with a total of 59 engagements using 34 munitions in support of the operations to liberate Mosul,” he added.

While the liberation of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is the focal point in that country, 450 American service members are advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, Davis said, adding that number does not include an undisclosed total of special operations forces deployed to Iraq to work with Iraq’s counterterrorism service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happened when a Coast Guard icebreaker caught fire near Antarctica

During its return from an annual supply run to the McMurdo research station in Antarctica, the US Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, had a fire break out inside its incinerator room as it sailed about 650 miles north of McMurdo Sound.

The incident occurred on Feb. 10, 2019, after the icebreaker had left Antarctica, where it had cut a channel though nearly 17 miles of ice that was 6 to 10 feet thick to allow a container ship to offload 10 million pounds of supplies that will sustain US research stations and field camps in Antarctica.


According to a Coast Guard release, four fire extinguishers failed during the initial response, and it ultimately took two hours for the ship’s fire crews to put out the blaze. While damage from the flames was contained inside the incinerator housing, water used to cool nearby exhaust pipes damaged electrical systems and insulation in the room.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Smoke from a fire aboard the Coast Guard heavy icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

A fire in the incinerator room of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

“It’s always a serious matter whenever a shipboard fire breaks out at sea, and it’s even more concerning when that ship is in one of the most remote places on Earth,” Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of the US Coast Guard’s Pacific Area, said in a release. “The crew of the Polar Star did an outstanding job — their expert response and determination ensured the safety of everyone aboard.”

Point Nemo, the most remote spot on earth, is also in the South Pacific — 1,670 miles from the nearest land, which is Ducie Island, part of the Pitcairn Islands, to the north; Motu Nui, one of the Easter Islands, to the northeast; and Maher Island, part of Antarctica, to the south.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Coast Guard crew members fight a fire aboard the icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

A disabled fishing vessel is towed through sea ice near Antarctica by the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 14, 2015.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener)

The Polar Star is the Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker, capable of smashing through the thick ice that builds up in the Arctic and around Antarctica. As such, it makes the run to McMurdo every year in the winter months and then goes into dry dock for maintenance and repairs in preparation for the next trip.

Having just one working heavy icebreaker has hindered the Coast Guard’s ability to meet request from other government agencies. The service could only do 78% of heavy icebreaking missions between 2010 and 2016, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office Report.

Retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, who was Coast Guard commandant between mid-2014 and mid-2018, said in December 2018 that he turned down a request to carry out a freedom-of-navigation exercise in the Arctic out of concern the Polar Star would break down and need Russia to rescue it.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Contractors work on the Polar Star’s hull as the icebreaker undergoes depot-level maintenance at a dry dock in Vallejo, California, in preparation for its future polar-region patrol, April 16, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

US Coast Guard scuba divers work to repair a leak in the shaft seal of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, January 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

The Polar Star left its home port in Seattle on Nov. 27, 2018, to make the 11,200-mile trip to Antarctica for the sixth time in as many years. It suffered a number of mechanical problems on the way there, including smoke damage to an electrical switchboard, ship-wide power outages, and a leak in the propeller shaft.

Repairing the propeller-shaft leak required the ship to halt icebreaking operations and deploy divers to fix the shaft seal. The Polar Star also had a number of mechanical issues during its 2018 run to McMurdo.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

The Polar Star sailed into Wellington, New Zealand, on Feb. 18, 2019, for a port call, the first time those aboard had set foot on land in 42 days, according to New Zealand news outlet Stuff. The ship is currently on its way back to Seattle, the Coast Guard said in its release.

Source: Stuff

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

The Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea passing the Polar Star in the ice channel near McMurdo, Antarctica, Jan. 10, 2002.

(US Coast Guard photo by Rob Rothway)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

A seal on the ice in front of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star while the ship was hove-to in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, Jan. 30, 2015.

(US Coast Guard photo by Carlos Rodriguez)

The Coast Guard has been pushing to build a new heavy icebreaker for some time, setting up a joint program office with the Navy to oversee the effort. Funding for the new ship had been held up in Congress, but lawmakers recently approved 5 million to start building a new one and another million for materials for a second.

In summer 2018, the Senate approved 5 million for the new icebreaker, but the House of Representatives instead authorized billion to build the US-Mexico border wall sought by President Donald Trump, cutting a number of programs, including that of the icebreaker in the process.

But Congressional staffers told USNI News in February 2019 that the Homeland Security Department’s fiscal year 2019 appropriation would include 5 million for new icebreakers.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber

Decades before America’s Space Shuttle would roar into the sky, the United States already had plans to field a reusable spaceplane. Born out of Germany’s World War II efforts to create a bomber that could attack New York and continue on to the Pacific, Boeing’s X-20 Dyna-Soar was to be a single-seat craft boosted into the sky atop American rockets.

It would soar in the sky in the blurred line between earth’s atmosphere and the vacuum of space, bouncing along the heavens before releasing its payload over Soviet targets miles below. The X-20 was a 1950s science fiction fever dream born of the nuclear age and the earliest days of the Cold War… And according to some experts, it very likely would have worked.

Operation Paperclip and the burgeoning Cold War

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Kurt H. Debus, a former V-2 rocket scientist who became a NASA director, sitting between U.S. President John F. Kennedy and U.S. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. WikiMedia Commons)

As World War II came to a close, the United States and Soviet Union’s relationship with one another was already beginning to sour. Nazi Germany’s war machine had torn through the continent, often on the backs of Germany’s state-of-the-art military technology, but geopolitics is a game of theater and pragmatism in equal measure. While the world ached for justice, defense officials in both America and the Soviet Union already saw the Cold War looming large on the horizon. Justice mattered in the minds of these leaders, but not quite as much as surviving the next great conflict to come.

Nazi technology had given Germany an advantage on multiple military fronts, and both America and the Soviet Union knew the scientists responsible for these technological leaps would soon be looking for a means to escape prosecution for their roles in the conflict. Both nations, recognizing the strategic advantage their knowledge could offer, quickly set about capturing as many Nazi scientists and researchers as they could. In the United States, this effort to leverage Germany’s scientists came to be known as Operation Paperclip.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
V-2 rocket launching, Peenemünde, on the north-east Baltic German coast. (1943)

In all, Operation Paperclip, which was organized by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) and largely executed by the U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps, brought some 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians to the United States following the war, where they were given roles in America’s ongoing military and technological efforts. NASA’s famed Wernher von Braun, the man who developed the Saturn V rocket that brought America to the moon, was perhaps the most high profile German scientist to come through Paperclip, but among the others were Walter Dornberger and Krafft Ehricke.

In their newfound roles at Bell Aircraft, an American aircraft manufacturing firm, Dornberger and Ehricke first proposed the concept of a sort of vertical-launched bomber and missile in one. In Germany, they had called this theoretical platform the Silbervogel, or Silver Fish. Today, the plan seems quite logical: The vehicle would be sent aloft atop a rocket booster and propelled all the way into a sub-orbital but exoatmospheric altitude where it would briefly enter space, before gliding down toward the atmosphere and being “bounced” back up thanks to the vehicle’s wings.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Diagram of the planned X-20 Dyna-Soar (WikiMedia Commons)

Today, the idea of launching a reusable spaceplane into a suborbital altitude practically sounds run of the mill, thanks to similar concepts being leveraged by everything from nuclear ICBMs to the most advanced, cutting-edge hypersonic weapons, but Dornberger and Ehricke’s proposal was submitted in 1952 — five years before the Soviet Union would launch the world’s first man-made satellite into orbit. Operation Paperclip was devised specifically to leverage Germany’s scientists to help kick-start America’s own exotic military programs, and in hindsight, it’s hard to argue that the effort wasn’t a success, regardless of the ethical implications.

Working in the shadow of Sputnik

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Replica of Sputnik 1 (NASA)

On October 1, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first man-made satellite. It was a small, metal sphere, measuring only about 23 inches in diameter, with four external radio antennas trailing behind it broadcasting signal pulses back to Soviet scientists, as well as the rest of the world. What followed has come to be known as the “Sputnik Crisis” in the Western world.

America had been the de facto world leader in terms of both military and economic might following the end of the Second World War, but the success of Sputnik placed America’s supremacy into question. The Soviets had matched America’s nuclear weapons with a test of their own in 1949, and again with the hydrogen bomb in 1953. Now, instead of matching America’s success, the Soviets were starting to take an intimidating lead.

The United States had taken to developing Dornberger and Ehricke’s concept in three separate programs: a rocket bomber (RoBo), a long-range reconnaissance vehicle (Brass Bell), and hypersonic weapons research. Just days after Sputnik 1 launched, the U.S. re-organized their efforts, combing all three programs into the new single Weapons System 464L program, also known as Dyna-Soar.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Artist’s rendering of the X-20 Dyna-Soar (NASA)

The new Dyna-Soar effort was to mature in three stages. Dyna-Soar 1 would be a research vehicle. Dyan-Soar 2 would add reconnaissance, and Dyna-Soar 3 would incorporate bombing capabilities. America intended to work fast, planning to test the first iteration by 1963 in glide trials, with powered trials to follow the next year. By then, the Dyna-Soar 2 was expected to exceed Mach 18 in powered flight. A missile based on the Dyna-Soar program was expected to enter service by 1968, with the spaceplane itself operational by 1974.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
(U.S. Air Force image)

In order to meet these deadlines, proposals were fielded by both Bell Aircraft and Boeing. Despite Bell’s head start, Boeing ultimately secured the contract and set about work on developing what was to be the X-20 Dyna-Soar.

Building a Dyna-Soar

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
(Boeing photo)

By 1960, the spaceplanes overall design was largely settled, leveraging a delta-shape and small winglets for control in place of a traditional tail. In order to manage the incredible heat of reentry, the X-20 would use super alloys like the heat-resistant René 41 in its frame, and molybdenum, graphite, and zirconia rods all used for heat shielding on the underside of the craft.

“It was a hot-temperature structure using a nickel super alloy,” said Dr. Richard Hallion, former Air Force chief historian.

“The leading edges of the wing would be made of an even more exotic alloy. There was provision for active cooling.”

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
(Air Force artist rendering of the X-20 Dyna-Soar)

That same year, astronauts were chosen to fly America’s new space bomber. Among them was a thirty-year-old Navy test pilot and aeronautical engineer named Neil Armstrong, who would go on to leave the program in 1962.

By the end of that same year, the program was given the designation X-20 and it was unveiled to the public in a ceremony held in Las Vegas. America’s mighty B-52 Stratofortress was chosen to air-drop the X-20 for in-atmosphere flight tests, and the first firing of the rocket booster intended for higher altitude drop-tests was also a success. The project was incredibly ahead of its time, while somehow also being entirely feasible with the technology of the day. In the early 1960s, it seemed all but assured that America would soon be flying space bombers.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Once built, the X-20 Dyna-Soar’s first mock-up measured 35 and a half feet long with a 20.4-foot wingspan. It used three retractable struts for landing. Although it would have its own A-4 or A-9 rocket engine to help it reach an exoatmospheric trajectory, it would effectively glide throughout most of its mission, dipping down into the atmosphere just far enough to create lift, which it would use to bounce back up, skipping across the air enveloping the earth like a stone over a pond. It would continue to skip until it had lost enough velocity to prevent another bounce back up, at which point the pilot would glide the craft back down to earth just like the Space Shuttle.

The X-20 Dyna-Soar goes extinct

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
(U.S. Air Force)

Although the X-20 concept was quite literally out of this world, it was still technically feasible, and early tests suggested that the Dyna-Soar may indeed work as advertised. However, the program was also incredibly expensive, and with the new National Aeronautics and Space Administration moving forward with its Gemini program, America’s civilian leaders were becoming more interested in fielding an actual spacecraft they could use to compete with the Soviets, rather than a weapon that offered little in the way of international prestige.

“If we had pursued it as a black-world program like the U-2, it might have gone ahead,” explained Hallion. “I never saw any technical issue that would have been a show stopper.”

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Artist’s rendering of an X-20 during a glide (WikiMedia Commons)

On December 10, 1963, the X-20 program was canceled. The United States had invested $410 million in its development, or more than $3.5 billion in 2021 dollars, but the Dyna-Soar was still a long way off from being the space bomber it was intended to become. Even per Hallion’s positive recollection of the effort, the X-20 was still at least two-and-a-half years away from working and would have required at least another $370 million to complete. A space bomber would indeed offer global range, but in 1957, the U.S. Air Force had demonstrated that the B-52, the same bomber tasked with helping test the X-20, could circle the globe all on its own, without any need for pricey rockets.

Upon canceling the X-20 program, the U.S. government diverted its remaining funding to the Manned Orbiting Laboratory effort that used Gemini spacecraft to demonstrate the value of a crewed military presence in Earth’s orbit.

But the X-20 was not completely swallowed up by history. Elements of the program could be found in NASA’s Space Shuttle, and of course, the Space Force’s secretive X-37B bears more than a passing resemblance to the X-20. The X-37B is not touted as a space bomber and almost certainly isn’t, but the reusable spaceplane may, in fact, be one of America’s most capable reconnaissance assets.

Articles

4 other ways the US could shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile

There’s been a lot of talk about North Korea’s nuclear missile potential, as recent tests have worried officials that Pyongyang could lob a nuke at the American homeland.


But the U.S. has some tools to shoot down a potential ICBM streaking toward CONUS. A lot of the anti-missile focus has centered on the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system.

One battery of six launchers – each with eight missiles – is being deployed to South Korea to protect that ally from a North Korean missile that either goes astray or is deliberately fired at South Korea.

But are there other options? The good news is that not all of America’s missile-defense eggs are in the THAAD basket. Here are some of the other options out there.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

1. MIM-104 Patriot – including Patriot PAC-3

This system has been doing the anti-missile thing since Operation Desert Storm.

Batteries in Saudi Arabia and Israel intercepted numerous versions of the SS-1 Scud fired by Saddam Hussein’s regime. An official DOD report from 1996 noted an 80 percent success rate in Saudi Arabia and a 50 percent success rate in Israel using the MIM-104C versions. Designation-Systems.net notes that the MIM-104E version has been in service since 2002, while the PAC-3 version came into service in 2003.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Japan Flight Test Mission 1, marked the first time that an Allied Navy ship has successfully intercepted a ballistic missile target with the sea-based midcourse engagement capability provided by Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense. The JFTM-1 test event verified the new engagement capability of the Aegis BMD configuration of the recently upgraded Japanese destroyer, JS KONGO (DDG-173).

2. RIM-161 Standard Missile SM-3

The Navy’s SM-3 system is probably one of the most reliable missile killers in the inventory. According to a Missile Defense Agency fact sheet, the SM-3 has hit its target in 27 out of 34 tests. That is a 79.4 percent success rate.

Furthermore, this system has one advantage over THAAD and Patriot: Being ship-based, it can be moved to a more ideal intercept position. The system is also very capable – Designation-Systems.net credits the RIM-161A missile with a range of over 270 nautical miles – and the RIM-161D is being tested now.

The system forms the basis of “Aegis Ashore.”

According to the Missile Defense Agency website, Aegis Ashore is being deployed in Romania and Poland. With the proven Aegis system, it would not be surprising to see more Aegis Ashore complexes built.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
As part of a joint Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Navy missile defense test, an AQM-37C cruise missile target was launched from an aircraft July 31 west of Kauai, Hawaii. The USS John Paul Jones, positioned west of Hawaii, detected, tracked and launched a SM-6 Dual I missile, resulting in a third successful target intercept This was the third event in a series of joint Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Navy missile defense tests.

3. RIM-66 SM-2 and RIM-174 SM-6 Standard Missiles

These missiles, while primarily intended to kill aircraft, have gone six-for-six in tests anti-missile tests, according to the Missile Defense Agency. While not as capable as the SM-3, they can still take out an incoming missile before it does damage.

Both systems, it should be noted, could also be used from Aegis Ashore systems — in essence, creating a very powerful air-defense network in addition to defending against ballistic missiles from North Korea.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
A Ground-Based Interceptor is transported to its silo. (Missile Defense Agency photo)

4. Ground-Based Interceptor

This system adds a way to thin out incoming missiles as well. According to the Missile Defense Agency, 30 of these missiles are deployed between Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A fact sheet from the Missile Defense Agency notes that the system’s shown a 52.97 percent success rate in 17 tests.

There are two problems with the GBI, of course: There are only 30 deployed, and none are on the East Coast.

The Missile Defense Agency website notes they are looking into new technologies, as well, especially for what they call Early Intercept.

Articles

Russia boosts its propaganda division

The Russian Defense Ministry has formalized its information-warfare efforts with a dedicated propaganda division, Russian state-run media said on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.


“Propaganda needs to be clever, smart and efficient,” said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in reference to the new unit.

Retired Russian Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, who leads the defense-affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, said the unit would “protect the national defense interests and engage in information warfare.”

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
The U.S. may have the stronger military, but Russia reigns when it comes to propaganda. (Image of Vladimir Putin)

But Russia has long been accused of spreading propaganda in the West. Business Insider’s Barbara Tasch detailed one case where Russian outlets spread a false story of a Russian-born 13-year-old being raped in Germany by a group of three refugees.

In December, US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had meddled in the US election and that its interference may have been directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

Russia’s use of propaganda as an element of “hybrid warfare” proved instrumental during the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the later insurgency in Ukraine.

Russia has vastly improved their conventional and nuclear military assets as well. An Associated Press report on Wednesday said that Russia will deliver 170 new aircraft, 905 new tanks and other armored vehicles, and 17 new naval ships.

Russia’s forces in Eastern Europe now vastly outmatch NATO’s.

A NATO spokeswoman told Reuters earlier this month that “NATO has been dealing with a significant increase in Russian propaganda and disinformation since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.”

Articles

These 11 photos show how the military is helping those caught in Hurricane Harvey’s devastation

Hurricane Harvey hit the coast of Texas as a Category 4 storm with winds of 130 miles per hour. Over four feet of rain has been dumped on the Gulf Coast of Texas, and Houston is flooded — and it may be as bad as Katrina.


Thousands are trapped in the area, prompting a massive rescue effort, including support from the “Cajun Navy.” National Guard and Coast Guard units from as far away as San Diego, California, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are assisting.

Below are some of the photos showing the rescue efforts by the National Guard, which has been, as you might imagine, very busy.

This is what they are dealing with: An aerial view shows severe flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron prepare to deploy from the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Aug. 27 for Texas, where they will assist with rescue and recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The Airmen are specialists in swift-water and confined-space rescue. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

 

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

U.S. Air Force 41st Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawks take-off, Aug. 26 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. The 23d Wing launched HC-130J Combat King IIs, HH-60G Pave Hawks, aircrew and other support personnel to preposition aircraft and airmen, if tasked to support Hurricane Harvey relief operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

In this aerial view, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter hovers over the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Texas National Guardsmen drive military vehicles down flooded streets while searching for stranded residents impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Texas National Guardsmen work with emergency responders in assisting residents affected by Hurricane Harvey flooding during search and rescue operations near Victoria, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle)

 

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Texas National Guard soldiers aid a citizen in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey. (Photo by Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

A Texas National Guardsman carries a resident from her home during flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Texas National Guard soldiers assist residents affected by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Aug. 27. (National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

A Texas Task Force responder helps hoist a stranded resident to a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during search and rescue near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

A Texas National Guardsman shakes hands with a resident after assisting his family during Hurricane Harvey flooding in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

 

To donate $10 to the American Red Cross, text REDCROSS to 90999. The donation will be reflected in your next cell phone bill. You can also donate by going to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster for a list of national charities assisting those whose lives have been altered by Hurricane Harvey.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy is leaving a carrier strike group at sea to keep sailors from catching the coronavirus

A US Navy carrier strike group has wrapped up its latest deployment, but it isn’t coming home just yet due to concerns about to the coronavirus.

The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group recently completed a nearly five-month deployment to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation. At one point during the deployment, the USS Harry S. Truman conducted operations alongside the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in a message to Iran.


Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

The Navy announced in a statement Monday that the CSG will remain at sea in the Western Atlantic for the time being rather than return to its homeport of Norfolk, Va. The service says it will evaluate the situation and update sailors and their families on its plans again in three weeks.

“The ship is entering a period in which it needs to be ready to respond and deploy at any time,” 2nd Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis said. “Normally we can do that pierside, but in the face of COVID-19, we need to protect our most valuable asset, our people, by keeping the ship out to sea.”

The decision to leave the CSG at sea comes as the Navy battles a coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Pacific. Nearly 600 sailors aboard that ship have tested positive for the coronavirus, and on Monday, one sailor who had been hospitalized and placed in an intensive care unit died.

The sailor who died of coronavirus complications had been found unresponsive in isolation immediately prior to hospitalization. CPR was administered by fellow sailors and medical personnel.

Rather than return to port, the Harry S. Truman CSG will conduct sustainment underway.

“After completing a successful deployment we would love nothing more than to be reunited with our friends and families,” Carrier Strike Group 8 Commander Rear Adm. Andrew Loiselle said in a statement.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

“We recognize that these are unique circumstances and the responsible thing to do is to ensure we are able to answer our nation’s call while ensuring the health and safety of our Sailors,” he added. “We thank you for your continued love and support as we remain focused on this important mission.”

The Harry S. Truman CSG’s latest deployment got off to an unusual start. As the Truman dealt with an electrical malfunction, the other ships of the carrier strike group deployed in September without the carrier, forming a surface action group. The Truman deployed in November after repairs were completed.

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

Articles

The Army is kicking out a Green Beret who saved a child from being raped

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
SFC Charles Martland (Photo via Duncan Hunter)


A U.S. Army sergeant is being kicked out of the service over a 2011 incident in which he and his captain confronted an Afghan police commander who had brutally raped a local boy.

As part of a Special Forces team operating in Kunduz Province in 2011, Capt. Dan Quinn and Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland were working side-by-side with local Afghan police forces. That September, an interpreter claimed the police commander, Abdul Rahman, had tied a 12-year-old boy to a post in his house and raped him repeatedly for 10 days, according to Fox News. And when the boy’s mother tried to save him, she was beaten.

The commander was engaging in “bacha bazi” — which literally translates to “boy play” — a practice in which young boys are coerced into sexual slavery, often being dressed up as women and made to dance and serve tea. The practice was forbidden under the Taliban, but it flourished after the 2001 invasion as U.S. forces were told by their commanders not to intervene.

Via Fox News:

Martland said he and Quinn then confronted the commander after Quinn confirmed the allegations with village elders and others. He said Quinn got a “first-hand confession” but “the child rapist laughed it off and referenced that it was only a boy.”

Martland and Quinn — true to the Special Forces motto to “liberate the oppressed” — freed the boy from sexual slavery by beating the crap out of the commander and kicking him off their camp. “Captain Quinn picked him up and threw him,” Martland said in his statement. “I [proceeded to] body slam him multiple times.”

Instead of accolades, the soldiers got punished for their actions in handling the child rapist. Quinn lost his command and was pulled out of Afghanistan, and later left the Army. Martland received a reprimand from a one-star general for his “flagrant departure from the integrity, professionalism, and even-tempered leadership” expected of a Green Beret, The News Tribune reported.

Army Col. Steven Johnson told The Daily Beast they “put their team’s life at risk” with local leaders by engaging in “vigilante” justice, and suggested the pair should have instead reported it to Afghan civilian justice authorities.

“To say that you’ve got to be nice to the child rapist because otherwise the other child rapists might not like you is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard,” Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) told The Daily Beast.

Reporting the heinous practice to authorities would be nice if the justice system wasn’t so broken. According to The Diplomat, “bacha bazi” remains outlawed under the new government, but there is little enforcement, and evidence suggests the practice is on the rise.

Martland is due to be involuntarily discharged no later than Nov. 1, according to The Army Times. Meanwhile, Rep. Hunter is pressing Defense Secretary Ash Carter to intervene and allow him to stay in the Army.

NOW: 5 differences between Army and Marine Corps infantry

Lists

The 21 most authoritarian regimes in the world

The Economist Intelligence Unit has released its latest Democracy Index, which ranks 167 countries according to political and civic freedom.


Countries are given a score out of 10 based on five criteria. Above eight is a “full democracy,” while below four is an “authoritarian regime.”

Scandinavian countries topped the list and the U.S. remained a “flawed democracy” in this index.

The study has five criteria: Whether elections are free and fair (“electoral process and pluralism”), whether governments have checks and balances (“functioning of government”), whether citizens are included in politics (“political participation”), the level of support for the government (“political culture”), and whether people have freedom of expression (“civil liberties”).

Below are the world’s most authoritarian regimes:

21. United Arab Emirates — 2.69/10

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Skyline of Downtown Dubai with Burj Khalifa from a Helicopter. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 3.57

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 2.65

20. Azerbaijan — 2.65

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Members of the Azerbaijani Special Forces during a military parade in Baku 2011 (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.50

Functioning of government: 2.14

Political participation: 3.33

Political culture: 3.75

Civil liberties: 3.53

19. Afghanistan — 2.55

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Marines from 3rd battalion 5th Marines on patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan. (Image JM Foley)

Electoral process and pluralism: 2.50

Functioning of government: 1.14

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 2.50

Civil liberties: 3.82

18. Iran — 2.45

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
The northern Tehran skyline. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 3.21

Political participation: 4.44

Political culture: 3.13

Civil liberties: 1.47

17. Eritrea — 2.37

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Saho women in traditional attire (Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 2.14

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 6.88

Civil liberties: 1.18

16. Laos — 2.37

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Host of dancers for Laos New Years celebration. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.83

Functioning of government: 2.86

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 1.47

15. Burundi — 2.33

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Tutsi soldiers and gendarmes guarding the road to Cibitoke on the border with Zaire. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.43

Political participation: 3.89

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 2.35

14. Libya — 2.32

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Children in Dublin, Ireland, protesting Libya’s then president, Gaddafi, before his overthrow. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 1.00

Functioning of government: 0.36

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 5.63

Civil liberties: 2.94

13. Sudan — 2.15

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Sudanese rebels in Darfur. Both the government and the rebels have been accused of atrocities. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 1.79

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 1.18

12. Yemen — 2.07

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Soldiers in Yemen. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 4.44

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 0.88

11. Guinea-Bissau — 1.98

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
An abandoned tank from the 1998–1999 civil war in the capital Bissau (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 1.67

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 3.13

Civil liberties: 2.35

10. Uzbekistan — 1.95

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Uzbek children. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.08

Functioning of government: 1.86

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 0.59

9. Saudi Arabia — 1.93

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
President Donald Trump speaks with Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, during their meeting Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 2.86

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 3.13

Civil liberties: 1.47

8. Tajikistan — 1.93

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Shanty neighborhoods just outside of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.08

Functioning of government: 0.79

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 6.25

Civil liberties: 0.88

7. Equatorial Guinea — 1.81

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
The city of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.43

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 4.38

Civil liberties: 1.47

6. Turkmenistan — 1.72

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Celebrating the 20th year of independence in Turkmenistan (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.79

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 0.59

5. Democratic Republic of Congo — 1.61

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Refugees in the Congo (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.50

Functioning of government: 0.71

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 3.75

Civil liberties: 0.88

4. Central African Republic — 1.52

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Refugees of the fighting in the Central African Republic observe Rwandan soldiers being dropped off at Bangui M’Poko International Airport in the Central African Republic. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 2.25

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 1.11

Political culture: 1.88

Civil liberties: 2.35

3. Chad — 1.50

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
A tribal delegation in Chad. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 1.11

Political culture: 3.75

Civil liberties: 2.65

2. Syria — 1.43

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
A Syrian soldier aims an assault rifle from his position in a foxhole during a firepower demonstration.

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 4.38

Civil liberties: 0.00

1. North Korea —1.08

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
A defector from North Korea dodges bullets as he crosses the DMZ.

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 2.50

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 1.25

Civil liberties: 0.00

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