Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch told The Washington Times that he must leave the Army by Aug. 1. His crime was mentioning in an internal military email the name of the aviation unit that flew Navy SEALs inside Pakistan airspace to kill the al Qaeda leader.
The irony: He was trying to keep that fact out of a proposed article in an industry newsletter.
The Times featured Sgt. Branch’s plight in March, noting his excellent performance evaluations since the 2014 incident. His last chance resided with the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, which Sgt. Branch said rejected his plea.
The sergeant said he was “floored” by the decision.
“With honor and with integrity I fought this battle and even took it into the realm of public court/discussion in my Times story and it was for one reason only to let everyone know, like my commander said when giving me my notice May 10, 2016, that the Army is getting this one wrong,” he said July 19 in an email to the board.
“Moving forward, I would love to give this one last go round; however, I know now that without the military-level support I received for my third appeal I’m in a realm of hurt in that it will take forever to get another answer.”
His attorney, Jeffrey Addicott, who runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, said the married sergeant, with one child, did all he could to maintain his career.
He said Mr. Obama singled out the unit, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and that Mrs. Clinton did far worse in handling secrets and received no punishment.
Mr. Addicott told The Times on July 19: “The good news is that your story pushed the Army to move off its criminal investigation that he was facing when I took his case. We then also got the Army to consider his request to stay on active duty, and he was retained for many months while his appeal was considered. They have now denied his appeal to stay, but he will leave with an honorable discharge. Not a complete satisfaction for Branch but far better than it could have been. There is no inherent right for the Army to retain him. I know he is disappointed, but we accomplished all that could reasonably be expected. This is a win.”
Sgt. Branch’s problems began in February 2014 while he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, doing public relations work for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He was fact-checking a proposed article by the Boeing Co. for its internal news site that told of regiment personnel visiting a contractor facility. It mentioned that the regiment conducted the bin Laden raid.
Sgt. Branch sent an email to his boss recommending that the bin Laden reference be stricken because the Pentagon never officially acknowledged its role.
That was his crime: repeating the Boeing sentence in an official, internal email.
A higher-up saw the email thread and reported Sgt. Branch to Army intelligence. Instead of facing a court-marital, he opted for nonjudicial punishment and received an oral reprimand.
Mr. Addicott, who did not represent the sergeant at that time, said no court-martial jury would have convicted the sergeant because his motives were pure.
Part of Sgt. Branch’s defense was that Mr. Obama all but said that the aviation regiment conducted the raid by visiting the soldiers at Fort Campbell right after the successful operation.
The Army officially disclosed the regiment’s role in news stories.
“The leaders’ first stop after landing was to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment compound where the distinguished guests spoke privately with the 160th SOAR leadership and Soldiers,” said the Army’s official story on the visit, found on its web address, Army.mil.
On Army.mil, a May 9, 2011, Army News Service story on the Obama visit said, “It was the Night Stalkers who are credited with flying the mission in Pakistan that transported the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 on an operation that resulted in the capture and kill of terrorist Osama bin Laden.”
“I love the Army,” Sgt. Branch told The Times in March. “I like my job. The reason I’m so in love with the Army is I’m a career soldier. I’ve done three tours in Iraq. I’ve survived cancer twice. The Army is my career. It’s what I know. It is my life. My dad was a soldier. My brother’s a soldier. My grandfather was a soldier. I like telling the Army story because I’m a writer. That’s what I do.”
Army and industry weapons developers are working with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to explore the feasibility of precision-guided rounds for a man-portable, anti-personnel and anti-armor weapon known as the Carl Gustaf, officials said.
Current innovations involve a cutting-edge technology program, called Massive Overmatch Assault Round or MOAR, aimed at exploring the prospect of precision guided rounds for the weapon.
While the shoulder-fired infantry and Special Operations weapon currently uses multiple rounds and advanced targeting technologies, using a precision “guided” round would enable the weapon to better destroy enemy targets on the move by having the technology to re-direct with advanced seeker technology.
“We are exploring different kinds of seekers to pursue precision engagement capabilities,” Malcolm Arvidsson, Product Director, Carl-Gustaf M4, Saab, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The weapon, called the Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, known as the Carl-Gustaf, was initially used by Special Operations Forces. Several years ago, it was ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan.
These innovations are still in early conceptual, research and testing phases. However, they are being pursued alongside a current Army effort to acquire an upgraded 84mm recoilless shoulder-fired Carl Gustaf weapon able to travel with dismounted infantry and destroy tanks, armored vehicles, groups of enemy fighters and even targets behind walls, Army and industry officials said.
Acquisition efforts for the weapon began when the Army was seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire, service officials said.
The Carl Gustaf get its name from the Swedish weapons production factory known as Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfaktori (“Rifle Factory of Carl Gustaf’s town”). | US Army photo
Designed to be lighter weight and more infantry-portable that a Javelin anti-tank missile, the Carl Gustaf is built to help maneuvering ground units attack a wide range of targets out to as far as 1,300 meters; its target set includes buildings, armored vehicles and enemy fighters in defilade hiding behind rocks or trees.
Following the weapon’s performance in Afghanistan with soldiers, Army weapons developers moved the weapon into a formal “program of record” and began to pursue an upgrade to the Carl Gustaf to include lighter weight materials such as titanium, Arvidsson said.
The upgraded M4 Carl-Gustaf, introduced in 2014, shortens the length and lowers the weight of the weapon to 15 pounds from the 22-pound previous M3 variant, he said. The first M3 variant of the weapon was introduced in the early 1990s.
“We use a steel that is half the weight and half the density. For the barrel, we have improved the lining pattern and added a more efficient carbon fiber wrapping,” Arvidsson added.
The lighter weight weapon is, in many ways, ideal for counterinsurgency forces on the move on foot or in light vehicles in search of small groups of enemy fighters – one possible reason it was urgently requested for the mountainous Afghanistan where dismounted soldiers often traverse high-altitude, rigorous terrain.
At the same time, the anti-armor function of the weapon would enable infantry brigade combat teams to attack enemy vehicles in a mechanized, force-on-force kind of engagement.
The Carl-Gustaf is engineered with multipurpose rounds that can be used against armored vehicles and soft targets behind the walls. There are also pure anti-structure rounds to go through thick walls to defeat the targets behind a wall, Army and Saab developers explained.
The weapon fires High-Explosive air burst rounds, close combat rounds, and then the general support rounds, like the smoke and battlefield elimination, developers said.
Airburst rounds use programmable fuse to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon’s effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.
Air burst rounds can detonate in the air or in general proximity to a target. For instance, an airburst round could explode just above an enemy fighter seeking cover behind a rock or wall.
“I want to penetrate the target. I want to kill a light armored vehicle. I want to kill a structure. I want to kill somebody behind the structure. With the gun, soldiers can decide how to affect the targets. Really, that’s what the Carl-Gustaf brings to the battlefield is the ability to decide how they want to affect the battlefield — not call in air support and mark targets,” Wes Walters, Executive Vice President of Business Development, Land Domain, Saab North America, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The Army is evaluating a wide range of new technologies for its newer M4 variant to include electro-optical sights with a thermal imager, magnification sights of durable-optical sights, Saab officials explained.
Sensors and sights on the weapon can use advanced computer algorithms to account for a variety of environmental conditions known to impact the trajectory or flight of a round. These factors include the propellant temperature, atmospheric conditions, biometric pressure and terrain inclination,
“There are a number of parameters that the sight can actually calculate to give you a much harder first round probability of hit,” Walters said.
Some weapons use a laser rangefinder which calculates the distance of an enemy object by computer algorithms combing the speed of light with the length of travel – to determine distance.
The Israeli military has bought some copter drones that can carry some serious firepower – up to and including 40mm grenade launchers.
According to a report from DefenseOne.com, the Israeli Defense Forces are buying a number of TIKAD drones from Duke Robotics. The company, founded by Raziel “Razi” Atuaran — an Israeli special forces veteran who still serves as a reservist — is also pitching this drone to the U.S. military.
“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in,”Atuar explained. “Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt.”
Sick of seeing civilians and fellow Israeli troops get killed, Atuar sought a way to deal with enemy forces in urban areas that would greatly reduce the risks. One way to do that is not to send a person in to clear a building, but to instead send a robot.
The use of a helicopter drone to carry firepower isn’t a new idea. A viral Youtube video showed how a typical drone one buys from Amazon can be rigged to carry a pistol.
But accuracy from such a platform is dubious at best. Payload from a drone can be an issue. The Israelis have used an off-the-shelf drone to haul a sniper rifle that had a maximum of five minutes of flight time. That’s not very useful in a pitched urban fight.
The TIKAD drone, though, fixes those problems by setting up a gimbaled platform that can hold up to 22 pounds. This provides a stable platform that ensures accurate fire.
The Israelis have not revealed how many TIKAD drones they are buying. The company, though, has moved to Florida, where U.S. Special Operations Command and Central Command are both headquartered.
You can see a jury-rigged armed drone using a pistol — an example of how not to arm a drone — below.
As the US still attempts to formulate a response to China’s massive hack of the US government’s Office of Personnel Management — a breach that affected some 22 million people, including federal employees with security clearances — the massive size and scope of Beijing’s intelligence gathering operations continues to come into focus.
Unlike other nations, China uses a broad array of both professional and citizen spies to gather data, Peter Mattis explains for War On The Rocks.
As Mattis describes it, the first level of Chinese intelligence-gathering resembles that of just about any other government. A Ministry of State Security carries out surveillance of targets within China and monitors potential threats, while the Ministry of Public Security has control over China’s national databases and surveillance networks.
China also has various levels of military intelligence organizations within the People’s Liberation Army. Most of the operatives for these organizations are also based in China, although Mattis notes that “defense attachés and clandestine collectors do operate abroad.”
This also isn’t all that different from how countries normally operate. The US has some 17 intelligence agencies, several of which are organized under branches of the military. They weren’t under the oversight of a single Director of National Intelligence until 2005.
Where China begins to differ from other nations is its use of operatives who aren’t intelligence professionals and who may technically be outside Beijing’s already sprawling security sector. According to Mattis, Chinese media agencies and their foreign-based journalists have likely collected non-classified data on such sensitive topics as foreign governments’ stances towards Tibet or the South China Sea. These journalists then file reports directly to the Central Committee in Beijing.
“Although most Chinese journalists are not intelligence officers and do not recruit clandestine sources, good journalists can provide information that is not publicly available, but also not classified,” Mattis writes.
Mattis also describes “market incentives for economic espionage:” The process by which Beijing facilitates the theft of intellectual property from other countries by providing state support for their cover activities.
In July of 2014, Canadian authorities arrested a Chinese entrepreneur at the request of the FBI. The entrepreneur, Su Bin, and two China-based accomplices hacked into the networks of Boeing and other US defense contractors from 2009 to 2013.
Bin allegedly stole data for 32 different US projects, including data related the F-22 and the F-35 fighter jets, as well as Boeing’s C-17 cargo plane. US authorities believe Bin and his colleagues tried to sell the stolen intelligence to state-owned companies within China.
China’s People’s Liberation Army also carries out cyber attacks and cyber espionage against US companies in order to help boost the Chinese economy. In particular, Chinese hackers have been proven to have stolen US trade secrets related to nuclear power, metal, solar production, and the defense industries.
In addition to using civilians to gather non-classified but sensitive material, Beijing has also facilitated a process for Chinese academics to gather potentially sensitive technological information, and built up institutions capable of rapidly building upon technological espionage gains.
For instance, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China (ISTIC) catalogues foreign scientific publications, facilitates graduate programs for research around the world, and supports the professional development of academics throughout the country. This centralization of technological information has played an important role in China’s rapid modernization, and sources tell Mattis that ISTIC likely reduced the cost of scientific research by 40-50%, while cutting research time by upwards of 70%.
According to a report by The Daily Beast, the information gathered in the aftermath of the raid — which resulted in the death Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator William Owens and injured several other troops — indicated that al-Qaeda had developed bombs that could fit inside laptop computers. An explosion on a Somali airliner last year was seen as a “proof of concept” for the new bombs, failing due to the low altitude of the plane.
The Daily Beast reported that the bombs must be manually triggered, prompting their ban from the aircraft cabins and carry-on luggage, but not from checked baggage. Wired.com reports that the American ban applies to inbound flights from eight predominately Muslim countries. The Daily Beast reported that the United Kingdom imposed a similar ban in the wake of the American one.
The Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for that airliner attack, which reportedly used PETN, the same explosive used by “shoe bomber” Richard Reid in 2002. As little as three and a haf ounces of PETN could bring down an airplane.
The Jan. 28 raid was controversial, not only for the death of Owens, but also due to civilian casualties, the unexpected heavy opposition, and the loss of a V-22 Osprey tiltrotor.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, labeled the operation a failure. President Donald Trump, though, called the operation a success, and also claimed that substantial intelligence had been gathered.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has targeted airliners in the past. In 2009, the terrorist group was involved in the plot to use an underwear bomb to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253. The device malfunctioned, injuring the terrorist.
The US Air Force on March 5, 2019, tested the XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, which it calls a “long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle” designed to fight against Russia and China in suicide missions too dangerous for manned fighter jets.
The Air Force tested the Valkyrie as part of its Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology program, which in layman’s terms means a program to create cheap aircraft that can soak up enemy missiles, clearing the way for other jets to follow.
According to Justin Bronk, a combat aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, some threats even these elite jets likely can’t survive.
Chinese HongQi 9 [HQ-9] launcher during China’s 60th anniversary parade, 2009.
(Photo by Jian Kang)
“Missions which are effectively one way, where there’s a campaign-critical target that is realistically too high threat to expect” jets to survive call for drones, said Bronk.
While the F-22 and F-35 represent true all-aspect stealth aircraft optimized to evade detection, tracking, and interception via missiles, they have a fatal weakness.
To drop bombs or fire missiles, both aircraft must open up their bomb bays, ruining their stealth shaping. Additionally, radar or communications emissions may compromise their operations.
“Even if you get there and deliver munitions, you’re probably not getting out of it,” Bronk said of flying manned aircraft in ultra-high threat scenarios.
The cheapest F-35s the US will ever buy will likely cost million. F-22s, bought in small numbers, cost around 0 million each. Perhaps even more valuable than the jet, is the US pilot manning each system.
Instead, why not send a cheap drone? Or at the stated cost of -3 million a pop, why not a swarm of drones?
The Valkyrie can’t carry many weapons. It’s not meant to carry any air-to-air missiles, it can’t go very fast, and it will never be a dogfighter, said Bronk.
“But if you can pump these out for million at 100 or so a year, you could hugely increase the Air Force’s combat edge,” he continued.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle, completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019, at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems to develop the XQ-58A.
(Air Force Research Laboratory)
The battle plan
With a range of between 1,500 and 2,000 nautical miles, the Valkyrie far outranges US stealth fighters or fighters of any kind.
This lends itself to a swarming attack, wherein dozens or even hundreds of Valkyries come flying in at high subsonic speeds to either drop air-to-ground bombs, jam radars with electronic warfare, spy on enemy missile sites, or even just soak up the first wave of enemy missiles, which incidentally would also likely provide targeting data to other US assets.
Next, the US’s manned aircraft could take on a greatly softened up target, which has just weathered a swarm of jamming, bombing, semi-stealthy drones forcing them to fire millions of dollars worth of missiles at cheap jets essentially meant to be shot down.
“XQ-58A is the first example of a class of UAV that is defined by low procurement and operating costs while providing game changing combat capability,” Doug Szczublewski, the Air Force’s XQ-58A Program Manager said in a release.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The fake carrier being hit during the Great Prophet IX exercises in 2015. (Iranian state media)
Late last month, Iran once again put on a show using their fake U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier as a target for military drills and helicopter-fired missiles. The demonstration was intended to show America that Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard were prepared to take on the mighty U.S. Navy in the strategically valuable Strait of Hormuz. Instead, however, it appears Iran’s plans may have backfired, with the fake aircraft carrier now sunk at the mouth of an economically important harbor–adding a dangerous hazard right in the middle of a shipping lane.
The United States has been at odds with Iran since the nation’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, wherein the ruling dynasty that was supported by the United States was deposed by the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic Republic. Today, Iran and the United States remain locked in an idealogical battle of wills, with Iran directly funding terror organizations the world over through its Al Quds force, and the United States working to support its allies and interests in the Middle East.
The mock Nimitz-class aircraft carrier was first built by Iran in 2013 and completed in 2014. At the time, the large vessel was described as a movie prop. In February of 2015, however, the vessel, which isn’t as large as a real Nimitz-class carrier but was clearly modeled to resemble one, was then used as a target in a series of war games Iran called Great Prophet IX.
The barge-in-aircraft-carrier-clothing was then repaired once again in 2019 and just a few weeks ago, the newly refurbished vessel was towed out into the Strait of Hormuz for another bout of target practice. The Strait of Hormuz is the only route between the Persian Gulf and the open ocean, making it an extremely important waterway in the global oil supply chain. Experts estimate that something in the neighborhood of 20% of all the world’s oil passes over the Strait of Hormuz.
Because of the waterway’s immense importance and it’s proximity to Iran, the Strait of Hormuz is a common site of overt acts of aggression between the U.S. Navy and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
And indeed, as we often see Iran threaten to do to America’s real aircraft carriers, Iran TV aired footage of commandos fast-roping onto the deck of the ship from helicopters, as well as fast attack boats swarming around the hulking structure. The spectacle was dubbed “Great Prophet 14,” and culminated with firing on the floating barge with a variety of missiles.
“We cannot speak to what Iran hopes to gain by building this mockup, or what tactical value they would hope to gain by using such a mock-up in a training or exercise scenario,” Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich told The Associated Press. “We do not seek conflict, but remain ready to defend U.S. forces and interests from maritime threats in the region.”
It seems likely that, although Iran’s fake aircraft carrier is smaller than a real Nimitz-class vessel, it’s used both for training and propaganda. Because Iran’s leaders see the United States as their clear opponent, the use of the the carrier offers a chance to rehearse a great war with the United States without having to suffer the consequences of such a conflict. However, Iran may now be facing a different kind of negative consequence, with the mock carrier taking on water and eventually sinking in an area of the waterway that is not deep enough to allow ships to pass over the sunken target.
After the carrier remained somewhat visible for a while, it has since submerged beneath the waters of the Bandar Abbas harbor — which is only 45 feet deep. That means large ships cannot pass over where the carrier came to rest without risking serious damage.
In other words, in Iran’s fervor to show America how effectively it the nation’s military could defend their territorial waters, they inadvertently made it significantly less safe for them to operate in those same waters.
Iran will almost certainly need to attempt to salvage the vessel; not just for the sake of another round of target practice, but because its presence will pose a significant risk to any large ships trying to travel into or out of the harbor it now rests beneath. It isn’t currently clear if Iran even has the means to mount such a salvage effort, however. So, for now, Iran’s fake American aircraft carrier may pose a more direct threat to Iranian interests than the real Nimitz carriers America often sails through the nearby Strait of Hormuz.
This is far from the first big blunder for Iran on the world’s stage this year. In May, the Iranian military unintentionally fired an anti-ship missile at one of their own vessels, killing 19, and in January, Iranian air defenses accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airline, killing all 176 on board.
It’s sometimes easy to forget that World War II wasn’t originally a world war and that many countries hoped to let continental Europe fight it out against each other (including the United States). Some countries held on to hopes of remaining neutral and passed strict laws to prevent their people from joining the fight.
For Irish soldiers, approximately 4,500 of them, the best option was to run away from the Emerald Isles and join the British Army. Irish Brigades had served well in other conflicts including World War I, the Mexican-American War (against the U.S), and the American Civil War (on behalf of the Union).
O’Donovan was a World War I veteran who received the Military Cross for bravery. He led the 38th Brigade from soon after its formation in early 1942 to July of that year, overseeing the initial training and preparations to ship out to North Africa.
Under Russell, the 38th Irish Brigade was sent to the invasion of French North Africa. After suffering a bomb attack by the Luftwaffe as they were getting off of their ships, the Irish Brigade fought its way through Africa alongside the British and American forces. The Irish were deployed into the mountains around Tunis during the battle for the capital.
When the Allies made it into the city, the Irish Brigade was the first to march through the streets. After the celebrations at Tunis, the 38th was sent with other victorious units to prepare for the landings at Sicily in Operation Husky.
On Aug. 17, after just over 5 weeks of fighting, the Axis had been pushed off the island and forced to return to Italy.
The Irish Brigade was then sent to take part in the invasion of Italy, a task which would occupy them for the rest of the war. They came ashore just a few days after the initial landings and then began pushing the Germans north past one defensive line after another. By this time, the Italian Army had withdrawn from the war and it was only German soldiers holding the peninsula.
Still, the Fuhrer’s troops made the Allies fight for every mile with well-established defensive lines that the 38th Irish and the other Allied forces had to break through. The Irish didn’t make it out of Italy and into Austria until May 8, 1945, the same day that Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allies.
Since the men of the 38th (Irish) Infantry Brigade were mostly deserters from the Irish Army, they were officially blacklisted in Ireland from any jobs that received any money from the state and were branded as traitors by both the government and the population.
New warheads make the missile more lethal against a wide range of targets. The shaped-charge warheads from the original Hellfire have given way to tandem high-explosive warheads to defeat reactive armor.
The metal augmented charge of the AGM-114N is a thermobaric warhead which fills an enclosed space with a highly reactive metal and then detonates the mixture, creating a massive, secondary explosion.
Meanwhile, adaptations to the Hellfire and its launchers allow more and more platforms to carry it. The Navy now deploys the AGM-114L on ships so they can better protect themselves from attacks by fast boats and other threats.
The Hellfire’s iconic air platform is still the Apache, but it catches rides on AH-1s, drones, Blackhawks, Kiowas, and even modified Cessnas.
Land vehicles employ the missile as well. Lockheed self-funded the development of the Long Range Surveillance and Attack Vehicle which can fire the Hellfire or the DAGR, a smaller weapon with most of the Hellfire II’s technology.
A former member of SEAL Team Six and military working dog handler wants Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, infamous for allegedly walking away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009, held accountable for his actions.
James Hatch was on a failed mission against Taliban insurgents in 2009 that he maintains was designed to rescue Bergdahl. The DEVGRU SEAL sustained a career-ending injury when his femur was shattered by an enemy round. Remco, a Belgian Malinois assigned to another Navy dog handler on the mission, was killed while assaulting two insurgents to protect Hatch and others.
See the whole story, and Hatch’s reaction to Bergdahl being called for trial, at Stars and Stripes.
“We never dreamt that it would be this clear, this beautiful.”
Physical Scientist J.T. Heineck of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley gets his first glimpse at a set of long-awaited images, and takes a moment to reflect on more than 10 years of technique development – an effort that has led to a milestone for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.
NASA has successfully tested an advanced air-to-air photographic technology in flight, capturing the first-ever images of the interaction of shockwaves from two supersonic aircraft in flight.
“I am ecstatic about how these images turned out,” said Heineck. “With this upgraded system, we have, by an order of magnitude, improved both the speed and quality of our imagery from previous research.”
One of the greatest challenges of the flight series was timing. In order to acquire this image, originally monochromatic and shown here as a colorized composite image, NASA flew a B-200, outfitted with an updated imaging system, at around 30,000 feet while the pair of T-38s were required to not only remain in formation, but to fly at supersonic speeds at the precise moment they were directly beneath the B-200. The images were captured as a result of all three aircraft being in the exact right place at the exact right time designated by NASA’s operations team.
The images were captured during the fourth phase of Air-to-Air Background Oriented Schlieren flights, or AirBOS, which took place at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The flight series saw successful testing of an upgraded imaging system capable of capturing high-quality images of shockwaves, rapid pressure changes which are produced when an aircraft flies faster than the speed of sound, or supersonic. Shockwaves produced by aircraft merge together as they travel through the atmosphere and are responsible for what is heard on the ground as a sonic boom.
The system will be used to capture data crucial to confirming the design of the agency’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, or X-59 QueSST, which will fly supersonic, but will produce shockwaves in such a way that, instead of a loud sonic boom, only a quiet rumble may be heard. The ability to fly supersonic without a sonic boom may one day result in lifting current restrictions on supersonic flight over land.
The images feature a pair of T-38s from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, flying in formation at supersonic speeds. The T-38s are flying approximately 30 feet away from each other, with the trailing aircraft flying about 10 feet lower than the leading T-38. With exceptional clarity, the flow of the shock waves from both aircraft is seen, and for the first time, the interaction of the shocks can be seen in flight.
“We’re looking at a supersonic flow, which is why we’re getting these shockwaves,” said Neal Smith, a research engineer with AerospaceComputing Inc. at NASA Ames’ fluid mechanics laboratory.
When aircraft fly faster than the speed of sound, shockwaves travel away from the vehicle, and are heard on the ground as a sonic boom. NASA researchers use this imagery to study these shockwaves as part of the effort to make sonic booms quieter, which may open the future to possible supersonic flight over land. The updated camera system used in the AirBOS flight series enabled the supersonic T-38 to be photographed from much closer, approximately 2,000 feet away, resulting in a much clearer image compared to previous flight series.
“What’s interesting is, if you look at the rear T-38, you see these shocks kind of interact in a curve,” he said. “This is because the trailing T-38 is flying in the wake of the leading aircraft, so the shocks are going to be shaped differently. This data is really going to help us advance our understanding of how these shocks interact.”
The study of how shockwaves interact with each other, as well as with the exhaust plume of an aircraft, has been a topic of interest among researchers. Previous, subscale schlieren research in Ames’ wind tunnel, revealed distortion of the shocks, leading to further efforts to expand this research to full-scale flight testing.
While the acquisition of these images for research marked one of the goals of AirBOS, one of the primary objectives was to flight test advanced equipment capable of high quality air-to-air schlieren imagery, to have ready for X-59’s Low-Boom Flight Demonstration, a mission that will use the X-59 to provide regulators with statistically valid data needed for potential regulation changes to enable quiet commercial supersonic flight over land.
“We’re seeing a level of physical detail here that I don’t think anybody has ever seen before,” said Dan Banks, senior research engineer at NASA Armstrong. “Just looking at the data for the first time, I think things worked out better than we’d imagined. This is a very big step.”
The X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, or QueSST, will test its quiet supersonic technologies by flying over communities in the United States. X-59 is designed so that when flying supersonic, people on the ground will hear nothing more than a quiet sonic thump – if anything at all. The scientifically valid data gathered from these community overflights will be presented to U.S. and international regulators, who will use the information to help them come up with rules based on noise levels that enable new commercial markets for supersonic flight over land.
Additional images included a “knife-edge” shot of a single T-38 in supersonic flight, as well as a slow-speed T-34 aircraft, to test the feasibility of visualizing an aircraft’s wing and flap vortices using the AirBOS system.
The images were captured from a NASA B-200 King Air, using an upgraded camera system to increase image quality. The upgraded system included the addition of a camera able to capture data with a wider field of view. This improved spatial awareness allowed for more accurate positioning of the aircraft. The system also included a memory upgrade for the cameras, permitting researchers to increase the frame rate to 1400 frames per second, making it easier to capture a larger number of samples. Finally, the system received an upgraded connection to data storage computers, which allowed for a much higher rate of data download. This also contributed to the team being able to capture more data per pass, boosting the quality of the images.
In addition to a recent avionics upgrade for the King Air, which improved the ability of the aircraft to be in the exact right place at the exact right time, the team also developed a new installation system for the cameras, drastically reducing the time it took to integrate them with the aircraft.
“With previous iterations of AirBOS, it took up to a week or more to integrate the camera system onto the aircraft and get it working. This time we were able to get it in and functioning within a day,” said Tiffany Titus, flight operations engineer. “That’s time the research team can use to go out and fly, and get that data.”
While the updated camera system and avionics upgrade on the B-200 greatly improved the ability to conduct these flights more efficiently than in previous series, obtaining the images still required a great deal of skill and coordination from engineers, mission controllers, and pilots from both NASA and Edwards’ U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School.
Using the schlieren photography technique, NASA was able to capture the first air-to-air images of the interaction of shockwaves from two supersonic aircraft flying in formation. These two U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School T-38 aircraft are flying in formation, approximately 30 feet apart, at supersonic speeds, or faster than the speed of sound, producing shockwaves that are typically heard on the ground as a sonic boom. The images, originally monochromatic and shown here as colorized composite images, were captured during a supersonic flight series flown, in part, to better understand how shocks interact with aircraft plumes, as well as with each other.
In order to capture these images, the King Air, flying a pattern around 30,000 feet, had to arrive in a precise position as the pair of T-38s passed at supersonic speeds approximately 2,000 feet below. Meanwhile, the cameras, able to record for a total of three seconds, had to begin recording at the exact moment the supersonic T-38s came into frame.
“The biggest challenge was trying to get the timing correct to make sure we could get these images,” said Heather Maliska, AirBOS sub-project manager. “I’m absolutely happy with how the team was able to pull this off. Our operations team has done this type of maneuver before. They know how to get the maneuver lined up, and our NASA pilots and the Air Force pilots did a great job being where they needed to be.”
“They were rock stars.”
The data from the AirBOS flights will continue to undergo analysis, helping NASA refine the techniques for these tests to improve data further, with future flights potentially taking place at higher altitudes. These efforts will help advance knowledge of the characteristics of shockwaves as NASA progresses toward quiet supersonic research flights with the X-59, and closer toward a major milestone in aviation.
The North’s missile program goes back decades, and includes secessions by the country, and then blatant ramp-ups of nuclear proliferation.
1. They signed a NPT under President Clinton
In 1994, the U.S. and North Korea agreed to a non-proliferation treaty, aiming, among other things, to normalize political and social relations between the two companies, and requiring the North to convert their graphite-moderated 5MWe nuclear reactor and two others under construction into light water reactors within 10 years.
Under the agreement, the U.S. was to provide 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil per year, until the first of the light water reactors could be built.
The agreement broke down in 2003, ending with North Korea withdrawing from the NPT. Officials in both countries widely speculated the U.S. only entered into the agreement because they assumed, after the death of Kim Il-sung 1994, the North Korean government would collapse.
2. They use the offer of drawing down as a bribe
Beginning with the NPT agreement in 1994, and as recently as 2012, North Korea has dangled the idea of backing down from their effort to create nuclear weapons in exchange for aid—food, money and energy being the top requests.
3. Their missile tests often happen around the same time each year
During the spring, South Korean and U.S. military troops conduct joint drills on the Korean peninsula, something the North Koreans have always found to be threatening. Officials in the North have said the drills are an obvious threat, and practice for eventual invasion of the country. It is often during these annual drills in South Korea that the North makes grand statements about their capabilities, or launches some sort of missile as a show of force.
4. They have become more aggressive under Kim Jong-un
After the death of the former North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, the country became more aggressive with missile launches and nuclear expansion. Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong-un, assumed power as supreme leader of North Korea in late 2011, and since then, the country has forged ahead with nuclear warhead developments, has launched more missiles and is less responsive to negotiation tactics than past leaders.
In 1966, Gallagher, who immigrated from Ballyhaunis, Ireland in 1962, joined the Marine Corps where he served in H-Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division during Operation Hastings in the Republic of Vietnam.
“Lance Corporal Gallagher is an American hero. His exemplary service in defense of our nation and his strength and sacrifice leaves an example for all servicemen and women to emulate,” said Spencer. “His legacy will live on in the future USS Gallagher and his heroic actions will continue to inspire future Sailors and Marines.”
Gallagher was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on July 18, 1966, when he selflessly threw his body on an incoming grenade, shielding his fellow Marines. He quickly pitched the grenade to a nearby river where it safely exploded out of harm’s way, without injury to himself or others. Gallagher was killed in action one year later in DaLoc near De Nang on March 30, 1967. He is one of only 30 known Irish citizens to have died in the Vietnam conflict.
Arleigh-Burke class destroyers conduct a variety of operations from peacetime presence and crisis response to sea control and power projection. The future USS Gallagher (DDG 127) will be capable of fighting air, surface, and subsurface battles simultaneously, and will contain a combination of offensive and defensive weapon systems designed to support maritime warfare, including integrated air and missile defense and vertical launch capabilities.
The ship will be constructed at Bath Iron Works, a division of General Dynamics in Maine. The ship will be 509 feet long, have a beam length of 59 feet, and be capable of operating at speeds in excess of 30 knots.