Eye injuries in a deployed setting can be a significant setback for any airman, but new telemedicine capabilities are helping to keep them in the fight.
With funding from the 59th Medical Wing, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, Air Force and Army medical researchers are developing a HIPAA-compliant smart phone application to connect providers downrange with on-call ophthalmologists either in-theater or at a clinic.
“Ten to 15 percent of combat injuries involve the eye,” said Maj. (Dr.) William G. Gensheimer, ophthalmology element leader, and chief of cornea and refractive surgery at the Warfighter Eye Center, JB Andrews, Maryland. “There may not be many ophthalmologists in a deployed setting.”
The smartphone application, called FOXTROT, which stands for Forward Operating Base Expert Telemedicine Resource Utilizing Mobile Application for Trauma, will bring specialty eye care much closer to the point of injury. Specifically, it will allow providers downrange to conduct eye exams and assist with diagnosis and management of eye injuries.
“If there is Wi-Fi connectivity, the user can video teleconference an ophthalmologist either in theater, in a clinic in Germany or back in the United States and receive real-time consultation for their patient,” Gensheimer said. “When there is no connectivity, the application will function like secure email and the medic can send the necessary information.”
According to Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jennifer Stowe, an optometrist and deputy director of administration at the Virtual Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, FOXTROT addresses the need for specialized telemedicine capabilities that specifically focuses on treating eye trauma downrange.
“As it stands, the current technology does not have the technical requirements necessary for deployed eye care,” Stowe said. “As an optometrist, it is without a doubt an expected capability to speed up recovery in a deployed setting.”
As Gensheimer explains, having this type of technology downrange could ensure the readiness of service members, improving the chances they can return to duty much sooner.
“With the application a downrange provider can consult an ophthalmologist and the service member can receive treatment much sooner than before,” Gensheimer said. “This improves the chances of preserving their eyesight and potentially return them to duty much more quickly.”
In addition to improved care downrange, Stowe says that the application could have a positive impact on the readiness of military medical providers. Increased exposure to a wider variety of patients through the application gives them a deeper and broader experience of practice.
Airman 1st Class Jessica Borrowman uses a fundus camera to take a photo of a patient’s retina June 12, 2014, on Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.
(Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Laura Muehl)
“The more complex patients we see, the more our case mix increases, and the more talented as providers we become,” Stowe said. “This application will increase our medical readiness as providers by increasing our knowledge base in how we care for eye trauma.”
Currently, the application is being developed in collaboration with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center.
The next steps are to test the application to ensure it functions well downrange and develop standardized protocols for the use of the application.
“We want to make sure that the application can transmit the necessary information and assist ophthalmologists in making correct diagnoses and developing treatment plans,” Gensheimer said. “Having access to this type of care can have a significant impact on readiness, reducing eye injury evacuations and improving health outcomes.”
Former Cold War rivals Russia and Pakistan are moving forward with their first-ever joint military exercises, an event that signals the two nations are working more closely together to combat terrorism in their respective countries.
The exercise is small in size – only 70 Russian soldiers and officers joining 130 Pakistani counterparts. But the implications are huge.
Called Friendship 2016, the Russian troops arrived in Rawalpindi on Friday aboard an Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane, according to Radio Pakistan. The exercise will continue through October 10.
“It is planned that the Russian and Pakistani military servicemen will share their experience and employ teamwork in fighting in mountainous areas, particularly destroying illegal armed groups,” the Russian news service TASS reported.
TASS also reported that personnel from a mechanized infantry unit of the Russian Southern Military Command’s Mountain Mobile Brigade are part of the exercise.
“The Southern Military Command’s mechanized infantry servicemen are fully equipped and have their mountain gear with them, as well as ammunition for their standard weapons,” TASS stated, quoting the military command’s media service.
The exercise’s name is symbolic, indicating a lessening of tensions between Moscow and Islamabad that started last year when Russia lifted its arms ban against Pakistan.
The result was the sale of four MiG Mi-35 attack helicopters – the first sale of its kind between the two countries – to help replace Pakistan’s aging fleet of U.S.-made AH-1 Cobras. In addition, Pakistani army, navy, and air force representatives visited Russia during the last year to consult with their opposite numbers.
This is in stark contrast from the days when Pakistan under the leadership Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq was an ally of the United States that helped transport arms and men into the fight against Soviet forces after the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. In recent years, the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan cooled after Washington accused Islamabad of turning a blind eye to Taliban fighters using Pakistan as a refuge.
Pakistan denies that it is sheltering the Taliban. In the meantime, the United States improved ties with India, Pakistan’s bitter enemy.
At first, the location of at least some of the war games was both in doubt and controversial. Initial reports indicated that the exercises would be held in what the United Nation’s calls Pakistan-administered Kashmir, an area on the border between India and Pakistan marked by tension since 1947.
Pakistan calls the area Azad Kashmir; India refers to the area as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
According to a clarification issued by the Russians, “The Russia-Pakistan anti-terror exercise is not being held and will not be held in any point of so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’ or in any other sensitive or problematic areas like Gilgit and Baltistan. The only venue of the exercise is Cherat.”
Cherat is about 34 miles southeast of Peshawar and located at about 4,500 feet in the Khattak Range. It serves as a base for the Special Services Group, the primary special operations force of the Pakistan Army.
Meanwhile, Russia is still moving forward with long-standing joint exercises with India called Indra 2016, hosting more than 500 Indian soldiers in Vladivostok. Russia and India have held the counterterrorism exercises together since 2003.
The Army is engineering new Hostile Fire Detection sensors for its fleet of armored combat vehicles to identify, track, and target enemy small arms fire.
Even if the enemy rounds being fired are from small arms fire and not necessarily an urgent or immediate threat to heavily armored combat vehicles such as an Abrams, Stryker, or Bradley, there is naturally great value in quickly finding the location of incoming enemy attacks, Army weapons developers explain.
There is a range of sensors now being explored by Army developers; infrared sensors, for example, are designed to identify the “heat” signature emerging from enemy fire and, over the years, the Army has also used focal plane array detection technology as well as acoustic sensors.
“We are collecting threat signature data and assessing sensors and algorithm performance,” Gene Klager, Deputy Director, Ground Combat Systems Division, Night Vision, and Electronic Sensors Directorate, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Klager’s unit, which works closely with Army acquisition to identify and, at times, fast-track technology to war, is part of the Army’s Communications, Electronics, Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CERDEC).
Army senior leaders also told Warrior Maven the service will be further integrating HFD sensors this year in preparation for more formals testing to follow in 2019.
Enabling counterattack is a fundamental element of this because being able to ID enemy fire would enable vehicle crews to attack targets from beneath the protection of an armored hatch.
The Army currently deploys a targeting and attack system called Common Remotely Operated Weapons System, or CROWS; using a display screen, targeting sensors and controls operating externally mounted weapons, CROWS enables soldiers to attack from beneath the protection of armor.
“If we get a hostile fire detection, the CROWS could be slued to that location to engage what we call slue to cue,” Klager said.
Much of the emerging technology tied to these sensors can be understood in the context of artificial intelligence, or AI. Computer automation, using advanced algorithms and various forms of analytics, can quickly process incoming sensor data to ID a hostile fire signature.
“AI also takes other information into account and helps reduce false alarms,” Klager explained.
AI developers often explain that computers are able to much more efficiently organize information and perform key procedural functions, such as performing checklists or identifying points of relevance; however, many of those same experts also add that human cognition, as something uniquely suited to solving dynamic problems and weighing multiple variables in real time, is nonetheless something still indispensable to most combat operations.
Over the years, there have been a handful of small arms detection technologies tested and incorporated into helicopters; one of them, which first emerged as something the Army was evaluating in 2010 is called Ground Fire Acquisition System, or GFAS.
This system, integrated onto Apache Attack helicopters, uses infrared sensors to ID a “muzzle flash” or heat signature from an enemy weapon. The location of enemy fire could then be determined by a gateway processor on board the helicopter able to quickly geolocate the attack.
While Klager said there are, without question, similarities between air-combat HFD technologies and those emerging for ground combat vehicles, he did point to some distinct differences.
“From ground to ground, you have a lot more moving objects,” he said.
Potential integration between HFD and Active Protection Systems is also part of the calculus, Klager explained. APS technology, now being assessed on Army Abrams tanks, Bradleys and Strykers, uses sensors, fire control technology and interceptors to ID and knock out incoming RPGs and ATGMs, among other things. While APS, in concept and application, involves threats larger or more substantial than things like small arms fire, there is great combat utility in synching APS to HFD.
“HFD involves the same function that would serve as a cueing sensor as part of an APS system,” Klager said
The advantages of this kind of interoperability are multi-faceted. Given that RPGs and ATGMs are often fired from the same location as enemy small arms fire, an ability to track one, the other, or both in real time greatly improves situational awareness and targeting possibilities.
Furthermore, such an initiative is entirely consistent with ongoing Army modernization efforts which increasingly look toward more capable, multi-function sensors. The idea is to have a merged or integrated smaller hardware footprint, coupled with advanced sensing technology, able to perform a wide range of tasks historically performed by multiple separate, onboard systems.
Consolidating vehicle technologies and “boxes” is the primary thrust of an emerging Army combat vehicle C4ISR/EW effort called “Victory” architecture. Using Ethernet networking tech, Victory synthesizes sensors and vehicle systems onto a common, interoperable system. This technology is already showing a massively increased ability to conduct electronic warfare attacks from combat vehicles, among other things.
HFD for ground combat vehicles, when viewed in light of rapidly advancing combat networking technologies, could bring substantial advantages in the realm of unmanned systems. The Army and industry are currently developing algorithms to better enable manned-unmanned teaming among combat vehicles. The idea is to have a “robotic wingman,” operating in tandem with armored combat vehicles, able to test enemy defenses, find targets, conduct ISR, carry weapons and ammunition or even attack enemies.
“All that we are looking at could easily be applicable to an unmanned system,” Klager said.
Learning to snowshoe, ski and stay warm in the cold might sound like a fun hobby.
But for Soldiers at the Cold Weather Leaders Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center here, learning these things can mean the difference between a failed or successful mission and it could also be the difference between life and death.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Tanner, an instructor at the NWTC, was deployed twice to Afghanistan, once from 2007 to 2009 and another time from 2014 to 2015.
During one of those tours, he said, he recalls being over 9,000 feet in the mountainous terrain of the eastern part of the country during a heavy snowfall, with snow drifts up to 12 feet tall.
“The snow stopped us dead in our tracks,” he said. “We were trying to remove snow from equipment with our e-tools.”
During a Black Hawk resupply mission, the helicopter had no place to land so it hovered above the snow while the crew chief jumped out, post-holing himself in the snow shoulder high. Post-holing is a term for sinking into the snow waist or chest high when not wearing skis or snowshoes. The crew chief had to grab the struts of the helicopter to be pulled out, Tanner recalled.
No one had skis or snowshoes and “we couldn’t do our jobs.”
Tanner and the other instructors at NWTC say they are professionally and personally invested in ensuring those kinds of situations never happen to Soldiers again.
Sgt. Sarah Valentine, a medic and an instructor, said most Soldiers that come to the school don’t know how to snowshoe, ski or survive in the cold. Instruction begins with baby steps.
First, they learn how to wear their cold weather clothing, she said. Then they learn to walk with snowshoes. A little later they learn to walk on snowshoes carrying a rucksack, and finally, they learn to tow an ahkio, or sled, carrying 200 pounds of tents, heaters, fuel, food and other items.
Next, they advance to skis, learning how to walk uphill, how to turn and stop going downhill, and then how to carry a rifle and rucksack going cross-country.
Staff Sgt. Jason Huffman, a student, said that besides enduring the cold, pulling the ahkio was the most challenging aspect of the school.
For that portion of the training, four of about 10 Soldiers are harnessed to the sled like sled dogs. Huffman said going on level terrain is easy, but most of the terrain near the school isn’t level and it is challenging to pull the ahkio uphill, especially from a dead stop.
Going downhill, the challenge is holding the ahkio back so it doesn’t get away, he said. When the students get tired, they are replaced by other students in the squad, who in turn rotate back out once they’re tired.
Spc. Tamyva Graffree, a student from Newton, Mississippi, said pulling the ahkio uphill was the most challenging part of the course. Of going downhill, she said it would have been nice to pile on and ride it down.
Staff Sgt. Manuel Beza, an instructor and medic here, said the students are not allowed to ride the ahkio downhill. “It will definitely go fast. But if they did that, it would be a bad day. The ahkio has no brakes and no way to steer.”
Beza said he sympathizes with the students’ pain. While the ahkio can be handled almost effortlessly over level terrain, going even 500 feet uphill can tire Soldiers out.
But when roads are nonexistent and vehicles break down from the cold, ahkios give the Soldiers the option to move out with their gear, he said.
Once students demonstrate competence on snowshoes, they are given a set of “White Rocket” skis, which can be used in both downhill as well as cross-country skiing.
The difference between a dedicated downhill or Nordic ski and the White Rocket ski is that the heel in the White Rocket isn’t locked into the ski binding so the foot can move similar to walking, said Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor.
A Soldier can learn to use snowshoes in two hours, but about 40 hours is allotted for ski training at the school.
Because training time is limited, Soldiers learn just the basics, Bruner said. For instance, they learn to stop and turn going downhill using a wedge movement instead of a more advanced technique like turning or stopping with skis parallel.
A wedge consists of bringing the toes of the skis together and the heels of the skis out and carving into the snow on the inner edges of the skis by rotating the ankles inboard.
Skipping the fancy art of parallel skiing cuts down on injuries as well, he said, because there’s less chance of them crossing.
Going uphill involves side-stepping or walking up in herringbone fashion, which is the opposite of the wedge, with toes of the skis outboard, heels in.
To assist with uphill climbing, Soldiers apply special wax to the bottom of their skis.
Sgt. Dustin Danielson, a student, explained that the wax goes on just the middle third of the ski where the person’s weight is. He made hatch marks with the wax on his skis and then took a piece of cork to spread it evenly all around.
After skiing just a few kilometers, the wax tends to come off and more has to be applied, he said.
Sgt. Jessica Bartolotta, a student, said they were not given wax on the first day. On the second day of training, students were allowed to wax their skis. The point, she said, was to illustrate just how important the wax is in providing friction to grip the snow going uphill. She said the wax had no noticeable effect on slowing the skis going downhill.
Another thing the instructor did early on during the first day of ski training was to observe how well the Soldiers were skiing and to break them up into three groups of skill levels so the slow learners wouldn’t hold back the more natural skiers, she said.
Bartolotta said skiing was her favorite part of the course and she plans to take it up as a hobby.
Sgt. Chris Miller, a student from Little Rock, Arkansas, said this was his first time skiing and he fell a lot. “I’m a big guy and it’s hard to keep my balance.”
Miller measured his progress by the number of falls. The first day he said he fell 12 times and just once after three days. He said he’s still trying to perfect the art of stopping using the wedge.
Sgt. Shamere Randolph, another student, said he fell a bunch of times as well, but prefers skis to snowshoes because it’s much faster to get from point A to point B.
Sgt. Bruno Freitas, a student, said that his skis were difficult to use on the last day of training when the temperature rose and the snow turned to slush. In below freezing conditions, the skis work much better than they do in slush, he said.
About four years ago, the Army decided to do away with ski training at the NWTC, said Steven Decker, a training specialist. He said he’s not sure why the decision was made, but said he’s glad that skiing was reintroduced this year.
Canadians and Japanese go everywhere on skis, he said. They find it very relevant to mobility. In fact, “when the Japanese attend the course here, they can ski circles around us.”
The downside to skiing, he said, is that it takes a while to learn. For an entire platoon or company to move out on skis, it might take an entire winter and a lot of training time dedicated to making that happen.
But he and the other instructors all agreed that learning to ski is worth the time and effort.
Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor, said snowshoes are “loud, slow and clunky” to use compared to skis and that skis provide better floatation over the snow. “Skis are a million times better once you get the technique down.”
Staff Sgt. Jack Stacy, an instructor, said when he first arrived at NWTC, he went out into the terrain in a vehicle that broke down. He didn’t have skis or snowshoes with him and ended up having to walk back to headquarters, “post-holing” it back all the way.
“It was the most miserable time I’ve ever had here,” Stacy said. “I’ve always made sure my skis or snowshoes are handy ever since.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is on the cusp of having something his father and grandfather could only dream of — the ability to unleash a nuclear attack on the United States.
For anyone paying attention, the test launch of his country’s first intercontinental ballistic missile on the Fourth of July came as little surprise.
He has been racing to develop better and longer-range missiles and vowed this would be the year of the ICBM in his annual New Year’s address. He made good on that vow with the launch of the “Hwasong-14.”
But that isn’t all he’s been doing.
Here’s a quick primer.
Closing the Gap
North Korea’s newest missile is called the Hwasong-14. Hwasong means “Mars.”
Experts believe the two-stage, liquid-fuel missile gives Kim the capability of reaching most of Alaska and possibly Hawaii. Some experts add Seattle and San Francisco. North Korea’s missiles aren’t very accurate, so big, soft targets like cities are what they would be aimed at.
Big caveat: Kim’s technicians still have a lot of work to do.
It’s not clear if this missile could be scaled up to reach targets beyond Alaska, like New York or Washington. Reliability is also a big issue that requires years of testing to resolve. And that liquid fuel makes the missile a sitting duck while it’s being readied for launch.
Diversifying the Arsenal
Along with a record number of tests — 17 this year alone — Kim has revealed a surprising array of missiles: Harpoon-style anti-ship missiles, beefed up Scuds, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and missiles that use solid fuel, which makes them easier to hide and harder to destroy.
David Wright, with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said heightened activity over the past 18 months suggests Kim decided a couple of years ago to speed up and diversify.
The takeaway: North Korea is well on its way toward a fine-tuned arsenal of missiles that can strike South Korea, Japan, and the United States.
Pushing the Envelope
More sanctions, almost certainly. US President Donald Trump claimed “severe things” could be in the offing. The US has circulated a new list of sanctions in the UN Security Council and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley put the world, and especially China, “on notice” if it doesn’t toe Washington’s line.
China, North Korea’s economic lifeline, has reduced its imports from the North, including a cutoff of coal purchases. It appears to still be selling lots of goods to North Korea, which may anger some sanctions advocates but generates a huge trade deficit that could spell destabilizing inflation for the North if left unchecked.
North Korea, meanwhile, needs to improve its nuclear warhead technology. Its Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site has been on standby for months. So a test is fairly likely. And there will be more launches.
As Kim put it, expect lots more “gift packages, big and small” for Washington.
The leadership at Glock Inc. says that the US Army’s decision to select Sig Sauer to make its new Modular Handgun System was driven by cost savings, not performance. The gun maker is also challenging the Army to complete the testing, which the service cut short, to see which gun performs better.
Two weeks have passed since the Government Accountability Office released the findings behind its decision to deny Glock Inc.’s protest of the Army’s MHS decision.
Now Josh Dorsey, vice president of Glock Inc., said that Glock maintains that the Army’s selection of Sig Sauer was based on “incomplete testing” and that Sig Sauer’s bid was $102 million lower than Glock’s.
“This is not about Glock. This is not about Sig. And it’s not about the US Army,” Dorsey, a retired Marine, told Military.com. “It’s about those that are on the ground, in harm’s way.”
It comes down to “the importance of a pistol, which doesn’t sound like much unless you realize, if you pull a pistol in combat, you are in deep s***.”
Dorsey maintains that the Army selected Sig Sauer as the winner of the MHS competition without conducting the “heavy endurance testing” that is common in military and federal small arms competitions.
Military.com reached out to both the Army and Sig Sauer for comment on this story, but the service did not respond by press time.
The Army awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth up to $580 million January 19. Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America, and Beretta USA, maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the competition for the Modular Handgun System program.
The 10-year agreement calls for Sig to supply the Army with full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of its 9mm pistol to replace the M9s and compact M11s in the inventory.
The service launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol. The decision formally ended the Beretta’s 30-year hold on the Army’s sidearm market.
From January to September 2016, the Army conducted what Dorsey calls initial, phase one testing and not “product verification testing described in the solicitation” which is the only way to determine which of the MHS entries meets the Army’s requirements for safety, reliability and accuracy, according to Glock’s legal argument to the GAO.
On August 29, 2016, the Army “established a competitive range consisting of the Glock 9mm one-gun proposal and the Sig Sauer 9mm two-gun proposal, according to the GAO’s findings.
Dorsey argues that the GAO’s description of “competitive range” means the both Glock’s and Sig Sauer’s submissions “are in fact pretty much the same.”
But the GAO describes Sig Sauer 320 as having lower reliability than Glock 19 on page 11, footnote 13 of its findings.
“Under the factor 1 reliability evaluation, Sig Sauer’s full-sized handgun had a higher stoppage rate than Glock’s handgun, and there may have been other problems with the weapon’s accuracy,” GAO states.
To Dorsey, that “says it all.”
“When you have stuff in the GAO report that says their stoppage rate is higher than ours — that’s a problem,” Dorsey said.
Sig Sauer’s $169.5 million bid outperformed Glock’s $272.2 million bid, according to GAO, which made the Sig Sauer proposal the “best value to the government.” The Army’s initial announcement of the contract award to Sig Sauer described the deal as being worth up to $580 million, but the reason for the discrepancy is not clear.
“So one of the least important factors as they said in the RFP would be the price; that is what became the most important factor,” Dorsey said.
“So let’s think about that for a minute … you are going to go forward making that decision now without completing the test on the two candidate systems that are in the competitive range? Does that make sense if it’s your son or daughter sitting in that foxhole somewhere?”
Glock also argued that the Army’s testing only went up to 12,500 rounds when the “service life of the selected pistol is specified to be 25,000 rounds,” according to Glock’s legal argument to GAO.
“We are not asking for them to overturn Sig,” Dorsey said. “All we ask is for them to continue to test, so that the Army can be ensured that it has the best material solution for its soldiers. Make it fair, make it full and open; transparent and let’s see where the chips fall.”
“Fundamentally, Glock is going to continue to do what we always do. It is never over for us. It’s always on those that go into harm’s way and as long as they are in harm’s way, we will continue to knock on doors and offer the best material solution to the handgun requirement because in my heart, I believe we do have the best material solution.”
The Air Force is arming the F-15 with new weapons to better prepare the decades-old fighter for modern combat challenges and near-peer rivals — giving the jet an ability to fly into the 2040s and track and destroy enemy targets at further ranges under a wide range of combat conditions.
“The Air Force plans to integrate improvements for the AIM-9X and Small Diameter Bomb II on the F-15 over the next several years,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
Air Force officials say the F-15 could be fully armed and operational with the SBD II as soon as this year.
The SDB II, now nearing operational readiness, is a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.
While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions.
The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variants – and plans to keep the aircraft flying into the 2040s.
The new weapons are part of a larger F-15 sustainment and modernization overhaul which is integrating new sensors, targeting, electronic warfare systems and radar as well.
“Active Electronically Scanned Array radars are currently being installed on F-15C and F-15E aircraft at a rate of about 20 per year. Both AESA radars have met initial operational capability. Installs will continue at a similar rate until each platform has met full operational capability, projected to be 2022 for the F-15C and 2025 for the F-15E,” Grabowski said.
Improved radar is a key component to the weapons upgrades, as it enables improved threat detection and targeting against technologically advanced adversaries – such as a Chinese J-10.
All of these adjustments are part of the Air Force’s F-15service life extension effort now underway.
“Full-scale fatigue tests for both the F-15C/D and F-15E are in progress. Final results are still pending, expected to be completed in the 2020 timeframe and will be one of many data points used to assess the size and scope of a possible F-15 service life extension program,” Grabowski said.
The SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight, Raytheon developers have told Warrior Maven.
Engineers are also working on plans to integrate the bomb onto the F-35, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-16 as well, Raytheon officials said. The Air Force is already testing the F-35 with the SDB II.
A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology, according to Raytheon information.
A tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system, Raytheon weapons developers explain.
Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.
Also, the SBD II brings a new ability to track targets in flight through use of a two-way Link 16 and UHF data link, Raytheon officials said.
The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air-dropped bombs so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.
If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.
About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.
The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could, for example, be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.
U.S. President Donald Trump says he is considering canceling his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Argentina this week over Russia’s detention of Ukrainian sailors.
His comments in an interview with The Washington Post published late on November 27 came as the Ukrainian president warned of a “threat of full-scale war” with Russia while European leaders said they were considering a new round of sanctions against Russia because of its capture of three Ukrainian naval ships and their crews following a confrontation at sea off Crimea on November 25.
Will President Trump hold Russia accountable over Ukraine?
Trump told the Post he was awaiting a “full report” from his national security team about the incident before going through with a Putin meeting that had been expected to address a range of issues from arms control to the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.
“That will be very determinative,” Trump told the Post. “Maybe I won’t even have the meeting … I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all,” he said.
Trump was due to meet Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on November 30 and December 1.
His comments came after a Russian court on November 27 ordered 12 of the 24 Ukrainian sailors who were captured by Russian forces to be held in custody for two months.
Russia has claimed that Ukraine provoked the naval clash in what it has called its “territorial waters” near Crimea, which Moscow forcibly annexed from Ukraine in March 2014 in a move not recognized by most nations.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned late on November 27 that the conflict threatens to turn into a “full-scale war,” citing Russia’s “dramatic” build-up of forces in the area.
“I don’t want anyone to think this is fun and games. Ukraine is under threat of full-scale war with Russia,” the president said in an interview with Ukrainian national television.
“The number of [Russian] units that have been stationed along our entire border has increased dramatically,” he said, while the number of Russian tanks has tripled.
Poroshenko a day earlier won the Ukrainian parliament’s approval to put parts of Ukraine they deemed vulnerable to attack from Russia under martial law for 30 days.
The clash between Russian and Ukrainian forces in waters near Crimea was the first in that arena after more than four years of war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,300 people.
Ukraine President Wants Trump’s Help In Getting Russia Out Of His Country | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC
It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait — the narrow body of water, now spanned by a bridge from Russia to Crimea. That strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, including Mariupol.
European Union leaders said they were considering ratcheting up sanctions on Russia for illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov over the weekend and because of its defiance of calls to release the Ukrainian sailors.
Karin Kneissl, the foreign minister of Austria, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said that the bloc will next month consider further sanctions against Moscow.
“Everything depends on the accounts of events and the actions of both sides. But it will need to be reviewed,” Kneissl told reporters.
Norbert Roettgen, a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the EU may need to toughen its sanctions against Russia, while Poland and Estonia called for more sanctions.
Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said Russia’s actions constituted “war in Europe,” adding that this “will not, shall not, and cannot ever again be accepted as business as usual.” She urged the international community “to condemn the Russian aggression clearly, collectively and immediately and demand a stop to the aggression.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said EU countries should do more to support Ukraine, suggesting they reconsider their support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, which she said “helps the Russian government.”
“The United States government has taken a very strong position in…support of Ukraine. We would like other countries to do more as well,” Nauert said.
“Many governments have imposed sanctions on Russia for its actions in Crimea, in Ukraine. Not all of those sanctions…have been fully enforced,” she said.
The Kremlin said Putin repeated Russia’s position that Ukraine provoked the incident In a conversation with Merkel on November 27, and expressed “serious concern” over Ukraine’s decision to impose martial law in regions that border Russia or Moldova’s breakaway Transdniester area, where Russian troops are stationed, or have coastlines on the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov close to Crimea.
Putin said he hoped “Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts,” the Kremlin said.
Iran’s latest attempt to put a satellite in space in spite of US opposition ended in failure, an Iranian defense ministry official told state media, Reuters reported Sunday.
“It was launched with success and … we have reached most our aims … but the ‘Zafar’ satellite did not reach orbit as planned,” the official told state television Sunday.
The latest failure marks the fourth time in a row Iran has been unable to successfully put a satellite in space.
In January 2019, the Iranian rocket carrying the satellite into space failed to reach the “necessary speed” during the third stage of flight, a senior telecommunications official told state media, the Associated Press reported at the time.
The US has criticized Iran’s efforts, arguing that its satellite program is a cover for the development of long-range ballistic missile technology.
President Donald Trump has said that Iran’s space program could help it “pursue intercontinental ballistic missile capability.” Iran argues that the Simorgh rocket is nothing more than a satellite launch vehicle.
In February of last year, Iran made another attempt. Iran’s foreign minister revealed in an interview with NBC News that it failed as well. He added that his country was looking into the possibility of sabotage after a New York Times report suggested the US could be behind the failures.
Iran tried again in August, but the rocket apparently exploded on the launchpad.
In denying US culpability, Trump inexplicably tweeted out an image of the scorched Iranian launchpad from a classified briefing, a photo that appeared to have come from one of the US’ most secretive spy satellites.
After the second failed test, Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told NPR that this is a “trial and error” situation, explaining that “eventually they’re going to get it right.”
Iran managed to put a satellite into orbit in 2009, 2011, and 2012, but lately their efforts have been unsuccessful.
Iran’s Health Ministry reported 12 more deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total to 66 deaths, while the number of cases in the country has reached 1,501.
A member of a council that advises Iran’s supreme leader is among those who died, state television reported on March 2.
Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi died at a Tehran hospital of the virus, state radio said. He was 71. Mirmohammadi is the first top Iranian official to succumb to the COVID-19 disease that is affecting several members of Iran’s leadership.
The council advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It also acts as a mediator between the supreme leader and parliament.
Mirmohammadi’s death comes as other top Iranian officials have contracted the virus. Iran has the highest death toll in the world after China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Infections Could Be Higher
Among those who are infected are Vice President Masumeh Ebtekar and Iraj Harirchi, the head of an Iranian government task force on the coronavirus who tried to downplay the virus before falling ill.
Across the wider Middle East, there are over 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the majority of which are linked back to Iran.
Experts say Iran’s ratio of deaths to infections, around 5.5 percent, is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than official figures show.
In a move to stem the outbreak, Iran on March 2 held an online-only briefing by its Foreign Ministry.
Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi opened the online news conference by dismissing an offer of help for Iran by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Meanwhile, a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in Tehran to support Iran’s response to a coronavirus outbreak, the UN agency said.
The plane carrying the team also contained “medical supplies and protective equipment to support over 15,000 health care workers, as well as laboratory kits enough to test and diagnose nearly 100,000 people,” the WHO said in a statement.
The supplies worth more than 0,000 were loaded onto the United Arab Emirates military transport plane in Dubai.
Earlier, Britain, Germany, and France have offered Iran a “comprehensive package of both material and financial support” to combat the spread of coronavirus.
In a statement, the three European countries committed themselves to providing financial support “close to” 5 million euros (.6 million) through the World Health Organization or other UN agencies.
The group would send by plane medical material to Iran on March 2, including equipment for laboratory tests, protective body suits, and gloves, it said.
An F-35B carried out a remarkable test where its sensors spotted an airborne target, sent the data to an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense site, and had the land-based outpost fire a missile to defeat the target — thereby destroying an airborne adversary without firing a single shot of its own.
This development simultaneously vindicates two of the US military’s most important developments: The F-35 and the Naval Integrated Fire Control Counterair Network (NIFC-CA).
Essentially, the NIFC-CA revolutionizes naval targeting systems by combining data from a huge variety of sensors to generate targeting data that could be used to defeat incoming threats.
So now with this development, an F-35 can pass targeting data to the world’s most advanced missile defense system, an Aegis site, that would fire its own missile, likely a SM-6, to take out threats in the air, on land, or at sea.
This means that an F-35 can stealthily enter heavily contested enemy air space, detect threats, and have them destroyed by a missile fired from a remote site, like an Aegis land site or destroyer, without firing a shot and risking giving up its position.
The SM-6, the munition of choice for Aegis destroyers, is a 22-foot long supersonic missile that can seek out, maneuver, and destroy airborne targets like enemy jets or incoming cruise or ballistic missiles.
The SM-6’s massive size prohibits it from being equipped to fighter jets, but now, thanks to the integration of the F-35 with the NIFC-CA, it doesn’t have to.
The SM-6, as effective and versatile as it is, can shoot further than the Aegis sites can see. The F-35, as an ultra connective and stealthy jet, acts as an elevated, highly mobile sensor that extends the effective range of the missile.
This joint capability helps assuage fears over the F-35’s limited capacity to carry ordnance. The jet’s stealth design means that all weapons have to be stored internally, and this strongly limits the plane’s overall ordnance capacity.
This limiting factor has drawn criticism from pundits more fond of traditional jet fighting approaches. However, it seems the F-35’s connectivity has rendered this point a non-issue.
Overall, the F-35 and NIFC-CA integration changes the game when it comes to the supposed anti-access/area denial bubbles created by Russia and China’s advanced air defenses and missiles.
“One of the key defining attributes of a 5th Generation fighter is the force multiplier effect it brings to joint operations through its foremost sensor fusion and external communications capabilities,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in a statement.
“NIFC-CA is a game changer for the US Navy that extends the engagement range we can detect, analyze and intercept targets,” said Dale Bennett, another Lockheed Martin vice president in the statement.
“The F-35 and Aegis Weapon System demonstration brings us another step closer to realizing the true potential and power of the worldwide network of these complex systems to protect and support warfighters, the home front and US allies.”
Russia has warned the US that its military and allied Syrian forces are ready to attack a key US-held base near the borders of Syria, Jordan, and Iraq, US defense officials said in a CNN report published on Sept. 6, 2018.
The Kremlin is said to have accused the US-led coalition base At Tanf of protecting nearby militants, with Russia delivering two warnings in the past week, CNN said, citing US officials. At Tanf, from which a coalition of dozens of US troops and Syrian rebels launch operations against the Islamic State terrorist group, is seen as a critical location within the scope of Iranian, Syrian, and Russian influence in the region.
“We have absolutely advised them to stay out of At Tanf,” a US official told CNN. “We are postured to respond.”
“The United States does not seek to fight the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing it support,” another official added. “However, if attacked, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition, or partner forces.”
US troops would not need permission from superiors to defend themselves if attacked, which the US reiterated to the Kremlin, CNN reported.
A state-sanctioned attack by Russia could spark a flashpoint conflict in the region. Tensions were raised in February 2018 after dozens of Russian mercenaries were killed during a failed assault on a US-held position near the city of Deir al-Zor.
Russian forces have not recently been seen amassing their troops; however, the US military is still on alert, officials said. Senior military officials, including Defense Secretary James Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are aware of the warnings, CNN said.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
Russia’s warnings come amid a looming assault by Syrian and Iranian forces against the city of Idlib, where Syrian rebels have been cornered. Russia delivered an ominous warning in August 2018 that some experts saw as an indication that the Syrian government might indiscriminately use chemical weapons against the city.
The US followed with a threat of its own, warning Syrian President Bashar Assad that if he “chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its Allies will respond swiftly and appropriately.”
“President Donald J. Trump has warned that such an attack would be a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict and would risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement.
Featured image: Members of 5th Special Forces Group (A) conducting 50. Cal Weapons training during counter ISIS operations at Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A group of eminent scientists behind the “Doomsday Clock” symbolically moved its time forward another 30 seconds on Jan. 25, marking an alarming one-minute advancement since 2016.
“As of today, it is two minutes to midnight,” Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which sets the clock’s time, said during a press briefing.
The clock is a symbol created at the dawn of the Cold War in 1945, and its time is set by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group founded by researchers who helped build the first nuclear weapons during the Manhattan Project.
The Bulletin began publicly adjusting the clock in 1947 to reflect the state of dire threats to the world, primarily to address the tense state of U.S.-Soviet relations and the risk for global nuclear war.
But since the closing of the Cold War in 1991, the clock has come to represent other major threats, such as climate change, artificial intelligence, and cyberwarfare.
“This year, the nuclear issue took center-stage yet again,” Bronson said. “To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger, and its immediacy.”
Why the Doomsday Clock’s time was moved forward
In January 2018, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds, to two minutes to midnight. (Image from Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)
For the 2018 time shift, members of the Doomsday Clock panel squarely took aim at the rhetoric and actions of President Donald Trump, who has said he is pushing for a nuclear arms race.
Bronson and the panel specifically cited a leaked draft of the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, which lays out U.S. strategy surrounding its nuclear arsenal and suggests that the president intends to act on his word.
“The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review appears likely to increase the types and roles of nuclear weapons in U.S. defense plans and lower the threshold to nuclear use,” the panel said in an 18-page statement emailed to Business Insider.
The panel also noted the worrisome state of nuclear programs and security risks in Pakistan, India, Russia, and North Korea in its decision to move the clock forward, as well as Trump’s lack of support for a deal to monitor Iran’s nuclear program. The tense situation in the South China Sea, over aggressive Chinese claims to territory, also played a role in the group’s decision, according to the statement.
The Doomsday Clock experts are also gravely concerned about the state of the warming planet, the resulting climate change, and a fractured global effort to confront and mitigate its worst threats by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The group said in its statement that it is “deeply concerned about the loss of public trust in political institutions, in the media, in science, and in facts themselves — a loss that the abuse of information technology has fostered.”
The time of two minutes “is as close as it has ever been to midnight in the 71-year history of the clock,” Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Arizona State University and a Bulletin chair member, said during the briefing.
Here’s how scientists have shifted the clock’s time from its creation through 2017:
The 2018 shift is the sixth instance the time has been moved to three minutes or less until midnight — the others were in 1949, 1953, 1984, 2015, and 2017.
How to turn back the clock
The Doomsday Clock and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists are not without their critics, however.
Writer Will Boisvert argued in a piece published in 2015 by The Breakthrough Institute that the symbology may be counterproductive to actually solving the problems the Bulletin hopes to spur action on:
Apocalypticism can systematically distort our understanding of risk, mesmerizing us with sensational scenarios that distract us from mundane risks that are objectively larger. Worse, it can block rather than galvanize efforts to solve global problems. By treating risks as infinite, doom-saying makes it harder to take their measure — to prioritize them, balance them against benefits, or countenance smaller ones to mitigate larger ones. The result can be paralysis.
Yet members of the Bulletin, who announced their Doomsday Clock decision at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, noted their full statement comes with multiple recommendations for turning back their clock, including:
Trump should, “refrain from provocative rhetoric regarding North Korea.”
The U.S. should open multiple lines of communication with North Korea.
Governments around the world “should redouble their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” beyond the Paris Agreement.
The international community should rein in and penalize any misuse of information technology that would “undermine public trust in political institutions, in the media, in science, and in the existence of objective reality itself.”
But Krauss said that if governments are unwilling to lead the way in fighting threats to global civilization, the people will have to step up their efforts to do so.
“It is not yet midnight and we have moved back from the brink in the past,” Krauss said. “Whether we do so in the future may be in your hands.”