The Army's next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird

The U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program passed through the Army Requirements Oversight Council and received preliminary approval to set the capabilities development.

In replacing the UH-60 Blackhawk, the Army looks to modernize its aircrafts vertical lift capability. The idea is to complement the Army’s air assault mission and ability to move tactical level troops into and out of combat.


Brigadier General Wally Rugen told Defense News that, “we really are focused on our air assault mission configuration and what that means for the number of troops that would need to be aboard and what requirements are needed to conduct that mission in darkness. Otherwise, the FLRAA program won’t have a ton of mandatory attributes in order to leave a lot of space for innovation as long as we achieve that air assault mission configuration.”

“[When] it comes to joint when it comes to fires when it comes to the tactical objective, the air movement — which is a bit more administrative in nature and not as intense on the combat scale — when we talk about air assault, we want transformational reach,” Rugen added. “That ability to exploit any penetration and disintegration that the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft ecosystem, along with our joint partners has created.”

The two main competitors for the FLRAA are the Bell V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft and the combination of Sikorsky and Boeing with their SB-1 Defiant coaxial helicopter. Each entry will submit proposals within the first half of next year with eyes toward a contract award in fiscal 2022 for the winning prototype. Prototypes would be delivered in early-to-mid 2026, with production beginning in 2028 and the new aircraft being fielded in 2030.

The Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant is a compound helicopter with rigid coaxial rotors. It is powered by two Honeywell T55s, and a pusher propeller in the rear of the aircraft. These give it a 115 mph speed advantage (100 knots) over the conventional helicopters it aims to replace.

Sikorsky is planning on replacing the T55 engines, which power the Chinook helicopters, with the Future Affordable Turbine Engine (FATE) to meet the radius requirement of 264 miles, (424 km). The crew compartment is 50 percent larger than the current Blackhawk helicopters. Recently in a test flight, the aircraft hit a speed of 205 knots, with a planned top speed of 230 knots which is the requirement and even up to 250 knots according to the company.

“Exceeding 200 knots is significant also because it’s beyond any conventional helicopter speed, and we understand that speed and low-level maneuverability is critical to the holistic survivability in a future FVL environment,” Jay Macklin, Sikorsky’s Director of Future Vertical Lift Business Development said back in June.

Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant Takes Flight

www.youtube.com

Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor design is designed for a cruising speed of 280 knots (320 mph), hence the name V-280. It can reach a top speed of 300 knots (350 mph).

The maximum range of the V-280 is 2,100 nautical miles (2,400 mi). It has an effective combat range of 500 to 800 nmi (580 to 920 mi), which is nearly 1500 KM.

Unlike the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, the engines remain in place while the rotors and drive shafts tilt. A driveshaft runs through the straight wing, allowing both prop rotors to be driven by a single-engine in the event of engine loss.

The V-280 has retractable landing gear, a triple-redundant flyby wire control system, and a V-tail configuration. The wings are made of a single section of carbon fiber reinforced polymer composite thus reducing weight and production costs. Dual cargo hooks will give it a lift capacity to carry a 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) M777A2 Howitzer while flying at a speed of 150 knots (170 mph; 280 km/h). The fuselage is visually similar to that of the UH-60 Black Hawk medium-lift helicopter. The V-280 will have a crew of four and be capable of transporting up to 14 troops. In July, Rolls-Royce confirmed an agreement with Bell to develop a propulsion option for the Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor program.

Bell V-280 Valor Multi Domain Operations

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

2,000 Gold-Star family members go to Disney thanks to Gary Sinise

The Gary Sinise Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on veterans, first responders, and their families, has helped send almost 2,000 people from Gold Star families to Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, as part of Snowball Express, a holiday season program that aims to help families of fallen service members.


According to an Instagram post, the foundation is tracking 1,722 participants this year, including hundreds of kids from over 650 families.

Snowball Express started in 2006 and aims to create a five-day experience for the families that is fun, inspiring, and therapeutic. In 2017, Snowball Express became an official Gary Sinise Foundation program.

The program may be young, but through the tireless work of its supporters and members, it has quickly made an impact on participants. A tweet from Fallen Patriots, a non-profit that focuses on helping Gold Star family members get to college, said that participant Dale Mundell now wants to fly for American Air, the airline sponsoring the event, in order to help other family members take part in such events in the future.


I witnessed an international airport come to a complete stop today …

facebook.com

Airports got in on the festivities as well. The Killeen Airport, a familiar location for any service members who have activated or deployed through Fort Hood, Texas, welcomed Snowball Express participants and a man in a Santa costume met with the families.

In Nashville, other travelers stopped what they were doing and held a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. U.S. troops in the terminal stood at attention and saluted as the song was performed, and you can see bystanders drying their eyes in a Facebook video of the event.

Meanwhile, airport employees seem amped about the Snowball Express as well. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association sent tote bags to participants to help them get all their goods from location to location, and the controllers themselves posted photos on social media celebrating as flights took off from airfields under their control.

And around the Disney parks, other park goers and local residents have chimed in on social media as they ran into the crowds of Gold Star family members and were affected by the experience. For some, it was simply a great experience to see all the happy families, but for others, it was also a somber reminder that service members and first responders are still in harm’s way every day.

After all, some participants are as young as 2 or 3 years old, as Snowball Express participant Ramonda Anderson pointed out in a tweet.

If you’re interested in supporting the Gary Sinise Foundation, which also builds adaptive homes for disabled veterans, hosts free theater nights for veterans, and helps pay for training and equipment for first responders, they are always accepting donations on their website and are part of the Combined Federal Campaign. Use CFC number 27963.

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You’ll love the wit and wisdom of the nation’s newest oldest military veteran

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
(Photo: www.Facebook.com/MrOvertonDoc)


After losing Frank Levingston, who died at the age of 110 last week, the veteran community now has another supercentenarian: World War II vet Richard Overton now assumes the title of oldest living American military veteran, just in time for his own 110th birthday.

Watch video from his 110th birthday here.

Overton was born in Bastrop County on May 11th, 1906. He  lives in Austin, Texas. According to his wikipedia page, he enlisted in the Army at 36 years old on September 3, 1942. He was a corporal in an all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion in the South Pacific and made stops in Hawaii, Guam, Palau and Iwo Jima.

Overton retired from the Arm

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
y as Sergeant in 1945 and moved to East Austin, Texas. He worked at local furniture stores and then took a position with the Texas Department of the Treasury. He has lived in the same home – which he bought for $4,000 – for 71 years.  He was married twice, and did not have children. He outlived all of his 10 siblings – and wives.

A documentary, Mr. Overton, has been produced on his life and profiles his daily routine, thoughts on longevity, and military service. According to the film’s Facebook page, it will be available at the Short Film Corner Cannes Court Metrage for the duration of the Cannes Film Festival, which starts today.

The candid combat vet has been interviewed numerous times. Here’s what he had to say on a variety of subjects:

War:

“War’s nothing to be into,” said Overton in a 2013 interview with USA Today. “You don’t want to go into the war if you don’t have to. But I had to go. I enjoyed it after I’d went and came back, but I didn’t enjoy it when I was over there. I had to do things I didn’t want to do.”

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird

“They tried to kill me in the Army, but God wouldn’t let ’em. I stayed for nearly five years and I didn’t get a scratch on me.”

Whiskey:

“You put a taste of whiskey in your coffee in the morning, and it’s like medicine,” he advised Cigar Aficianado in 2015. He later told local paper My Statesman that he also uses it to sleep: “at night when I go to bed, I put two tablespoons in my 7 Up. It makes you sleep soundly.”

Guns:

“You don’t ever leave a bullet under the trigger. Leave it empty. You got to clean your gun every day. You got to keep that barrel clean, because you got to use it every day.”   (Watch his interview with Guns.com here)

Cigars:

He had his first cigar at 18, and has been a regular ever since.  Cigar Aficianado observed “he prefers them mild and on the smaller side—he doesn’t enjoy the fat cigar trend, doesn’t like a cigar that’s too big to hold comfortably in your mouth.”

“I don’t inhale them,” Overton said. “It’s the good taste. Cigars are my friend,” he added. “They keep me company.”

Staying mobile:

“You’ve got to stir around a lot—your muscles get dry, your blood gets slow,” he told Cigar Aficianado last year. “You need to get up and move around. If your muscles get sluggish, it slows your blood down.”

Meeting President Obama in 2013:

“When I come back, everybody wants to know what he said. But I ain’t said one word. I ain’t no tattletale and I don’t talk tales.” he told My Statesman.

His ‘fame’:

“And everywhere I go now, somebody know me,” he says. “Every time I go to a store, somebody say, ‘I seen you on TV.’ I say, ‘No, you didn’t.’ ‘Yes I did, too,’ they say.”

On aging:

“I feel good,” Richard Overton told NBC News. “A little old, but I’m getting around like everybody else.”

Now watch this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwWC8nSVmwg

 

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Yes, you can aim at enemy troops with the .50-cal.

It’s one of the most persistent myths in the U.S. Military. I was even told it in basic training a mere 11 years ago, almost 90 years after the .50-caliber M2 was first designed. It goes like this: Weapons firing a .50-caliber round can be aimed at equipment, but not people. So, if you need to kill a person with a .50-cal., you have to aim at their load-bearing equipment (basically their suspenders).


The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird

Look at this. War crimes at night. What is wrong with troops today?

(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Barney)

But, uh, really? The U.S. has and deploys a weapon in an anti-personnel role that can’t legally be fired at people? And we’ve just been hoodwinking everyone for a century?

That’s… surprising, if not unbelievable. That would require that every enemy in World War II never brought war crimes charges against the U.S. If you assume that the rule was put in place after World War II, when a lot of modern war crimes were defined, then you still have to assume that no one in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, or Afghanistan protested the illegal American actions.

And, even more odd, militaries brag about their top ranged sniper kills. Five of the top six longest-range kills, at least according to Wikipedia right now, were made with .50-cal. rounds (Number six was made by Carlos Hathcock with a machine gun, because he’s awesome). Since all of those snipers were targeting individuals, if you accept this premise, aren’t they war criminals?

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird

Extremely accurate war crimes, huh, buddy?

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Conner Robbins)

Uncool, Wiki editors — do not list war crimes made by war heroes. Let the military justice system do its work without your amateur meddling…

…Except, hear that? That’s the sound of no CID agents coming to arrest these overly bold war criminals. Probably because shooting an enemy combatant with a .50-cal. is not, at all, illegal.

The actual rules for weapons in combat ban specific categories of weapons, like poisonous gasses or plastic landmines, and weapons that cause more unnecessary suffering than they provide military advantage.

If that sounds vague, that’s because it is. Nations occasionally argue about what weapons cause unnecessary suffering, but the militaries involved would typically rather keep all their options open, and so combatants usually decide that any given weapon is fine.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird

Look at this guy and his belt-fed war crimes. Horrible.

(U.S. Army Spc. Deomontez Duncan)

Shotguns came under some serious contention in World War I. The U.S. brought them over the Atlantic to clear German trenches, and they were ridiculously effective. Germany complained that the weapons, which often left their troops either blown in half or with pellet-filled guts, caused unnecessary suffering. America just pointed out that Germany was already using poisonous gasses, and so they should screw off.

Germany never lodged a formal case against the shotgun, but there are a number of weapons that are, officially, illegal under rules against unnecessary suffering. Weapons that use plastic fragments or pellets to wound and kill the enemy, many types of landmines, some types of torpedoes, etc., have all either been banned or partially banned. But there’s no real case against the .50-cal.

So, how did this misinformation campaign get started? It’s not completely clear, but there is a rumor it began in Vietnam.

American logistics at the time were limited, especially for troops deep in the jungle. As the story goes, troops far forward were using their .50-cal. rounds to shoot at any and everything in the jungle that sounded threatening. Commanders prevented ammo shortages by ordering their men to use the .50-cal. ammo only to engage light vehicles.

This is the target that the .50-cal. is best for. It can pierce light armor at decent ranges unlike 5.56mm or 7.62mm rounds. So, if you have a limited supply of the ammo, you want to hold it for the vehicles. The command is thought to have grown from simple ammo conservation to belief of a war crime.

But no, if it’s an enemy combatant, you can legally kill it with any weapon at your disposal, as long as you don’t damage civilian structures or intentionally cause undue suffering. You don’t need to aim a .50-cal at their suspenders, belt buckle, or buttons.

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6 things to know about the VA home loan

The Veterans Affairs home loan can be incredibly confusing, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the information found on the VA website. So we have broken it down into six basic questions for you: who, what, when, where, why, and how?


*As always, when making decisions that impact your personal finances, make sure you’re sitting down with a financial advisor. Most banks have financial advisors on staff who are always willing to work with customers.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
Veterans Affairs employs assessors and appraisers to ensure that each home purchased by service members is priced correctly.(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eric Glassey, 4th Inf. Div. PAO)

1. Who:

Lendee eligibility is determined by service status:

Active duty personnel must have served a minimum of 90 continuous days to be eligible

Reserve or guard members must:

  • have six years of service in the selected reserve or National Guard, and
  • be discharged honorably, or
  • have been placed on the retired list, or
  • have been transferred to Standby Reserve or to an element of Ready Reserve (other than the Selected Reserve after service characterized as honorable), or
  • still be servicing in the Selected Reserve

Spouses can be eligible as well.

2. What:

The VA home loan program is a benefit for eligible service members and veterans to help them in the process of becoming homeowners by guaranteeing them the ability to acquire a loan through a private lender.

Utilizing the VA home loan, lendees do not make a down payment and are not required to pay monthly mortgage insurance, though they are required to pay a funding fee. This fee varies by lender, depends on the loan amount, and can change depending on the type of loan, your service situation, whether you are a first time or return lendee, and whether you opt to make a down payment.

The fee may be financed through the loan or paid for out of pocket, but must be paid by the close of the sale.

The fee for returning lendees and for National Guard and members of the reserve pay a slightly higher fee.

The fee may also be waived if you are:

  • a veteran receiving compensation for a service related disability, or
  • a veteran who would be eligible to receive compensation for a service related disability but does not because you are receiving retirement or active duty pay, or
  • are the surviving spouse of a veteran who died in service or from a service related disability.

3. When:

Lendees may utilize the loan program during or after honorable active duty service, or after six years of select reserve or National Guard service.

4. Where:

Eligible lendees may use the VA home loan in any of the 50 states or United States territories

5. Why:

Veterans Affairs helps service members, veterans and eligible surviving spouses to purchase a home. The VA home loan itself does not come from the VA, but rather through participating lenders, i.e. banks and mortgage companies. With VA guaranteeing the lendee a certain amount for the loan, lenders are able to provide more favorable terms.

6. How:

Eligible lendees should talk to their lending institution as each institution has its own requirements for how to acquire the loan.

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Air Force General claims the US’ capability lead over Russia and China ‘is shrinking’

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
General Herbert J. Carlisle before a US House Armed Services Committee hearing. | US House Armed Services Committee


In a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, General Herbert J. Carlisle, the Commander of Air Combat Command, expressed concern over the current progress in the modernization of the US Air Force.

” … We are flying near and within the weapons envelope of those that could test our dominance,” Carlisle explained in a statement.

“The lead we have is shrinking as our near peer adversaries, and countries with which they proliferate, have developed, likely stolen, and fielded state-of-the-art systems.”

Carlisle cited numerous factors, such as limited resources, in the stagnating state of combat readiness. According to the Air Force, examples include six consecutive years of cuts that would reduce the number of F-35 combat squadrons by 50% by 2028, the divestment of 3,000 aircraft and 200,000 Airmen since Operation Desert Storm, and a reduction of $24 billion in funding for precision attack weapons — about 45% less weapons capacity.

Furthermore, Carlisle pinpointed outdated equipment, such as the AIM-120 medium-range missile, as a disturbing factor. As the Air Force’s primary air-to-air missile, it originally entered service with the F-15C in 1991. According to the official, in addition to the advancement of AIM-120 counter-measures by other nations, this outdated missile also limits the capabilities of newer aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“It also carries insufficient range versus newer long range adversary missiles and will soon require recapitalization,” Carlisle explained in a statement. “We are currently delivering 4th Gen weapons from 5th Gen platforms, and even those weapons inventories are being depleted beyond the current campaign requirements.”

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
An AIM-120 AMRAAM being loaded onto an F-16CJ. | US Air Force

Besides the threat of more budget cuts, there’s also another threat emerging from a different front — the modernization of the air forces in other countries. These threats include the development of their own 5th generation fighters, anti-space weapons, and new surface-to-air weapon systems that are claimed to possess the ability to acquire, track, and target the US’ stealth aircraft.

“It now comes as no surprise that our near peer adversaries’ capabilities have been modernized to specifically counter and negate American capabilities,” Carlisle stated. “Many other nations, Russia and China in particular, copy very well — original thought: they’re not as good.”

Though Carlisle maintains that many of these advancements were obtained through dubious means, the results are clear enough to have a reason for alarm.

The general illustrated this claim by showing how similar China’s J-31 stealth fighter was to the US’ F-35. With advanced stealth, supercruise capabilities, and innovative data-link technology, many officials are also growing concerned at how rapidly, and accurately, the Air Force’s imitators are emulating their counterparts.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
China’s J-31 (F60) at the 2014 Zhuhai Air Show. | Wikimedia Commons

“They’ve watched our success and they know how good we are … They’ll steal technology so they avoid the challenges that we faced,” he explained in the hearing.

In order to address these insufficiencies, Carlisle proposed boosting the Air Force’s air, space, and cyber capabilities — most likely through increased funding — to compete in highly contested environments.

“Although a program is not yet in place, it will be paramount to continue modernizing our fleet, and progress to the next new counter-air aircraft that is more survivable, lethal, has a longer range, and bigger payload in order to maintain a gap with our adversaries,” he concluded.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SecVA: Veteran safety from Coronavirus VA priority

Coronavirus (COVID-19) safety is a top priority, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said at the American Legion Winter Conference March 10 in Washington, D.C.

With Coronavirus dominating national news, Wilkie addressed VA’s response to the situation, including prevention steps at VA medical centers.


“We are making sure that those who come to us are screened,” he said. Wilkie also said VA is limiting visitors to its community living centers, or nursing homes.

“We need to do that to make sure that those who use VA are protected, that they are cared for,” he said. “We will get over this and we will make sure everything is done to protect those who have done so much for our country.”

Suicide prevention, benefits

Wilkie also talked about the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, executive order. The goal of PREVENTS is to bring together stakeholders across all levels of government and in the private sector to work side by side to provide Veterans with the mental health and suicide prevention services they need. The secretary said VA is weeks away from the PREVENTS initiative task force report. The report will supply a roadmap for greater cooperation at the state, local and tribal level.

The secretary also offered high praise for Veteran Service Organizations like the American Legion. He said through continued engagement and the MISSION Act, Vietnam Veterans are about to receive additional benefits.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird

live.staticflickr.com

“We have finally published the regulations that give financial and material support to the families of our Vietnam warriors who take care of those warriors at home, and it is long past time,” the secretary said.

Wilkie said he has a personal interest in caring for Vietnam Veterans. His father received injuries in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Wilkie said the nation should never turn its back “on those men and women who provide us the very freedoms that we breathe and live every day.”

The secretary also discussed another group of Vietnam Veterans. He said VA started accepting Blue Water Navy compensation claims in January. Wilkie added that VA expects 70,000 to apply for the benefits “that are long overdue.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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What it might look like if an American and Chinese carrier went toe-to-toe

It’s no secret that tensions between China and America are ramping up over the South China Sea and Taiwan as President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have drawn a firm line against China. Tillerson even went so far as to suggest the possibility of a blockade against China — considered an act of war — during his Senate confirmation hearings.


So what would it look like if an American and Chinese fleet went to blows in the western Pacific? While the U.S. could win the seapower contest, China has enough land-based assets in the area to more than make up the difference.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
The USS Carl Vinson sails during a training mission in the Pacific on July 17. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class D’Andre L. Roden)

The fighting would likely start with an innocent mistake during a freedom of navigation operation conducted by the U.S. Navy such as the planned deployment of the USS Carl Vinson. Vinson is headed into the South China Sea along with two destroyers, the USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy, and the cruiser USS Lake Champlain.

Meanwhile, China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning deployed to the South China Sea in late 2016/early 2017 with three guided-missile destroyers, two guided-missile frigates, an anti-submarine corvette, and an oiler.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA

If the two forces came to blows, the American force would enjoy an initial advantage despite the Chinese numerical superiority. That’s because America’s air wings on the carrier are vastly more capable than China’s.

The Liaoning was last spotted flying with an air arm of 13 J-15 fighters. While the J-15 is capable of catapult takeoffs and arrested recoveries — at least in theory — the Liaoning can’t facilitate them. It utilizes a bow ramp to help its jets takeoff. So these 13 fighters can’t get airborne with their full weapons and fuel loads.

They would be facing off against Carrier Air Wing 2, the air wing currently assigned to the Vinson. Air Wing 2 has three strike fighter squadrons — 2, 34, and 137 — which fly 10-12 F/A-18 Hornets each. They have approximately 34 Hornets which would be supported by the four E-2C Hawkeye early warning radar planes of the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
The Vinson is packing some serious heat, is what we’re saying. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The entire force would also be supported by the EA-18G Growlers of Electronic Attack Squadron 136.

So 13 Chinese fighters would fly partially blind and with limited weapons against approximately 34 American fighters backed up by early warning radar and electronic attack aircraft. The American forces would annihilate the Chinese.

Which they would have to do, because the Americans need all that firepower still available to take out the more plentiful ships of the Chinese strike group.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

The Growlers would be essential to limiting the anti-air capabilities of the five guided-missile ships — all of which carry anti-air missiles — and the Liaoning which carries the Type 1130 close-in weapons system which is potentially capable of firing 10,000 rounds per minute at missiles and aircraft attacking it.

The Hornets could be joined by the MH-60Rs of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 and the MH-60Ss of Helicopter Sea Squadron 4, but the Navy may prefer to keep the helicopters in reserve.

Most likely, the Hornets equipped solely for anti-air warfare would come back down and get a full load of Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Which Harpoons are available will be important to the pilots.

In the not-so-distant future, the pilots would likely receive the Harpoon Block II with a 134-nautical mile range. That’s long enough that the planes could fire on the guided-missile ships from just outside of their long-range surface-to-air missiles, the HQ-9 with its 108-nautical mile range.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird

But if the Vinson is stuck with just the earlier Harpoons, those have only a 67-nautical mile range. While the Hornets could still get the job done, they’d have to fly near the surface of the ocean, pop up and fire their missiles, and then evade any incoming missiles as they make their escape.

Still, they could destroy the Chinese fleet, even if they lose a couple of Hornets in the attack.

But the American fleet would then need to withdraw, because Chinese planes and missiles from the Spratly and Paracel islands could strike at the carrier fleet almost anywhere it went in the South China Sea.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

While the American strike group could complete a fighting withdrawal — hitting all known locations of Chinese missile batteries within range using land-attack missiles from the cruiser and destroyers — the group just doesn’t have the firepower to really try to take out all of China’s militarized islands and reefs.

Of special concern would be the anti-ship cruise missiles thought to be deployed to Woody Island, Scarborough Shoal, and potentially even Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef, and Mischief Reef. If the weapons are deployed to all of them, there’s nowhere in the South China Sea the carrier can pass through without being forced to defend itself.

So, rather than go on the attack, the carrier group would likely use its Standard Missiles for ship defense and withdraw out of range. If a battle this size took place, it would surely be the start of a major war.

Better to save the Vinson and bring it back later with another strike group and a Marine Expeditionary Unit that can take and hold the ground after the Tomahawk missiles, Harriers, and Hornets soften the islands up.

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This is why Cheyenne Mountain is one of the most secure bases in the US

According to legend, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain is a sleeping dragon that many years ago saved the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. In the Native American story, the Great Spirit punished the people by sending a massive flood, but after they repented, it sent a dragon to drink the water away. The dragon, engorged by the massive amount of water, fell asleep, was petrified and then became the mountain.


Unlike the dragon of legend, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex has never slept during 50 years of operations. Since being declared fully operational in April 1966, the installation has played a vital role in the Department of Defense during both peacetime and wartime.

 

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
The Cheyenne Mountain Complex is a military installation and nuclear bunker located in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. The mountain itself is about 9,500 feet tall, and the tunnel entrance sits about 2,000 feet from the top. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Though the complex may have changed names during the past five decades, its mission has never strayed from defending the U.S. and its allies. Today, it is known as Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, with a primary role of collecting information from satellites and ground-based sensors throughout the world and disseminating the data to North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command — a process Steven Rose, Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director, compares to the work done by the stem of the human brain.

“Those sensors are your nerves out there sensing that information,” Rose said, “but the nerves all come back to one spot in the human body, together in the brain stem, entangled in a coherent piece. We are the brain stem that’s pulling it all together, correlating it, making sense of it, and passing it up to the brain — whether it’s the commander at NORAD, NORTHCOM or STRATCOM — for someone to make a decision on what that means. That is the most critical part of the nervous system and the most vulnerable. Cheyenne Mountain provides that shield around that single place where all of that correlation and data comes into.”

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
Cheyenne Mountain Complex is a military installation and nuclear bunker located at the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

In the 1950s, the DOD decided to build the installation as a command and control center defense against long-range Soviet bombers. As the “brain stem,” it would be one of the first installations on the enemy’s target list, so it was built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.

Cheyenne Mountain’s 15 buildings rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls, so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast and the inherent seismic event. In addition, an EMP, being a natural component of a nuclear blast, was already considered in Cheyenne Mountain’s original design and construction features, Rose said.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
The Cheyenne Mountain Complex is a military installation and nuclear bunker located at the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Its entrance is equipped with two 23-ton blast doors and the mountain has a facility with 15 buildings that rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast or earthquake. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

“Back then, it was just part of the effect of a nuclear blast that we were designed for at Cheyenne Mountain,” he added. “If you fast forward 50 years from our construction, the EMP threat has become more important to today’s society because of the investment that has been made into electronics. Just by sheer coincidence, since we were designed in the 50s and 60s for a nuclear blast and its EMP component, we are sitting here today as the number one rated EMP protected facility. The uniqueness of the mountain is that the entire installation is surrounded by granite, which is a natural EMP shield.”

The station, built 7,000 feet above sea level, opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center. When NORAD and the newly stood up NORTHCOM moved their main command center to Peterson Air Force Base in 2008, many believed Cheyenne Mountain had closed. Today, Cheyenne Mountain hosts an alternate command center for NORAD and is landlord to more than a dozen DOD agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“When I bring official visitors up here, not only are they surprised that we’re still open,” said Colonel Gary Cornn, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Installation Commander. “Many are impressed by the original construction, the blasting of the tunnels, how the buildings are constructed inside, and some of the things we show them, such as the survivability and capability we have in the blast valves, the springs, the way we do our air in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering and the huge blast doors. It’s funny to see senior officers and civilians become sort of amazed like little kids again.”

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
The two 23-ton blast doors at the entrance inside the Cheyenne Mountain Complex are made of steel and can take up to 20 seconds to close with the assistance of hydraulics. If the hydraulics were to fail, the military guards stationed in the tunnel can close the doors in 40 seconds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

The threats and sources have drastically changed from when the station opened at the height of the Cold War, but the station’s iconic 25-ton steel doors remain the same, ready to seal the mountain in 40 seconds to protect it from any threat. The underground city beneath 2,000 feet of granite still provides the protection to keep the station relevant as it begins its next half-century as “America’s Fortress.”

Longtime Cheyenne Mountain employees like Rose and Russell Mullins, the 721st Communications Squadron deputy director, call themselves “mountain men.” Mullins’ time in the mountain goes back to the Cold War era, about halfway through its history to 1984.

Although the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was the main focus, today’s Airmen conduct essentially the same mission: detect and track incoming threats to the United States; however, the points of origin for those threats have multiplied and are not as clearly defined.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
Senior Airman Ricardo Collie, a 721st Security Forces member, patrols the north gate of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex at Cheyenne Air Force Station, Colorado. Collie is one of many security layers to enter more than a mile inside a Colorado mountain to a complex of steel buildings that sit in caves. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

“The tension in here wasn’t high from what might happen,” Mullins said. “The tension was high to be sure you could always detect (a missile launch). We didn’t dwell on the fact that the Soviet Union was the big enemy. We dwelled on the fact that we could detect anything they could throw at us.

“There was a little bit of stress back then, but that hasn’t changed. I would say the stress now is just as great as during the Cold War, but the stress today is the great unknown.”

The 9/11 attacks added another mission to NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate – the monitoring of the U.S. and Canadian interior air space. They stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and Navigation Canada to respond to threats from the air within the continental U.S. and Canada.

Airplane icons blot out most of the national map on the NORAD/NORTHCOM Battle Cab Traffic Situation Display in the alternate command center. To the right another screen shows the Washington, D.C., area, called the Special Flight Restrictions Area, which was also added after 9/11.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
Tech. Sgts. Alex Gaviria and Sarah Haydon, both senior system controllers, answer phone calls inside the 721st Communications Squadron Systems Center in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The systems center monitors around the world for support and missile warning. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Whenever a crisis would affect NORAD’s vulnerability or ability to operate, the commander would move his command center and advisors to the Battle Cab, said Lt. Col. Tim Schwamb, the Cheyenne Mountain AFS branch chief for NORAD/NORTHCOM.

“I would say that on any given day, the operations center would be a center of controlled chaos; where many different things may be happening at once,” Schwamb said. “We’re all trying to ensure that we’re taking care of whatever threat may be presenting itself in as short an amount of time as possible.

“I would describe it as the nerve center of our homeland defense operations. This is where the best minds in NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are, so that we can see, predict, and counter any threats that would happen to the homeland and North American region. It’s really a room full of systems that we monitor throughout the day, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, that give us the information to help us accomplish the mission.”

Protecting America’s Fortress is a responsibility that falls to a group of firefighters and security forces members, but fighting fires and guarding such a valuable asset in a mountain presents challenges quite different from any other Air Force base, said Matthew Backeberg, a 721st Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor firefighter. Firefighters train on high-angle rescues because of the mountain’s unique environment, but even the most common fire can be especially challenging.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
Kenny Geates and Eric Skinner, both firefighters with Cheyenne Mountain’s Fire and Emergency Services Flight, put out a simulated fire in an area underneath the facility during an exercise. With no room to drive throughout the facility to reach the fires, firefighters have to run to them. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

“Cheyenne Mountain is unique in that we have super challenges as far as ventilation, smoke and occupancy,” Backeberg said. “In a normal building, you pull the fire alarm, and the people are able to leave. Inside the mountain, if you pull the fire alarm, the people are depending on me to tell them a safer route to get out.

“If a fire happens inside (the mountain), we pretty much have to take care of it,” Backeberg added. “We’re dependent on our counterparts in the CE world to help us ventilate the facility, keep the fire going in the direction we want it to go, and allow the occupants of the building to get to a safe location – outside the half mile long tunnel.”

Although Cheyenne Mountain, the site of movies and television series such as “WarGames,” “Interstellar,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Terminator,” attracts occasional trespassers and protesters, security forces members more often chase away photographers, said Senior Airman Ricardo Pierre Collie, a 721st Security Forces Squadron member.

“The biggest part of security forces’ day is spent responding to alarms and getting accustomed to not seeing the sun on a 12-hour shift when working inside the mountain,” Collie said.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
Steven Rose (left), the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station deputy director, and the safety chief paddle a boat toward the back of one of Cheyenne Mountain Complex’s underground reservoirs to place a floating device. The underground reservoirs carved from solid rock provide drinking and cooling water, while a lake of diesel fuel sits ready for the six locomotive-sized diesel generators capable of powering a small city. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Security forces must also be ready to respond at a moment’s notice because, when charged with protecting an installation like Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the reaction time is even more crucial. Airmen like Collie feel their responsibly to protect America’s Fortress remains as vital today as it was during the Cold War.

“The important day at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t the day we opened in 1966,” Rose said. “The next important date isn’t in April 2016 (the installation’s 50-year anniversary), it’s about all those days in between. The Airmen who come here to Cheyenne Mountain every day will be watching your skies and shores in (the nation’s) defense.”

As Cheyenne Mountain AFS enters its next 50 years, the dragon remains awake and alert to all threats against the U.S.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY HUMOR

Watch: This episode of ‘Cheers’ hilariously nails the pandemic cleaning panic

One of the benefits of quarantine is catching up on every single television show ever made. There’s nothing better than revisiting some of the classics and clearly, Cheers has to make that list. What’s extra entertaining is when these 40-year-old shows accurately predict the future (like these M*A*S*H episodes).

In episode five of season one, Cheers absolutely nails it.


In this episode, titled “Coach’s Daughter,” customer Chuck (played by Tim Cunningham) sits at the bar and tells bartender Sam (Ted Danson) and the Cheers’ regulars that he has a new job at a biology lab. He shares his anxiety about working with mutant viruses and the reaction from the Cheers’ crew couldn’t be any more fitting to what we are experiencing with COVID-19.

Cheers Coronavirus

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Cheers Coronavirus

Cheers ran from 1982 through 1993 with 275 half-hour episodes. Although it was almost cancelled early on, it made it an impressive 11 seasons. Set in a bar in Boston, visiting the friendly location on the airwaves became a weekly household staple, with everyone wanting to visit the place, “Where everybody knows your name.” Cheers earned 26 Emmy Awards, six Golden Globe Awards and many other accolades. It remains one of the best shows in history.

Cheers had several episodes with military-connected plots, although none better than “One for the Book,” which aired December 9, 1982. In this iconic episode, two customers enter the friendly neighborhood establishment, and of course their paths should meet. One is Buzz Crowder played by Ian Wolfe.

Buzz and his buddies from WWI agree to meet every 10 years for a reunion, but just as we see with our WWII veterans present day, Buzz’s peers are dwindling. In this episode, Buzz is the last one left. Luckily for him, you may walk into Cheers alone, but you’ll never leave without making friends. In “One for the Book,” that friend happens to be a young man getting ready to head to the monastery and looking for a night of fun before he becomes a monk.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird

Photo: Cheers, NBC Universal

While Cheers ran on NBC, all 275 episodes are now available for streaming on CBS All Access. Start today and we’re confident you can finish the series before the end of quarantine. Or, let’s be honest, by the end of the week.

Cheers!

Articles

This is how the Patriot Guard escorted a fallen Marine home

What started out as a way to support the families of fallen military and law enforcement personnel reached a new high in honoring the fallen.


According to Tribunist.org, the Patriot Guard Riders, a group of motorcyclists, learned that Staff Sergeant Jonathan Turner, a Marine who died of combat-related injuries in August, 2015, would be shipped to his mother in Georgia via FedEx. Turner served 17 years in the Marine Corps and made seven combat deployments during the War on Terror.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
Patriot Guard Riders. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Turner’s mother was unable to make it to California, so the Marine Corps made the funeral arrangements. However, the plan to ship Staff Sergeant Turner’s remains to Georgia would hit a snag.

Instead, the Patriot Guard Riders stepped in to caravan Turner’s remains to Georgia. The group, which started as a way to provide a barrier between a group protesting military funerals and grieving families, has since expanded to fill out the ranks for homeless veterans who died and welcomes home troops returning from overseas.

“We did this primarily because his mother was unable to attend the services, and he had been cremated and we didn’t want him to go home in a Fed Ex box,” David Noble, the Vice President of Members for the group, told Tribunist.org. Riders from nine states took part in the cross-country trek.

Below, see the video of Patriot Guard members handing over Staff Sgt. Turner’s remains.

Articles

The Air Force is looking into disposable drones to be ‘unmanned wingman’

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — After the “explosive” increase in the capabilities of unmanned aerial systems over the last 15 years, the challenges for the future are to develop the ability to avoid being shot down and to reduce the cost of operating and processing the data coming from what the Air Force calls “remotely piloted aircraft,” a panel of industry and Pentagon officials said Sept. 20.


The RPAs have proven their value for collecting intelligence and conducting precision strikes in the 15 years of constant combat since 9/11. But that all has happened in a permissive environment against adversaries that have no air forces or even integrated air defenses, the officials said during a presentation at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber conference.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird
Airman 1st Class Steven and Airman 1st Class Taylor prepare an MQ-9 Reaper for flight during Combat Hammer May 15, 2014, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Fighter, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft units around the Air Force are evaluated four times a year and provided weapons, airspace and targets from Hill AFB, Utah, or Eglin AFB, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. N.B.)

Although the experts agreed that developing the ability to operate RPAs against high-tech adversaries in the future was crucial, none offered any proposals on how to do that. The Air Force already has some unmanned aircraft with stealth capabilities that allow them to reduce detection by enemy radars. And the Navy is planning to field a carrier-based UAS that will function primarily as an airborne tanker but also will have ISR capabilities.

Kenneth Callicutt, director of Capabilities and Resources at the U.S. Strategic Command, noted that other sensor platforms, such as the E-3 AWACs and E-8 JSTARS, also would be at risk in a future high-end conflict. So the issue would be how to get the sensors forward, he said.

Callicutt suggested that the solution could be the “unmanned wingman,” a low-cost RPA that could be operated by a manned aircraft into high-risk conditions.

James Gear, an advanced systems official with L3 communications, suggested one option could be deciding between the current reusable aircraft or expendable platforms.

“There are times when you don’t want to be burdened to recover that system,” he said.

But others raised the issue of justifying throw away sensor platforms in the current tight budget situation.

Tom Clancy, chief technology officer with Aurora Flight Science Corp, noted that with the great increase in capabilities that RPAs give the warfighters, the way they evolved led to a situation “where it takes more people to operate them than manned aircraft.”

Looking forward, Clancy said, the question is, “how can we deliver on lower cost, deliver more capability at lower cost? That leads to autonomous systems. … As a community, we need to drive to that.”

Christopher Pehrson, a strategic development director at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, offered two other options to cut the cost of using RPAs to collect intelligence. One, he said, would be to allow a ground commander on the scene to control the aircraft, rather than controllers at a remote location. He also suggested it would be cheaper to have a person who knows the region and the culture of the adversary to handle the ISR data, rather than trying to develop automated systems to process it.

Callicutt raised two other issues created by the proliferation of RPAs collecting vast amounts of data – how to get that data to those who need it and the limited amount available electromagnetic “bandwidth.”

He noted that Link 16, currently the best secure system of transmitting data between military systems, was created in 1964.

“I submit it’s time to start thinking about the next battle network,” and cited the concept of the “combat cloud” that senior Air Force officials have proposed. That would be a secure version of the cloud currently used by individuals and corporations to store their computer files.

“It’s no secret, we need better communications, like the combat cloud,” Callicutt said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin orders new Su-57 stealth fighters in attempt to rival the US

Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to order nearly five times as many fifth-generation Su-57 stealth fighters as originally planned to replace older fighters, strengthen Russian airpower, and give Russia a fighting chance in competition with its rivals.

“The 2028 arms program stipulated the purchase of 16 such jets,” Putin said during last week’s defense meeting before announcing that the Russian military had “agreed to purchase 76 such fighters without the increase in prices in the same period of time.”

The Russian president said a 20% reduction in cost had made the purchase of additional fifth-gen fighters possible. Improvements in the production process are also reportedly behind Putin’s decision to order more of the aircraft.


He added that a contract would be signed in the near future for the fighters, which he said would be armed with “modern weapons of destruction,” according to Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency. Such weapons could include the R-37M long-range hypersonic air-to-ar missile, an advanced standoff weapon with a range of more than 300 kilometers, or about 186 miles, Russian media reported.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird

Russian R-37M long-range hypersonic air-to-ar missile.

(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

The new Su-57s are expected to be delivered to three aviation regiments. Those units, the Russian outlet Izvestia reported May 20, 2019, include regiments in the three main strategic regions in the northwest, southwest, and far east. The report said only the best pilots would be trained on the aircraft.

Seventy-six of these fighters is a particularly tall order for the Russian military, which has had to cut orders for various programs, such as the T-14 Armata main battle tank, over funding shortages. Right now, Russia has only 10 Su-57 prototypes, and fighter development has been moving much slower than expected.

The Su-57’s chief developer argued late last year that the Su-57 was superior to US stealth fighter jets, a claim met with skepticism by most independent experts.

The Army’s next long range assault aircraft will be a brand new bird

Su-57 stealth fighter at the MAKS 2011 air show.

Russia’s Su-57 fighters, as they are right now, largely rely on older fourth-generation engines, and they lack the kind of low-observable stealth capabilities characteristic of true fifth-generation fighters, such as Lockheed Martin’s highly capable F-22 Raptor or F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

That is not to say the Russian fighter does not have its own advantageous features, such as the side-facing radar that gives it the ability to trick the radar on US stealth fighters. And it is possible, even likely, that the Russian military will make improvements to the aircraft going forward.

Should Russia follow through in purchasing 76 Su-57s, its military would still trail far behind those of the US and its partners with respect to fifth-generation airpower. As of February 2019, there were 360 F-35s operating from 16 bases in 10 countries, according to Bloomberg. The US also possesses 187 F-22s, arguably the best aircraft in the world.

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

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