The Army is firing off 'Spider-Man' nets to take down enemy drones - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

It’s likely that whoever US troops fight in the next war, these enemies will be armed with drones. That’s why Army researchers have invented a smart and cost-effective way to bring them down.

The US Army has invented a new grenade in the 40 mm configuration that is packed with a net and specifically designed to take out enemy drones.


The weapon, which was developed by Army engineers at the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) in New Jersey, can be launched from the standard grenade launchers regularly used by the US military and law enforcement.

Here’s how it works, according to a patent…

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

Scalable Effects Net Warhead.

(US Army/Patent via United States Patent and Trademark Office)

The projectile contains a net with weights, the patent detailed. As the round nears the target, a signal from a control board releases the net stored inside, according to the recent patent.

The weapon can theoretically be used to counter both single and swarming drones.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

Scalable Effects Net Warhead.

(US Army/Patent via United States Patent and Trademark Office)

Terrorist groups and insurgents in the Middle East have used commercial quadcopters for reconnaissance, as well as the dropping of improvised munitions.

The Army’s simple yet effective invention has purportedly outperformed existing net-centric counter-drone techniques, such as drone-operated drag nets, where a pilot must outmaneuver an enemy aerial drone. That tactic would likely be ineffective against a swarm of drones, which a sophisticated adversary like Russia would be capable of wielding.

Furthermore, the new net-packed grenade is a lot cheaper than surface-to-air weapons, such as surface to air missiles, to take out an adversary’s drones. A US ally once used a million Patriot missile to shoot down a quadcopter drone that probably cost no more than 0, US Army Gen. David Perkins last year, calling attention to the need for affordable counter-drone capabilities.

Ground units equipped with the M320 grenade launchers could carry dozens of these grenades to eliminate enemy drones from hundreds of yards away, TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer ,explained, adding that units equipped with the Mk-19 launchers could down enemy drones from even farther away.

The Army wants to eventually expand this concept to disable boats and trucks and much more.

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

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4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

We all know Hollywood tends to get a lot wrong about the military. Uniform items, tactics, and even people from history get mixed up, dropped, and/or lost along the way. But Hollywood also glamorizes a lot of what the military is and what military life is like. If we were to actually live by Hollywood war movie standards, military life would be all yelling, push-ups, and constant field training.

Who would do all the paperwork? Some salty staff NCO who will always be complaining about all the paperwork he has to do. Well, they got that part down. Here are six things Vietnam veterans really did that you’ll never see in the movies.


The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones
I didn’t see this in Forrest Gump. (VietnamSoldier.com)

Sh*t burning

Yeah, the military still has this detail. But whenever you hear the telltale sounds of Hueys over the music of Creedence Clearwater’s Fortunate Son, the newly-deploying troops are always headed to some very green, very loud base filled with troops who are grilling out and kitting up to go on a search and destroy mission. These new privates are given their marching orders to go out on a combat patrol immediately, even though they’re still green. When (if) they get back, they get time to sit in the bunks and chatter.

No. While they were gone, the REMF NCOs made quick use of that grilled food. It’s time to do the private’s work. Here’s your diesel fuel, Tom Cruise. A lot of Vietnam vets say that’s the newcomer’s first work detail.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones
1st Marine Division: A US Marine Corps M67 flame-thrower tank in Vietnam. An M1919A4 MG is mounted on the commander’s cupola to the right.
Original caption: Flame tank in action spraying its deadly napalm. (USMC Photo)

Counting bodies

Remember when Forrest Gump was busy rescuing Bubba from the oncoming wave of napalm that lit up the Vietnamese in the area? He barely made it out alive. What great, gripping action. The enemy was subdued, Forrest and Lt. Dan were safe, and Forrest could go on honoring Bubba and his family.

What they don’t show is probably the Beehive anti-personnel rounds that lit up the area before the napalm was dropped. After the NVA or Vietcong are pinned to trees by exploding flechettes, it’s pretty hard for them to escape the area before the napalm comes in. Some private is going to get sent to count just how many charred bodies are attached to trees. It ain’t pretty, but it happened.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones
Nguyen Loung, ordnance expert John Lyons, and Dr. Dinsmore pose for the press following the surgery. (U.S. Navy Photo)

Body bag duty

When an allied troop dies, someone needs to take care of the body. That’s a junior enlisted job. In places like Saigon and in field hospitals, dead ARVN troops were bagged and moved from hospital to mortuary to burial details – really quickly if the troops were lucky. If they were unlucky, they were moving heavy, dripping bags or bodies that reeked of death and decay and were often filled with maggots.

That’s a smell you won’t ever forget, vets say.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones
Amazing but fictional. (Forest Gump).

The new clueless LT

Isn’t it awesome to see a competent, intelligent, squared away officer like Lt. Dan Taylor leading American fighting men into combat? Throughout Forrest’s entire time in Vietnam, Lt. Dan led them through rice paddies, jungles, and other terrain, clearing tunnels and destroying outposts. Sure, he also led them into an ambush, but sh*t happens, and then it’s burnt to a crisp – just like that ambush.

But Lt. Dan doesn’t represent every Lieutenant who came to Vietnam. Vietnam vets remember new officers showing up to tell seasoned troops how to do their jobs, even if it was wrong or if the officer was unable to read maps.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch SWCC operators jump out of a C-17 with their boats

The Pentagon has released footage of Special Warfare Combat-craft Crewmen jumping out of a C-17 Globemaster III heavy transportation aircraft.

The video shows 11 SWCCs from Special Boat Team 20 jump out of the C-17 after two boats are dropped using the Low Velocity Airdrop Delivery System.


SWCCs are part of the Navy Special Warfare Command, and are tasked with expertly driving high-speed boats that are armed to the teeth — usually with GAU-17 miniguns, M2HB .50 caliber heavy machine guns, M240B light machine guns, and sometimes even Mk 19 grenade launchers.

SWCCs often work alongside Navy SEALs, providing them fire support and transportation via a number of different watercraft. They also can assist in the interdiction of naval vessels. The boats dropped in the video are Combat Craft Assault boats.

The CCAs are known for having a small radar and infrared signature, and have become a favorite amongst SWCC for their speed and ability to be reconfigured for different operations.

Check out the video of the training exercise here:

Articles

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

It is not Iron Man. It isn’t even Iron Fist. Lockheed Martin’s newest exoskeleton is more like Iron Leg. But for a soldier humping his weapons, ammo and body armor up a mountain in Afghanistan or a high-rise building in a future urban battle, a device to take the load off would be welcome. And, unlike science fiction supersuits, we can build it now.


Exoskeletons are part of the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy, which seeks to use robotics and artificial intelligence to enhance humans on the battlefield, rather than to replace them. There’s no area where the need is more acute than in the infantry, which takes the vast majority of casualties.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones
U.S. Army official file photo: A Punisher unmanned ground vehicle follows Soldiers during the PACMAN-I experiment in Hawaii. (U.S. Army photo)

One particularly persistent problem: weight. US foot troops have been overburdened since at least D-Day, where some men drowned in shallow water under their heavy packs. The problem has become especially acute since 9/11, with US troops in body armor laboring to chase Taliban in flip-flops. The military is constantly looking at ways to make equipment lighter, but those improvements are mainly on the margins, a pound shaved here or there. It’s also experimenting with wheeled or tracked robots that can carry some of a squad’s equipment, but these robotic mules can’t yet keep up with nimble infantrymen over rough terrain.

So if you can’t lighten the soldier’s load, and you can’t take it off him, can you make him stronger? Nowadays, the answer is yes: We have the technology.

How It Works

The Lockheed exoskeleton’s full and unwieldly designation is FORTIS Knee-Stress Relief Device (K-SRD), which makes it sounds like a piece of molded plastic your insurance would refuse to cover. In fact, it’s a sophisticated synthesis of multiple technologies:

a rigid load-bearing framework to transfer weight off the wearer to the ground; compact actuators at the knee to increase strength (future models may add actuators at the hip as well); soft materials that buffer between the human being and the rigid frame, helping translate analog human movements into digital signals to the actuators; and an artificial intelligence that adjusts the machinery to move seamlessly with the wearer — unlike past earlier exoskeletons that often resisted the body’s natural movements.

In tests, elite Tier One special operators wearing K-SRD found they could do twice as many squats lifting 185 pounds of weight, going from an average of 20-25 reps to over 50. There were similar improvements climbing stairs carrying a 185-lb simulated casualty, said Lockheed product manager Keith Maxwell, a former Navy and “Other Government Agency” operator himself. “It literally pushes you up flights of stairs,” he told me. “(You) do it faster, with much less fatigue.”

However, the gains are greatest with vertical movement and least on level ground, Maxwell emphasized. On a 15-degree slope, he said, the device reduces the human’s energy expenditure — the “net metabolic cost” — by only about 9 percent. On level ground, it doesn’t save any energy, he said. Why? Humans evolved over millions of years for long-distance chases across the savannah: The theory of persistence hunting suggests our ancestors, lacking bows and arrows, simply ran after prey until it collapsed from exhaustion. Nothing modern technology can make is likely to improve on human performance over level ground, at least any time soon.

With K-SRD on level ground, said Maxwell, “what we’re able to do is break even” — which is a marked improvement over past exoskeletons. Lockheed spent years on an 85-lb rigid exoskeleton called HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier), which was good at carrying heavy weights but lousy at matching human movements. “The problem was that terrain is irregular and human gait is infinitely variable,” Maxwell said, so HULC’s computer kept misunderstanding what the wearer wanted to do and moving the wrong way. Overall, Maxwell said, walking around in a HULC actually cost 15 to 25 percent more energy than having no exoskeletal “help” at all.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones
The FORTIS Industrial Exoskeleton. (Lockheed)

Lockheed moved on to the less ambitious FORTIS, essentially a rigid support frame — it doesn’t require electricity because it doesn’t have actuators — that could help factory and shipyard workers handle heavy tools without fatigue. The wearer has enough mobility to relocate, tools in hand, to another worksite within 100 yards, but the industrial FORTIS far too awkward for the battlefield.

The FORTIS K-SRD, by contrast, uses its mix of rigid and flexible components, and a much more sophisticated set of algorithms than HULC, to move with the wearer’s body. Testers were able to operate it with only 15 minutes of training, Maxwell said, and some of the special operators didn’t bother with the training at all.

“They can run, they can climb, they can squat,” Maxwell said. They can hit the dirt, take cover, and crawl, then jump up and dash forward and take cover again. They can even walk along a balance beam although for such precision movements he recommends turning the strength-magnifying actuators off, done with a simple thumb movement on the controls. One tester even found his K-SRD comfortable enough to sleep with it on.

The Case Against Iron Man

After decades of exoskeleton development, Lockheed wants to get this device out into the field soon. The K-SRD team is working mostly closely with the Army’s Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., which they expect to buy a number of K-SRDs for test purposes and institute a Cooperative Research Development Agreement (CRADA) in the next 30-60 days. Other partners include the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force and the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad initiative. Lockheed is even working with theDepartment of Homeland Security and some foreign fire departments on potential firefighting and rescue applications, since those also involve heavily burdened humans climbing up and down with life and death and stake.

Maxwell did not mention Special Operations Command, whose TALOS program envisions a full-body suit of mechanical armor able to resist point-blank gunshots — what then-SOCOM chief Adm. William McRaven compared to Iron Man’s suit.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) relies on the JARVIS artificial intelligence to help pilot his Iron Man suit — the kind of “human-machine teaming” that increasingly intrigues the Pentagon. (Marvel Comics/Paramount Pictures)

“Can we have an up-armored solution that’s capable of breaching and entering and being relatively invulnerable to 7.62 AP (armor piercing) bullets at point-blank range? Yeah, we can do that,” said Maxwell. That said, it’d probably be heavy and slow, far from the flight-capable suit in the comics.

“Iron Man has…hurt exoskeleton development,” Maxwell said, because it’s created impossible expectations — literally impossible, since the CGI suit in the movies routinely violates the laws of physics. When Iron Man drops from the sky to a neat three-point landing, in particular, the sudden deceleration would liquefy Tony Stark inside the suit.

Nevertheless, Maxwell said, while real-world exoskeletons may not copy the comic books, they’re still a marvel. When our best troops put them on, he said, “they become something more than human.” They become something more than mere machines, as well, he said: “The man in the machine will beat the machine (by itself) every time.”

That’s the so-called centaur model of human-machine teaming at the heart of the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy. It’s the synergy of a human imagination and agility controlling the strength and speed of a machine, like the mythical centaur combining rider and horse into a single being.

“As long as there’s judgment (required) in situations in which the person is going to have to make a call, we’re going to want a human in the loop. Eventually, if we can get machines to do that for us…we’ll just make these robots,” Maxwell told me. “Until then…you take the absolute best human beings and combine them with the absolute best in machines.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Koreas join forces in overtime to save US peace summit

President Donald Trump on May 29, 2018, praised the “solid response” to a letter he sent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in which he canceled a planned summit between the two leaders.

After Trump sent the letter on May 24, 2018, many of Asia’s top negotiators spent the weekend in a flurry of diplomatic activity with the goal of saving the summit, which had been scheduled for June 12, 2018, in Singapore.


“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea,” Trump tweeted on May 29, 2018. “Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!”

When Trump called off the summit, citing North Korean anger and hostility, it came as a shock to US allies and journalists alike.

Two days later, Kim had a surprise meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, an attempt to get the summit back on track.

In talking to South Korea, North Korea seemed to put aside its anger and recent hostility, agreeing to attend meetings with Seoul it had canceled in protest of US-South Korean military exercises. It also reaffirmed its aim for denuclearization.

Notably present at the meeting was Kim Yong Chol, a high-ranking official with ties to North Korea’s spy service.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones
Kim Yong Chol

Kim Yong Chol has been singled out for sanctions by the US. He is accused of masterminding an attack on a South Korean navy ship that killed 46 people and of involvement in the 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures.

If Kim Yong Chol arrives in New York, it will represent the highest-level North Korean to visit the US since 2000, NK News reported.

It would also give Trump a chance to hear from a North Korean official without South Korean figures mediating the message.

“At best, this will give US officials a better understanding of North Korea’s position and steer the summit in a more realistic direction,” a former State Department Korea Desk officer, Mintaro Oba, told NK News. “At worst, tense meetings will cloud or poison the atmosphere, calling the summit into question once again. It’s hard to tell which direction is more plausible right now.

“We can also probably expect that some in Washington may raise concerns about the optics of meeting with an official with Kim Yong Chol’s past of provocations.”

But Trump’s team, previously thought to be unprepared for the summit, also saw a big change over the last weekend of May 2018.

The US ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, traveled to North Korea for talks. He took part in denuclearization talks with North Korea a decade ago and is highly regarded in that capacity.

With the summit’s originally scheduled date now less than two weeks away, Trump’s letter to Kim has whipped the region into a flurry of activity that appears for now to have saved diplomacy.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian missiles in Syria might trigger a war with Israel

Russia announced on Sept. 24, 2018, it would send its advanced S-300 missile defense systems to Syria after it lost a spy plane to errant Syrian air defense fire— but the new set-up puts Israel at high risk of killing Russians and starting a war.

Russia blames Israel for Syria, its own ally, firing a Russian-made air defense missile that missed Israeli jets attacking Syria and instead killed 15 Russian servicemen on an Il-20 spy plane.

According to Russia, Israeli F-16s flew in low under the Il-20 to either shield themselves from air defense fire or make Syrian air defenses, which use outdated technology, shoot down the bigger, easier to spot Il-20 rather than the sleeker F-16s.


Whether or not Israel purposefully used the Il-20 to its advantage remains an open question. But it exposed a glaring flaw in Syrian and Russian military cooperation, which Moscow is due to close with the S-300.

Russians hit the front lines, and Israel won’t back off

According to Nikolai Sokov, a Senior Fellow at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterrey, the Russians will now sit on-site at Syrian air defense sites, which Israel frequently bombs.

Syria’s current air defenses lack the highly-classified signal Russian planes send to their own air defenses to identify them as friendly. Without this secret sign from the flying Il-20, Syria mistook it for an enemy, and shot it down.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

An Ilyushin IL-20 in flight.

(Photo by Dmitry Terekhov)

If Russia could simply give Syria the signal and fix the problem, it would have likely done so already. But if Syria somehow leaked the signal, the US or NATO could trick all Russian air defenses into their fighters were friendly Russian jets, leaving Russia open to attack, according to Sokov.

“The S-300 systems Russia plans to supply to Syria will feature a compromise solution,” said Sokov. “They will be fully equipped to distinguish Russian aircraft… but there will be Russian personnel present at controls.”

Israel has admitted to more than 200 air strikes within Syria in the last two years. These strikes have killed more than 100 Iranian fighters in Syria in September 2018 alone, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.

Frequently, Syria responds to these strikes with air defense fire against Israeli fighter jets. In February 2018, Syria succeeded in downing an Israeli F-16. Israel responded with a sweeping attack it claimed knocked out half of Syria’s air defenses.

Trends point to a big fight

Iran has pledged to wipe Israel off the map, and has for decades tried to achieve that by transferring weapons across the Middle East to Israel’s neighbors, like Lebanon where Hezbollah holds power.

Israel has vowed in return to destroy Iranian weapons shipments wherever it finds them. In the past, Israel has struck Iranian uniformed personnel, munitions depots, and Iranian-backed militias.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

A Russian S-300V (SA-12a Gladiator).

In short, Israeli strikes that require air defense suppression (such as blowing up Russian-made air defenses in Syria) will not stop any time soon, judging by Israel and Iran’s ongoing positions.

But now, when Israel knocks down a Syrian air defense site, it runs the risk of killing Russian servicemen. When Israel kills Syrians, Syria complains and may fire some missiles back, but its military is too weak and distracted by a seven-year-long civil war to do much about it.

If Israel kills Russians, then Russia’s large navy and aviation presence could mobilize very quickly against Israel, which has fierce defenses of its own.

“Obviously, this seriously constrains not just Israeli, but also US operations in case of possible bombing of Syria,” Sokov said of the new Russian-staffed S-300.

“Not only Syrian air defense will become more capable, but it will be necessary to keep in mind the presence of Russian operators at the Syrian air defense systems.”

So next time Israel or the US decides to strike Syria, it may not only find stiffer-than-usual resistance, it might find itself in a quickly escalating battle with one of the world’s greatest military powers.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A B-52 bomber part landed in a woman’s yard during training

A part from a US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber fell off and landed in a British woman’s front garden during a training exercise last week, the BBC reports.

The B-52 bomber is part of the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, which is deployed to Royal Air Force Fairford in Gloucestershire.

The aircraft was participating in a training exercise when its wing-tip gear door fell into the yard of a Warwichkshire woman, according to the BBC.


“Yesterday around 5:30 PM in Brailes a resident reported hearing a thud in her front garden,” the nearby Shipston on Stour police department said on its Facebook page on Oct. 24, 2019. “Thankfully no harm to persons/animals/property.”

The woman, who requested anonymity, told local media outlet Gloucestershire Live that it was a “miracle” no one was hurt.

“You won’t find any evidence in the front garden where it landed, we managed to get it back to normal pretty quickly,” the woman said. “I’ve been contacted by the police and even the MOD [Ministry of Defense]. We are on a flight path here but you never expect something like this to happen.”

“The part landed in a local national’s garden and was retrieved by 2nd Bomb Wing personnel, in partnership with the UK Ministry of Defence Police,” the US Air Force told the BBC. “A safety investigation is being conducted, as is the standard with these types of events.”

Insider reached out to the US Air Force and the 2nd Bomb Wing for more information about the aircraft’s status, as well as what led to the incident, but did not receive a response by press time.

Four B-52s and about 350 airmen deployed to the UK earlier in October 2019 to train with the RAF and other NATO partners as part of US Air Force’s Bomber Task Force. The B-52 has been in service since 1955 and can carry both nuclear and conventional weapons.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wreckage of Japanese F-35 found; pilot still missing

Search and rescue teams found wreckage belonging to a Japanese Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter that disappeared on April 9, 2019, over the Pacific Ocean close to northern Japan, a military spokesman said on April, 10, 2019.

The pilot of the aircraft is still missing, said the Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) spokesman.

“We recovered the wreckage and determined it was from the F-35,” the spokesman told Reuters.

The F-35 was less than a year old and was delivered to the ASDF in May 2018, he added.

Japan’s first squadron of F-35s has just become operational at the Misawa air base and the government plans to buy 87 of the stealth fighters to modernize its air defenses as China’s military power grows.


The advanced single-seat jet was flying about 135 km (84 miles) east of the air base in Aomori Prefecture at about 7.27 p.m. (1027 GMT) on April 9, 2019, when it disappeared from radar, the Air Self Defense Force said.

The aircraft was flying for roughly 28 minutes when it lost contact with Japanese forces, an official reportedly added.

Lockheed Martin said in a statement that it was standing by to support the Japanese Air Self Defense Force as needed.

The Pentagon said it was monitoring the situation.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

The crash was only the second time an F-35 has gone down since the plane began flying almost two decades ago. It was also the first crash of an A version of the fifth-generation fighter designed to penetrate enemy defenses by evading radar detection.

A U.S. military short take off and landing (STOVL) F-35B crashed near the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina in September 2018 prompting a temporary grounding of the aircraft. Lockheed Martin also makes a C version of the fighter designed to operate off carriers.

Japan’s new F-35s will include 18 short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) B variants that planners want to deploy on its islands along the edge of the East China Sea.

The F-35s are shipped to Japan by Lockheed Martin and assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd at a plant near Nagoya in central Japan. Each costs around 0 million, slightly more than the cost of buying a fully assembled plane.

Additional reporting by Chris Gallagher and Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo, and Idrees Ali and Chris Sanders in Washington; Editing by Michael Perry

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

Articles

This is how the AV-8 Harrier won dogfights by stopping in midair

Remember that scene in Top Gun when Maverick tells Goose that he’ll “hit the brakes” and the instructor pursuing him in an A-4 Skyhawk will just fly right by? Braking sharply, while in-flight, is indeed a tactic that can be utilized by fighter pilots in air-to-air combat, but no aircraft could ever do it quite as well as the venerable Harrier jumpjet. The technique was known as “VIFF”.


The Harrier, originally developed by Hawker Siddeley, and later, British Aerospace Systems (BAe), could achieve vertical flight by vectoring four large nozzles straight down towards the ground. The nozzles would vent exhaust at full thrust from the Harrier’s powerful main Pegasus engine, allowing the aircraft to hover, lift off the ground and land like a helicopter.

Related: The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

This carved out a brand new niche for the Harrier that wasn’t really challenged at all until the recent F-35B Lightning II: it could literally fly and land anywhere and everywhere. The Harrier could be launched from highways and unimproved fields and grass strips, or could be deployed to sea aboard small aircraft carriers, or even re-purposed cargo vessels.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones
An AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft performs a vertical landing on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes

The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, which operated the navalized version of the jumpjet – the Sea Harrier – was enthusiastic about using the aircraft on deployments aboard light aircraft carriers, especially the HMS Invincible (R05). The problem with the Harrier/Sea Harrier was the fact that the aircraft was almost entirely geared towards the strike mission (i.e. flying air-to-ground attacks) while the air-to-air role was more of an afterthought that wasn’t really accounted for. The Royal Air Force’s land-based Harrier, the GR.3, would typically require a flight of more capable air superiority fighters to fly top cover, or to clear the airspace ahead of them, lest they be engaged and taken out of the fight. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, took a different approach.

The Sea Harrier, more commonly known as the “Shar”, was revamped to allow for it to assume both the ground attack, reconnaissance and fighter roles, giving the air wings assigned to the Invincible (and later, the HMS Hermes) a more diverse spread of available capabilities while in-theater (i.e. in the area of operation). The Shar could fly with AIM-9 Sidewiders short-range air-to-air missiles on under-wing pylons, and was equipped with ADEN 30mm cannons to be used for strafing land-based targets or attacking enemy fighters in the air. The Fleet Air Arm’s pilots needed to first develop the tactics required to help the Shar’s future pilots fight and win against enemy fighters that were likely more suited towards aerial combat than the high-wing strike jumpjet.

On the other side of the pond, the United States Marine Corps was busy beefing up its air-to-ground capabilities with the AV-8A Harrier. This new strike jet would give them a versatile fast attack option that could potentially be deployed really anywhere around the world, especially aboard aircraft carriers which would serve as forward-operating staging platforms. In 1976, Marines began taking the Harrier to sea, first aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Midway-class aircraft carrier. On the FDR, the Marine contingent would test out the Harrier’s ability to operate in adverse weather conditions, as well as pit it in air-to-air mock dogfights against the ship’s complement of F-4 Phantom IIs. Marine pilots quickly came to the conclusion that in a close-in fight, they could actually use the aircraft’s thrust vectoring to their advantage.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones
Capt. Jonathan Lewenthal and Capt. Eric Scheibe, AV-8B Harrier pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), fly over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gregory Moore

The Marine Corps put in a request with Rolls Royce, the designer and builder of the Harrier’s Pegasus engine, as to whether or not this technique would put unnecessary and unwanted stresses on the engine, or if it would outright spoil the engine’s functionality. They still carried on with testing before Rolls Royce got back to them with the “all-clear”! Thrust vectoring while in flight could prove to be the key maneuver they needed for closer air-to-air combat. Ultimately, what resulted was known as Vectoring in Forward Flight (VIFF for short).

Also read: F-35 versus China and Russia

VIFF basically involved pilots rotating the nozzles forward from the usual in-flight horizontal position. In doing so, pilots could quickly deplete their airspeed and bleed energy, causing their surprised pursuer(s) to overshoot, suddenly finding their windscreen devoid of any prey they might have previously been chasing. After dropping altitude as a result of VIFFing, the Harrier would now be free to turn the tables on the predator, making the hunter the hunted. In a turning fight, this was an immense advantage for the Harrier’s pilot. But as soon as the pilot VIFFed his opponent, he had to have had a plan for dealing with the bandit, or else he would be in for a world of hurt; that wasn’t a trick any combat pilot would fall for twice.

Among VIFF’s disadvantages was the fact that it could only really be used effectively in turning fights. If the pursuing aircraft was flying with a wingman, or as part of a larger attack flight, the odds would be stacked fairly high against the Harrier. Additionally, after VIFFing, any other enemy fighters that weren’t engaged in the melee between the Harrier and the first jet were placed in a prime position to take a shot at the jumpjet, which took time to rebuild energy from the very-taxing VIFF maneuver (i.e. regain airspeed).

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones
An AV-8B Harrier with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (Reinforced), 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, flies in position while conducting aerial refueling training operations. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Chad R. Kiehl

During the Falklands War, in the early 1980s, British Harrier pilots might have attempted putting VIFFing to use against Argentinian Mirage fighters, which were decidedly more suited towards the air-to-air role than the Harrier. In fact, no conclusive evidence exists to prove that VIFFing was indeed the deciding factor in any engagement involving the Harrier. However, even with the Mirage being built for air combat, it still proved to be ineffective against the superior training of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots and technology (i.e. the AIM-9L Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile), who did not lose a single Harrier or Sea Harrier in air-to-air combat during the entire conflict, while inflicting losses on the Argentinian air force. RAF and Fleet Air Arm pilots were able to employ the tactics they developed like never before, proving that a Harrier, in the right hands, is truly a deadly and highly capable machine.

A huge thanks to Art Nalls of Nalls Aviation, home of the world’s ONLY civilian-owned and operated Sea Harrier for his help and advice in writing this article! Keep an eye out for Art and his legendary Shar on the airshow circuit in North America this year! Special thanks also to Alan Kenny for his fantastic Harrier and Sea Harrier pictures

MIGHTY TRENDING

11 things the Space Force must — and can’t — do

While the Pentagon has questioned the need for a dedicated Space Force, the U.S. is already a signatory to multiple space treaties that spell out its obligations in the final frontier. And there are already a number of missions being done by other forces that would clearly be the purview of an independent Space Force.

Here are nine things the Space Force must do — and two things it can’t.

Related video:


The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

They probably won’t need so many graphical overlays to do it, though.

(U.S. Army)

Protect American satellites

American satellites are one of the most important parts of modern, digital infrastructure. They’re also extremely vulnerable. They’re under constant threat of striking debris that’s already flying through orbit and China and Russia both have demonstrated the capabilities to bring one down at any time.

A Space Force would likely be tasked with building countermeasures to protect these valuable assets. Oncoming missiles could be confused with jamming or brought down with lasers — but lasers can also serve as an offensive weapon against enemy satellites. Additionally, some spacefaring nations, including the U.S., are developing technologies that could allow them to seize enemy satellites and steer them into danger.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

Tactical battles in space sound complicated.

(U.S. Air Force)

Identify enemy killer satellites and template attacks against them

Speaking of which, the Space Force will likely need intelligence assets to identify satellites with offensive capabilities and template ways to neutralize them quickly in a space war. Satellites could be the U-boats of a future conflict, and the best way to stop them before they can hide amidst the space junk is to take them out at the first sign of conflict.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

Satellites are expensive. And hard to make. And worse to replace.

(U.S. Air Force)

Ensure plans for the replacement constellations are viable

But there’s no way that American defenses could stop all — or likely even the majority of — attacks. Luckily, DARPA and other agencies are already testing potential ways to rapidly rebuild capabilities after an attack.

They’ve tested launching moderate-sized satellites from F-16s as well as sending up rockets with many small satellites that work together to achieve their mission, creating a dispersed network that’s harder to defeat.

(Graphic by U.S. Air Force)

Figure out how to destroy space debris

We mentioned space debris earlier — and it’s important for a few reasons. First, it’s a constant threat to satellites. But more importantly for strategic planners, most methods of quickly destroying an enemy’s satellite constellation will create thousands (if not millions) of pieces of debris that could eventually destroy other satellites in orbit, including those of the attacking nation.

So, to create a credible threat of using force against other nations’ satellites, the U.S. will need a plan for destroying any space debris it creates. The most pragmatic solution is to create weapons that can kill satellites without creating debris, like the lasers and killbots. But those same lasers and killbots could be used to clear out debris after satellites are killed with missiles.

China has proposed a “space broom,” armed with a weak laser that could clear debris (and, purely coincidentally, might also be used to destroy satellites).

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

Air Force graphics are as complicated as Army graphics. I wonder if everyone thought it was the graphics that decided who got the Space Force? (You win this round, Air Force).

(U.S. Air Force)

Protect American industry in space

The U.S. military branches are often called to protect national interests. Among those national interests is business — and business in space is likely to be massive in the near future, from private space companies teasing the possibility of tourism to asteroid mining to zero-gravity manufacturing.

Of course, building the infrastructure to do these things in space will be expensive and extremely challenging. To make sure that America can still gather resources and manufacture specialized goods — and that the military and government can buy those goods and resources — the Space Force will be tasked with protecting American interests in space.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

Just sitting here waiting to rescue someone.

(NASA photo by Tracy Caldwell Dyson)

Rescue operations

Another important task is recovering survivors of any accidents, collisions, or other mishaps in orbit. America has already agreed to a treaty stating that all spacefaring states will assist in the rescue of any astronaut in distress, but rescues in space will likely be even more problematic than the already-challenging rescues of submariners.

There is little standardized equipment between different space agencies, though Russia does share some matching equipment thanks to their access to Space Shuttle schematics when overhauling the Soviet space program. The Space Force will likely have to figure out ways to rescue astronauts and civilians in space despite equipment differences.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

Yeah, you guys can hitch a ride. Did you bring your own spacesuit or do you need a loaner?

(Photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ian Dudley)

Provide orbital rides for other branches

While the Marine Corps has already done some preliminary work on how to move its Marines via orbit, little planning exists for the nitty gritty details of moving troops through space. All of the branches will likely develop some tools for moving personnel, but Congress will likely demand that the branches prevent unnecessary redundancy — like how the Army has its own boats, planes, and helicopters, but has to get most of its rides from the Navy and Air Force.

The Space Force will be the pre-eminent branch in space, and will likely need the spaceports and shuttles to match.

Learn to steer (or at least divert) asteroids

Currently, NASA has the lead on detecting near-Earth objects and preventing collisions, but the military generally gets the bigger budget and, as they say, “with great funds comes great responsibility.”

Luckily for them, there are groups happy to help. The B612 is a group of concerned scientists and engineers that is focused on developing plans to divert asteroids. So, Space Force can just focus on training and execution.

Do a bunch of paperwork

Of course, the Space Force won’t be all shuttle pilots and flight attendants — the admin folks will have a lot of paperwork to do, too. Another U.S. space treaty obligates America to provide details of every object it launches into space as well as every person who enters space.

All of those details that get passed when personnel enter or leave a country will also have to get passed when they enter or leave space, necessitating an admin corps who join the space force exclusively to pass paperwork.

If you think that makes the Space Force more boring, just wait until you see the things they, by treaty, aren’t allowed to do.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

Super sexy — but also not allowed to be based on the Moon.

(U.S. Air Force)

No carrying weapons of mass destruction

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 bans any spacefaring nation from putting weapons of mass destruction in orbit or basing them on celestial bodies, like the Moon. So, no Space Marines with nuclear missiles in orbit. Rockets, bullets, and lasers? Maybe.

Nukes? No way. Gotta leave those back on Earth.

No building military bases on celestial bodies

Even worse news for Space Force personnel: They can’t have any dedicated military bases on celestial objects either, also due to that same Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The U.S. will need to renegotiate the treaty, build more space stations, or keep nearly all Space Force personnel on Earth, only sending them up for short missions.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

In the aftermath, and from the ashes of Dec. 7, 1941, which propelled the United States into World War II, rose a new call and opportunity to serve in the Navy, the Naval Construction Battalions. Today, they are known as Seabees.

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navy used civilian contractors to construct and support bases and other locations. However, with an increasing need to be able to defend and resist against military attacks, civilians could no longer be used. According to the Seabee Museum and Memorial Park, under international law it was illegal to arm civilians and have them resist the enemy. “If they did they could be executed as guerrillas.” On Jan. 5, 1942, Rear Adm. Ben Moreell received approval to organize the Naval Construction Force. In a matter of days, the first naval construction unit deployed.


Today, with seven rates ranging from Builder (BU) to Engineering Aide (EA) to Utilitiesman (UT), Seabees are a fully-functioning construction crew. They are strategically placed, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, and able to build, erect and salvage in various types of environments. Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor is one such unit.

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Construction Electrician 3rd Class Mitchell Labree, a Sailor assigned to Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, measures a wooden beam in order to build a shipping crate for a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael McNair)

CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor has the unique opportunity to assist and service the land from which they were birthed. One of their current projects is assisting Jim Neuman, History and Heritage Outreach Manager at Commander Navy Region Hawaii, and his team with the USS Arizona Relics Program.

“The USS Arizona Relics Program was born in 1995 when Congress authorized the Navy to move pieces of the wreckage out to educational institutions and not-for-profit organizations,” said Neuman.

The program is currently focusing on a part of the Arizona that was removed in the 1950’s due to corrosion and safety concerns. Before its removal it acted as a foundation for a makeshift platform where visitors to the Arizona could stand and where ceremonies could be conducted. It was a precursor to the white memorial structure known and visited today.

The Seabees and Neuman have taken on the responsibility to cut sections of the previously removed portion of the Arizona and ship them to various approved locations.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

Steelworker 3rd Class Cameron Fields, crew leader at Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, cuts a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael McNair)

“Mostly people come to us. We have a lot of Pearl Harbor survivors that know about this [effort],” said Neuman. “They will reach out to local museums and share what they would like to see. As long as you are a legitimate educational institution or not-for-profit and the piece will be on public display, you can acquire a piece.”

A sentiment both the Seabees and Neuman have in common is the need to share a piece of history with others.

“Because of the amount of time [the section] has been out here, we want to make sure we get as much of it out to the public as possible,” said Neuman. “It doesn’t help for it to sit here and no one get a chance to see it.”

Builder 1st Class Christian Guzman, attached to CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor, who has helped lead the Seabees in this project, appreciates the opportunity for he and his team to recover sections for the public worldwide.

“We have a special tie to Pearl Harbor and World War II because that’s how we began. It is of historical significance that we, as Seabees, are able to work on the USS Arizona,” said Guzman.

Neuman explained that the Seabees were the obvious choice when considering how to satisfy the different request through the program.

“It is Navy history, Navy legacy, so it made sense that if we were going to have somebody actually cutting pieces of the [Arizona] wreckage we should have the Seabees do it,” said Neuman. “Because of their legacy, what they do historically and their mission, they have enthusiastically embraced it, which I really appreciate.”

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

Steelworker 3rd Class Cameron Fields, crew leader at Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, cuts a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael McNair)

To date, the Seabees of CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor have completed three phases of the project. Those phases consisted of cutting and shipping out various sized pieces to: Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona, the Panhandle War Memorial in Texas, and the World War II Foundation in Rhode Island.

They are currently working on phase four which will be shipped to the Imperial War Museum in London, England.

“Britain was an ally in World War II. When the Empire of Japan surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945, on the USS Missouri, they didn’t only surrender to the U.S. they surrendered to the allies as well. They all signed the document so I’m thrilled that the museum sees the significance,” said Neuman. “They want to tell the whole story of World War II, not just the part they played. Visitors to the museum will be able to see part of the USS Arizona, and I think that’s great.”

The Seabees and Neuman will continue to partner together, work on the removed section of the Arizona and ship pieces out until there is nothing left.

The Seabees are proud to be a part of this undertaking as well as other jobs they execute around the island of Oahu.

“We have a whole spectrum of skill sets. This project only showcases a snippet of our diverse capabilities,” stated Guzman.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

Marines to replace packs that snap in cold weather

The Marine Corps will begin fielding a reinforced pack frame for their standard rucksacks as early as 2018 following reports of the current issue FILBE frames becoming brittle and snapping in cold weather.


The current frame has been fielded since 2011, but issues with its durability began surfacing in 2013 from the Marine School of Infantry – West. Further incidents with the frame breaking arose during airborne operations and mountain warfare training and exercises in Norway during the winter of 2015 and 2016.

The new frame is identical in form and how it attaches to the pack and the Marine, but is constructed using stronger materials.

The frame has already been tested by Marine Recon units during a variety of exercises, and will undergo further trials in sub-freezing weather where it will be checked for signs of stress and cracking after heavy use.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones
USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez.

“The reinforced frame is being tested in both constant cold temperature environments, as well as changing temperature environments,” Infantry Combat Equipment engineer Mackie Jordan said in a press release.

“Future testing may include hot-to-cold/cold-to-hot testing to simulate rapid temperature changes during jump operations.”

The Marines have been beefing up their presence and training in Norway, where many of the worst cold-weather breakage issues occurred.

Modern plastic composite pack frames are designed to help distribute the weight of the pack more evenly and take stress off the shoulders. Infantry on foot can easily be forced to carry equipment well in excess of 100 pounds over long distances and severe conditions, making efficient and durable packs vital.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How one flag can put the spotlight on many veteran issues

In the hearts of patriots all across this great country of ours, Old Glory isn’t just a piece of red, white, and blue cloth — it’s a symbol. A symbol of freedom, democracy, and the American way of life. No one knows this better than the military community, who go to war with the flag on their shoulders. Even after service, you’d be hard-pressed to find a veteran who doesn’t have a flag displayed in their home in one way or another.

Today, Old Glory is touching the lives of thousands as it makes its away across the country, carried by veterans, troops, and patriots alike on a trek from Boston, Massachusetts, to sunny San Diego, California. Over ten thousands pairs of hands will have carried the flag as it moves across twenty-four states and over 4,300 miles. Along the way, The Stars and Stripes are bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces.

This is Team RWB’s Old Glory Relay.


The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

The best way to get everyone’s attention? By making a large event that runs from September 11th to November 11th. ​

(Team RWB)

Every participant in the Old Glory Relay is running to support their own cause, but all of these causes are important to the veteran community. Chief among these issues are the disastrously high suicide rate within our community, the struggles of isolation, sedentary lifestyles, finding meaningful post-service employment, and combating the stigma surrounding veterans seeking help for mental issues.

There’s no simple solution to any of these problems. There’s no magic wand to wave and make them disappear. It takes a serious conversation within the community. And this conversation can only happen when we all come together and make our voices heard in a singular, booming voice — and that’s exactly what the 10,000 men and women carrying the flag across the country are doing.

The Army is firing off ‘Spider-Man’ nets to take down enemy drones

If you miss your time in the airborne, don’t worry: They have skydiving events as well.

(Team RWB)

Recently, We Are The Mighty chatted with Tom Voss, an Army veteran and member of Team Red, White Blue (or Team RWB) who will be carrying the flag across the finish-line on Veterans Day, November 11, 2018. Voss is no stranger to participating in events to raise awareness for veteran issues. A couple years back, he and another Iraq War veteran walked across the country to put that much-needed spotlight on important issues.

“It’s always important to pay homage and pay our respects to all the men and women that came before us.” said Tom. “Look at the American Flag — that’s what it represents. It represents the men and women who have sacrificed everything, the families that have sacrificed everything so that we are able to live the lives that we do today.”

Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans. They do this by connecting veterans to their community through physical and social activity. Outside of massive events, like the Old Glory Relay, local Team RWB chapters assist local communities in smaller ways, like placing flags at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery, building housing areas with Habitat for Humanity in Los Angeles, putting on Range Days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, all to bring veterans together within their communities.

The veterans who participate in these events get a sense of camaraderie that they’ve been missing since their departure from active-duty life — but the door is always open to civilians, too.

The Old Glory Relay is like a perfect encapsulation of everything great about Team RWB. Veterans, active duty troops, and civilian patriots are banding together for a great cause. In addition to bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces, they’re also helping bridge the ever-expanding civilian-military divide.

“I think what it comes down to is, veterans are open and willing to share their stories. But you have to ask. Coming from a place of non-judgement and not just saying, ‘thank you for your service,’ but really asking, ‘what happened during your time in Iraq or Afghanistan? Because I weren’t there. I don’t know. All I know is what I saw on the news.’ Coming from a genuine place like that from the civilian standpoint is really important.”

If you’re in the area, be sure to catch Tom Voss and the rest of Team Red, White, Blue as they cross the finish line in San Diego, California on November 11th.

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