These days, single-mission ships are not exactly the best of buys. The big reason is they can only do one thing and no matter how well they do that one thing, they can’t handle other missions very well. Versatility can often make or break a purchasing decision. Think of it this way – if a ship (or small boat) can do multiple missions, there is a better chance it will be purchased.
One such versatile boat is being displayed at SeaFuture 2018 in La Spezia. That is the FFC 15, a patrol boat that can do more than just patrol. In fact, according to a release on behalf of Baglietto Navy, it can also serve as a rescue asset, a fast-attack craft, a police boat, and also a landing craft.
There are some baseball utility players who look at this boat with sheer envy at its versatility. According to a handout provided on Baglietto’s behalf, this boat comes in at 20 tons, almost three times the size of the legendary Higgins boats. But it has a top speed of 45 nautical miles an hour and can go 330 nautical miles on a single tank of gas.
The FFC 15 can hold up to 24 troops, and has a top speed of 45 knots.
(Photo by Baglietto Navy)
The boat is not only capable of operating on the open ocean, it can also navigate up and down rivers. The boat can also be hauled by a transport like a C-5 Galaxy (which hauls various Navy patrol boats) or C-17 Globemaster III. If the roads are good enough, this boat can also be hauled in by trucks. It can also be hauled in on various ships.
Inside the troop compartment of the FFC 15, where up to 24 personnel can be carried from an amphibious ship to a quiet out-of-the-way place to sneak ashore.
(Photo by Baglietto Navy)
The boat has a crew of four and can haul as many as 24 personnel. The bow is equipped not only for beaching (through a reinforced prow), but it also has a bow ramp. There are also two positions for heavy machine guns like the M2 .50-caliber machine gun.
The FFC 15 features two positions for gunners on top of its superstructure. Despite being able to haul 24 troops, it can be carried on C-5 and C-17 transports, or by truck.
(Photo by Baglietto Navy)
So far, no orders for this boat have been made. That said, this fast and versatile vessel could very well find a lot of orders for a lot of missions with a lot of countries.
We shouldn’t have to say this, but starting a war on the Korean Peninsula is a bad idea. I am not the first person to make the case that a war on the Korean peninsula would be bad for America —and for South Korea and probably for Japan. Recently, professor Barry Posen laid out just how difficult it would be to conduct a successful pre-emptive attack against North Korea. He further presented how terrible a conflict on the peninsula would be in terms of lives lost — North Korean, South Korean and American. Professor Posen’s piece, however did not go far enough in explaining how a pre-emptive attack — and then war — on the Korean peninsula would damage U.S. interests.
With the administration’s statements leaving the door open to a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, it is a good time to catalogue why such a concept is a bad idea—regardless of one’s view of the threats posed by the North Korean regime and its nuclear and missile programs. Professor Posen captures the likely human toll of a second Korean war well. The costs of the conflict and its aftermath would leave the United States and its allies poorer. And ultimately, the United States would likely be less secure than it is today.
Difficulty of Escalation Control
North Korea has signaled, for decades, that any attack against it would be met with swift retribution. For much of the post-Korean War era, this meant massive artillery bombardment of Seoul. Now that North Korea possesses missiles with intercontinental range, that retribution could be against targets as far away as New York or Washington. The idea that the United States could conduct strikes against limited targets—such as North Korea’s missile facilities or nuclear weapons complexes—with little to no North Korean response is gambling with millions of lives at stake. Were North Korea to follow through on its repeated statements of retaliation, and a U.S. or allied territory to be struck, it would likely result in activation of one or more of the U.S. mutual defense treaties, and the commitment of significant U.S. forces to a conflict on the Korean peninsula. At that point, what was presented as a limited strike will have become a full-blown war.
It is therefore critical to recognize the limits of escalation control when dealing with military options against North Korea. And Professor Posen makes a clear and compelling argument about the likely catastrophic human consequences of such a conflict. One must also consider additional strategic consequences for the United States, specifically the financial toll and effect on regional alliances.
North Korea’s active-duty military is estimated to number over 1 million personnel. South Korea maintains a 650,000-person army. Even if the combined U.S.-South Korean force is better trained and equipped than its North Korean adversary, North Korea has spent nearly 70 years developing hardened shelters and stowage points for its personnel and artillery pieces. The four kilometer-wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) is also the most heavily mined area on the planet, limiting the ability of ground forces to move through it easily.
North Korea is believed to have developed tunnels across the DMZ to move its army or special forces rapidly into South Korean territory — and to bypass the mines laid along the DMZ. Even assuming U.S. and South Korean ground forces can quickly move through the DMZ to the North, the mountainous terrain would make rapid ground movement difficult—especially with heavy tanks or artillery. All of this is before considering the impact of North Korea’s nuclear weapons or its stockpiles of chemical weapons and biological weaponswould have on the conflict.
The sum of these factors suggest that prosecuting a war in North Korea has the potential to be more expensive than the $1.5 trillion spent so far on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Winning the war would be only a small portion of the total costs, however. The real costs to the United States—and South Korea—would come from the needed investments to develop North Korea’s economy and rebuild its society after a successful military campaign, and to rebuild the portions of South Korea destroyed in a war.
By way of comparison, 20 years after the reunification of Germany, Germany’s Finance Minister stated that the annual cost of reunification was approximately 100 billion euros per year—or nearly 2 trillion euros. East Germany’s per capita GDP was, at the time of reunification, approximately one half of West Germany’s. North Korea’s GDP today is only 3 percent of South Korea’s.
The Regional Security Consequences
Even if it wins, the United States could find itself less secure in Northeast Asia after a war with North Korea.
China has long been concerned about U.S. military presence in Korea, believing U.S. forces there could pose a threat to China’s sovereignty and security. Should the U.S.-ROK force prevail against North Korea in a war, the long-standing basis for keeping U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula — to defend South Korea from North Korean invasion — would be moot. China would likely push the South Korean government (especially if it were the de facto government of the entire Korean peninsula) to change its relationship with the United States and reduce or eliminate U.S. forces from the peninsula.
Should U.S. forces leave the Korean peninsula, China would likely use the withdrawal to build a narrative that the United States is retreating from Asia, that it is not a reliable security partner, or both. Consequently, the United States would have less diplomatic credibility, less military capability, and less influence with allies in the region.
A potentially more dangerous — and more likely — scenario is that the United States could find itself with troops dangerously-close to China’s border. It was Chinese fear of U.S. encroachment on its border that led Mao Zedong to intervene in the Korean War on North Korea’s behalf in 1950. With U.S. and Chinese troops mere miles apart, the risk of a U.S.-China stand-off escalating quickly from a skirmish to a major exchange would increase.
From China’s perspective, the continued existence of North Korea as a separate country provides a buffer between its own borders and U.S. forces. A unified Korean peninsula, with U.S. troops still present, would be perceived as negatively impacting China’s security.
The likely result of fighting a war against North Korea to eliminate the threat that it would use its nuclear weapons against the United States or its allies is that the United States would instead increase the likelihood of conflict with far more potent nuclear-armed adversaries in China.
Deterrence: A Better Deal
With war on the Korean peninsula too costly, from human, economic, and security perspectives, what options remain? Fortunately for the United States and our allies in Asia, managing new nuclear powers is something the United States has experience with, and it is called deterrence.
The window to remove North Korea’s nuclear weapons by force has passed. Instead, the United States will need to work with allies and partners to ensure North Korea understands the consequences of its continued reliance on those weapons, and the implications for North Korea’s future if those weapons are used. Additionally, the United States will need to continue working with South Korea and Japan to maintain a unified approach toward North Korea.
All three allies will also have to work closely to pressure China and Russia to deter North Korea’s continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons program, and especially toward using those weapons in the future.
The number of countries that have closed their embassies in North Korea and who have shown a willingness to work with the United States to limit North Korea’s access to financing and materiel speaks highly of the potential for focused and patient diplomacy. Ensuring the United States and South Korea remain positioned to respond to North Korean aggression, should it happen, is essential. Maintaining the diplomatic pressure that has begun to bear fruit will also be essential if the United States is to avoid a situation where through impatience it turns a strategically difficult situation into a strategic setback.
It’s an airframe that dates back to the Vietnam War, but it’s served for nearly 50 years and is still a comforting presence for those protected by its missiles, guns, and rockets: Meet the AH-1 SuperCobra.
Pilots aboard an AH-1W SuperCobra helicopter fly into a forward arming and refueling point at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, May 6, 2014.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg)
The AH-1 Cobra was the first dedicated attack helicopter, though it was technically an interim solution, filling a gap in capabilities until the AH-56 could make it to the field. The AH-56, however, was never constructed, so the Army stuck with the AH-1.
The Marine Corps, meanwhile, was looking for an attack helicopter of their own, and they were interested in what the Army had to offer. There was one glaring problem, though: The Army AH-1 had only one engine. The Marine Corps wasn’t comfortable with this since their helicopters might have to fly dozens of miles across open ocean to reach beachheads. If you lose an engine six miles from the ship or the shore, you really want a second engine to close the gap.
And so the Marine Corps asked Bell helicopters for an AH-1 with two engines, thus creating the AH-1 SeaCobra, which later became the SuperCobra. It first went into service in 1971, which the math nerds will note is 47 years ago.
An AH-1W SuperCobra, with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, performs a break turn after conducting a close air support mission in an exercise at Twentynine Palms, California, June 18, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)
The reason the AH-1 SuperCobra has lasted so long — and the reason that it’s being replaced by the AH-1Z Viper, which is basically just an upgraded version — is that it’s very effective. The first Marine variant, the AH-1J SeaCobra, was originally fielded with a three-barrel 20mm cannon in 1969. But the Marines wanted more power and weapons, and they’ve upgraded the helicopter multiple times over the decades since.
Now, the AH-1W can carry everything from from TOW missiles and Hellfires, both of which are very good at killing enemy tanks. The AGM-114 Hellfire is a potent weapon, carrying an up to 20-pound warhead. It uses either a shaped charge warhead, tandem warhead, or a HEAT warhead. The tandem warhead is the most effective and is thought to be able to defeat all current tanks and armored vehicles.
The TOW, meanwhile, is heavier and has even more variants, but can also open up pretty much any armored threat in the world today.
U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 load a 2.75-inch rocket configured with Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II, a hydra 70 rocket motor and M282 High Explosive Incendiary Multipurpose Penetrator Warhead onto an AH-1Z Viper at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., March 29, 2018
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin/Released)
The helicopters can also fire rockets in support of the Marines on the ground, sending out Hydras against troop and vehicle concentrations. These rockets were historically unguided, but kits are now available when necessary. The rockets can carry fast-flying flechettes, small darts that shred enemy combatants, as well as explosive warheads, infrared flares, or smoke.
Zuni rockets, meanwhile, are technically an air-to-air or air-to-ground weapon, but since they’re unguided, the U.S. uses them pretty much only against the ground and ships nowadays. The rockets can carry warheads of almost 50 pounds, and can be sued to rip apart tanks, personnel, or pretty much any target that isn’t heavily fortified.
The rockets can also deploy chaff to throw off enemy radar-guided munitions.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Michael Michehl, a line noncommissioned officer with Marine Wing Support Detachment 24, controls forward arming and refueling point operations during a field test for the Expeditionary Mobile Fuel Additization Capability system at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 18, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Adam Montera)
Finally, the SuperCobras can fire Stinger Missiles, a potent, short-range air defense missile that can send shrapnel flying through enemy helicopters and planes, shredding the engines, wings, or cockpits of the target.
All of this combines to make the SuperCobra a Marine’s deadly big brother in the sky. They can tackle slow-moving air threats, armor, and personnel, protecting Marines under attack from nearly anything, though the helicopters can be made vulnerable themselves by enemy air defenses or air interdiction.
Of course, that doesn’t stop the pilots from laying waste, even when the enemy has their own weapons in play. Marine Capt. John Patrick Giguere earned the Silver Star for flying his AH-1T, a TOW-equipped variant, over enemy air defenses while protecting a downed aircrew in Grenada.
An AH-1W SuperCobra, attached to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, March 8, 2017.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Murray)
First Lt. Sydney Baker also earned a Silver Star. His came while flying an AH-1G supporting the insertion of Marines in Vietnam. Despite ground fire so fierce that it knocked out his communications gear and threatened to down the bird, he kept up a heavy volume of fire to protect Marines on the ground.
So, while their younger, sexier AH-64 Apache counterparts get all the love, the AH-1 SuperCobras and Vipers are out there saving Marines every day, so raise a glass for these old school infantrymen of the sky. They’ll be happy to save you if you’re ever in trouble.
Often dubbed the “Second Pearl Harbor,” the West Loch disaster in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, saw six large landing ships explode, burn, and sink on May 21, 1944, after their cargoes of ammunition and fuel caught fire. The LSTs were moored in a large formation of 34 ships preparing to take part in the invasion of Saipan in the Marianas Islands. LSTs were designed to deliver 10 fully combat-ready tanks onto beaches during amphibious landings and could carry hundreds of tons of supplies.
At Pearl Harbor, the ships were carrying mostly fuel and ammunition, including mortar rounds from a failed test to employ LSTs and their smaller cousins, landing craft tanks, as mortar platforms to support beach assaults.
Soldiers were unloading mortar shells from LCT-963 and onto trucks on LST-353 on May 21 when a fireball suddenly erupted from LST-353.
The Navy was never able to identify a definite cause, but an accident with a cigarette or a mortar round going off and igniting the gasoline fumes have been advanced as probable causes.
Regardless of how the first fire started, its progress through LST-353 was fierce, and the rising heat triggered a second, larger explosion that filled nearby ships with hot shrapnel and spread flaming debris through the docking area.
The other ships, also filled with fuel, ammunition, and other supplies, began trying to get clear while rescue vehicles rushed in to try to save sailors, Marines, and soldiers and put out the flames.
The military also lost three LCTs, 17 tracked vehicles, and eight artillery pieces.
The Navy rallied after the incident, finding new ships and men to take over the mission. The LST fleet for the invasion of Saipan launched only one day late and made it to the Marianas quickly enough to invade on schedule on June 15, 1944.
A media blackout kept most of America from hearing about the incident until it was declassified in 1960. Even today, it remains relatively unknown.
In 1999, U.S. military planners had to solve a tricky problem: How do you stop a ruthless dictator from breaking the rules without resorting to ruthless tactics yourself?
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was ignoring “no-fly zones” established to keep him from attacking Kurdish and Sunni minorities in his own country. American and allied air forces were able to force Iraqi jets to stay on the ground, but Hussein ordered his anti-air units to antagonize the U.S. fighters from civilian areas. He also stationed other units in areas they weren’t allowed to be in, but made sure they were surrounded by civilians as well.
To hit the targets without causing collateral damage, the U.S. turned to “concrete bombs.” The bombs were training aids repurposed to destroy actual targets. Weighing 500, 1,000, or 2,000 pounds, they wouldn’t explode when they struck an enemy vehicle but would transfer their kinetic energy into it. This would destroy even large vehicles like tanks without harming people nearby. If the crew was lucky, they might even survive a bomb that struck outside of the crew area of a vehicle.
France used the bombs in 2011, dropping concrete bombs during the liberation of Libya. Concrete bombs are still used by America in both training and real world missions. To see a simulated concrete bomb destroy a car, check out the National Geographic video below.
The top weapons buyer for U.S. Special Operations Command said Wednesday that the so-called Iron Man suit being developed for elite commandos may not end up being the exoskeleton armored ensemble popular in adventure movies.
It’s been four years since SOCOM leaders challenged the defense industry to come up with ideas for the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS — an ensemble that would provide operators with “more-efficient, full-body ballistics protection and beyond-optimal human performance” as well as embedded sensors and communications tech for heightened situational awareness.
Program officials are about “a year and a half” away from having a TALOS prototype that’s ready to put in the hands of operators for testing, James “Hondo” Geurts, acquisition executive and director for SOF ATl at USSOCOM, told an audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium.
When the program began, it captured the public’s imagination and conjured images of high-tech ensembles worn in movies such as “Man of Steel,” “Pacific Rim” and “Starship Troopers.”
“We are on our fifth prototype,” Geurts said. “Will we get everything we want? Probably not. That was never the intent.”
SOCOM officials envisioned TALOS would feature integrated heaters and coolers to regulate the temperature inside the suit. Embedded sensors would monitor the operator’s core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels. In the event that the operator is wounded, the suit could feasibly start administering the first life-saving oxygen or hemorrhage controls.
This is not the first time the U.S. military has embarked on an effort to perfect smart-soldier technology. The Army is now equipping combat units with a secure, smartphone-based kit — known as Nett Warrior — that allows a leader to track subordinates’ locations in relation to his own position via icons on a digital map. The unit leaders can view satellite imagery and send text messages.
The technology has seen combat and given leaders a precise view of their tactical environment, empowering units to operate more decisively than ever before.
But the program’s success did not come easily. Land Warrior, the first generation of this computerized command-and-control ensemble, was plagued by failure. From its launch in 1996, the Army spent $500 million on three major contract awards before the system’s reliability problems were solved in 2006.
When TALOS began, SOCOM said it planned to funnel $80 million into research and development over a four-year timeline. Geurts did not say how much money SOCOM has spent so far on TALOS.
One of the biggest challenges is powering the suit, but also a type of control theory and deep learning, Geurts said.
In just walking, “we take for granted that when we put our arm out, that our foot is behind us to balance it,” he said.
Geurts said the program has had “tremendous hurdles” working with these technologies, but said the effort will likely result in spin-off technologies that can be fielded to operators before TALOS is operationally ready.
“So in TALOS, don’t just think exoskeleton and armor — think of the whole equation,” he said. “Survivability is part of what armor you are carrying, but it’s also a big part of whatever information you have, what is your situational awareness, how do you communicate. So as we are going down all those paths, we can leverage quickly some of the stuff that is ready to go right now.”
Security at shipping ports around the US, including testing containers and vessels for biological and radiological hazards, is a top priority to preventing terrorism, US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said July 20.
As he rode aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, near the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly viewed an array of new equipment used to test for radiation and biological threats.
“The threat always changes, so we always have to be on top of that,” Kelly said as the vessel cruised through the Pacific Ocean off Southern California.
While he was aboard, members of the Coast Guard conducted a training demonstration, simulating the boarding of a ship with a radiological threat.
Members of the Coast Guard’s new California-based Maritime Safety and Security Team descended from helicopters with assault rifles and stormed the ship. Kelly watched from a deck above as they charged up stairwells and searched the ship as part of the exercise. Other crew members climbed up ladders from a smaller boat that pulled alongside.
“What they do, they do for you,” Kelly said.
As the vessel passed stacks of shipping containers at the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly said it is essential for law enforcement and Coast Guard personnel to constantly train and be prepared for any threats.
Kelly said he believes the current security levels at US shipping ports is adequate, but his agency must continue to research new technology to keep up with changing threats. His biggest concern, he said, is contraband, including illegal drugs that are shipped in from other countries.
“It is all about protecting the nation and doing it as fast as we can so normal legal commerce, normal legal people can come in and out of the country and be inconvenienced at the minimum,” Kelly said.
“This mission has been accomplished, the submarines showed up in the set location in the ocean and returned to base,” Sergey Starshinov, a Russian navy submarine officer, told Russian state-owned media. Starshinov said the vessels came and went “undetected” and that, without violating the US’s maritime borders, they got “close enough” to US military bases.
The Russian media, known for trafficking in propaganda to glorify Putin and the state’s military, will reportedly release a TV series on the exercises.
The Pentagon did not respond to request for comment on this story.
The incident remains unverifiable with deniability baked in. If Russian submarines truly came and went undetected, no credible third party could likely verify the exercises. The fact that the military drill will become a TV series suggests that it was carried out, at least in part, for propaganda purposes, rather than practical military needs.
The submarines, which carry long-range cruise missiles that can fire from underwater, have no business coming close to the US, as they have an effective range of more than 1,500 miles. The submarines named by Russian media are powered by nuclear reactors but have no nuclear weapons.
The incident comes as Putin prepares for an election on March 18, 2018, though he is expected to win handily. Putin has limited which opposition figures can run and controlled the state’s access to information throughout.
Russia frequently engages in propaganda to glorify its military, as it did when it recently deployed early-stage supposedly stealth fighter jets to Syria. After a few days of dropping bombs on undefended villages in Syria, Russia declared the planes, which are designed for high-end warfighting against US stealth jets, “combat proven.”
In February 2018, Russian military contractors suffered a humiliating defeat to the US military in Syria, with airstrikes and artillery wiping out up to 300 Russian nationals while US forces suffered no combat losses, a US General has confirmed.
Does it matter if Russia can sneak its submarines around like this?
Both the US and Russia have heavily entrenched mutually-assured-destruction nuclear postures, meaning that any nuclear strike on the US by Russia would be immediately returned by US missiles fired from silos, submarines, and airplanes pummeling Russia.
Russia is currently facing increasing scrutiny and sanctions over its meddling in the US’s 2016 presidential election and its alleged role in the poisoning of former spies in Britain. Russia’s economy is heavily dependent on energy exports, and the weak price of oil and competitiveness from the US and other players have crippled its economy, though it continues to spend heavily on the military.
Despite having four times the population, Russia’s GDP is roughly equivalent to Canada’s and military sales and power remain one of its few lifelines to national prestige.
Though the US and Russia are Cold War foes increasingly at odds over foreign policy, the only recent significant clash between the two countries came in February 2018, during the battle in Syria which Russia overwhelmingly lost.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent pledge to pull U.S. troops out of Syria “very soon” now that the Islamic State (IS) militant group has been largely defeated there.
Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on April 2, 2018, that Russia had recently seen what he called “worrisome” signs that U.S. troops were “getting deeply entrenched” in areas east of the Euphrates River that they recently helped liberate from IS.
Trump’s statement late March 2018, shows that “he is committed at least to the previous promises the United States will leave Syria after victory over the Islamic State,” Russian state-run news agency TASS quoted Lavrov as saying.
Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been urging the United States for months to pull its 2,000 or so troops out of Syria, maintaining that their presence on Syrian territory is a violation of international law.
Assad frequently points out that he did not invite U.S. troops to join the seven-year civil war like he did when he invited Russian forces in 2015, and Iranian forces and militias since the beginning of the war in 2011.
In response to Russia’s calls to leave Syria, top U.S. officials have said they intended to keep U.S. troops there as long as needed to protect U.S. allies in the war-torn country and ensure that IS does not make a comeback in its former Syrian strongholds.
(Photo by Elizabeth Arrott)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who Trump fired in March 2018, citing significant policy differences, argued in January 2018, that U.S. forces must remain engaged in Syria not only to prevent IS and al-Qaeda from returning, but to deny Iran a chance to “further strengthen its position in Syria.”
Pentagon leaders have made similar statements. Defense Department spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said on April 2, 2018, that “our mission has not changed… We are continuing to implement the president’s strategy to defeat [IS].”
But Trump’s statement on March 29, 2018 — telling supporters in the U.S. state of Ohio that “we’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now” — suggested Trump may be thinking differently about Syria than some of his top advisers.
In another sign Trump may be mulling a pull-out, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that he is holding up $200 million in U.S. funding earmarked to go toward stabilizing areas of eastern Syria recaptured from IS.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Lavrov’s comments welcoming Trump’s eagerness to leave Syria come as Russia and Syria have been clearing out the last remnants of armed rebel groups that once largely controlled the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta through a series of negotiated pull-outs.
The Russian military and Syrian state media reported on April 2, 2018, that the largest rebel group, Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), has started evacuating from the area’s last holdout town, Douma.
The SANA news agency said two buses carrying the rebels left Douma heading for Jarablus, a town in north Syria shared between rebels and Turkish forces.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, also reported that the last rebels are leaving Douma, handing Syria and Russia their biggest potential win since they regained control of Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.
The Army is engineering high-tech autonomy kits designed to give “robot” tanks and other armored combat vehicles an ability to operate with little or no human intervention, bringing new tactical and operational dimensions to the future of ground combat.
Unmanned systems, utilized in a fast-evolving, high-threat ground combat operation, could enable robot vehicles to carry supplies, test enemy defenses and even fire weapons — all while manned vehicles operate at a safer distance.
“A kit of hardware and software can be installed into different ground platforms to increase the level of autonomy,” Osie David, Chief Engineer for Mission Command, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, told Warrior Maven in an early 2018 interview.
The technology kits, which can integrate on a small unmanned ground vehicle or a wide range of larger combat vehicles, use emerging computer algorithms, on-board processing, and artificial intelligence to gather and organize sensor information.
Robot vehicles, often referred to by Army weapons developers in the context of “manned-unmanned” teaming, are a fast-growing element of the developmental calculus when it comes to future combat platforms.
Having unmanned assets operating in tandem with manned assets in combat introduces a range of new tactics available to commanders. If robot “scout” vehicles could operate in a forward position to identify enemy threats or test defenses, manned tanks might be able to operate at lighter weights, making them faster and more maneuverable in combat.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. James Avery, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
In fact, senior Army weapons developers have told Warrior Maven that virtually all future combat vehicles now in development will likely be engineered with various new levels of autonomy.
Using things like embedded infrared optical payloads, unmanned vehicles can use machine-learning technology to process key combat details, independently organize them and then send information to a human in the role of command and control, David explained.
AI enables computers to instantly draw upon vast data-bases with millions of pieces of information to perform real-time data analytics before sending useful information to combat commanders.
The advantage is that combatant commanders can quickly receive integrated intelligence or sensor information from a range of sources, analyzed and condensed to enable faster decision-making.
“Instead of sending bits of information back up to a command post, the autonomy kits can enable sensors to perform detection and object identification in real time…and then push that information up to a human,” David said.
Also, advanced integrated sensors, fortified by AI and greater levels of autonomy, can connect aerial and ground assets to one another — to ID and hand off-targets, send real-time video of nearby enemy activity or pass other intelligence data to vehicle crews.
It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wing man” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transport ammunition or perform long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.
In fact, Army modernization strategy documents specifically cite autonomy enabled platforms, speed and maneuverability as fundamental to future armored warfare.
An Iraqi M1A1 Abrams tank
(Photo by Spc. Timothy Koster)
“As the armored BCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers, and mortar indirect fire platforms. Far-term initiatives aim to solve the absence of the armored BCT’s ability to deploy rapidly. The Army assesses the feasibility and application of autonomous or semi-autonomous sub-systems, manned and unmanned teaming, and autonomy enabled combat platforms,” the Army documents read.
CERDEC and other Army entities are working on these projects with the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center to prototype, test and advance these technologies. The current effort is an extension, or next-generation iteration, of a previous TARDEC effort described as “leader-follower” algorithms. This technology, evolved and successfully tested in recent years, enables an unmanned tactical truck or vehicle to precisely follow a manned vehicle in front of it.
The concept with “leader-follower” algorithms is to free up vehicle crew members such that they can focus on other pressing, threat-conscious tasks without needing to expend all their energy navigating the vehicle. These newer kits, however, bring the concept of autonomy to an entirely new level, enabling unmanned systems to maneuver quickly in response to fast-changing ground combat circumstances — without needing human intervention.
The current “autonomy kits” effort is a new Army program, slated to gain traction and begin testing in 2018, Army developers said.
“TARDEC will decide which platforms are used. Some sort of tank is being evaluated, as well as smaller platforms,” David explained.
David explained that the autonomy kits are now being worked on for the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program — a future combat vehicle effort planning to engineer new platforms for the 2030s and beyond.
“We are closely tied with them (NGCV program) and we are looking to see how we can insert this kit onto these future platforms,” he explained.
The kits are also being engineered to help ensure that combat vehicles can continue to function in the event that GPS communications are jammed or destroyed by enemy forces. Gyroscopes and accelerometers, for instance, can help ground forces navigate in the absence of GPS, David explained.
“These technologies are focused on how you actually navigate and detect your position in a GPS denied environment where there is challenging terrain or an enemy is jamming you,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Some 80 years after the start of World War II, many of us whose parents may not even have been born yet are familiar with the sound – a slow droning noise getting ever closer, ever louder, and deeper in pitch. It’s the sound of a plane falling to earth, but it was first associated with a very specific plane, for a specific reason – the Nazi Luftwaffe just wanted to scare the bejeezus out of English and Russian civilians.
At the start of World War II, the Junkers 87-B dive bomber was the Nazi’s first mass-produced fighter aircraft, already perfected in the Spanish Civil War and ready to take on the French, British, and later, the Red Army. Nicknamed the Stuka (from the German word for “dive bomber”), the Junkers 87-B would become the iconic Nazi warplane. It was less about its ability in the air (which was top of the line for the time) it was because of the sound the dive bomber made when zooming toward an earthbound target. The Nazis called it the “Jericho Trumpet” – and it was totally unnecessary.
It was all for a propaganda effect.
You can hear it just watching this gif.
Siren devices were attached to the wings’ leading edge just forward of the Stuka’s fixed landing gear. The sound was meant to be memorable, weaken the morale of the enemy, and cause mass fear of the German dive-bomber. It was so effective the sound became associated with the fast Nazi blitzkrieg across Europe and feared the world over, even across the Atlantic where newsreels entranced the American public.
The only problem with the Jericho Trumpets was that they affected the aerodynamics of the Junker 87-B, causing enough drag to slow the plane down by 20 miles per hour and making them easier targets for defenders. Eventually, the Sirens would be scrapped, and whistles were placed on the bombs to create the same psychological effect.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has set aside millions for light attack aircraft, but this time not solely for the U.S. Air Force.
In its version of the fiscal 2019 budget markup, the committee announced in May 2018, it wants to give $100 million to the Marine Corps to procure light attack aircraft such as the AT-6 Wolverine to boost lower-cost aviation support. The version passed the committee with a vote of 25-2. It heads for a full Senate vote in coming weeks.
Is the Marine Corps ready for it? It’s unclear.
“The Marine Corps continues to monitor the Air Force-led Light Attack Experiment to procure a cost-effective, observation and attack (OA-X) air platform for employment in permissive environments, with the intent to employ such an asset as a joint force capability,” said Capt Christopher Harrison of the Office of Marine Corps Communication at the Pentagon.
“The SASC’s decision to authorize $100 million for a light attack platform is only reflected in a policy bill,” Harrison said in an email on June 1, 2018.
“Nothing has been appropriated to this program yet,” he said.
But some experts say investing in light attack, though not the stealthiest or best equipped aircraft category, is not an entirely improbable idea.
“I think there’s a strong case for the Marines, or the Air Force, or both, having a few dozen light attack planes, if only for joint training and even combat missions with allied militaries in much poorer nations,” Aboulafia told Military.com on May 30, 2018.
Lawmakers and a few Pentagon officials have made the case for light attack — especially in the context of the Air Force’s ongoing experiment with light attack platforms — saying the smaller planes could come in handy to offset the cost to taxpayers to put a few fifth-generation fighters in the air, sometimes in support of missions for which the advanced jets are far overqualified.
For example, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson reiterated it is silly to use a stealth fighter like the F-22 Raptor to take on Taliban drug labs. In November, the Raptor made its combat debut in Afghanistan, targeting suspected narcotics facilities in the country with small-diameter bombs.”We should not be using an F-22 to destroy a narcotics factory,” Wilson said, echoing previous statements she has made on the topic.
Light attack aircraft in that role would be more sensible, she said.
For the correct mission set, light attack makes sense for any service, Aboulafia argued. But purchasing an entire fleet, he said, would be unjustifiable, since the aircraft’s warfighting capabilities are significantly limited, and best suited to low-risk missions and training with allies and partners.
“What kind of scenario would call for that? It postulates a giant failed state, or series of failed states, where the U.S. is compelled to intervene, and yet there’s absolutely no air-to-air and only a minimal ground-to-air threat,” Aboulafia said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura)
He added, “If there’s either of those, this type of plane is a great way to kill pilots. And if this giant, under-armed failed-state intervention doesn’t materialize, the military is stuck with hundreds of planes that have zero relevance to any other kind of strategic contingency.”
While it seems the Marine Corps has time before it makes a decision on how it can or will proceed, the Air Force is currently in the middle of choosing a future light attack platform.
The Air Force selected two aircraft — Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano — to undergo more demonstration fly-offs, among other exercises, at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The demonstrations began May 7, 2018, and will run through July 2018, with the secretary herself expected to fly either or both aircraft at Holloman.The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its fiscal 2019 proposal, added $350 million to procure a future light attack aircraft.
Nuclear technology for power is not a new concept; we’ve been doing it for decades through fission. Fission occurs when an atom is split into smaller fragments, creating small explosions resulting in the release of heat energy. Fusion, on the other hand, is the process by which gas is heated up and separated into its ions and electrons. When the ions get hot enough, they can overcome their mutual repulsion and collide, fusing together, hence its name — fusion. When this happens, the energy released is three to four times more than that of a fission reaction, according to Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed Martin aims to mimic the fusion process within a small magnetic container designed to release its hundreds of millions of degrees of heat in a controlled fashion. These devices will be small enough to be used on planes and other vehicles.
Its compact size is the reason for which the engineers and scientists at Lockheed Martin believe they can achieve this technology so quickly. A small device size allows them to test and fail quickly under budget.
In this video Tom McGuire, a research engineer and scientist at Lockheed Martin explains how they plan to bottle the power of the sun within a decade: