Belgian Air Force F-16s scrambled to intercept two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack supersonic, nuclear-capable bombers, accompanied by two Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighters over the Baltic Sea on Sept. 17, 2019.
The Belgian Air Force has been guarding the Baltic airspace since Sept. 3, 2019, when it took over the police mission from fellow NATO member Hungary, which was supported by Spain and the UK in its mission. Four Belgian F-16s and at least 60 soldiers have been deployed to protect Baltic airspace from unwelcome incursions, according to the Belgian Ministry of Defense.
Sept. 17, 2019’s interception was Belgium’s first since it began its rotation over Baltic airspace, and seemingly at very close range.
Russian aircraft have engaged in several provocative actions over NATO airspace this year. In June 2019, British Typhoon fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian Su-30 Flanker fighters twice in two days.
An British air force Typhoon fighter jet, foreground, with a Russian fighter over the Baltics.
But NATO countries aren’t merely reacting to Russian aggression. In August 2019 alone, US and UK aircraft sent clear messages to Russia:
US B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flew with UK F-35s, the B-2’s first time flying with non-US F-35s.
B-2 Spirit bombers landed in Iceland for the first time. The B-2, which operates from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, and Royal Air Force Fairford in the UK, needs specific conditions to support its stealth capabilities.
B-2 bombers flew their first extended sorties over the Norwegian Sea earlier in September 2019 — right in Russia’s backyard.
Two US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, currently deployed to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, fly alongside two Royal Air Force F-35B Lightning aircraft from RAF Marham near the White Cliffs of Dover, England, Aug. 29, 2019.
(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)
NATO countries share the mission of protecting Baltic airspace, as the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — don’t have the infrastructure to protect their own airspace and are considered at risk of destabilization or invasion by Russia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Camp Bonifas in Panmunjom, South Korea is named for Captain Arthur Bonifas who was killed by North Korean soldiers in 1976 during the infamous Axe Murder Incident. Sitting next to the Demilitarized Zone, the buffer area between North and South Korea, the base serves as a frontline outpost against any possible North Korean incursion. In addition to the heavy security and first-response troops, Camp Bonifas also hosts what has been called the “World’s Most Dangerous Golf Course.”
The one-hole, 192-yard par-3 is made of artificial turf and sits less than 500 yards from the DMZ. Forget playing through roughs and trying to read greens. A duff here could send your ball into a literal minefield. There’s also an abandoned bunker and a ginseng field to make playing through that much more difficult. The tee box sits 50 yards above the fairway which was built on top of an old machine-gun position. Strong winds from the North Korean side of the DMZ also make shots here difficult.
ESPN reporter Shelley Smith visited Camp Bonifas during the 1988 Seoul Olympics and again in 2012. “It’s about the same,” she said of the golf course during her second visit. Although the idea of a golf course so close to the DMZ seems silly, it is a much-needed distraction for the American and Korean soldiers stationed there. Strategically, a base like Camp Bonifas is not expected to hold out against an all-out invasion by North Korea. Spending some time on the green is a welcome distraction from this grim reality.
Because of the nature of the base, soldiers are not allowed to bring family members when they are assigned to Camp Bonifas. However, the base is a popular tourist destination. As many as 1,000 visitors come through the base daily (pre-COVID). Troops posted at Bonifas have to memorize a 13-page history of the Korean War in order to give tours and answer questions. The base even has a gift shop stocked with DMZ-themed knick knacks.
Famous visitors to Camp Bonifas include professional athletes Andrew Luck, Randy Johnson, and Paula Creamer. “It’s so humbling because the way I look at them, I feel like I have the most respect,” Creamer said of the troops stationed at Bonifas when she visited and played a round. “I don’t know how they do it being so far away from their families and keeping your country safe and fighting for us. Their faces light up when you talk about sport in general but being a female golfer coming in there and being able to hit chip shots or balls on the range and play the toughest par-3 in the world, that’s pretty cool.”
The relaxation provided by a round of golf sits in stark contrast to the ever-present North Korean threat that sits across the DMZ. For the soldiers there, this is the reality of their duty. Shooting on the green with a club can quickly turn into shooting on the green with a rifle at Camp Bonifas.
Noncommissioned and senior noncommissioned officers interested in transferring to the Air Force’s newest enlisted aviation Air Force Specialty Code have until Nov. 15, 2017, to submit their applications to meet the next selection board.
More than 800 applicants submitted for the program last year; those who were not selected by the inaugural board are highly encouraged by officials to apply again this cycle.
“This is an opportunity for active-duty Airmen in the ranks of staff sergeant-select through senior master sergeants who meet and complete the application requirements to be considered for the 1U1X1, Enlisted Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot, career field,” said Master Sgt. Mark Moore, Air Force’s Personnel Center Career Enlisted Aviator Assignments Manager. at the Air Force’s Personnel Center.
Moore stressed that the new AFSC is not part of the formal Air Force Retraining Program, but rather a career opportunity for qualified NCOs to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk.
“Just like officers from other career fields apply to become pilots, AFPC will conduct annual selection boards every January to select qualified enlisted Airmen for entry into this new, exciting career field,” he said. “Applicants have no need to be in their retraining window or be concerned about the end date of an overseas assignment.”
Candidates will be evaluated based on their entire military personnel record and pilot candidate selection method, or PCSM, test score. The average PCSM score for those selected by the inaugural board in February 2017 was 73, with overall select scores ranging from 55 to 96.
Airmen who have already amassed off-duty flying hours are also able to apply the experience toward their PCSM, which Moore said is the same scoring system used to select Air Force officer pilots.
Integrating enlisted pilots into RQ-4 Global Hawk flying operations is one of many ways the Air Force is tapping into the talent of its skilled, diverse and innovative enlisted force as a part of the deliberate approach to enhance the Air Force’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance mission. The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years.
For more information on the enlisted RPA pilot selection process, visit the active duty enlisted Assignments page on myPers from a CAC-enabled computer, or select “Active Duty Enlisted” from the myPers dropdown menu and search “Enlisted Pilot.”
As radical terrorist groups continue to wreak havoc around Afghanistan, a group of women are taking up arms against them.
The Afghan National Police have resorted to arming and training local women to fight the Taliban and Islamic State militants. In many cases, the women had lost their sons, husbands, and other loved ones to the ongoing violence.
“If we fear [ISIS] and the Taliban today, our future will be ruined tomorrow,” one unnamed woman told Al Jazeera.
Female members of the Afghan National Police train the local women in small arms and basic tactics, specifically in the northern reaches of Afghanistan.
Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.
“Every week, around 40 or 50 people join,” said Najiba, a female police officer.
Some Afghans do not approve of women fighting in the army or police, but the increasingly desperate situation has forced the security forces to take desperate measures. Afghan forces only control or influence approximately 60 percent of the country’s districts, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
ISIS’s Afghan branch, known as Islamic State-Khorasan province, holds significantly less territory, but the group has been able to engage in several deadly terrorist attacks across the country.
Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.
“It’s been forced on us,” Gen. Rahmat of the Jowzjan province police told Al Jazeera in an interview. “It’s not a woman’s job to fight. But that’s the situation now. Women have joined the police and army, too.”
Fighting the Taliban and ISIS is a risky proposition for the women, but many see it as their duty. Sara Khala, one of the women training to fight the militants, lost her son to the Taliban, forcing her to care for his orphaned children.
“I have to take revenge for him,” she told Al-Jazeera. “I’ll cook dinner and give it to them. Then I’ll go wherever the Taliban and Daesh are. I’ll take my gun and fight them.”
Yale is headed to West Point to face Army on Clinton Field. The Bulldogs are currently sitting at 4-4-2, but have to face Cornell before going up against the Black Knights on Tuesday. Both teams have been cooling off lately and are desperately seeking a win.
The Navy just commissioned its newest littoral combat ship, the USS Detroit, with a ceremony in the city that bears its name.
The Detroit is a Freedom-class LCS and is designed to operate near the coast with different modules that can essentially plugged into the ship depending on the mission.
The LCS ships can focus on anti-surface, anti-submarine, and anti-mine missions depending on which mission module is installed. The ship always carries defensive missiles to shoot down incoming enemy munitions, and all modules support either an MH-60 helicopter or two Fire Scout unmanned helicopters.
“This ship represents so much. It represents the city of Detroit, the motor city. It represents the highly-skilled American workers of our nation’s industrial base, the men and women who built this great warship; and it represents the American spirit of hard work, patriotism and perseverance,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at the Detroit’s commissioning ceremony.
“The USS Detroit will carry these values around the world for decades to come as the newest ship in our nation’s growing fleet.”
The Detroit’s anti-submarine mission package and its ability to operate in shallow waters make it especially capable of hunting diesel submarines, a major part of both Russia and China’s area-denial arsenal. Diesel submarines are quieter than nuclear subs and are therefore much harder to detect.
Barbara Levin, the wife of the retired Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, sponsored the USS Detroit.
President Donald Trump’s flurry of tweets to kick off the new year lasted into the late evening Jan. 2, as he launched another fiery message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,'” Trump tweeted. “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I, too, have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
Kim, in a televised speech on Jan. 1, had spoken of a “nuclear button” that was “always on my desk.”
“This is reality, not a threat,” Kim said. “This year we should focus on mass producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment. These weapons will be used only if our security is threatened.”
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
Though Trump touted a “nuclear button,” a physical button that a US president can push to initiate a nuclear strike does not appear to exist. Instead, a briefcase — referred to as the “football” — carries authentication codes and is carried by a military aide wherever the president goes.
Trump’s threat comes amid another warning from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who on Jan. 2 seemed dismissive of proposed high-level talks between South Korea and North Korea.
“We won’t take any of the talks seriously if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea,” Haley said during a press conference. “We consider this to be a very reckless regime, we don’t think we need a Band-Aid, and we don’t think we need to smile and take a picture.”
Though current U.S. officials have panned negotiations between North Korea and South Korea, former U.S. officials — including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — and many analysts appear to have accepted North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and have approved the call for negotiations.
“I can well envision a scenario where they would juxtapose a missile test and as well agree to talk with the South Koreans, which I think would be a good thing,” Clapper said. “It would do a lot, I think, to relax some of the tensions. I think negotiation is the only way ahead here — to me, there is no other realistic option.”
I’m known among my friends as a bit of a heartless cynic (#NotPopularAtParties #PleaseStopInvitingMe #HowManyOfTheseDoIHaveToRuinToBeLeftAlone). Maybe that’s why We Are The Mighty’s president and CMO, U.S. Air Force veteran Mark Harper, sent me this heartwarming story about Admiral Nimitz arriving at Pearl Harbor after the attack.
But then, I ruined it.
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, a bold and brave man too busy being optimistic for your “history facts” or his own notes.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
The story is entitled God and the 3 Mistakes, and it makes the rounds on the internet every once in a while. Here’s a version of it from armchairgeneral.com:
Tour boats ferry people out to the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii every thirty minutes. We just missed a ferry and had to wait thirty minutes. I went into a small gift shop to kill time. In the gift shop, I purchased a small book entitled, “Reflections on Pearl Harbor” by Admiral Chester Nimitz.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941 — Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.
Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat–you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war. On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters every where you looked.
As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, “Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?” Admiral Nimitz’s reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. Admiral Nimitz said, “The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?”
Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, “What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?” Nimitz explained:
Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk–we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.
Mistake number two: when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.
Mistake number three: every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That’s why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.
I’ve never forgotten what I read in that little book. It is still an inspiration as I reflect upon it. In jest, I might suggest that because Admiral Nimitz was a Texan, born and raised in Fredricksburg, Texas –he was a born optimist. But anyway you look at it–Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation and circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism.
President Roosevelt had chosen the right man for the right job. We desperately needed a leader that could see silver linings in the midst of the clouds of dejection, despair and defeat.
There is a reason that our national motto is, IN GOD WE TRUST.
Look, an optimistic photo of a re-floated battleship. Let’s all go get coffee and not read the rest of this.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
Stop here to remain happy. No? Alrighty, then.
Was that heartwarming and satisfying for you? Good. Stop reading. Go away. Be happy. Don’t let my factual poison into your soul. Ignore the holes and historical discrepancies and return to the world as a satisfied human being.
Or, let’s go through this together and destroy joy.
(Author’s note: For some of the debunking done here, we’re turning directly to Adm. Nimitz’ notes from December, 1941, compiled in his “gray book,” which the Navy put on the internet in 2014. Citations to that document will be made with a parenthetical hyperlink that will give the PDF page, not the printed page number. So, “(p. 71)” refers to his December 17 “Running Summary of Situation” that is page 71 of the PDF, but has the page numbers 9 and 67 printed on the bottom.)
Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Navy Adm. Chester W. Nimitz.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
That phone call on December 7 didn’t happen
First: “Sunday, December 7th, 1941 — Admiral Chester Nimitz was … told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.“
Nope. At the time, no one knew exactly what had happened or who to blame, and Adm. Husband E. Kimmel was still very much in charge. How screwed up would it have been if Roosevelt’s first action, while the fuel dumps were still burning and sailors were still choking to death on oil, was to fire the guy in command on the ground rather than shifting supplies and men to the problem or, you know, investigating what happened?
The bulk of the losses at Pearl weren’t even announced until December 15 (p. 51) because no one, even at Pearl, could be sure of the extent of the damage while the attack was ongoing.
In reality, Nimitz wasn’t ordered to Hawaii until December 17, the same day that Kimmel was told he would be relieved (p. 71).
National ensign flies from the USS West Virginia during the Pearl Harbor attack.
No, it wouldn’t have been worse if the Japanese had lured the ships to sea
The single most non-sensical claim in this story is that Nimitz was glad Pearl Harbor was a surprise attack.
Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk–we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.
What? Nimitz thought he would’ve lost more men if the Japanese had lured them into a fight near the island? Does anyone believe that he had that little belief in the skills of his men?
If the Japanese had tried to lure the American ships to sea, we would’ve only sent the ones ready to fight, with full ammo loads and readied guns with crews. We would’ve tried to recall the carriers conducting exercises at sea. Yes, losing 38,000 sailors is worse than 3,800, but we’ve never lost 3,800 in a fair fight.
Meanwhile, at Pearl, the U.S. lost over 2,000 killed while inflicting less than 100 enemy deaths. Who the hell would be glad it was a surprise attack?
In his notes on Samoa dated December 17, Nimitz specifically cites Japan’s use of surprise as to why it had been so successful (p. 64).
The largest fuel dumps at Pearl Harbor did survive the attack, but they weren’t enough.
Yes, Japan did ravage America’s fuel dumps and hit drydocks
Nimitz, when he got the actual call on December 17, quickly tied up his duties in Washington, D.C., and reported to Pearl Harbor. (He arrived Christmas Day, not Christmas Eve.)
There, he found an island still burning and heavily damaged. The Japanese planes absolutely did hit fuel dumps at Pearl Harbor. They hit drydocks as well, heavily damaging three destroyers that were in the docks at the time.
Luckily, Pearl Harbor didn’t have “every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war” in December 1941 as the story says, but the other dumps were under attack as Nimitz was supposedly giving this pep talk. Fuel dumps on the Philippines and Wake Island were destroyed or isolated by the Japanese attack in the days and weeks following December 7.
(Seriously, how would you even run a Pacific fleet if your only gas station was in Hawaii? That would mean ships patrolling around the Philippines and Australia would need to travel 10,000 miles and over three weeks out of their way every time they needed to refuel.)
But, what damage was done to these facilities was important, changing the strategic calculation for America at every turn.
On December 17, Nimitz wrote a plan to reinforce Samoa that specifically cited the lack of appropriate fuel dumps being ready or filled at Pearl or Samoa (p. 63 and 70). It even mentioned how bad it was to shift a single oiler from replenishing Pearl to getting ships to Samoa. The fuel situation was dire, and Nimitz knew it.
Two heavily damaged U.S. destroyers sit in a flooded drydock. Both destroyers were scrapped and the drydock was damaged, but it did return to service by February 1942.
The ship repair situation was worse
If the fuel situation was bad, the repair situation was worse. Drydocks were attacked during the battle. Two ships were destroyed in Drydock number one, and Floating Drydock number 2 was sunk after sustaining damage. Both were back in operation by February 1942.
But the number of drydocks wasn’t the biggest factor in whether a ship could be repaired at Pearl, because there weren’t nearly enough supplies and skilled laborers in and around the harbor, anyways. Capt. Homer N. Wallin, the head of the salvage effort from January 1942 onward, lamented shortages of firefighting equipment, lumber, fastenings, welders, carpenters, mechanics, engineers, and pumps for the duration of salvage.
That’s why three battleships left Pearl Harbor for repairs on the West Coast on December 20, and ships were heading back to the continent for repairs as late as the end of 1942, nearly a year after the attack, because drydocks had insufficient space or supplies to repair them on site.
But the worst problem facing Pearl Harbor was invasion
But the most naive claim of this entire story is that Nimitz was optimistic as to the situation in December 1941. His actual notes from the period paint a much grimmer picture of his mind.
In the wee hours of December 17, hours before Nimitz was ordered to replace Kimmel, Nimitz sent Kimmel a message on behalf of himself and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. Kimmel was ordered to “reconsider” his beliefs that Pearl Harbor was safe from further attack (p. 74).
Knox and Nimitz wanted Kimmel to keep ships out of the harbor as much as possible, to reinforce defensive positions. Most importantly:
Every possible means should be devised and executed which will contribute to security against aircraft or torpedo or gun attack of ships, aircraft and shore facilities [on Hawaii];
Given that Nimitz was actively cautioning about how vulnerable Pearl Harbor was on December 17, it would be odd for him to feel cocky and optimistic on December 25 (the earliest he could have actually taken this supposed boat tour).
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Doris Miller at Pearl Harbor on May 27, 1942.
While it took most of 1942 and 1943 to fully ramp up America’s wartime production, the seeds were all in place in 1941 thanks to Roosevelt’s Cash-and-Carry and Lend-Lease policies. Nimitz was no fool. He knew he could win, even though the challenge facing him on Christmas 1941 was still daunting.
We can honor him, the sailors lost at Pearl Harbor, and the stunning achievements of the greatest generation without sharing suspect anecdotes about a Christmas Eve boat ride.
(As an added side note: The book this story supposedly came from wasn’t actually by Nimitz, it’s an “oral history” by William H. Ewing. And it was published five years after Nimitz died. Maybe it is a faithful account of Nimitz’ words at some point, but it doesn’t match his notes or the tactical situation in 1941.)
Now that we can thank McDonald’s restaurants for serving breakfast all day, we should take the time to thank fatigue-clad troops for not having to leave our cars to get it.
Despite the Army and Air Force’s current relationship with Burger King, their first love was McDonald’s and Mickey D’s was more than willing to accommodate that love by mediating the one thing which kept our troops from easy access to the Golden Arches.
In 1975, Army regulations near Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona prevented soldiers wearing their olive-drab fatigues to leave their cars.
McDonald’s heard their plight and added its first drive-thru to McDonalds stores in Arizona, then to Oklahoma and Georgia to serve the soldiers in those areas.
The first drive-thru came way earlier, however. In 1931, a Los Angeles franchise called the Pig Stand opened the first restaurant where motorists could roll around and get a bag of food, packaged to take home. The first burger chain to feature a drive thru was an In-n-Out in Baldwin Park, California in 1948.
In May 1999, that historic location closed forever so that a new McDonald’s restaurant could open next to it. The first McDonald’s drive-thru was torn down and replaced by a parking lot to serve the new McDonald’s.
Burgers, cars, and troops: the triad of American life.
*Update: We reached out to Martin Grier to ask about some of the more stunning claims surrounding the rifle and heard back just after the original article went to press. We’ve updated, in bold, the muzzle velocity and fire rates below with his response.
*Second update: After another discussion with Martin Grier, the inventor of the weapon, we’ve learned that some of the reporting on the weapon’s firing action is incorrect, and we had originally repeated those incorrect claims. We’ve corrected the reporting in bold.
The Army is requesting a prototype of a personal rifle that has four bores, triggering headlines everywhere — but the bigger news might be that the manufacturer claims that it cannot jam, is electrically fired, and weighs less than today’s common weapons.
And, we’re using “bullet” here instead of “round,” the general military term, intentionally. Rounds are self-contained units with propellant, projectile, and primer. Most of them also have a case. But the L5, FD Munitions’ prototype that will feed into the Army’s requested design, uses blocks of ammo instead.
In the block ammo, a single block of composite material has multiple hollows carved out. In the case of the Army proposed prototype, it has four hollows. Each hollow is filled with propellant, a firing pin, and a bullet that is precisely aligned with a bore. When the shooter fires, an electronic charge triggers a firing pin striker, igniting the propellant, sending the bullet down the bore and towards the target.
The FD Munitions L5 rifle prototype has five bores and few moving parts. The Army has requested a four-bore version for testing.
The shooter would still typically fire one round at a time. The bores are stacked vertically as are the “blocks” of ammo. Each trigger pull typically fires the next round in sequence. When four rounds have been fired, the first “block” of ammo is ejected and the next block is loaded.
All of this allows for a system with much fewer moving parts than a traditional, all-mechanical rifle. FD Munitions claims that, since only the blocks are moving and they only move 0.5 inches at a time, the weapon has a minimized probability of jamming. And, since most of the heat of the weapon firing stays in the block, which is soon ejected, the weapon has much less chance of overheating.
The FD Munitions L5 rifle prototype fires rounds from “blocks” of ammo via electric actuation instead of a mechanical hammer.
But, of course, the Army has to test all of this before it can make a decision — hence the prototype.
We heard back from the inventor, Martin Grier, about the firing rates and velocity just after we originally went to press. Here’s what he told us about the numbers (light edits for clarity):
The velocity quote of 2,500 mph is close, with velocities of 3,400-3,600 fps. achievable with our composite Charge-Block ammunition (depending on projectile mass). The COPV (composite overwrap pressure vessel) design is much stronger than steel and can safely operate at 80k psi. The maximum theoretical rate of fire with our electronic fire control is about 6,000 shots per minute (SPM) in full-auto mode, since the pulse width is 10ms. (1/100 sec.) In burst-fire mode, That rate goes up to 7,500 spm since the pulses can be overlapped somewhat for short periods. In actual use, for a personal weapon, 4-600 spm in full-auto mode seems to be the most controllable, just as with other weapons, and in burst fire 1,800 spm is the sweet spot. Since the tech is fully scalable, in other applications, such as [Squad Automatic Weapon], or other crew-served weapons, different rates of fire may be more useful. The electronic fire control can be easily set for any rate up to the maximum.
The blocks of ammunition contain four to five bullets each and, when ejected, take a lot of the heat with them, allowing the shooter to fire more rounds before the weapon overheats.
The Army would need to verify those rates. And, it would need to know at what ranges the weapon is accurate in both standard firing and when firing four rounds simultaneously. Do the rounds affect each other in flight when traveling so close together at such high speeds?
And how much weight would a combat load be with the metal blocks? They certainly contain more material than four loose rounds would, so would an infantryman need to carry significantly more weight? And while the ejected blocks may take a lot of the heat with them, there’s still the friction of the rounds traveling down the bores with the exploding gasses to heat up the barrel. What’s the sustained rate of fire before it overheats?
While the Army digs into all the numbers and tests things like reliability and heat dissipation, the rest of us can talk about how cool it sounds. It’s like a video-game weapon come to life.
The Air Force is surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.
Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.
The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.
“Their structure, service life and air frames are good until around 2040. They are built very strong structurally. This is not a structural modification, but upgrades to the capabilities and the avionics,” Single explained. “You are taking this old structurally sound airframe and putting modern avionics, modern communications technology and modern weaponry into it.”
Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Iraq and Afghanistan.
The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said. “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.
In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.
Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.
Communications, Avionics Upgrades
Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.
Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.
“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”
Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.
Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.
“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.
An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.
Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.
The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.
Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.
“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”
The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.
The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.
Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.
The Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Single added.
The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.
The B-52 have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.
“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.
Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.
The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.
IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.
When a pilot is taking off, the last thing they should have to worry about is the ability to breathe clean air, or having contaminated fuel in the aircraft. Without quality assurance checks, they may not have the peace of mind needed to perform at the highest level.
A small unit, consisting of only Maj. Kevin Pastoor, Aerospace Fuels Laboratory commander, and two technicians are responsible for all of Pacific Air Forces oxygen and fuel testing. The laboratory is part of the Air Force Petroleum Office, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The AFPET consists globally of more than 100 individuals throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia, with only one-third of employees being service members. The Aerospace Fuels Laboratory can not only provide that peace of mind to pilots but also firefighters throughout PACAF.
“The Aerospace Fuels Laboratory is primarily responsible for performing quality assurance for PACAF fuels, aviator’s breathing oxygen and compressed air for firefighters,” Pastoor said.
The laboratory tests everything from water, fuel and oil contamination to aircraft incidents, which can make for many long-shifts based on the samples and tests needed.
Tech. Sgt. Shanice Spearman, Aerospace Fuels Laboratory Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge, explained that as a petroleum, oil and lubricants troop by trade, she typically helps refuel aircraft. Working in the laboratory allows her to learn how to do multiple tests on fuel enabling her to use skills that she otherwise wouldn’t in her normal trade.
With a unique set of challenges specific to maintaining quality standards on oxygen and fuels, it’s a task to keep everything running and ready to produce test results at a moment’s notice.
“The hardest part of the job is maintaining this laboratory,” Pastoor said. “We put a lot of time into maintaining, calibrating, and ensuring our laboratory equipment is operating as it’s supposed to.”
Despite being a small, 3-man shop, the unit makes sure the mission is completed on time.
In the case of major incidents, the laboratory can quick-turn tests in four to eight hours, Pastoor said.
With a global presence, AFPET makes certain Air Force firefighters and pilots can breathe easy and perform the mission.
“The importance of what we’re doing here comes down to safety,” Pastoor said. “We provide assurance that the fuel and oxygen within PACAF is safe to use.”
The Navy is modernizing its destroyers and cruisers with Aegis technology equipped with new multi-mission signal processors, kill assessment systems, radio frequency upgrades and various on-board circuits, service officials said.
The upgrades are part of an intense service effort to better arm its fleet of destroyers and cruisers with modernized Aegis radar technologies engineered to both help the ships better attack adversaries and defend against enemy missiles.
Aegis radar, a technology now on destroyers and cruisers, is aimed at providing terminal phase ballistic missile defense and an ability to knock out or intercept attacking enemy cruise missiles.
Raytheon has been awarded a $20 million deal extension to perform these Aegis upgrades.
The Navy is both modernizing current Aegis technology on board existing ships and also building upgrades into ships now under construction. These new upgrades are designed to build upon the most current iteration of Aegis technology, called Baseline 9.
The Aegis modernization program hope to achieve combat system upgrades that will enhance the anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense capabilities of Aegis-equipped DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and CG 47 Ticonderoga-class cruisers.
“Over the years, we’ve added capabilities (helicopters, increased VLS – vertical launch systems -lethality, improved Aegis weapon system performance, SeaRAM) without the need for a new ship program and associated delays,” Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of surface warfare, said in a statement.
The next step in this continuum of modernization is equipping the next-generation DDG Flight III destroyers with the SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar, Boxall added.
The Navy’s new SPY-6 is 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.
Compared to the legacy SPY-1 radar, Air and Missile Defense Radar will be able to see an airborne object half as big and twice as far – and testing is proceeding apace at Pacific Missile Range Facility, where we have radiated at full power and cycle, Boxall added.
Boxall added that all new construction DDG Flight IIA ships, beginning with DDG-113, will be delivered with Aegis Baseline 9C.
This includes “identification Friend or Foe Mode 5, Close-In Weapons System Block 1B, Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block II, and the SQQ-89A (V) 15 Integrated Undersea Warfare Combat System Suite. Delivery of these capabilities will extend into the mid-term (2020-2030) and beyond,” Boxall said.
NIFC-CA New Navy Destroyers
Baseline 9 Aegis radar also includes a new fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA. It has already been deployed on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.
The technology enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.
“NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of your missile and extend the reach of your sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system,” a senior Navy official said.
So far, NIFC-CA has been integrated and successful in testing with both E2-D Hawkeye surveillance aircraft and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with the new SPY-6 massively more powerful radar system. Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023, Navy officials said.
There are at least Flight IIA DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently under construction. DDG 113, DDG 114, DDG 117 and DDG 119 have been underway at a Huntington Ingalls Industries shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi and DDG 115, DDG 116 and DDG 118 are being built at a Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine.
Existing destroyers, such as the USS John Finn and all follow-on destroyers, will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies. Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.
In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, Navy developers have said.
The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said.
Having this capability could impact Pentagon discussion about how potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline.
Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastlines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles.
Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could.
The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.
The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.
During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.
More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.