A first look at the 'Dark Sword' – China's supersonic stealth drone - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

China released images of a new, unmanned, stealth fighter-style jet, and they present a shocking look into how close Beijing has come to unseating the US as the dominant military air power.

China has already built stealth fighter jets that give US military planners pause, but the images of its new unmanned plane, named the “Dark Sword,” suggest a whole new warfighting concept that could prove an absolute nightmare for the US.


Justin Bronk, an air-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, said the Dark Sword “represents a very different design philosophy” than US unmanned combat jet plans.

Bronk examined the photos available of the Dark Sword and concluded it appeared optimized for fast, supersonic flight as opposed to maximized stealth.

“The Chinese have gone with something that has a longer body, so it’s stable in pitch. It’s got these vertical, F-22 style vertical stabilizers,” which suggest it’s “geared towards supersonic performance and fighter-style capability.”

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone
F-22A Raptor
(Lockheed Martin photo)

Though the US once led in designing drones, it was caught off guard by militarized off-the-shelf drones used in combat in the Middle East. Now, once again, the US appears caught off guard by China moving on the idea of an unmanned fighter jet — an idea the US had and abandoned.

The US is now pushing to get a drone aboard aircraft carriers, but downgraded that mission from a possible fighter to a simple aerial tanker with no requirement for stealth or survivability in what Bronk called a “strong vote from the US Navy that it doesn’t want to go down the combat” drone road.

But a cliché saying in military circles rings true here: The enemy gets a vote.

A nightmare for the US

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) transits the Pacific Ocean with ships assigned to Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010 combined task force as part of a photo exercise north of Hawaii.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dylan McCord)

China, situated in the Pacific and surrounded to its east by US allies, has tons of airspace to defend. For that reason, a fast fighter makes sense for Beijing.

“Something like this could transit to areas very fast, and, if produced in large numbers without having to train pilots, could at the very least soak up missiles from US fighters, and at the very best be an effective fighter by itself,” said Bronk. “If you can produce lots of them, quantity has a quality all its own.”

In this scenario, US forces are fighting against supersonic, fearlessly unmanned fighter jets that can theoretically maneuver as well or better than manned jets because they do not have pilots onboard.

US left behind or China bluffing

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone
This is what the US wants its new drones to do. Not as exciting, is it?
(Lockheed Martin image)

Perhaps somewhere in a windowless room, US engineers are drawing up plans for a secret combat drone to level the playing field. Bronk suggested the US might feel so comfortable in its drone production that it could whip up a large number of unmanned fighters like this within a relatively short time.

Recent US military acquisition programs don’t exactly inspire confidence in the Pentagon to turn on a dime. The US Air Force has long stood accused of being dominated by a “Fighter Mafia,” or fighter-jet pilots insisting on the importance of manned aircraft at the expense of technological advancement, and perhaps air superiority.

Another possibility raised by Bronk was that China’s Dark Sword was more bark than bite. Because China tightly controls its media, “We only see leaked what the Chinese want us to see,” Bronk said.

“It may be they’re putting money into things that can look good around capabilities that might not ever materialize,” he said. But that would be “odd” because there’s such a clear case for China to pursue this technology that could really stick it to the US military, Bronk said.

So while the US may have some secret answer to the Dark Sword hidden away, and the Dark Sword itself may just be a shadow, the concept shows the Chinese have given serious thought when it comes to unseating the US as the most powerful air force in the world.

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

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MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the British ate dinner and burned the White House

A few years after the onset of the War of 1812, the British Army marched into Washington D.C and set it ablaze as many Americans fled. The Redcoats then hiked their way to one of the most historic buildings in the world, the White House, and torched it to avenge an American attack on the city of York in Ontario, Canada, just a few years prior.

Before the British arrived, President James Madison had left the area to meet with his military officials. While many fled in terror of the anticipated Redcoats, First Lady Dolley Madison bravely stayed behind, ready to retrieve important documents and irreplaceable valuables.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone
President James Madison (left) and his wife, Dolley.

As dawn broke, Dolley and some of the White House staff kept a close eye out as they waited for either Madison or the British to return. Once the British Army came into view, Dolley made preparations to leave.


Instead of taking her personal belongings, Dolley Madison made it her priority to retrieve a full-length portrait of George Washington — to keep it out of British hands. Since the painting was screwed to the wall, members of the White House staff broke the frame and rolled the canvas up.

Dolley managed to escape safely and later met up with her husband at a secondary location.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone
The original plans for the White House.

Soon after Dolley’s departure, the British stomped their way to the White House. They went up the iconic front steps and through double doors. Upon entering the house, British troops were surprised to discover that dinner had been laid out for about 40 patrons. So, like any hungry set of soldiers, they sat down to eat. They enjoyed a civilized meal before setting the presidential manor on fire.

President Madison and his wife returned a few days later; the British had already moved on, leaving only ashy rubble in their wake. Most of the walls survived the brutal heat of the flames, but the majority of the President’s home had to be rebuilt.

This historical act of destruction is the first and only time the enemy has successfully brought harm to the White House.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

Troops are often told that there are a handful of people that they should always keep in their back pocket. The cooks, the medics, and the supply guys are the most obvious choices — but they shouldn’t count out support from the congressperson who serves their home of record.

That’s right, soldier. All of those people arguing in Washington are there to hear what you have to say. Holders of public office are obligated to answer letters sent by their constituents serving in the military. If you write them with a concern, best case scenario, they’ll come to the aid of the troops without having to navigate the necessary red tape.

Think of them as having the ultimate “open door” policy for the troops.


A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

While there are many veterans serving in politics, most civilians — including politicians — can be intimidated by abject outrage. Be polite.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. April Campbell)

In the military, every problem should be addressed at the lowest possible level. Is your immediate superior abusing their power? The first step should be their superior. But if the problem is systemic in nature and you feel like you’ve got nowhere to turn, don’t worry, you’ve still got options.

One of the most effective ways of getting a situation resolved is by writing simple letter to your congressperson. It might feel like using a sledgehammer to do a flyswatter’s job, but it’ll get things done.

The best way to get the attention of your congressperson is through a short, to the point, and professionally worded letter that offers possible solutions. That last bit in important; simply writing, “this is bullsh*t” on a piece of paper and sending it out will land your concerns in the trash.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

Aiding the troops is, thankfully, a nonpartisan issue. It may not feel like it at times, but they, for the most part, have the well-being of troops in mind.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Lenhardt)

Congressmen can help with a wide variety of topics, ranging from pay or tax issues, immigration concerns, social security problems, terrible accommodations, or trouble with a toxic chain of command. In the past, this has lead to many great outcomes, such as troops receiving better tents while deployed or having an unjust court-martial investigated.

When the 2013 federal government shutdown was looming overhead, an unprecedented amount of troops and veterans wrote their respective members of Congress with concerns about their military pay being affected. Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado, a retired Major of the Marine Corps who spent his enlisted years in the Army, sponsored the aptly-named “Pay Our Military Act,” which ensured that Congress’ fighting over federal spending will never affect the pay of all members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Following the suicides of Private Danny Chen and Lance Corporal Harry Lew, the “Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act” was put into place by Congresswoman Judy Chu of California. Both men were the subjects of extreme, racially-motivated hazing and mistreatment by their units and were pushed into suicide. The situation was awful; but the concerns of service members and veterans reached lawmakers directly and had an impact.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

If you can manage to bring them out to your installation, prepare for the impending dog and pony show.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

But if you write, know that it may not help immediately — a typical response takes around six weeks. Members of Congress receive hundreds of letters and emails every single day, but they’ll take special notice if you mention that you are serving (or have served) in the military.

Keep the letter polite — you don’t want any reason for their aides to avoid putting your letter on their desk. If you don’t feel like your voice is being heard, you can always write to one of your two senators, though their offices are considerably more busy.

Regardless of how you personally feel about their politics, they are still beheld to their constituents — troops included.

MIGHTY TRENDING

TrueCar partners up with DAV and Team RWB to give cars to wounded veterans

Last year, TrueCar teamed up with DAV (Disabled American Veterans) to put on the DrivenToDrive program and awarded U.S. Army Veteran and Special Forces medic Major Peter Way the keys to a new, adapted van at the closing ceremony of Team Red White & Blue’s Old Glory Relay on Veteran’s Day.

In May, 2018, they did it again, awarding ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Goodrich a new 2018 Honda Ridgeline. Goodrich is a veteran of the Iraq War, during which he sustained traumatic brain and leg injuries. After traveling the long road to reovery, he dedicated his life to helping other veterans through the use of art therapy — and the DriventoDrive program gave him the perfect tool for the job.

Now, TrueCar is teaming up with DAV and Team RWB to do it again. This Veterans Day in San Diego, California, the DriventoDrive program is going to award another new car to another courageous vet in need — and they need your help.


Submit your DrivenToDrive application here.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

Mike Goodrich receiving his new 2018 Honda Ridgeline.

An estimated 4.9 million veterans have a service-connected disability according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But, as many brave veterans like Way and Goodrich have shown, that doesn’t stop them from lifting up their communities.

The CEO of DAV, Marc Burgess spoke on the program earlier this year,

“DAV is grateful to partner with TrueCar and their DrivenToDrive program, which is designed to help the brave men and women who served our country regain their freedom and independence. Awarding a vehicle is a special way to recognize the sacrifices a veteran made and dramatically improve his or her quality of life. We’re additionally grateful to TrueCar for supporting DAV’s mission to honor our heroes and make them aware of the assistance we provide at no cost.”
A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

TrueCar wants to know what drives you. When applying, entrants should talk about the nominee, any details regarding his or her military experience and injuries sustained (if any), and what goals he or she hopes to achieve with a new vehicle.

All applications are then evaluated by a panel and, eventually, one winner is selected.

The ability to drive, especially in the United States, is a symbol of independence. It gives you the ability to go your own way — and TrueCar wants to give that freedom back to someone who worked to protect our freedoms back home.

If you’d like to enter for a chance to win (or nominate a deserving veteran in your community), be sure to visit the DrivenToDrive website — but act quickly. Submissions are open between now and October 8, 2018, at 8:59:59 PM PT.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

Some really cool photographs of two dozen F-22s from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group taxiing in close formation with an E-3 Sentry and a C-17 Globemaster III during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, were posted online on Mar. 26, 2019. Both types are based at JBER.

The aircraft staged what is known as an “Elephant Walk”, a kind of drills during which combat planes (including tankers) taxi in close formation in the same way they would do in case of a minimum interval takeoff, then, depending on the purpose of the training event, they can either take off or return back to their parking slots.


What is particularly interesting in the photos of the exercise at JBER, is the fact that, along with the Raptors, also a Sentry took part in the “walk”.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

F-22 Raptors from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group participate in a close formation taxi, known as an Elephant Walk, March 26, 2019, during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

3rd Wing’s F-22s and E-3s often team up during QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) launches triggered by Russian long-range bombers flying in the vicinity of the Alaskan ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone). This is what we wrote in 2017 about such “combined scrambles”:

Launching the AEW along with the fighters is a “tactics” that allows the Air Defense to extend the radar coverage and to better investigate the eventual presence of additional bombers or escorting fighters flying “embedded” with the “zombies” (as the unknown aircraft are usually dubbed in the QRA jargon). At the same time, the presence of an E-3 allows the Raptors to improve their situational awareness while reducing the radar usage and maximizing as much as possible their stealth capability (even though it must be remembered that F-22s in QRA usually carry fuel tanks that make them less “invisible” to radars).

A long range sortie is not easy to plan. Even more so a strike sortie: the bomber are not only required to fly inbound the target (TGT) and reach a convient position to simulate the attack and weapons delivery, they also need to take in consideration many other factors. First of all “what is your goal?” Do you want to train for a realistic strike? Or do you want to “spy” or show your presence or posture?

Other factors are distance from own country, opponent’s defense capability, minimum risk routing according to the threats, presence of DCA (Defensive Counter Air), supporting assets, etc.

Usually, during a strike sortie, bombers are considered the HVA (High Value Asset), the one that must be protected. For this reason during the planning phase they are always escorted by fighter and protected by the Ground to Air threats by means of SEAD/DEAD (Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses), EW (Electronic Warfare) and everything is needed to let them able to hit their targeted.
A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

An F-22 Raptor takes off after Raptors from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group participated in a close formation taxi, known as an Elephant Walk, March 26, 2019, during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

However, escorting a strategic bomber is not always possible (nor convenient): considered their limited range, the presence of the fighters would heavily affect the long range planning, requiring support from multiple tankers along the route.

For this reason, although the Russians visit the West Coast quite often, they usually are not escorted by any fighter jet (as happens, for instance, in the Baltic region, where Tu-22s are often accompanied by Su-27 Flankers).

However, it’s better to be prepared and trained for the worst case scenario and this is probably the reason why NORAD included an E-3 AEW in the QRA team: to have a look at the Tu-95s and make sure there was no “sweep” fighters or subsequent “package”.

The configuration of the F-22 aircraft involved in the Elephant Walk at JBER is also interesting as the stealth jets carry underwing tanks: that is the standard external loadout both in case of QRA launch and for ferry flights and forward deployments.

After taking the shots, the aircraft cleared the runway, taxied back to the threshold of RWY24 and took off in sequence.

As already reported a recent “Elephant Walk”, also involving about two dozen F-22s, took place at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, on Feb. 28, 2019.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This US warship just teased Beijing in latest South China Sea maneuvers

A U.S. destroyer reportedly put China’s extensive claims to the South China Sea to the test October 10th.


The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee challenged China’s “excessive maritime claims” near the Paracel Islands by sailing close to but not within 12 nautical miles of the Chinese-occupied territories, Reuters introduced, citing multiple U.S. officials.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) transits the South China Sea before a replenishment-at-sea with fleet replenishment oiler USNS John Ericsson (T-AO-194) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104). (U.S. Navy Photo By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kryzentia Weiermann/ Released)

The Trump administration conducted two other freedom-of-navigation operations in May and August, challenging China’s claims to the Spratly and Paracel Islands. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in May, and the USS John McCain followed suit a few months later.

The U.S. has also conducted bomber overflights in the South China Sea, putting additional pressure on China.

The latest operation comes at a time when President Donald Trump is urging China to rein in North Korea to ensure stability on the peninsula. While China calls for dialogue, the president has made it clear that now is not the time for talk.

Many in the Trump administration have acknowledged that while North Korea is a serious short-term threat, China remains the greatest challenge to U.S. hegemony in the world.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes this week – battle buddy edition

This week’s meme roundup is dedicated to the friends you go to war with: Your battle buddies. These friends would do anything for you, even take a bullet, or in the case of Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, jump on a grenade. The bond between battle buddies is second to none, and most people will never experience friendship on this level. Although it’s difficult to capture the bromance in 13 memes, here’s our attempt:


1. Battle buddies depend on each other.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

When the leadership fails, your buddy won’t.

2. Battle buddies aren’t always human.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

Man’s best friend is just as dedicated.

3. War is intense, so jokes and pranks are also elevated to the same level.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

This is their version of “kick me.”

4. You get in trouble together.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

No worries, it’s a just a mouth lashing.

5. You find creative ways to entertain each other.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

This would make a great, “shut the fu– up Carl” meme.

6. Their idea of going to the movies is a little different.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

Their camaraderie makes up for the lack of screen size.

7. They fight together, they watch movies together, and they also drink together …

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

… because sometimes you need someone to stagger home with.

8. Buddies look after each other, they don’t report each other.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

Seriously, how do those dixie cup hats stay on?!

9. They settle things differently.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

The quickest way to getting over a disagreement. (from Military Memes Facebook fan page)

10. Your pain is the butt of their jokes.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

They brandish bumps and scars like badges of honor, but more importantly, to show you how much tougher they are.

11. Despite all the shenanigans, buddies will always have your back.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

They’ll follow each other to the gates of hell. (from Military Memes Facebook fan page)

12. They’ll look after each other like their life depends on it.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone
There’s no worse feeling than the feeling of letting your buddy down.

13. Battle buddies forever.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

Battle buddies keep their promises. If they said they’ll be there, they’ll be there.

NOW: 10 tips for dating on a forward operating base

AND: 9 Military terms that will make you sound crazy around civilians

OR WATCH: 13 Signs you’re in the infantry:

Articles

This is how a vet can go from a battlefield to a pit crew

Veterans often wonder what to do when they leave the military. Sometimes finding the right job can be tough, but for some, perhaps motor sports may be an option, if not as a career, then as a way to help recover from the invisible wounds of war.


According to Racer.com and USA Today, a number of efforts to encourage veterans to get involved in various types of auto racing have emerged recently. One is MilitaryToMotorsports.com, a venture from Andretti Autosports. The Andrettis are one of the biggest names in the auto-racing world, and this team has won the Indianapolis 500 four times, captured four IndyCar championships, plus two X-Games Gold Medals.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone
Auto racing legend Mario Andretti observes flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during a visit to the ship as part of the centennial celebration of the Indianapolis 500 auto race. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility in support of maritime security operations and theater cooperation efforts.

According to the MilitarytoMotorsports.com site, veterans can apply to be anything from a motor transport driver (perfect for folks who drove a HEMTT in their service) to a machinist to hospitality staff to being on a pit crew. In other words, the job you did in the military could have a lot of applications in helping an IndyCar driver win the next Indianapolis 500!

The chairman of Military to Motorsports is Navy veteran David Tilton, whose lengthy career included a tour on the amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2) and a tour with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. He retired after a back injury in 2003, and first became involved with Andretti Autosports in 2015.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone
Staff Sgt. Doug Miller and Master Sgt. Scott Dolese, aircraft structural maintenance technicians, work a jack support box repair from the inside and outside of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, May 17 at the 167th Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard phtoo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

“I am very excited to be part of the launch of the Military to Motorsports Program with Andretti Autosport,” said Tilton. “This program will give well-deserved military personnel the opportunity to utilize their skills and discipline, gained during their service, as part of one of the most successful teams in motorsports.”

NASCAR is not being left out, as a number of NASCAR drivers and teams have become involved with Hope for the Warriors, a Veterans Service Organization founded in 2006. According to USA Today, the drivers and team invite veterans like ex-Marine Ryan Harshman, a combat-wounded vet, to races.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone
A US Army MH-6 Little Bird at a NASCAR race. (DOD photo)

“NASCAR events can be very organically therapeutic. If you can challenge somebody’s hesitations by putting them in an environment like that where they’re very excited to be there, it helps. They are distracted from the chaos, but the chaos is actually helping to ease the PTSD and the noise issues and so forth,” Hope for the Warriors President Robin Kelleher told USA Today Sports.

Today, Harshman is working at an outdoor store, and remains involved with the charity.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The military is going to put laser attack weapons on fighters

In science-fiction movies and television shows, lasers are often used for fighter combat. Whether it is the Rebel X-wings from Star Wars or Air Force F-302s from Stargate SG-1, laser bolts have been taking out bad guys for years. But in real life, lasers aren’t there yet. Not by a long shot. Their biggest military application has been as a guidance system for weapons like the AGM-114 Hellfire and the Paveway laser-guided bombs.


That is in the process of changing. According to a report by CNBC, the Air Force has given Lockheed a contract to develop “high-energy fiber laser weapons” for tactical fighters that are not equipped with stealth technology. The intent is to give planes like Lockheed’s F-16 Fighting Falcon and the Boeing F-15 Eagle a means to destroy incoming surface-to-air missiles.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone
The concept High-Energy Fiber Laser can turn a Seahawk or Blackhawk into a Laserhawk. (Cropped from Lochkeed graphic)

According to a Nov. 6 release by Lockheed, the contract comes from the Air Force Research Laboratory, which has a Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator, or SHiELD program in place. The program has three components:

  • SHiELD Turret Research in Aero Effects (STRAFE), a targeting system for the laser beam.
  • Laser Pod Research Development (LPRD), which will design the pod to power and cool the laser
  • Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE), the high energy laser itself.

Lockheed has a concept High-Energy Fiber Laser that would turn a Blackhawk into a Laserhawk, albeit the pallet shown in a Lockheed graphic is too large for use on a fighter like the F-16 or F-15. That system is intended to help counter rocket and mortar attacks using a laser that can produce up to 30 kilowatts.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone
The Athena laser weapon system. (Youtube Screenshot from Lockheed video)

“The development of high power laser systems like SHiELD show laser weapon system technologies are becoming real. The technologies are ready to be produced, tested and deployed on aircraft, ground vehicles, and ships,” Dr. Rob Afzal said in the Lockheed release.

While the system seems geared towards zapping missiles, past tests have seen lasers used on vehicles and unmanned aircraft. Soon, it could be that hauling a gun like the A-10’s GAU-8 could be a thing of the past.

MIGHTY TRENDING

American, Filipino, and Japanese troops storm the beach

U.S. and Philippine Marines aboard U.S. assault amphibious vehicles launched from the U.S. Navy’s USS Ashland and Philippine Navy’s BRP Davao del Sur as part of a counterterrorism and humanitarian response based exercise. The ship-to-shore movement brought the U.S., Philippine and Japanese militaries together to advance amphibious capabilities.

“This is another step forward in working alongside the Philippine Marine Corps and the Philippine Navy as they advance their amphibious capability,” said U.S. Marine LtCol. Michael K. Chankij, lead U.S. exercise planner for KAMANDAG 2. “Last year was the first time the Philippine Navy’s BRP Tarlac, the LD-601, launched AAVs. This year we continued advancing amphibious capabilities and interoperability as the U.S. Navy launched AAVs alongside the Philippine Navy during an amphibious assault.”


One hour after the U.S. and Philippine forces launched, JGSDF Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade soldiers aboard Japanese AAVs launched from the USS Ashland to support a distinct humanitarian training mission.

KAMANDAG 2 is a 10-day training exercise designed to improve U.S.-Philippine interoperability, increase readiness, strengthen multinational partnerships, and enhance the ability of U.S., Philippine, and Japanese forces to respond to crises.

After the amphibious landing, U.S. and Philippine Marines conducted follow-on live-fire military operations in urban terrain training, fire and movement drills, and fire team attacks, amplifying their proficiency in counterterrorism operations.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jinho Lee presses a combat rubber raiding craft over his head during KAMANDAG 2 on Philippine Marine Corps base Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)

“Amphibious operations are a core competency that shapes who we are as Marines,” said Philippine Marine LtCol. Henry R. Espinoza, Chief of Staff of the Philippine Marine Ready Force. “We are anticipating the arrival of our first fleet of AAVs next year. The training we received from the U.S. Marines provides the Filipino AAV operators knowledge on how these amphibious vehicles operate, which is crucial to how our own AAV operators will effectively conduct future operations.”

U.S. participants included components of Seventh Fleet, the 3D Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. Philippine participants included the Philippine Marine Corps, Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force. Japanese participants included the JGSDF’s ARDB.

The ARDB was introduced to the JGSDF in March 2018. KAMANDAG 2 is the first time Japanese AAVs have ever operated outside of Japan. During the landing, the ARDB responded to a mass casualty humanitarian crisis scenario, facilitated by AAVs for the transportation of personnel and resources.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

U.S. Marines assigned to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, conduct an amphibious raid during KAMANDAG 2 on Philippine Marine Corps base Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)

“This exercise was a good opportunity to enhance the capability to respond quickly to HADR, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, missions,” said JGSDF LtCol. Yoshiji Aoyama, the lead Japanese exercise planner for KAMANDAG 2 of the Bilateral Coordination Department, Ground Component Command. “It provided us the opportunity to strengthen relationships with U.S. and Philippine forces.”

As part of the training evolution, U.S. and Philippine fixed wing assets also provided aerial surveillance of the beach in support of the landing.

Throughout KAMANDAG 2, over one thousand U.S., Philippine and Japanese forces conducted ground, naval and air training, reinforced counterterrorism and HADR capabilities, and supported real-world humanitarian missions in local communities.

“Training with U.S. Marines and the JGSDF is crucial in fostering camaraderie, friendship and the exchange of ideas,” said Espinosa. “KAMANDAG 2 allowed expertise between the U.S. and Philippine forces to be exchanged. Next year we will use our own AAVs in KAMANDAG 3.”

KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the United States and Philippine militaries. KAMANDAG 2 will increase overall U.S. and Philippine readiness, improve combined responsiveness to crises in the Indo-Pacific region, and strengthen both countries’ decades-long partnership.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Army hopes to complete 4-year sweep of Navy in rivalry game

Since his fellow cadets stormed Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium three years ago after Army ended Navy’s 14-game winning streak, Ryan Velez had waited for his chance to play in the storied Army-Navy game.

Velez, now a senior safety from Fountain Hills, Arizona, finally saw action on special teams during last year’s 17-10 Army triumph in Philadelphia.

On Dec. 14, 2019, Velez can help the 5-7 Black Knights defeat Navy for the fourth straight time, and cement the 2020 senior class as one of the greatest in West Point’s history. Army takes on the No. 23 Midshipmen (9-2) at the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field at 3 p.m. EST.


“This is like a season of its own,” Velez said of the Army-Navy Game. “That’s unlike any other games in college football … the opportunity to win a trophy and go to the White House. That’s something special. It’s surreal and something I’ll be able to take with me for the rest of my life.”

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

Army Black Knights football coach Jeff Monken leads the team onto the field for the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

A high school tailback, Velez moved to defense at West Point and played mostly on the scout team his freshman year. After switching to safety his sophomore year, he still couldn’t get on the field, but finally contributed to Army’s 11-2 campaign as a junior, seeing action in 11 of 13 games.

Velez worked harder in practice and studied diligently to learn the intricacies of both strong and free safety, earning the trust of his coaches.

This fall, Velez has become a leader on defense, recording 40 solo tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and a sack in 12 games. Not bad for a player who spent most of his first two seasons on the bench.

“During that time it was hard,” he said. “Obviously taking a backseat, having a secondary role, that was one of those challenges I’ve had to overcome — fight through and I’m glad I did. It’s been a ride; it’s been a journey. I’m just very appreciative to be where I’m at right now.”

Brutal schedule

A 5-7 mark could seem disappointing for the Army football team after cruising to an 11-2 record last fall and the program’s best finish since 1958.

Records can be deceiving.

Army has proven it can still compete with the nation’s best. Despite the final scores, the results on the field have shown competitiveness.

In each of those seven losses, the Black Knights remained within striking distance, including a near-upset of No. 17 Michigan in Ann Arbor. Army forced overtime against the Wolverines before falling 24-21.

The Black Knights narrowly lost to service rival Air Force 17-13 in Colorado Springs Nov. 2, when the No. 25 Falcons stopped Army at the goal line with less than a minute in regulation.

During a 52-31 offensive shootout at Hawaii Nov. 30, Army trailed only 38-31 with seven minutes remaining in the game. The Black Knights’ drive stalled after driving to the Hawaii 35-yard line and the Warriors scored the final two touchdowns.

“We played a really tough schedule, some really great competition,” Velez said. “All that stuff that happened in the past, that’s gut-wrenching. We can’t focus on that right now. We just got to focus on Navy, finishing out the season strong.”

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins, center, scores the final touchdown of the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Army’s senior class, which has not lost in the annual rivalry game, hopes to complete a four-year sweep. Senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins (706 rushing yards, seven TDs) and senior running back Connor Slompka (637 yards, eight TDs) lead Army’s No. 2 rushing attack. Hopkins has also thrown for 570 yards and four touchdowns, but his time on the field has been limited by injuries.

Since head coach Jeff Monken took over, Army bounced back from a 2-10 mark in 2015, to go 21-5 in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

That run includes a 70-14 trouncing of Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl and finishing at No. 19 in the college football rankings during the 2018 season.

“We had a great senior class my freshman year,” Velez said. “We were able to end the streak. That was something that the whole Army itself was looking forward to, just ending that streak, being able to say we finally beat Navy. That senior class kind of gave us the ground rules for continuing that streak the past couple of years, giving us the formula to beat Navy so they set the example and … we hope to continue that this coming Saturday.”

The contest holds special significance for Velez, as his younger brother Ross, a freshman at the Naval Academy, will be pulling for the Midshipmen from the stands. Velez, whose great uncles served as enlisted troops in the Korean War and World War II, will become the first officer in his family when he graduates from West Point next spring. He said his parents, Roger and Evangeline Velez, will have torn allegiances when they attend this year’s game.

Fortunes reversed

Army faces a No. 23-ranked Navy squad that handed Air Force one of its only two losses this season. Last season Army’s football team won a defensive struggle in frigid winter conditions. In 2018, Army carried a No. 22 ranking and 9-2 record heading into the game while Navy had weathered its worst season since 2002 at 2-9.

This fall, Navy enters the game as the favorite as Army failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2015.

Navy bounced back from its worst campaign to finish second in the American Athletic Conference and earn a bid to play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl vs. Kansas State Dec. 31.

This season’s Army-Navy game features a matchup of the nation’s top two rushing offenses. The Midshipmen’s high-powered offense ranks No. 9 in the nation.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

Navy quarterback Garret Lewis is sacked during the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Senior QB Malcolm Perry leads Navy’s top-ranked rushing attack, as he has rushed for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns and thrown for another 1,027 yards and six touchdowns.

While standing only 5-9, the elusive Perry has quickly become one of the nation’s most potent offensive weapons and will test the Black Knights’ No. 30-ranked defense, which has struggled with consistency. Perry ranks No. 6 in the nation in rushing yards.

Sophomore fullback Jamale Carothers has made big play after big play for the Midshipmen, rushing for 637 yards on only 76 carries (8.4 yards per carry) and has 741 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns. Carothers scored five of those touchdowns in a 56-41 triumph over Houston Nov. 30, one shy of the conference record.

Velez said the Army defense carries a swagger, built from three consecutive victories and weathering a brutal schedule.

“We just have a calmness going into it, we know how to win,” Velez said. “It’s just a blood bath when we go out there. I think going in we have some confidence, we have some swagger. We know what it takes to win. At the end of the day, we just got to line up, be a tougher team and out-physical them.”

Navy still holds a 60-52-7 all-time lead in the contest, though Army has won the last three matchups.

Defensive struggles

While Army’s defense had been a stalwart force the previous two seasons, it has struggled at times this season. In 2018, the Black Knights boasted the nation’s 10th best defense, allowing only 17.7 points a game and 295.3 yards of total offense per contest.

This fall those numbers jumped to 337.8 yards allowed and the Black Knights fell to No. 30 in total yards allowed, and No. 33 in points allowed.

Senior cornerback Elijah Riley leads Army in interceptions (three), forced fumbles (three), sacks (four) and ranks second on the squad with 73 tackles.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

(West Point Athletics Department)

Honoring the past

Army will pay tribute to the 1st Cavalry Division, the first full unit of its kind to deploy to Vietnam. The division pioneered a new battle concept which used helicopters to mobilize large masses of soldiers.

The Black Knights will don green helmets that display the golden sabers to honor the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry regiment.

The Midshipmen will wear a throwback classic 1960s-era uniform with gold shoulder stripes and a special paint design that resembles football helmets of the past.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane story of a Russian aircrew’s daring escape from a Taliban prison

In August, 1995, a series of events occurred that would just seem implausible today. A Taliban MiG fighter intercepted a Russian Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD, forcing it to land at Kandahar International Airport in the middle of a nationwide Civil War. The crew and its passengers were taken prisoner by the Taliban. They were held for a year while the Russian government tried to negotiate their release with the help of a U.S. senator

The 1990s were a crazy time. Even with our post-9/11 goggles off, it seems inconceivable that any number of the above could happen – just try to imagine these crazy things:

  • A Taliban MiG fighter
  • Forcing a Russian plane to land
  • Russian government negotiating
  • A U.S. Senator helping Russia

It’s all true, of course. In 1994, the Taliban exploded out of Kandahar and, by the time of this incident, controlled much of the country south of Kabul. When the Airstan plane was flying over, the Taliban were still deadlocked against the Afghan government of the time, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani.

It must have been an awkward ask for Rabbani, who spent years fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, only to ask them for weapons in trying to keep it away from other Afghans.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone
TFW you lose Afghanistan and have to ask for help from the people you took it from.

A first look at the ‘Dark Sword’ – China’s supersonic stealth drone

Even Jiffy Lube makes you keep the keys on the dashboard, guys.

The Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD was carrying a load of 30 tons of weapons from Albania bound for the legitimate Afghan government when it was intercepted by a Taliban MiG-21. It was an old fighter, even in the 1990s, but was still enough to bring down the Ilyushin II.

Upon landing, the crew of seven was taken into custody by the Taliban — but the story doesn’t end there. As negotiations between the Russians and the terrorist group began to stall, American Senator Hank Brown stepped in to facilitate the talks, not only buying the Russians time, but also the crew. It didn’t hurt that the Taliban wanted some of their people freed in exchange for their prisoners.

For over a year, the Russian aircrew prepared for their daring escape. Brown managed to get the Taliban to agree to let the Russian Airstan crew maintain their captured aircraft to ensure it was in working order when the time to take off finally came. Brown visited the crew and let them know they would be maintaining it.

But not only did the crew perform its routine maintenance, they also slowly but surely prepared it for their flight home. They finally got their big chance one day, just over a year after being captured. When half of the Taliban who regularly guarded them left the group to attend evening prayers, the crew tricked the others into leaving their weapons outside the plane.

They overpowered the remaining three guards and started the engines.

By the time the Taliban noticed the plane was getting ready for take off, it was already taxiing down the runway. They tried to block their takeoff using a fire truck, but to no avail, the Russians were airborne well ahead of the truck’s position on the runway. The Taliban missed catching the escaping Russians by a mere three to five seconds.

The crew had done the impossible and the Taliban were not able to scramble intercepting aircraft in time to catch them.


They left Taliban airspace as fast as possible and set course for the UAE. By the time they landed, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was waiting by the phone to congratulate them. They made it home to Russia shortly after. The crew is said to celebrate their escape from the terrible event like a second birthday. The Taliban are brutal to prisoners, and the crew of the Airstan Ilyushin Il considered the entire country a prisoner of the terror group.

“My heart really goes out to these people. I’ve seen what a poverty-stricken and miserable standard of living they have. They’re still fighting because they’ve nothing left to lose,” a member of the crew told the BBC.

Their daring escape was the subject of a Russian film, Kandagar, in 2010.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran boasts about its increased uranium enrichment capacity

Iran says it is continuing to acquire uranium and is close to finishing a plant where it can build more centrifuges to enrich uranium.

The announcement on July 18, 2018, comes a day after Iran filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the United States in response to President Donald Trump’s decision in May 2018 to pull his country out of the 2015 nuclear accord and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.


Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other hard-liners in Iran have questioned whether Iran should continue honoring its obligations under the landmark deal with world powers after Trump’s decision.

Under the terms of the 2015 agreement — which also was signed by Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the European Union — Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

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Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei


The other signatories have said they will remain a part of the deal. Iran has demanded financial concessions from Europe to compensate for losses caused by Washington’s renewed sanctions.

Khamenei in June 2018 announced his country was preparing to increase uranium-enrichment capacity at its Natanz nuclear facility.

Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said Iran will continue adhering to the nuclear deal and that the country’s stepped-up nuclear activities will remain within the limits set by the accord.

A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told Reuters that the organization was aware of Iran’s announcement but had no comment.

Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes, while Washington has accused it of attempting to develop nuclear weapons.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.