How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal - We Are The Mighty
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How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is known for its baller tech, from helping to invent the internet and Google Maps to developing artificial intelligence and drone swarms. For the last few years, they’ve been looking into how to make vehicles safer in combat without strapping ever-increasing amounts of armor to it.


Demonstrations of DARPA’s Ground X-Vehicle Technologies

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The Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) Program is largely complete, and it’s archived on DARPA’s website. Most of the tech has proven itself in the lab and testing, but now some will—and some won’t—get deployed to units over the next few years.

One of the more exciting and groundbreaking technologies is the Multi-mode Extreme Travel Suspension. This equips vehicles with a suspension that can raise wheels 30 inches or drop them 42 inches, and each tire is controlled separately. That means that a vehicle can drive with an even cab, even when the slope is so great that the wheels are separate in height by six feet. It also means that the vehicles can get to hard-to-reach places quickly.

Other tech breakthroughs looking to increase off-road mobility included the Electric In-Hub Motor—which crams an entire electric motor with a three-speed gearbox and cooling into a standard 20-inch rim—and the Reconfigurable Wheel-Track which can roll like a normal tire or turn into a triangular track that works like a mini-tank tread.

But there are also breakthroughs focused on getting rid of windows and making crews able to move faster and more safely. The Virtual Perspective Augmenting Natural Experience program allowed vehicle crew members to drive a windowless RV with better visibility than a normal driver. Not only can they see what would be visible from the vehicle thanks to LIDAR, but they could also “see” the environment from a remote perspective.

Basically, they could be their own ground guide.

The Off-Road Crew Augmentation program, meanwhile, draws an estimated safest path for drivers moving off-road, and it can do so with no windows facing out. That means vehicle designers can create a next-gen vehicle with no windows, historically a weak spot in the armor. Ultraviolet light from the sun slowly breaks down ballistic glass, so “bulletproof” windows aren’t really bulletproof and will eventually expire.

All of the major breakthroughs were part of research partnerships or contracts with different manufacturers, and it remains to be seen whether the military branches will request prototype vehicles that use the tech. But there’s a chance that your next ride, after the current iteration of the JLTV, will be something a little more exotic.

Articles

This company is bringing back a weapon long favored by Navy SEALs

Developed by some of the same engineers who designed the AR-10 and AR-15 family of rifles, the Stoner 63 was one of the world’s first modular, adaptable assault rifles used by the U.S. military.


It saw only limited fielding, but was popular among Navy SEALs during the Vietnam war. The Stoner could be configured as a rifle, carbine and light machine gun, firing from a traditional M16-style box magazine or from a belt.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal
Navy SEALs in Vietnam. Note the Stoner 63 in the center. (National Archives)

The Stoner is surely one of the coolest looking rifles of the conflict, and while beloved by frogmen for years, it was found by some to be too complex and maintenance intensive for general battlefield use.

Fast forward almost 40 years and U.S. rifle manufacturer Knights Armament has updated the Stoner 63 with a new ultra-lightweight machine gun variant that’s causing some buzz on the interwebs.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal
The Stoner X-LMG. (Photo link from The Firearm Blog)

Dubbed the Stoner X-LMG, the new machine gun fires a 5.56mm round from an open bolt with a piston operating system. Knights says the X-LMG uses a unique configuration that eliminates the buffer, further mitigating recoil and making it easier to control.

The X-LMG has a Picatinny rail for optics, a M-LOK handguard and a collapsable stock that helps the new Stoner come in at a surprisingly light weight of just under 9 pounds.

“The Stoner X-LMG … represents a 2kg weight saving over legacy models (including FN Herstal’s Mimimi LMG) providing operators with a more streamlined solution suitable for close quarter battle and military operations in urban terrain as well as parachute insertion,” according to one defense industry analysis.

Reports suggest the new Stoner is gaining interest among foreign special operations teams, including Dutch and French commandos and paratroop regiments. Knights armament is already popular among U.S. special operators and is primarily known for its SR-25 and Mk-11 rifles for designated marksmen and snipers.

Here’s former Delta Force operator Larry Vickers giving a detailed look at the Knights Armament Stoner LMG — the slightly heavier version of the X-LMG.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast guard searches, but Japan has lost an island

With its ongoing maritime disputes with China hopelessly unresolved, the last thing Japan needed to do was go and lose an island.

And yet.

It appears no one can find the Japanese island formerly known as Esanbe Hanakita Kojima.

Not even the Japanese Coast Guard, which has been out searching for the strategically significant sliver of land last sighted somewhere off the coast of Hokkaido.


Even worse, the island first named in 2014 may have shuffled below this mortal coil a fair while ago.

This was back in September 2018 when author Hiroshi Shimizu visited nearby Sarufutsu village to write a sequel to his picture book on Japan’s “hidden” islands.

Shimizu told the local fishing cooperative, which sent out a flotilla to its former location only to find it had disappeared.

Japanese officials now believe that the island that once rose about five feet above sea level, has been inexorably broken apart by the pack ice that covers the area throughout the bitter winter. The Guardian seems to confirm this.

The uncertain conclusion is that it has gradually, uncomplainingly, slipped beneath the surface.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

The Japanese Coast Guard.

While Esanbe Hanakita Kojima, might have been too small to be of much practical use, it did have an importance well beyond its fragility.

Before its unexpected absence, the island marked the very western indent of another disputed island chain Japan calls the Northern Territories, while Russia claims the archipelago as the Kuril islands.

China’s South China Morning Post said that the island was formally named by Tokyo in 2014 as part of Japan’s multipronged attempts to reinforce its legal control over hundreds of outlying islands and extend its exclusive economic zone, (EEZ) appears to have sunk without a trace.

The Japanese coastguard has been tasked with carrying out a survey of the area to see if the remnants of the island remain.

It was last formally surveyed in 1987, when records showed it was about 500 metres off Sarufutsu.

The Japanese government used the island to buffer its EEZ a similar distance out to sea where Japanese waters mingle into Russian territory.

But even if they can find the waterlogged remains of Esanbe Hanakita Kojima, it can no longer meet the very basic international legal definition of an island — land — and Japan’s territorial claims appear to be about half a kilometer smaller.

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

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7 cool things that happen during the Army-Navy Game

Every November the halls of the Pentagon are torn apart in one of the biggest and oldest rivalries in college sports: the Army-Navy Game. While the outcome of the game may no longer affect who will win the College Football National Championship, it will affect the interpersonal relationships within the Department of Defense for days, maybe weeks after. It also may affect who gets the biggest prize of all, The Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy and a trip to the White House to have it presented personally by the President of the United States.

So yeah, it’s about a lot more than pride.

The game is a spectacle, full of more than 100 years of traditions, pranks, and the best military showmanship the two service academies can muster.


Spirit videos

Ranging from the highly-polished, well-produced masterpieces like the video above to simple iPhone-shot music videos, West Pointers and Annapolis midshipmen shoot, edit, and publish numerous videos about how their school is going to beat the other school, how their school is superior to the other school, and how their culture is more fun. It’s not just students and staff, either. All over the world, troops and graduates make their own videos and upload them to YouTube, DVIDS, and anywhere else someone might see their work of art.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

The prisoner exchange

For one semester every year, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy choose select members of their classes to attend the rival school. At the beginning of the annual Army-Navy Game, these students are returned to their proper academy. The swap at the beginning of the game is known as “The Prisoner Exchange.”

The march on

If you’re into watching military formations on the march as a military band plays on, be sure to catch the pre-game events before the Army-Navy kickoff. One of these events is called “The March On,” and features the entire student bodies of both service academies marching in formation across the open field. It’s really quite a sight.

Military hardware

The Army-Navy Game always starts with a huge show of military power, either in the form of Blue Angels flyovers, Army helicopters, the Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team, the Navy’s Blue Angels, or who-knows-what-else. This pre-game display is always an awesome sight.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

New uniforms

Every year, both Army and Navy take the field in their newest digs, ones designed to honor a part of their individual histories or traditions. Past uniforms have honored Army World War II Paratroopers, the 10th Mountain Division, and types of Navy ships.

Presidential traditions

When the Commander-In-Chief is present at the Army-Navy Game, he has traditions of his own he needs to follow. Of course, the POTUS is the person in charge and can do whatever he wants, but is always expected to cross the field at the 50-yard-line at halftime and watch the game from the other side, a tradition dating back to President Woodrow Wilson.

Honoring the fallen

No matter who wins or who loses, both teams will not leave the field without singing both schools’ alma maters. The winners go to the losing team’s fans and sing to them, taking the sting out of such a rivalry loss (at least a little bit). Then the two teams will sing the winners’ song.

That’s sportsmanship.

Articles

This is the weapon North Korea might be hiding

North Korea has shocked the world by making huge strides in missile technology since debuting an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4, but according to James Kiessling, the road-mobile missile may just be an act of deception.


Kiessling, who works at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, gave Business Insider his personal views on North Korea, which do not represent the Pentagon’s official stance.

“If you’re really concerned about an ICBM from anyone, go back and look at history for what everyone has ever done for ICBMs,” said Kiessling. “All early liquid ICBMS are siloed.”

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal
Titan II ICBM at the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona. Photo by Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA.

Through a painstaking analysis of imagery and launch statistics from North Korea’s missile program, Kiessling has concluded that the road-mobile, truck-based missiles they show off can’t actually work as planned, and may instead be purposeful distractions from a more capable missile project.

In a paper for Breaking Defense, Kiessling and his colleague Ralph Savelsberg demonstrated a model of the North Korean ICBM and concluded its small size made it basically useless for reaching the US with any kind of meaningful payload.

History suggests that building a true liquid-fueled ICBM that can be transported on a truck presents huge, if not insurmountable problems, to designers.

“The US and the Soviets tried very hard and never managed to reach a level of miniaturization and ruggedness that would support a road-mobile ICBM,” said Kiessling, referring to the minaturization of nuclear warheads needed to fit them onto missiles.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal
Image from Wikimedia Commons

ICBMs that use liquid fuel, as North Korea’s do, are “very likely to crumple or damage the tankage” while being carted around on a bumpy truck.

“While it may not be impossible, it’s bloody difficult and extremely dangerous” to put a liquid-fueled ICBM on a truck, according to Kiessling.

Instead, the US, Soviets, and Chinese all created silo-based liquid-fueled missiles, as the static missiles are more stable and less prone to sustaining damage.

But there’s no evidence of North Korea building a silo for missile launches, and Kiessling said that could be due to a massive deception campaign that may have fooled some of the world’s top missile experts.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal
Launch of a Titan II missile. Photo courtesy of USAF.

Kiessling thinks that North Korea has actually been preparing for a silo-based missile that combines parts of the Hwasong-14, its ICBM, with its space-launch vehicle, the Unha. Both the Unha and the Hwasong-14 have been tested separately, and Kiessling says they could easily be combined.

This analysis matches the comments of Mike Elleman, a senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who told Business Insider he saw the Hwasong-14 as an “interim capability” that North Korea was using to demonstrate an ICBM as quickly as possible.

Elleman believes that North Korea well develop a “heavier ICBM” that “may not be mobile,” but can threaten the entire continental US and carry a heavier payload, including decoys and other penetration aides.

But other prominent analysts disagree with Kiessling’s model, saying he incorrectly judged the size of the Hwasong-14. To that, Kiessling says that North Korean imagery, which has all been purposefully released by a regime known to traffic in propaganda, is geared towards deception.

 

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal
Photo released by the Korean Central News Agency

“One of the hardest problems imaginable is to find something you’re not looking for,” said Kiessling, of a possible missile silo in North Korea.

“If I was in the place of Kim Jong Un, and I wanted to have a cleverly-assembled ICBM program, I’d do it the way everyone else does it,” said Kiessling, referring to silo-based missiles. “But at the same time, you run a deception program to distract everyone else from what you’re doing until you’re done.”

A silo would also prove an inviting target for any US strikes on North Korea, as the target can’t hide once its found. If the US were to find out that North Korea hadn’t succeeded in miniaturizing its warheads enough to fit on its mobile missiles, a smaller-scale strike against fixed targets may seem like an attractive option.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 fallen JROTC cadets honored for heroism in the Florida shooting

The Army has awarded Medals of Heroism, the service’s highest medal for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets, to the three JROTC students killed defending their classmates from a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14, 2018.


The Medal of Heroism, awarded to students Peter Wang, Alaina Petty and Martin Duque, recognizes JROTC cadets whose achievements “involved the acceptance of danger and extraordinary responsibilities, exemplifying praiseworthy courage and fortitude.”

All three students were among the 17 people killed by former Stoneman Douglas High School JROTC cadet, Nikolas Cruz. According to eyewitness accounts, Wang was last seen holding a door open to allow his fellow students to escape. The Army confirmed the news, first reported by The Daily Beast to Task Purpose on Feb. 20, 2018.

Further reading: A heroic JROTC student protected classmates in the Florida school shooting

The Army presented Petty’s family with her Medal of Heroism at a Feb. 19, 2018, memorial service, according to The Daily Beast, while Duque’s family will receive his medal on Feb. 24, 2018. Wang’s family received his medal during his Feb. 20, 2018, memorial service.

“It’s my understanding that this is an open casket service and the family requested their son be buried in his JROTC uniform,” U.S. Army Cadet Command spokesman Michael Maddox told Task Purpose. “The JROTC Heroism medal will be on his uniform, but a second ‘keepsake’ medal will be given to the family.”

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that the U.S. Military Academy planned on providing the Wang family with a letter posthumously accepting Peter to West Point Class of 2025:

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal
(Photo via U.S. Military Academy Twitter)

Related: Petition demands military funeral for JROTC hero killed in shooting

Broward County Public High School system’s JROTC program claims an average enrollment of 7,650 students in 28 of its 34 schools annually. According to the Wang family, proceeds from a Peter Wang Memorial Fund GoFundMe campaign will support the JROTC program at Stoneman Douglas, whose members exhibited exemplary acts of heroism during the shooting.

“Awards for other possible Cadets are going through a review process, to include the two Cadets who were on the news,” Maddox told Task Purpose. “However, the immediate focus right now is on supporting the funerals with dignity and honor, so deserved by these cadets and their families.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army soldiers honor the proud history of field artillery

Early in the morning, before the sun even had a chance to break the Oklahoma horizon and spread its rays, the soldiers assigned to the Fort Sill Artillery Half Section here are already at work mucking stalls, grooming horses, and training for their next event.

The Half Section is a special ceremonial unit responsible for carrying on the traditions of horse-drawn artillery from the era of World War I and was established at Fort Sill in 1963.

Throughout the year, the unit attends numerous ceremonies, parades, rodeos, and other events in historically accurate attire, preserving the proud history of the field artillery.


“The soldiers I receive at the Half Section do more than just shovel manure,” said Gerald Stuck, chief of the Fort Sill Artillery Half Section. “They learn in depth about the role field artillery has played in our history. They pay tribute to the soldiers who came before them by wearing nearly the same uniforms they wore. They study up on the wars and conflicts that shaped us as an Army, so when presented questions by onlookers they can answer with confidence.”

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

Sgt. Robert O’Steen, Half Section noncommissioned officer in charge, saddles up and rides Valcourt. Soldiers must first pass a 30-day trial period, which includes a bareback riding test.

(Photo by Dustin D. Biven)

In addition to performing at events, soldiers assigned to the Half Section are also entrusted with looking after and caring for several horses, each with their own unique personality.

“When I say the horses have their own personality, I mean it,” laughed Sgt. Robert O’Steen, Half Section noncommissioned officer in charge, who’s assigned to the 15th Transportation Company, 100th Brigade Support Battalion. “We have our playful horses, our uptight ones, and even an alpha. It’s up to us to learn and adapt our behavior to each horse specifically to build that connection needed and earn their trust.”

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

A Soldier assigned to the Fort Sill Artillery Half Section buffs up a Half Section belt buckle getting it ceremonially shiny.

(Photo by Sgt. Dustin D. Biven)

O’Steen went on to say that although the horses are not assigned to specific Soldiers, they always seem to pair with a soldier with a similar personality.

The Half Section is a yearlong additional tasking that places soldiers on orders to the section and provides soldiers from all over Fort Sill an opportunity to develop not just as soldiers, but as leaders.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

Sgt. Robert O’Steen, Fort Sill Artillery Half Section noncommissioned officer in charge, harnesses up his horse, Valcourt, in preparation for a ceremony June 25, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Dustin D. Biven)

“I’ve learned a lot here at the Half Section,” said Spc. Randy Rogers, a soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery. “Not only have I had a chance to build upon my leadership abilities by being placed in charge of training soldiers and rehearsing for events, but I’ve also been fortunate enough to learn trades like leather working and how to take care of the horses by (Mr. Stuck).”

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

Soldiers selected for the Artillery Half Section serve a one-year tour at Fort Sill, Okla., providing them professional development and enhanced leadership skills, along with the opportunity to serve beside some magnificent horses.

(Photo by Sgt. Dustin D. Biven)

Once soldiers have completed their time at the Half Section, they bring back to their units a years’ worth of unique experiences that could greatly improve upon their professional development and leadership potential as well as the soldiers they may mentor and train.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

Soldiers assigned to the Fort Sill Artillery Half Section spend time polishing and preparing the French 75mm field gun in preparation for a ceremony June 25, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Dustin D. Biven)

So the next time you find yourself on Fort Sill, be sure to take the time to visit the soldiers and horses of the Fort Sill Artillery Half Section and learn more about the history of the artillery within the Army and how, with help from our four-legged friends, we became the world’s most lethal fighting force.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Sen. Tammy Duckworth says she will block military promotions until Trump’s defense secretary explains the ‘disgraceful situation’ that led Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman to retire

A Democratic senator and veteran is demanding an explanation from President Donald Trump’s defense secretary of the “disgraceful situation” that saw a key impeachment witness retire from the military in response to what his lawyer described as presidential “bullying,” and she will block over 1,000 senior military promotions until she gets it.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman requested retirement from the military Wednesday in response to a White House “campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation” led by the president, his lawyer said in a statement first reported by CNN.


Vindman, an Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient who served on the National Security Council as a Ukraine expert, testified against Trump in House impeachment hearings, characterizing some of his actions as “improper.”

Trump was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate earlier this year, and in the aftermath, the president swiftly fired Vindman before moving on to target other senior US government officials considered disloyal.

Vindman, who has served in the armed forces for more than two decades, remained in the military after he was removed from the NSC, and Pentagon leaders said he would not be subject to retaliation.

But in recent weeks, questions have been raised about his future in the military and his expected promotion to colonel.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper approved Vindman’s promotion after a Pentagon inspector general inquiry looking at Vindman and allegations of “inappropriate behavior”— conducted at the request of the White House — did not find any reason to block his promotion, Politico reported Wednesday.

Reuters reported that the recommended promotion had not yet been sent to the White House when Vindman abruptly decided to retire.

“Lt. Col. Vindman’s decision to retire puts the spotlight on Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s failure to protect a decorated combat veteran against a vindictive Commander in Chief,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a US Army veteran who lost her legs because of injuries she sustained during the Iraq War, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

She said: “Secretary Esper’s failure to protect his troops sets a new, dark precedent that any Commander in Chief can interfere with routine merit-based military promotions to carry out personal vendettas and retaliation against military officers who follow duly-authorized subpoenas while upholding their oath of office and core principles of service.”

Last Thursday, the Illinois senator tried to shield Vindman’s promotion from retaliation by blocking 1,123 senior military promotions until she received a written assurance from Esper saying that he would not block Vindman’s promotion to colonel, which she said she still has not received.

The senator said in statement Wednesday that she would continue to put a hold on these promotions until Esper provides a “transparent accounting” of what her office described as a “disgraceful situation.”

While Vindman confirmed that he was retiring from the military, he has not personally explained the reasons for his departure. His lawyer, however, said Vindman “did what the law compelled him to do; and for that he was bullied by the President and his proxies.”

He added: “Vindman’s patriotism has cost him his career.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Head of Afghanistan ISIS reported killed in Nangarher

Authorities say the head of Islamic State militants in Afghanistan has been killed in a strike on the group’s hideouts in Nangarhar Province.

The National Security Directorate said that in addition to Abu Saad Erhabi, 10 other members of the militant group were also killed in a joint ground and air operation by Afghan and foreign forces on Aug. 25, 2018.


The Aug. 26, 2018 statement said a large amount of heavy and light weapons and ammunition were also destroyed.

There was no immediate confirmation of the report.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

U.S. and Afghan National Security Forces stand in formation during a transfer of authority ceremony on Forward Operating Base Fenty, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2012

Amaq, the extremist group’s news agency, carried no comment on the issue, and there was no reaction from the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

Sometimes known as Islamic State Khorasan, the group has built a stronghold in Nangarhar, on Afghanistan’s porous eastern border with Pakistan. It’s now one of the country’s most dangerous militant groups.

It’s unclear exactly how many Islamic State fighters are in the country, because they frequently switch allegiances. The U.S. military estimates that there are about 2,000.

Featured image: A U.S. Army UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter assigned to Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Knighthawk makes its approach into Forward Operating Base Fenty in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 13, 2013.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy will test its newest carrier with underwater explosions

The US Navy is planning to finalize weapons integration on its new USS Ford carrier and explode bombs in various sea conditions near the ship to prepare for major combat on the open seas, service officials said.

Service weapons testers will detonate a wide range of bombs, to include a variety of underwater sea mines to assess the carrier’s ability to withstand enemy attacks. “Shock Trials,” as they are called, are typically one of the final stages in the Navy process designed to bring warships from development to operational deployment.


“The USS Gerald R. Ford will conduct further trails and testing, culminating in full-ship shock trials. The ship will then work up for deployment in parallel with its initial operational testing and evaluation,” William Couch, an official with Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.

Testing how the carrier can hold up to massive nearby explosions will follow what’s called a Post Shakedown Availability involving a final integration of various combat systems.

“The Post Shakedown Availability is planned for 12 months, with the critical path being Advanced Weapons Elevator construction and Advanced Arresting Gear water twister upgrades,” Couch added.

The Navy’s decision to have shock trials for its first Ford-Class carrier, scheduled for deployment in 2022, seems to be of particular relevance in today’s modern threat environment. In a manner far more threatening than most previously known threats to Navy aircraft carriers, potential adversaries have in recent years been designing and testing weapons specifically engineered to destroy US carriers.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal
USS Gerald R. Ford
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)

One such threat is the Chinese built DF-21D “carrier killer” anti-ship missile. This weapon, now actively being developed and tested by the Chinese military, can reportedly hit moving carriers at ranges up to 900 nautical miles.

Accordingly, unlike the last 15 years of major US military counterinsurgency operations where carriers operated largely uncontested, potential future conflict will likely require much more advanced carrier defenses, service developers have explained.

A 2007 Department of Defense-directed Shock Trials analysis by the non-profit MITRE corporation explains that many of the expected or most probable threats to warships come from “non-contact explosions where a high-pressure wave is launched toward the ship.”

MITRE’s report, interestingly, also identifies the inspiration for Shock Trials as one originating from World War II.

“During World War II, it was discovered that although such “near miss” explosions do not cause serious hull or superstructure damage, the shock and vibrations associated with the blast nonetheless incapacitate the ship, by knocking out critical components and systems,” the MITRE assessment, called “Navy Ship Underwater Shock Prediction and Testing Capability Study” states.

The MITRE analysis further specifies that, following a nearby explosion, the bulkhead of a ship can oscillate, causing the ship to move upward.

“Strong localized deformations are seen in the deck modes, which different parts of the decks moving at different frequencies from each other,” MITRE writes.

The existence and timing of USS Ford Shock Trials has been the focus of much consideration. Given that post Shock Trial evaluations and damage assessments can result in a need to make modifications to the ship, some Navy developers wanted to save Shock Trials for the second Ford-class carrier, the USS Kennedy. The rationale, according to multiple reports, was to ensure the anticipated USS Ford deployment time frame was not delayed.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal
Gerald R. Ford on the James River
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell)

However, a directive from Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shannahan, following input from the Senate Armed Services Committee, ensured that shock trials will occur on schedule for the USS Ford.

Data analysis following shock trials has, over the years, shown that even small ship component failures can have large consequences.

“A component shock-qualification procedure which ensures the survivability of 99% of the critical components still is not good enough to ensure a ship’s continued operational capability in the aftermath of a nearby underwater explosion,” MITRE writes.

Also, given that the USS Ford is introducing a range of as-of-yet unprecedented carrier-technologies, testing the impact of nearby attacks on the ship may be of greater significance than previous shock trials conducted for other ships.

For instance, Ford-class carriers are built with a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship. The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.

The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.

In addition, stealth fighter jets, carrier-launched drones, V-22 Ospreys, submarine-detecting helicopters, laser weapons, and electronic jamming are all deemed indispensable to the Navy’s now unfolding future vision of carrier-based air power, senior service leaders said.

Several years ago, the Navy announced that the V-22 Osprey will be taking on the Carrier On-Board Delivery mission wherein it will carry forces and equipment on and off carriers while at sea.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal
V-22 Osprey

However, despite the emergence of weapons such as DF-21D, senior Navy leaders and some analysts have questioned the ability of the weapon like this to actually hit and destroy carriers on the move at 30-knots from 1,000 miles away.

Targeting, guidance on the move, fire control, ISR, and other assets are necessary for these kinds of weapons to function as advertised. GPS, inertial measurement units, advanced sensors and dual-mode seekers are part of a handful of fast-developing technologies able to address some of these challenges, yet it does not seem clear that long-range anti-ship missiles such as the DF-21D will actually be able to destroy carriers on the move at the described distances.

Furthermore, the Navy is rapidly advancing ship-based defensive weapons, electronic warfare applications, lasers, and technologies able to identify and destroy approaching anti-ship cruise missile from ranges beyond the horizon. One such example of this includes the now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air system, or NIFC-CA. This technology, which travels in carrier-strike groups, combines ship-based radar and fire control systems with an aerial sensor and dual-mode SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching threats from beyond-the-horizon.

The Navy is also developing a new carrier-launched tanker, called the MQ-25A Stingray, to extend the combat range of key carrier air-wing assets such as F/A-18 Super Hornets and F-35C Joint Strike Fighters. The range or combat radius of carrier-based fighter jets, therefore, is fundamental to this equation. If an F-35C or F/A-18 can, for instance, only travel roughly 500 or 600 miles to attack an inland enemy target such as air-defenses, installations, and infrastructure – how can it effectively project power if threats force it to operate 1,000-miles off shore?

Therein lies the challenge and the requisite need for a drone tanker able to refuel these carrier-launched aircraft mid-flight, giving them endurance sufficient to attack from longer distances.

As for a maiden deployment of the USS Ford slated for 2022, Navy officials tell Warrior Maven the ship will likely be sent to wherever it may most be in need, such as the Middle East or Pacific.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why ‘Doing the ‘Deid’ is about to get a whole lot better

Qatar’s Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah announced during a visit to Washington, DC on Jan. 28 that his country will expand the American Al Udeid Air Base.


The expansion will add more than 200 new housing units for officers and their families.

“It will very soon become a family-oriented place for our American friends there. We want more of the families to be stable and feel more comfortable in their stay,” al-Attiyah said at an event at the Heritage Foundation.

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal
The sun sets over Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)

Al-Attiyah praised the U.S.-Qatar relationship, saying that the Qatari Military has learned much from their American partners. He also said that Qatar is interested in making the Al Udeid base permanent.

“Colleagues in the U.S. Department of Defense are reluctant to mention the word permanent, but we are working from our side to make it permanent,” Al-Attiyah said.

The Qatari defense minister repeated the plans to make Al Udeid a permanent U.S. base during a meeting on Jan. 30 with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

The base currently houses around 10,000 US military personnel and has been essential for air operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Qatar and the U.S. signed a military cooperation agreement after Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The Al Udeid Air Base was built in 1996, and the U.S. military moved its operations there in 2003, shortly after the invasion of Iraq.

The base is now the home of the U.S. Air Force Central Command and has proven essential for American air operations in the region.

Also Read: This is what a war between Qatar and Saudi Arabia would look like

“Qatar is strategically placed. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria — these are all hotspots in the region. I am not exaggerating when I say 80% of aerial refueling in the region is from Udeid,” al-Attiyah said. “We’re the ones that keep your birds flying.”

Military personnel from the U.K. and other allies are also stationed at Al Udeid.

The expansion comes at a diplomatically tough time for Qatar. Last June, Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia instituted an economic and political embargo on Qatar, cutting off all diplomatic relations. The countries claim that Qatar supports terrorism and is destabilizing the region.

The embargo has not had the desired effect so far. Qatar has managed to deepen ties with the U.S. as well as other countries like Turkey, Oman, and Iran, allowing it to circumvent the blockade in certain ways.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out United’s new ‘Star Wars’-themed Boeing 737 plane

Luke Skywalker may have claimed the Millennium Falcon was a “piece of junk” when he first saw it (even though it could, you know, make point-five past lightspeed) — but he probably wouldn’t be saying that about United Airlines’ shiny new Boeing 737-800.

To celebrate the December 2019 theatrical release of “The Rise of Skywalker,” billed as the last film in the nine-film Skywalker saga, the airline has launched a special “Star Wars”-themed plane — and though it can’t travel at lightspeed, it does look pretty spiffy, or at least nothing at all like the heavily modified ship of a certain scruffy-looking nerf herder (sorry, Han Solo).

The plane made its first flight earlier this month, from Houston to Orlando, Florida. Though there were plenty of evil First Order stormtroopers on hand, thankfully no one was taken away for questioning by Kylo Ren.

Here’s what the plane is like inside.


How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

The “Dark Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

The “Light Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

Exterior detail on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

Exterior details on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

Headrests with the symbol of the Resistance on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

Headrests with the logo of the First Order on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

Amenity kits on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

First Order stormtroopers aboard United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

A First Order stormtrooper confronting a passenger, presumably asking to see some identification.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

First Order stormtroopers in the terminal.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

First Order stormtroopers at the airport in Orlando, Florida.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

The droid BB-8 at the maiden launch of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

The United Airlines “Star Wars”-themed plane as seen on Flight Aware.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

United Airlines’ “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

Rear detailing on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

The tail of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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