DARPA prepares to test 'Gremlins' with C-130s next year - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

US Air Force F-22s and F-35s will soon launch and control recoverable attack drones from the cockpit of the plane to expand air-combat operations, test enemy air defenses, conduct long-range ISR, and even deliver weapons.

This fast-approaching technology, which calls upon advanced levels of autonomous navigation, is closer to reality due of DARPA’s Gremlins program which plans to break new ground by launching — and recovering — four drones from an in-flight C-130 in 2019.

Air recoverable drones, slated to become operational over just the next few years, will bring a new phase of mission options enabling longer ranges, improved sensor payloads, advanced weapons, and active command and control from the air.


“The team looked at how fifth generation aircraft systems like the F-35 and F-22 respond to threats, and how they could incorporate Gremlins in higher risk areas,” a DARPA statement said.

For years, it has been possible to launch expendable drones from the air, without needing a ground control station, provided they do not return to an aircraft. Gremlins, by contrast, is a technical effort to engineer specially configured aerial drones able to both launch and return to a host aircraft.

The program is now moving into a phase three, according to DARPA statements, which cite a new demonstration and development deal with Dynetics to execute the upcoming launch and recovery C-130 flight.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

A C-130E Hercules from the 43rd Airlift Wing, Pope Air Force Base, N.C., flies over the Atlantic Ocean.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Howard Blair)

“DARPA is progressing toward its plan to demonstrate airborne launch and recovery of multiple unmanned aerial systems, targeted for late 2019. Now in its third and final phase, the goal for the Gremlins program is to develop a full-scale technology demonstration featuring the air recovery of multiple low-cost, reusable UASs, or “Gremlins,” a DARPA announcement said in early 2018

This technology, which hinges upon higher levels of autonomous navigation, brings a wide swath of improved mission possibilities. These include much longer attack and mission reach, because drones can begin missions while in the air much closer to an objective, without having to travel longer distances from a ground location or forward operating base. Furthermore, perhaps of even greater significance, air-launched returnable drones can be equipped with more advanced sensor payloads able to conduct ISR or even attack missions.

A flight test at Yuma Proving Ground in early 2018 provided an opportunity to conduct safe separation and captive flight tests of the hard dock and recovery system.

“Early flight tests have given us confidence we can meet our objective to recover four gremlins in 30 minutes,” Scott Wierzbanowski, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said in a written statement in early 2018.

Gremlins also can incorporate several types of sensors up to 150 pounds, DARPA statements said.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

Artist’s concept.

(Dynetics)

Maturing a full-scale operational capability for this technology has force engineers to confront a range of technical challenges, Dynetics engineers told Warrior Maven. Safely docking a returning drone aboard a moving C-130 requires an as-of-yet unprecedented level of technical sophistication.

“The key technological advance is achieving increased safety through software redundancies to be able to operate a vehicle of this size in close proximity to a C-130 and tether it to stabilize the vehicle,” Tim Keeter, Deputy Program Manager and Chief Engineer, Gremlins, Dynetics, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview.

Once stabilized, the drone can then be stowed safety in the cargo bay of the C-130, Keeter added.

“This certainly involves precision navigation and we need the structure of the airframe to bear the burden,” he said.

In preparation for the upcoming drone air-recovery demonstration, Dynetics conducted a safe separation flight test from a mock air vehicle.

“We are ready to fabricate,” Keeter said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Remember It’s a Wonderful Life? The 1946 movie where an angel visits a man to convince him not to kill himself? The actor who portrayed the man was Jimmy Stewart, and he was pretty fresh from bombing missions over Nazi-occupied Europe when he played the part. He also remained in the Air Force Reserve until he retired as a brigadier general.


DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

Lt. Gen. Valin, Chief of Staff, French Air Force, awards the Croix De Guerre with Palm to Col. Jimmy Stewart for exceptional services in the liberation.

(U.S. Air Force)

Stewart was actually drafted into the Army Air Corps as an enlisted man in March 1941. It should be noted that he was already a prominent actor with a number of movies, mostly romantic comedies, under his belt. As an enlisted man, he took extension courses in order to attain his commission and got his lieutenant bars a month after the Pearl Harbor attacks.

While many people of Stewart’s fame could’ve gotten by on morale tours or some cush duty stateside, Stewart volunteered for flight training, earning him a pilot slot. Piloting aircraft was extremely dangerous in World War II, and Stewart was striving for a job more dangerous than rifleman on the ground.

After nine months as an instructor pilot, Stewart got a billet in a unit training up for deployment to England, the 703rd Bomb Squadron. They flew across the Atlantic in late 1943 in new B-24Hs and began raining Hell down on the Third Reich.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

Maj. Jimmy Stewart confers with a B-24 crew member.

(U.S. Air Force)

Stewart briefed bomber pilots before missions he wouldn’t fly in, and many of the crews reportedly found it amusing to get their instructions from a famous actor, sort of like if Hugh Grant went through crew drills with you before your convoys.

Stewart flew 20 combat missions with the 703rd as the squadron hit oil, ammunition, and chemical plants as well as German air bases and other military positions. He was promoted up the ranks until, by war’s end, he was chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Wing.

But Stewart didn’t bow out of military service just because the war was over. He remained in the Army Reserve and then the Air Force Reserve when it was formed. In 1959, he was promoted to brigadier general. But he still had one deployment and combat flight left in him.

In 1966, he rode along in a bomber over North Vietnam as an observer. He retired in 1968.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

Brig. Gen. James Stewart.

(U.S. Air Force)

MIGHTY TRENDING

These photos shows why being an ISIS recruit can really be a kick in the nuts

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has long had a track record of hitting new lows when it comes to atrocities. Well, they also do stuff to their recruits that even Gunny Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket” wouldn’t do.


According to a report by the London Daily Mail, ISIS recruits at a training camp in Yemen once lined up to be kicked in the groin as part of their training to join the terrorist group. The image was part of a propaganda video put out by the radical Islamic terrorist group, which has been suffering substantial reverses in its original stomping grounds of Iraq and Syria.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
An ISIS recruit is trained on the PKM belt-fed machine gun. (ISIS photo)

These reverses have included a convoy of fighters being turned into a battlefield “roach motel” and hundreds of ISIS fighters surrendering to Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq. It is believed that the mass surrender from terrorists who had vowed to fight to the death, is a sign of collapsing morale.

As a result, ISIS is setting up its training camps in a safer venue. Yemen, which has been suffering through a civil war between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government since 2014, has fit the bill as that relatively safe area for the terrorist group, despite an air campaign carried out by a Saudi-led coalition.

The terrorist group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, has operated in Yemen as well.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
Two ISIS recruits operate their weapons, a RPG (right) and a PKM (left). (ISIS photo)

The photograph of the junk-kicks was part of a montage that also showed recruits going through assault courses, doing pull-ups, and taking target practice.

As for why the junk-kicks were included, the Daily Mail claimed that ISIS may have been trying to show how tough their recruits were. But because it was merely a photograph, there was no way to tell if the exercise put any of the prospective terrorists out of commission.

Ah, well, one can hope.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The NSA chief is unauthorized to fight Russian cyber attacks

The head of the US’s cyber operations, on Feb. 27, 2018, said the country’s response to Russia’s hacking provocations has “not changed the calculus or the behavior” and that “they have not paid a price.”


Speaking before lawmakers on Feb. 27, 2018, US Cyber Command chief and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers said that he had not been given the authority by President Donald Trump to counter Russia’s cyber operations.

Also read: This is why Russia can keep hacking the US

“I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there’s little price to pay here,” Rogers said. “And that therefore, ‘I can continue this activity.'”

“Everything, both as a director of NSA and what I see at the Cyber Command side, leads me to believe that if we don’t change the dynamic here, this is going to continue,” Rogers said. “And 2016 won’t be viewed as something isolated. This is something will be sustained over time.”

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
Director of United States National Security Agency, Mike Rogers.

The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election through a complicated media and hacking campaign. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also believed that Russia has already launched a campaign to meddle with the US’s midterm elections in 2018.

Russia has also been a prime suspect in the hacking hundreds of computers that were used by authorities from the 2018 Winter Olympics, according to US intelligence sources cited in a Washington Post report.

Related: How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

“There are tools available to us, and again, I think in fairness, you can’t say nothing’s been done,” Rogers said. “But my point would be it hasn’t been enough. Clearly what we’ve done hasn’t been enough.”

A recent SSRS poll indicates most Americans believe the Trump administration is not doing enough to prevent foreign meddling in elections, according to CNN. Around 60% of respondents in the poll say they are not confident Trump is doing enough to stop countries from influencing US elections.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The only legal pirate ship of the 20th century was the Goodyear blimp

There’s a lot to unpack in this headline – the legality of pirates, why there would be pirates in the 20th century, how they came to be flying the Goodyear Blimp of all things, and what would be the best way to be a pirate when your only ship is an unarmed airship that proudly displayed your tire company of choice.

First, let’s talk about legal piracy.


DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

Definitely not your torrent collection. If you don’t know what torrents are, then you’re probably good.

Know that “piracy” is always illegal, and the only time it’s not against the law is when we agree to call it something else. In the old days – that is the old days of wooden sailing ships – ships known as “privateers” sailed the high seas. These were privately owned and operated ships that were allowed to board and capture this ship of a particular nation, claiming it and its cargo as prizes. A privateer is not a pirate for one simple reason: the privateer carries a Letter of Marque.

A Letter of Marque is issued by one country, listing the specific assets available to the privateer, the enemy nation from which those assets can be seized or destroyed, and the authorization for the privateer to do it in the name of the issuing country. Famous privateers include Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh (who raided Spanish gold ships for the English) and the Goodyear Blimp Resolute.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

Wait, what?

(U.S. Navy Photo)

For the first time since the War of 1812, the President, through Congress, issued a Letter of Marque to a civilian ship. In this case, the letter of marque allowed the private-owned airship to search for Japanese submarines in the Pacific Ocean, and allowed its crew to be armed without violating any laws of armed conflict.

And it was. The Resolute was based in Los Angeles and was used in regular patrols of the Pacific Ocean, searching for Japanese submarines operating along the United States West Coast. Its crews’ only armament was small arms, but there was little chance of the airship successfully boarding and capturing a Japanese submarine. The airship would just have radioed the location of the submarine to ships who could come do something about it.

Too bad there would be no chance of taking prize money.

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Elite Marine Raiders were among those killed in tragic C-130 crash

For an elite band of US Marines known as the Raiders, the fiery military plane crash this week in Mississippi represents a second devastating blow during training in less than three years. Six Marines and a Navy corpsman from a Raider unit died July 10 on their way to training exercises, linking them in tragedy with seven members of the same North Carolina-based command who died in a March 2015 helicopter crash off Florida.


The present incarnation of the Marine Raiders was formed in 2006 amid the global war on terror — making it the newest of the military’s counterterrorism forces that also include the Army’s Special Forces and Navy SEALs. The group was officially named the Marine Raiders in 2015 to link its heritage to World War II commando units made famous in movies.

The Raiders’ command now has about 2,700 troops, including those in intelligence and support roles, according to spokesman Maj. Nick Mannweiler.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
Photo from USMC

Tragedy also struck the close-knit command in March 2015 when seven of its Marines died with four soldiers in a helicopter crash during training off Florida. Mannweiler said he knows of no other significant training losses in the decade-long existence of the Marine Special Operations Command, or MARSOC. At least 31 members of MARSOC have died in combat, Mannweiler said.

The Marines killed this week were headed to Yuma, Arizona, with guns, ammunition, radios, and body armor to participate in training for an eventual deployment somewhere in the Middle East. Mannweiler said such pre-deployment training in the desert would have likely ranged from urban combat to language skills.

Mannweiler said the Raiders’ flight aboard a Marine Corps Reserve airplane wasn’t an unusual arrangement because the command doesn’t have its own planes.

“Marine Corps aircraft are always our personal preference,” Mannweiler said in an interview. “We’ll catch a ride however it makes the most sense.”

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
A ceremony commemorating 11 fallen service members lost in March 2015 crash. USMC photo by Cpl. Steven Fox.

Mannweiler said the crash in Mississippi will be felt acutely in the tight-knit group of Marine Raiders and their families.

“This is a closed-loop community,” he said. “The loss of seven Marines from a battalion literally impacts the entire organization.”

The Raider name was made famous by World War II Marine units that carried out risky amphibious and guerrilla operations that were dramatized in books and movies such as “Gung Ho!” in 1943 and “Marine Raiders” in 1944.

The original Marine Raiders were organized in response to President Franklin Roosevelt’s desire to have a commando-style force that could conduct amphibious raids and operate behind enemy lines. Raider leaders studied unconventional warfare tactics and were credited with beating larger Japanese forces on difficult terrain in the Pacific. Their name wasn’t used in an official capacity by the Marine Corps for decades after World War II.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
Marine Raiders, 1944. Photo from US National Archives.

When the Raider name was re-adopted in 2015, the Marine Corps said the moniker offered its elite personnel special shorthand similar to Army Green Berets or Navy SEALs. Marines in MARSOC must pass a selection process that includes grueling swims and hikes, as well as specialized combat training.

While the training has some similarities to special units in the Army and Navy, retired Navy officer Dick Couch wrote in a 2015 book that members of MARSOC are known for their marksmanship and maturity, when compared with other branches’ elite. In “Always Faithful, Always Forward,” Couch wrote that he was “in awe” of how the Marines Corps needed so little time to develop an effective training program to make its “brotherhood within a brotherhood” ready for combat.

“They’re an excellent addition to the special operations mix,” Couch said in a phone interview July 12. “I’m sorry to see they lost some people. They’re in a risky business. It can happen in training or in combat.”

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Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats

Everyone knows that when Navy SEALs arrive at their target, they can do some serious ass-kicking. But how they get to the point of attack is changing – and becoming more high-tech.


According to a report from TheDrive.com, the Combatant Craft Assault has been stealthily prowling the battlefield, giving SEALs new capabilities to insert into hostile territory and then make a clean getaway.

The CCAs reportedly took part in Eager Lion, a joint exercise in Jordan, and also got a moment in the spotlight when Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of United States Central Command took a training ride in one.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
SEALs use a Combatant Craft Assault to insert special operators during an exercise as part of Eager Lion 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Paul Coover/Released)

According to AmericanSpecialOperations.com, the CCA is 41 feet long, and is capable of carrying M240 medium machine guns, M2 heavy machine guns, and Mk-19 automatic grenade launchers. The boat is also capable of being air-dropped by a C-17A Globemaster, making it a highly flexible asset.

These boats can operate from the well decks of Navy amphibious ships or afloat staging bases like USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) and USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3), which departed this past June for a deployment to the Persian Gulf region.

The craft reached full operational capability this year. While initially built by United States Marine, Inc., Lockheed Martin is now handling maintenance of these boats, which are manned by Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen. Two other stealthy special-ops boats, the Combatant Craft Medium and the Combatant Craft Heavy, are reportedly in various stages of development and/or deployment to the fleet.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
Service members assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) participate in an interoperability exercise in the ship’s well deck during exercise Eager Lion 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Darren M. Moore)

CENTCOM has seen a number of incidents with Iran, including a near-midair collision between a drone and a F/A-18E Super Hornet. Iran also notably seized American sailors in December, 2015 detaining the crews of two Riverine Command Boats. The stealthy boats could prevent future incidents by being far more difficult to track.

You can see the Eager Lion video with a CCA cameo below.

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The best and the worst Air Force recruiting slogans of all time

The U.S. Air Force has had many recruiting slogans, used at various times to varying effect. The current Air Force slogan “Aim High, Fly-Fight-Win” is no “We’re Looking For A Few Good Men” or “The Few The Proud, The Marines.” But yet the USAF continues its effort to come up with something as sticky as “Semper Fi.”


DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
Not happening.

Marine Corps slogan recognition will always beat any branch (and even some national brands… there are studies on this), but Air Force advertising has been like the Cleveland Browns trying to find a quarterback – they were on to something early, but after a while, it got confusing.

Here’s WATM’s list of Air Force slogans ranked from the best ideas to the worst:

1. “Aim High”

Easily the best slogan the Air Force ever used. Aim High is so good, the Air Force had to bring it back. It’s fast, snappy, memorable, and says all you need to know: we think we’re the best branch, so why try to join the Army or Navy? I don’t know why they changed it and they probably couldn’t tell you either but whatever they changed it to had to be the Merrill McPeak uniform of Air Force slogan.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
That was the most Air Force joke ever made.

2. “Uno Ab Alto (One From on High)”

This sounds less like Airmen and more like Gandalf the Gray. Or a Harry Potter spell. Looking for that badass Latin quote will get you into trouble, Air Force. I can’t fault them too much because this was before Aim High. Uno Ab Alto gets #2 because it’s a classier way of saying “Death From Above” (Mors Ab Alto) which I think is a far better recruiting slogan for the Drone Age. If you want to attract more drone pilots, just say what you mean.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
The 7th Bomb Wing is ahead of the game.

3. “Aim High . . . Fly-Fight-Win”

Sloganeering as a result of surveys, meetings, and calls for suggestions: the true Air Force way. This latest iteration of “Aim High” ranks as #3 because it’s riding the coattails of #1.

This will likely not be replaced for a long time considering the amount of research, time, and money effort spent on coming up with it. It shouldn’t be a surprise to Air Force veterans that the Air Force put so much into changing their slogan only to lean on one they used a decade or so ago and adding a college fight song to it.

If they wanted to use things Airmen naturally say to each other as a recruiting slogan, they should have just listened to Airmen in squadron hallways, but this would probably result in the Air Force slogan being “Have a great Air Force day” “Happy Hour?” or “See you tomorrow, Doug.”

4. “The Sky’s No Limit”

Harkening back to the Air Force’s Cold War glory days, The Sky’s No Limit is actually not a bad one to fall back on if we’re just going to start resurrecting old lines. The test pilots of the days of yore were pretty ballsy, and with the Air Force’s expanding missions as an Air and Space Force, this is a good descriptive slogan, even if it’s a little vague.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
Airman Snuffy just brings his buddies on the flightline, NBD.

The only real problem with this is a lot of the Air Force doesn’t really fly so for them, the sky’s no limit, but getting there certainly is. Believe it or not, some people who join the Air Force don’t want to fly. The fighting and winning are fun, though.

5. “Do Something Amazing”

While the Air Force has some heroic people working in incredible career fields (that is, people who do those amazing somethings), it also has cooks, plumbers, and lawyers. All are necessary to the Air Force mission (and are true-blue lifesavers when you really want or need one – trust me, you want these people to be your friends), but these aren’t the careers you think of when you’re considering joining the military. You might be disappointed when you’re thinking about all the amazing AFSCs you’ll cross-train into the moment you can. At least they’re not patronizing people by framing additional duties as a great activity.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
Marines probably do this.

Actually, you know what’s amazing? Spending an entire enlistment without ever having to see Tops In Blue.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
And at air shows.

Also, “amazing” is what a sorority girl calls her summer study abroad program in London.

6. “We Do The Impossible Everyday”

… And we do the hyperbolic so much more. Read some USAF EPRs for the most flowery language you’ve ever seen. The thesaurus was created for Air Force performance reviews. You need one to make it sound like your creepy subordinate deserves a goddamn medal for volunteering to watch people pee.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
The sky’s no limit.

This line looks like the Air Force doesn’t know the meaning of the word impossible (Which is a much better slogan. Air Force, call me). The biggest problem with this slogan is that they also do the very, very possible all the time. Not every one gets the “impossible” job.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
What’s she holding? Wait, They read from dead trees? MAGIC.

You know what’s possible? Getting booted out for your third alcohol-related incident because Frank’s Franks won’t put hot dogs on Anthony’s Pizza. You know who makes that possible? Air Force JAGs and security forces.

7. “No One Comes Close”

This wouldn’t have been so bad in retrospect, except you know who comes close? The Navy. They also have fighters and stuff. Not exactly the same missions, I know, but… close enough to make this slogan awkward.

8. “Cross Into The Blue”

This nebulous Blue. Context tells you it’s the sky but the ocean is also blue, for the record, and it’s a much more tangible blue to cross into. This would be a better line for trying to get Army people to come to the Air Force, but I doubt that would be the goal (Airmen use the term “Army Proof” for a reason).

9. “It’s Not Science Fiction, It’s What We Do Everyday”

This would be a better slogan for Scientology. I don’t remember Orson Scott Card writing about drone strikes in Pakistan but maybe somewhere a six-year-old is playing video games and ending terrorists. No one confuses drones with alien technology. The Internet had been around for a long time when these ads started. So too with night vision. Until DARPA puts those Iron Man suits in field tests, no one will ever make that connection.

America’s Airmen (for the most part) are not delusional about themselves. They don’t need to be. For all the “Chair Force” smack Airman take from other branches, troops like Ammo are awesome in their own way and don’t need to pretend they’re all combat controllers.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
Except Mondays between 1100 and 1400.

10. “We’ve Been Waiting For You”

Slightly ominous, it doesn’t really inspire as much as it implies the Air Force has been watching you while you sleep, staring at you from across crowded rooms, and following you home after school.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

11. “Above All”

Unfinished thoughts probably always seem like a great idea for a slogan in meetings. Sure, I get the idea of putting your branch above everyone else’s as a way to foster esprit de corps, but it can be troublesome sometimes.

Every branch has their strengths, so let’s be real. Unlike this Air Force Training Instructor:

Another reason this slogan ranks so low is the lack of originality. Uber alles (above all) is the German national anthem.

12. “A Great Way of Life”

An older slogan which probably seemed appropriate for a time when the Air Force has to pull people from living the American Dream and get them into the Air Force, where they would sleep on the flightline and be prepared to bomb Russians into the Stone Age 24/7.

The Airmen of the Strategic Air Command era were pretty badass in their own right. Nowadays, this would mean highlighting the golf course, gym, the dorms (and the Airmen who live there), the DFAC, and all the stupid shit young Airmen tend to do when they get to their first duty station.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

Last year, President Trump drew headlines all over the world with the announcement that he intended to establish a new branch of the American armed forces dedicated solely to orbital and deep-space defense. This new Space Force would be responsible for defending America’s sizeable satellite infrastructure from potential attack and hardening the means by which America has come to rely on orbital technology in day to day life as well as defense.


The concept wasn’t without its critics, with some discounting the very idea of space defense as a flight of fancy and national level competitors accusing America of militarizing an otherwise peaceful theater… but the truth of the matter is, space has been a battlespace since mankind first started lobbing rockets at it.

The Space Race, which was in every appreciable way an extension of the Cold War that benefited from good PR, may have ended with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon in 1969, but the race to leverage space for military purposes continued going strong for decades to come. In fact, one could argue that reaching the moon marked only the end of the public-facing space race, but not the end of the competition between American and Soviet space programs.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

Despite reaching the Moon first, America still had pressing concerns in space.

(NASA)

So heated was the race to militarize space during the Cold War that the Defense Department actually already had a Space Force of sorts starting way back in the 1970s. This secretive program was vast, with a .3 billion California-based spaceport meant for secretive space shuttle launches into polar orbit, a secret group of 32 military-trained astronauts, and plans to fly more shuttle flights per year than NASA itself at one point.

The military astronauts weren’t actually called astronauts — they were called Spaceflight Engineers, and in total, the Air Force’s Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program had 134 military officers and civilian experts assigned to it. These men and women worked out of the aforementioned California launch complex as well as the Pentagon’s own version of mission control in Colorado, and a third facility in Los Angeles that housed the Spaceflight Engineers themselves.

In the early days of the program, some of the Pentagon’s astronauts even hitched rides on NASA shuttle missions hoping to increase cooperation and cross-train on flight methodologies.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

Air Force Spaceflight Engineer Maj. Gary Payton (back left) along with NASA crew members Loren Shriver (front left) and Ken Mattingly (front right), with Jim Buchli and Ellison Onizuka (behind).

(NASA)

“Between these two agencies, it really was a shotgun marriage,” said retired Air Force Col. Gary Payton, who served as Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space Programs until his retirement in July 2010.

“NASA thought of us as a bunch of snotty-nosed kids, outsiders, almost guests…nothing more than engineers or scientists who tended one particular satellite or experiment, and typically flew just once. We, on the other hand, thought our job was to help bridge the gulf between the military and civilian space agencies.”

The plan was for the Defense Department’s shuttles to launch from California and enter into a polar orbit, which was more beneficial for the Defense Department’s secretive missions than the equatorial orbit commonly reached from Florida launch complexes. The Pentagon’s plans called for an absolutely mind-boggling 12-14 launches per year. That was far more than NASA was prepared to manage, but the result would have been an extremely resilient and redundant space defense infrastructure long before any nation was prepared to present a viable threat to American interests in orbit.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

The Space Shuttle offered a wide variety of mission sets, but with a great deal of risk.

(NASA)

But then in 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch, killing all seven crew members on board. It was a crushing blow to NASA, but hit the Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program even harder. It forced the Pentagon to acknowledge two difficult truths about manned shuttle missions: when they fail, people die — and the whole world notices.

“By 1987, it was all gone,” said William J. Baugh, director of public affairs for the Air Force Second Space Wing at Falcon Air Force Base in Colorado told the New York Times. “By that time, Challenger had its problem, and we decided to get out of the shuttle business.”

The Pentagon opted to transition toward a system of mostly unmanned rocket launches for the deployment of new satellites, leaning on NASA and the Space Shuttle for some classified missions when the payloads were too big or complex for other rockets like the Titan IV.

“It’s disappointing,” Maj. Frank M. DeArmand, a Spaceflight Engineer who never got to fly, said in 1989. “We all had the excitement and expectation of flying on the shuttle. But I’m not bitter. It was the right decision.”

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Hero Marine working dog Cena laid to rest at the ‘Arlington of dogs’

A group of six German shepherds gave a final salute August 28 in honor of a fellow canine who served three tours of duty as a military working dog for the US Marine Corps and died on July 27 at age 10 after a weeks’ long battle with bone cancer.


The German shepherds, which are part of the K-9 Salute Team, were trained to kneel and howl on command in honor of Cena, a black lab who was euthanized in July and whose remains were interred August 28 at the Michigan War Dog Memorial in Lyon Township.

The memorial site, which hosted the public service and private interment, has about 10 military dogs buried beside 2,150 pets interred at the historic pet cemetery, according to memorial president and director Phil Weitlauf.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
DeYoung and Cena. Photo from American Humane via NewsEdge.

Cena, a bomb-sniffing dog, belonged to Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jeffrey DeYoung, 27, of Muskegon, who said he adopted the black lab in June 2014 after Cena underwent a year of rehabilitation therapy. DeYoung said that he and Cena served together on a seven-month tour of duty in Afghanistan that began in October 2009.

Cena also served with Jon North, a Marine sergeant from Osage, Iowa, who was present at the ceremony, and one other soldier who was not able to be there.

DeYoung said in a eulogy at the memorial service that Cena endured various injuries on his tours of duty, and that he and Cena encountered three improvised explosive devices together. Cena was officially an IED detection dog with the Marine Corps. The dogs walk ahead of patrols and pick up the scent of the explosives in the area and sit down near the explosive before a bomb-disarming unit comes, Weitlauf said.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
USMC photo by Cpl. Cody Haas.

“In every aspect of Cena, he has shed blood, pain, sweat, and tears for this country,” DeYoung said.

North, 28, who served one year with Cena in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011 didn’t speak at the service, but told the Free Press that Cena was known for being “a slow, old man” and that he was “just kind of a goofy old dog.”

“By the end of your time together, he’s more like a brother, more like a kid. It’s hard to let him go,” North said.

Together, DeYoung and North carried an urn containing Cena’s ashes in a funeral procession that included bagpipers and a military color guard.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
USMC Lance Cpl. Jon North and Cena in Marja, Afghanistan. Photo from DoD.

Weitlauf said that three separate Jeep convoys — including one from Muskegon with DeYoung escorting Cena’s remains — traversed different parts of the state to make it to the service, linking up at different locations including Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and New Hudson. He said that about 80 Jeeps participated in the convoys, and that about 600 people attended the funeral service — nearly double the 350 attendees the services normally get.

DeYoung, who is a professional public speaker, said that after adopting Cena in 2014, their job wasn’t yet over. They spent the next several years journeying across the country together to places such as President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and the US Congress, where DeYoung discussed the need to bring home all war dogs prior to retirement “so that what happened in Vietnam with the euthanasia will never happen again.”

At the end of that war, troops were ordered to leave their dogs in Vietnam out of fear of a logistical nightmare and concerns of disease being brought back, Weitlauf said. They had the option to give the dogs over to the South Vietnamese army or to euthanize them, he said. Over 4,000 were left behind, and only 204 made it back home, Weitlauf said.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year
US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith

Tom Strempka, 69, of Bloomfield Hills was deployed to Vietnam in 1971 at the age of 23, where he served a six-month tour of duty and suffered injuries. He said the funeral gave him closure.

Strempka said that war dogs in Vietnam once saved his platoon of 30 men from an ambush.

“I’m out here for every funeral because it’s long overdue for everyone to recognize the importance of dogs as being part of the unit and not a piece of equipment, the way the government treated them in Vietnam,” Strempka said. “And it’s a glorious day, and I guess that it gives me a little more peace of mind.”

For DeYoung, laying Cena to rest at what he described as the ” Arlington of dogs” also provided some closure.

“Cena’s journey in my life is done. Our work is not, so I will continue doing so in his honor,” DeYoung said to reporters before the ceremony.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump orders 7,000 troops out of Afghanistan

President Donald Trump has ordered the immediate withdrawal of more than 7,000 US troops from Afghanistan, according to multiple reports, citing defense officials.


In what appears to be the first major step toward ending America’s involvement in a war fought for nearly two decades, the president has decided to cut the US military presence in Afghanistan in half, The Wall Street Journal reported. There are currently roughly 14,000 American service members in the war-torn country.

News of the withdrawal comes just one day after Trump declared victory over ISIS and announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, a move that reportedly drove the president’s secretary of defense to resign from his position Dec. 20, 2018.

“I think it shows how serious the president is about wanting to come out of conflicts,” one senior U.S. official told TheWSJ. “I think he wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”

Another official told The New York Times that the Afghan forces, which have suffered unbelievably high casualties, need to learn to stand on their own, something senior military leaders have suggested they may not yet be ready to do.

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

Troops secure a landing zone in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army)

US military leaders, most recently Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, have characterized the war in Afghanistan as a “stalemate” with no end in sight. A total of 14 American service members have died in Afghanistan this year, six in the last two months alone.

US troops are both training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and carrying out counterterrorism operations against regional terror groups, like ISIS and Al Qaeda. In September 2017, Trump ordered the deployment of an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan.

The decision to reduce the number of US troops in country to roughly half their current levels was reportedly made at the same time Trump decided to withdraw from Syria.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China debuts stunning missile that could nuke US cities

China has successfully tested a new hypersonic aircraft, a potential “hypersonic strike weapon” that could one day be capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads and evading all existing defense networks like the US missile shields, according to Chinese state-run and state-affiliated media, citing experts and the domestic designers.


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The Xingkong-2 (Starry Sky-2) hypersonic experimental waverider vehicle designed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics in Beijing can reportedly achieve a top speed six times the velocity of sound.

During the recent test, conducted Aug 3, 2018, at an unspecified location in northwestern China, the aircraft was first carried by a multistage solid-fueled rocket before it separated to rely on independent propulsion — it is said to have maintained speeds above Mach 5.5 for 400 seconds. The max speed was reportedly Mach 6 or 4,600 miles per hour, according to the state-run China Daily.

The wedge-shaped vehicle made several high-altitude and large-angle maneuvers at a maximum altitude of a little over 18 miles. The aircraft then landed in the targeted area as intended, with observers touting the test as a “huge success.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

An ROTC cadet is losing his scholarship because he’s transgender

A student in Texas said he is losing his Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship to University of Texas at Austin because of new transgender military policies.

Map Pesqueira, a freshman at UT-Austin and a transgender man, said he initially received a three-year ROTC scholarship to the school that was supposed to go into effect his sophomore year, NBC News reported.

But he was told earlier this month that due to the transgender military policy that went into effect April 12, 2019, he is disqualified from the ROTC.


Pesqueira, who planned to join the Army as a second lieutenant after graduation, started medically transitioning in 2018, and was told he is now unable to serve because of the new transgender guidelines.

Under the Department of Defense’s new policy, anyone who has already started hormone treatments or gender-affirmation surgeries are unable to enlist.

Transgender UT student loses scholarship after military policy change

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“Because I’ve already had top surgery, hormone replacement therapy, gender marker and my name changed, that automatically disqualifies me,” Pesqueira told NBC News. “Basically, I’m so far into my transition, I’m unable to serve.”

Lieutenant Colonel Matthew S. O’Neill, who works in the ROTC Department at UT-Austin, tried to save Pesqueira’s scholarship by having him “grandfathered” into the program, according to the Daily Texan, but was unsuccessful.

Pesqueira, who is an American studies and radio, TV and film major, started a GoFundMe to pay for his college tuition because he fears he won’t be able to afford it without the scholarship.

If he doesn’t raise enough funds, he will look for a community college near his hometown of San Antonio, KVUE reported.

In a statement to KVUE, UT-Austin said it could not comment on Pesqueira’s individual case.

The statement said: “We offer many different avenues of assistance for students who undergo sudden changes that might affect their access to a UT education. These resources include our Student Emergency Services office and the Graduation Help Desk, which both work closely with the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. Our staff are experienced in these situations and stand ready to help students navigate the resources they need to complete their education.”

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