The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency plans to demonstrate an ability to launch and recover small drones from an Air Force C-130 aircraft as part of its continued development of the Gremlins program — a technical effort designed to deploy groups of small drones carrying 60-pound sensor payloads up to ranges of 300 nautical miles.
The program is expected to culminate in an air launch and recovery demonstration in 2019.
The drones are intended to perform a range of missions, such as testing enemy air defenses and conducting ISR missions for an hour on station before returning to an Air Force C-130, developers said. A key concept of the program is extending the mission range of aircraft, while allowing manned crews to operate at safer distances.
Gremlins moves beyond existing state-of-the-art programs able, which are able to launch, but not recover, swarms of mini-drones. The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, an initiative aimed at harnessing near-term emerging technologies for operational use, demonstrated an ability to launch small drones from the flare dispenser of an F-16. While able to blanket areas with ISR and perform significant mission-enhancing functions, they are expendable and not available for re-use.
“For decades, U.S. military air operations have relied on increasingly capable multi-function manned aircraft to execute critical combat and non-combat missions. Adversaries’ abilities to detect and engage those aircraft from longer ranges have improved over time as well,” said DARPA in a statement.
Gremlins could well be described as a technological leap in manned-unmanned teaming beyond state-of-the-art technology, as it enables drones to launch, perform missions and then return to a host aircraft. As algorithms for increased levels of autonomy advance, aircraft will be able to control drones from the cockpit with a pilot in a command and control role, service experts have explained.
At the moment, Army helicopters can used “manned-unmanned” teaming to control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones, and the Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Gregory Zacharias has told Warrior that F-35 and F-22 fighter jets may soon have the technical ability to navigate multiple drones from the air. The idea is to use unmanned aircraft to perform ISR missions, delivery weapons or test high-risk air defenses or enemy formations without putting pilots in harm’s way. This day is fast approaching, given the pace of current progress developing algorithms enabling higher levels of autonomy, Zacharias has explained.
As of earlier this year, DARPA has continued its contract with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Dynetics to move Gremlins into the next phase of development, an effort which involves testing and a Preliminary Design Review.
The Gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses provides significant cost advantages over expendable systems by reducing payload and airframe costs and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional platforms, a General Atomics statement said.
“We see the potential for using this technology on our own Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper® to offer our customers new mission capabilities,” David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI, said in a written statement.
Right off North Carolina Highway 147 in Durham sits a relic of older railroad overpass regulations. The 78-year old bridge that runs along South Gregson Street has a clearance of only 11 feet 8 inches. It has become known across the internet as “The Can-Opener Bridge” because of the astounding number of overconfident truck drivers who think they can squeeze their vehicle under it. Recently, the bridge claimed its 130th victim: an Army LMTV.
Local truck drivers know to avoid the overpass, so nearly every vehicle that gets clipped is either a rental or from out-of-state. The costs of raising the railroad tracks would be astronomical and the city’s main sewer line runs underneath, meaning lowering the road is impossible.
Thankfully, to date, there have been no fatalities and only three minor injuries. The city of Durham is content to plaster the area with a ridiculous amount of warnings to drivers, including a traffic light and gigantic, flashing sign that triggers if a height sensor is tripped. But all of these cautions don’t deter idiots drivers who aren’t willing to take a short detour.
To be completely honest, I don’t think they even want to fix it because it’s too funny.
So, what’s a city to do that has a hilarious problem that only affects morons who obviously don’t know their vehicle and fail to acknowledge the many signals? Put up a 24/7 webcam and create an internet attraction, obviously!
The most recent addition to the bridge’s long list of victims is a U.S. Army LMTV from an undisclosed unit. Many sites have erroneously claimed that the truck was carrying some “top secret device that needed to be covered” when it hit the bridge. In actuality, it was just a regular ol’ weapon mount that’s kept covered as not to freak out civilians. The driver of the vehicle has also not been named, but the Private (or soon-to-be-Private) is definitely never going to live this one down.
Rescuer turned rescuee this week as a British diver involved in saving the trapped Thai soccer team last year needed the help of emergency services himself when he got trapped in a cave in Tennessee, The Guardian reported.
Josh Bratchley was rescued on April 17, 2019, after spending more than a day underground. Bratchley was part of the British cave diving team that helped in the high profile rescue of 12 Thai school boys and their soccer coach from the flooded Tham Luang cave last summer.
He had explored a cave in Jackson County, Tennessee on April 16, 2019, but failed to return to surface with the rest of his group at around 3.00 p.m. His fellow divers alerted 911 at 1.00 a.m. the next morning.
The Jackson County Emergency Management Agency said that specialized divers from Arkansas and Florida had to be flown in to help with the “highly technical issue,” CNN reported.
This NBC News video shows the moment the expert diver was brought to safety that same evening.
Diver Rescued After Being Trapped For 27 Hours In Tennessee Cave | NBC Nightly News
The expert diver was awake, alert, and oriented, EMA spokesman Derek Woolbright said a press conference.
“His only request when he got to the surface was that he wanted some pizza,” Woolbright said, according to The Guardian.
Edd Sorenson, a veteran technical cave diver, told journalists that he found Bratchley waiting in the mud with his gear off, NBC reported. The British diver’s expertise likely saved his life, Sorenson said.
“Most of the time on rescues, when I get there, they’re hysterical, they’re panicked, and that makes it very dangerous for me,” he said. “[Bratchley’s] mental state was impeccable. He’s a consummate professional.”
Sorenson said he was expecting the worst because there was limited visibility in the small cave system.
“Putting people in body bags all the time is no fun, and when you get to send one home, it’s an exceptional feeling,” he said.
Lieutenant Brian Krebs, from Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Services, also praised Bratchley’s composure, saying: “Most of what happened today here was Josh. His mental state when he came out was excellent.”
The former meteorologist was honored by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and was appointed to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, according to The Guardian.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thiisInsider on Twitter.
On July 25, 1953, seven Czechoslovakians rolled across one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world to freedom in the West. They rolled over three rows of barbed wire, land mines, and guard towers on their way into West Germany. The Czech border guards didn’t even try to stop them. No one fired a shot. They all just watched in stunned disbelief as the Nazi armored personnel vehicle just tore its way across the Iron Curtain.
The story of Vaclav Uhlik is a success story for American soft power, specifically the Cold War-era broadcasts of Radio Free Europe. Uhlik was an engineer in the new, Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia following the end of World War II. He was a concentration camp survivor, a fighter for the Czech Underground, and mechanic who hid a big secret from the new Communist authorities in his country: there was an armored vehicle in his backyard – and he was rebuilding it.
For three years, he listened to the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe as he gathered parts and materials needed to get the APC operational again. The broadcasts gave him hope. His progress gave him patience. He was assisted by former Czech soldiers Walter Hora and Vaclav Krejciri in his efforts, and they were rewarded by riding in the vehicle the night it was to drive to the West.
The Czech-West German Border in 1980.
(Photo by Alan Denney)
Starting nearly from scratch, the men slowly reconstructed a battered Nazi Saurer RR-7 Artillery Tractor. Vaclav Uhlik, the engineer, rebuilt the vehicle as an armored personnel carrier. He made it large enough to carry himself, his wife and two children, the two veterans, Josef Pisarik, and Libuse Hrdonkova, a Czech woman who married an American after the war. Since he could only stay with her for three months, she decided to come to him in Iowa.
After years of tinkering and preparation, the modified RR-7, covered in the brush and foliage that hid it from Czechoslovakian authorities for so long, rumbled its way to the West German border. They drove through the Bavarian forest to the Wald-München (near Nuremberg) border crossing. And he did cross the border, except he didn’t go through the gates, instead opting to go right through the rows of barbed wire between guard towers and minefields.
The border guards just watched in awe, as they thought the APC was a friendly army vehicle. The Czechs inside had only what they wore with them, but they were on the right side of the Iron Curtain.
The seven Czechs drove the APC for several miles into West Germany and away from the border until they were stopped by West German police, taken to an American installation to be interviewed by intelligence officers, and then welcomed to their new home in the West. They would eventually be resettled in Springfield, Mass. – all except Hrdonkova. She would move to Sioux City, Iowa, to be with her long-separated husband.
Fort Bliss soldiers will be going on two major missions in the Middle East later this year, the Army announced March 29.
About 400 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division headquarters, including the Fort Bliss commanding general, will deploy this summer to Iraq. Another 200 soldiers will go to Afghanistan this spring.
“America’s tank division is highly trained and ready for this important mission,” said Maj. Gen. Robert “Pat” White, commanding general of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss. He will deploy on the Iraq mission along with division Command Sgt. Maj. Danny Day.
“We are proud to work alongside our Iraqi allies and coalition partners to continue the fight against ISIS,” White added. “I’m extremely impressed by the commitment and sacrifice of our military families. It is their stalwart support and resilience that gives us the strength to serve.”
Soldiers from the division headquarters, the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion and Division Artillery will take over the role as the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq.
The 1st Armored Division will be responsible for mission command of coalition troops who are training, advising, and assisting Iraqi security forces in their efforts to fight the Islamic State and other threats in an ongoing operation known as Inherent Resolve.
These soldiers will replace the 1st Infantry Division headquarters from Fort Riley, Kan., which has been serving in this role.
The division headquarters recently went through the Warfighter command post exercise at Fort Bliss in preparation for this deployment. The deployment is expected to last about nine months.
Brigadier General Mark H. Landes, a deputy commanding general at Fort Bliss, will serve as the acting senior commander at Fort Bliss during the deployment.
Also, about 200 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade and its Special Troops Battalion will go to Afghanistan this spring and serve as the logistical headquarters for the entire theater of operation.
The brigade did a similar mission from May 2015 to February 2016, with about the same number of troops.
Colonel Michael Lalor, the commander of the Sustainment Brigade, called it a demanding mission but said his troops have been training for it since last summer.
The Sustainment Brigade will oversee a task force of about 2,000 soldiers, civilians, and contractors who will provide important support for U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The task force will provide water, food, ammunition, transportation services, and maintenance, Lalor said.
Command Sergeant Major Sean Howard, the brigade’s senior enlisted leader, said his soldiers have been training hard, including at the recent Warfighter exercise.
“We are ready to go; there is no doubt in my mind,” Howard said.
The Sustainment Brigade’s deployment is scheduled to last about six months.
Denmark and its autonomous Arctic island of Greenland have signed an agreement to clean up U.S. military installations that were left to rust in the pristine landscape after the Cold War.
The deal earmarks 180 million kroner ($29 million) over six years for the cleanup. Greenland Premier Kim Kielsen and Danish Environment Minister Esben Lunde Larsen finalized it in Copenhagen on Jan. 11.
Lunde Larsen said a Denmark-Greenland steering group will decide when and where to start the cleanup.
A 1951 deal between Copenhagen and Washington allowed the U.S. to build 33 bases and radar stations in Greenland. The agreement didn’t specify who would be responsible for cleanup.
Lunde Larsen and Kielsen singled out areas south of Nuuk, the Greenland capital on the west coast, and Tasiilaq on the east coast, where there are defunct buildings, abandoned vehicles, and empty fuel barrels littered along runways used by Americans for the North Atlantic air ferry route during World War II. U.S. planes touched down in Greenland on their way to war in Europe and North Africa.
The deal between Denmark and Greenland doesn’t cover a U.S. facility that is still in use or, for instance, Camp Century, an under-ice missile project abandoned in 1966 because the cap began to crush the camp. A separate deal from February 2017 between Denmark and Greenland is monitoring and gauging the never-completed launch site for nuclear missiles under the surface of the massive ice cap.
“I am pleased that we can work together to do the cleaning,” Kielsen said, adding Greenland for long had wished to remove junk from American activities.
Russia says a fighter jet intercepted two U.S. military surveillance planes in the Black Sea — the latest in a series of midair encounters between U.S., NATO, and Russian forces.
Military officials told the state TASS news agency on August 5 that the Su-27 jet met the U.S. planes in international waters in the Black Sea.
“The Russian fighter jet crew approached the aircraft at a safe distance and identified them as an RC-135 strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the U.S. Air Force and an R-8A Poseidon, the U.S. Navy’s maritime patrol aircraft,” the Defense Ministry said.
There was no immediate confirmation of the incident from U.S. or NATO officials, though civilian radar-tracking sites showed U.S. aircraft in the Black Sea region on August 5, not far from Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Crimea was forcibly annexed by Russian in 2014, a move that few foreign countries have recognized. The peninsula is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet and multiple military installations.
U.S. and NATO jets routinely intercept Russian surveillance and strategic bomber aircraft off NATO member countries and U.S. airspace over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The vast majority of incidents are routine and considered nonthreatening.
In May, a NATO official told RFE/RL that Russian military aircraft activity in the Black Sea and other parts of Europe had increased since 2014.
Last year, the official said that NATO aircraft took to the skies 290 times to escort or shadow Russian military aircraft across Europe.
A top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had a “very constructive and friendly” meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
An Iranian delegation led by Ali Akbar Velayati met Putin in the Russian capital on July 12, 2018, the Kremlin said.
Velayati told Iranian state television from Moscow that Khamenei “values improving ties with Russia as a strategic partner” and that Moscow was “prepared to invest in Iran’s oil sector.”
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Velayati handed Putin letters from Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rohani, but refused to elaborate.
Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that the meeting also involved Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, while the Iranian delegation included the head of Khamenei’s board of advisers Ali Asghar Fathi Sarbangoli and Iran’s ambassador to Russia, Mehdi Sanai.
Velayati also said Iran and Russia would “continue to cooperate in Syria,” where both countries support President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the seven-year civil war there.
Russian President Vladimir Putin with Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in March 2017.
The meeting came as Iran braces for renewed U.S. economic sanctions after Washington pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015 between Tehran and world powers.
Facing revived sanctions from the United States and the possible knock-on collapse of its business dealings with Europe, Iran is looking to Russia and China for investment and to purchase its oil.
On July 11, 2018, Putin held talks at the Kremlin with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told the Russian leader that “Iran needs to leave Syria.”
The United States and Israel want Iran to pull out from Syria, but Russia has warned it would be unrealistic to expect Iran to fully withdraw from the country.
The Iranian presence in Syria is expected to be on the agenda of a July 16, 2018 meeting in Helsinki between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump.
A Chinese destroyer used a weapons-grade laser to target a US Navy P-8A surveillance aircraft flying above the Pacific last week, US Pacific Fleet said Thursday.
In a statement, the US accused the People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer of “unsafe and unprofessional” actions over the incident, said to have occurred about 380 miles from Guam, where the US has a significant military presence.
The laser appeared to be part of the destroyer’s close-in weapon system, a Pacific Fleet spokeswoman told Insider.
“The laser, which was not visible to the naked eye, was captured by a sensor onboard the P-8A,” Pacific Fleet said. “Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems.”
The Chinese destroyer, hull No. 161, appears to have been the Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer Hohot.
US Pacific Fleet accused the Chinese warship of violating international rules and regulations, including agreements on conduct at sea, by targeting the aircraft, which was operating in airspace above international waters, with a laser.
The latest incident is not the first time the US military has accused the Chinese military of using lasers against US assets and personnel.
In 2018, the Department of Defense accused the Chinese military, specifically personnel stationed at the country’s first overseas military base, in Djibouti, of using lasers to target US aircraft operating nearby, CNN reported at the time.
A notice to airmen issued at the time urged pilots “to exercise caution when flying in certain areas in Djibouti,” saying the call for caution was “due to lasers being directed at US aircraft.”
“During one incident, there were two minor eye injuries of aircrew flying in a C-130 that resulted from exposure to military-grade laser beams, which were reported to have originated from the nearby Chinese base,” the notice said.
The Pentagon said the activity posed “a true threat to our airmen.”
Guests and family members who flock to the Arlington Cemetery this Independence Day week will have to leave their America flags at home.
Current law does not permit people to bring American flags to grave sites after Congress passed legislation following protests from the Westboro Baptist Church at service members funerals, The Washington Post reported July 4.
Former Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers helped pass the Respect For America’s Fallen Heroes Act in 2006, making it illegal to protest funerals within 300 feet of a cemetery. The legislation had the unintended consequence of barring the bringing of “any placard, banner, flag, or similar device.”
Flags are permitted, however, if they are “part of a funeral, memorial service, or ceremony.”
Violating the law can bring penalties of up to a year in jail. While the bill received bipartisan support, the ACLU contended the law violated the First Amendment based on censorship.
“If someone is in there with the colors in a respectful way, or paying homage in a respectful way, then they should allow it,” Paul Rieckhoff founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
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U.S. Coast Guardsman Bobby “Blackhat” Walters is the epitome of “cool cat.”
He’s a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s also the winner of the 2017 Mission: Music competition that found incredible musicians from the military community, sent them to Nashville for a professional video shoot at the iconic Ocean Way Nashville Recording Studios, then introduced them America, who voted for which artist would take the stage at Base*FEST Powered by USAA.
Walters’ blues and contagious laughter carried him all over the country and right up to that stage, along with headliners Thompson Square and DNCE.
“You know, when you’re going up onto that stage, and the first thing you worry about is ‘please don’t let me trip,'” he laughed. “But then I gathered everyone around me together and I said, ‘Okay guys, rule number one: have fun.'”
For many veterans, who put their creative careers on hold when they join the military, building an artistic life can be challenging. Opportunities like Mission: Music give talented service members a helpful boost as a way of thanking them for that service. Nationwide coverage and the chance to play at an event with major headliners can be a game-changer.
Walters called the experience one of the highlights of his musical career.
“They say you get the rockstar treatment, well, we got the ‘blues star’ treatment!”
Follow Walters’ journey from the U.S. Coast Guard to the blues, to competing in Mission: Music and receiving that victory call, all the way to the stage at Naval Air Station Pensacola and his meeting with Thompson Square in the video below:
(Bobby Blackhat slays at Base*FEST Powered by USAA)
Roger Moore, famous for his roles on the small screen and his seven films over 12 years as James Bond, died at the age of 89 in Switzerland on May 23, 2017. His family said that he died “… after a short but brave battle with cancer.”
He had previously defeated prostate cancer.
But while Moore is most famous for his acting career, a lot of soldiers could relate with the man’s little-known military service. Moore was drafted from a blue collar family in England in 1946, married his first of four wives while he was in the military, and then returned home to so little available work that he had to move to America.
Moore was deployed to West Germany under the service ID number 372394 and rose to the rank of captain. After a short period, he was able to transfer into the Combined Services Entertainment Unit, a morale-boosting initiative that allowed some Cold War-era servicemen to complete their service obligation entertaining the rest of the military.
When he left the military after about three years, Moore returned to England to pursue acting once again. Despite his training before the service as well as his experience in the British Army, jobs were few and he wasn’t able to make much headway.
In Los Angeles, he did some modeling and bit parts before MGM signed him and put him into a series of movies, none of which were hugely successful.
Moore transferred over to Warner Brothers where he saw more success and got a role on the TV show “The Saint,” a spy series that helped lead to his being cast as the lead in “Live and Let Die,” his first James bond role.
For the next twelve years, Moore would film another six Bond movies including “The Man with the Golden Gun,” and “Octopussy.”
He continued acting after leaving the Bond role but also expanded his work in charitable causes. It was his extensive work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF that led to his being knighted and becoming Sir Roger Moore.
There’s a mystique to battleships. Whenever inside-the-Beltway dwellers debate how to bulk up the US Navy fleet, odds are sentimentalists will clamor to return the Iowa-class dreadnoughts to service. Nor is the idea of bringing back grizzled World War II veterans as zany as it sounds.
We aren’t talking equipping the 1914-vintage USS Texas with superweapons to blast the Soviet Navy, or resurrecting the sunken Imperial Japanese Navy super-battleshipYamato for duty in outer space, or keeping USS Missouri battleworthy in case aliens menace the Hawaiian Islands. Such proposals are not mere whimsy.
Built to duel Japan in World War II, in fact, battleships were recommissioned for the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. The last returned to action in 1988. The Iowa class sat in mothballs for about three decades after Korea (except for USS New Jersey, which returned to duty briefly during the Vietnam War). That’s about how long the battlewagons have been in retirement since the Cold War. History thus seems to indicate they could stage yet another comeback. This far removed from their past lives, though, it’s doubtful in the extreme that the operational return on investment would repay the cost, effort, and human capital necessary to bring them back to life.
But colossal practical difficulties would work against reactivating the dreadnoughts at low cost, despite these superficially plausible figures. First of all, the vessels no longer belong to the US Navy. They’re museums. New Jersey and Missouri were struck from the Navy list during the 1990s. Engineers preserved Iowa and Wisconsin in “reactivation” status for quite some time, meaning they hypothetically could return to duty, but they, too, were struck from the rolls, in 2006. Sure, the US government could probably get them back during a national emergency, but resolving legal complications would consume time and money in peacetime.
USS Iowa (BB-61) fires a full broadside of her nine 16″/50 and six 5″/38 guns during a target exercise near Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Photo from DoD.
Second, chronological age matters. A standard talking point among battleship enthusiasts holds that the Iowas resemble a little old lady’s car, an aged auto with little mileage on the odometer. A used-car salesman would laud its longevity, assuring would-be buyers they could put lots more miles on it. This, too, makes intuitive sense. My old ship, USS Wisconsin, amassed just fourteen years of steaming time despite deploying for World War II, Korea, and Desert Storm. At a time when the US Navy hopes to wring fifty years of life out of aircraft carriers and forty out of cruisers and destroyers, refitted battleships could seemingly serve for decades to come.
And it is true: stout battleship hulls could doubtless withstand the rigors of sea service. But what about their internals? Mechanical age tells only part of the story. Had the Iowa class remained in continuous service, with regular upkeep and overhauls, they probably could have steamed around for decades. After all, the World War II flattop USS Lexington served until 1991, the same year the Iowas retired. But they didn’t get that treatment during the decades they spent slumbering. As a consequence, battleships were already hard ships to maintain a quarter-century ago. Sailors had to scavenge spares from still older battleships. Machinists, welders, and shipfitters were constantly on the go fabricating replacements for worn-out parts dating from the 1930s or 1940s.
This problem would be still worse another quarter-century on, and a decade-plus after the navy stopped preserving the vessels and their innards. Managing that problem would be far more expensive. An old joke among yachtsmen holds that a boat is a hole in the water into which the owner dumps money. A battleship would represent a far bigger hole in the water, devouring taxpayer dollars in bulk. Even if the US Navy could reactivate the Iowas for a pittance, the cost of operating and maintaining them could prove prohibitive. That’s why they were shut down in the 1990s, and time has done nothing to ease that remorseless logic.
Third, what about the big guns the Iowa class sports—naval rifles able to fling projectiles weighing the same as a VW Bug over twenty miles? These are the battleships’ signature weapon, and there is no counterpart to them in today’s fleet. Massive firepower might seem to justify the expense of recommissioning and maintaining the ships. But gun barrels wear out after being fired enough times. No one has manufactured replacement barrels for 16-inch, 50-caliber guns in decades, and the inventory of spares has evidently been scrapped or donated to museums. That shortage would cap the battleships’ combat usefulness.
Nor, evidently, is there any safe ammunition for battleship big guns to fire. We used 1950s-vintage 16-inch rounds and powder during the 1980s and 1990s. Any such rounds still in existence are now over sixty years old, while the US Navy is apparently looking to demilitarize and dispose of them. Gearing up to produce barrels and ammunition in small batches would represent a non-starter for defense firms. The navy recently canceled the destroyer USS Zumwalt‘s advanced gun rounds because costs spiraled above $800,000 apiece. That was a function of ordering few munitions for what is just a three-ship class. Ammunition was simply mot affordable. Modernized Iowas would find themselves in the same predicament, if not more so.
And lastly, it’s unclear where the US Navy would find the human expertise to operate 16-inch gun turrets or the M-type Babcock & Wilcox boilers that propel and power battleships. No one has trained on these systems since 1991, meaning experts in using and maintaining them have, ahem, aged and grown rusty at their profession. Heck, steam engineers are in short supply, full stop, as the Navy turns to electric drive, gas turbines, and diesel engines to propel its ships. Older amphibious helicopter docks are steam-powered, but even this contingent is getting a gradual divorce from steam as newer LHDs driven by gas turbines join the fleet while their steam-propelled forebears approach decommissioning.
Steam isn’t dead, then, but it is a technology of the past—just like 16-inch guns. Technicians are few and dwindling in numbers while battleship crews would demand them in large numbers. I rank among the youngest mariners to have operated battleship guns and propulsion-plant machinery in yesteryear, and trust me, folks: you don’t want the US Navy conscripting me to regain my proficiency in engineering and weapons after twenty-six years away from it, let alone training youngsters to operate elderly hardware themselves. In short, it’s as tough to regenerate human capital as it is to rejuvenate the material dimension after a long lapse. The human factor—all by itself—could constitute a showstopper for battleship reactivation.
Battleships still have much to contribute to fleet design, just not as active surface combatants. Alfred Thayer Mahan describes a capital ship—the core of any battle fleet—as a vessel able to dish out and absorb punishment against a peer navy. While surface combatants pack plenty of offensive punch nowadays, the innate capacity to take a punch is something that has been lost in today’s lightly armored warships. Naval architects could do worse than study the battleships’ history and design philosophy, rediscovering what it means to construct a true capital ship. The US Navy would be better off for their inquiry.
Let’s learn what we can from the past—but leave battleship reactivation to science fiction.