Navy carrier Ford's high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials

Flight operations on the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier were cut back during recent at-sea trials after the new high-tech system that launches aircraft from the flattop’s flight deck went down.

The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford‘s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, known as EMALS, broke June 2 during the ship’s biggest carrier air wing embark to date. The Ford’s leaders had just announced the carrier was underway when EMALS went down.


There were about 1,000 members of Carrier Air Wing 8 aboard the ship as the Ford ran post-delivery test and trials operations in the Atlantic. In a call with reporters the day before the EMALS went down, Capt. J.J. Cummings, the ship’s commanding officer, called the air wing embark a historic moment for the Ford.

The air wing qualified more than 50 fleet and student pilots, he said, and launched and trapped hundreds of flights from the flattop while operating at sea.

But the next day, the EMALS went down, according to a Navy news release that was issued late Sunday night. That “curtailed flight operations to some extent.”

“But the Strike Group, ship, and air wing team still accomplished significant goals scheduled for the Ford-class aircraft carrier,” the release added.

The root cause of the EMALS failure remains under review, said Capt. Danny Hernandez, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon.

“The fault appeared in the power handling system, during a manual reset of the system,” he said. “This section is independent of the high pulsed power section to launch aircraft and is not a safety of flight risk. The Navy is reviewing procedures and any impacts on the system.”

Any findings and corrective actions they take will be key to ensuring the Ford is ready to support the warfighter when it enters the fleet, Hernandez added.

The Navy has faced pressure from politicians — on Capitol Hill and the White House — on delays in getting several new systems running smoothly, including the EMALS. President Donald Trump once called the system the “crazy electric catapult” and said sailors he spoke to on the Ford complained it wasn’t reliable.

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials

media.defense.gov

“I’m just going to put out an order — we’re going to use steam,” Trump said last year, referring to the legacy system used to launch aircraft on older carriers.

The Ford returned to port Sunday, and Hernandez said the crew was supported by a team of experts who developed an “alternative method to launching the air wing off” the ship.

The Ford has completed nearly 3,500 launches and recoveries using the EMALS. Hernandez called that quite an achievement, but added that it’s an insufficient number to draw conclusions about the system’s reliability.

“As flight operations on [the new carrier] continue, interruptions will be tracked, systematically reviewed and addressed with design and procedural changes aimed at achieving operational requirements for the rest of the Ford class,” he said.

James Geurts, assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition, said shipbuilders remain on the Ford, working to resolve problems with new systems. That includes getting all the Ford’s 11 weapons elevators up and running. Five are now working.

The Government Accountability Office noted the Navy’s struggles to demonstrate reliability of the Ford’s key systems, including the EMALS, in a recent report.

“Although the Navy is testing EMALS and [the advanced arresting gear] on the ship with aircraft, the reliability of those systems remains a concern,” the report states. “If these systems cannot function safely by the time operational testing begins, [the Ford] will not be able to demonstrate it can rapidly deploy aircraft — a key requirement for these carriers.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

Disrupting terrorist networks is inherently difficult, and success is difficult to measure. Clandestine by nature, these groups generally hide their internal functions, institutions, and various chains of command. While a potentially vast cadre of fighters, sympathizers, and suppliers wait in the wings, the outside world only glimpses a few leaders, who often serve as figureheads for their organizations.

With little else to go on, states often make targeting these leaders a key priority. From the Shining Path in Peru to ISIL in Syria and Iraq, security forces carry out operations to capture or kill mid- and upper-level leaders in the hopes that their absence will be the knockout blow necessary to defeat a terrorist organization. Recent attention has turned to ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who is rumored to be still alive. Intelligence gathering and planning is likely underway in multiple countries to capture or kill the man who continues to lead one of the world’s deadliest terror groups. But is leadership decapitation, as this strategy is known, effective?


Leadership decapitation rests on a simple principle: taking out a key player in a terrorist group in the hope that his or her absence destroys morale and slows the group’s operational tempo. Such strategies can target both leaders – who may hold symbolic and strategic importance – and tactical experts who might be hard to replace, like bomb makers. The policy has played an important role in U.S. counterterrorism policy since 9/11, recently receiving praise from Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

While the logic is clear, the strategy’s results are mixed and depend on the terrorist group’s internal dynamics. Smaller, younger groups – variously defined – are more susceptible to the effects of leadership decapitation, as are groups without an established bureaucracy. Group type is thought to play a role as well, with religiously-oriented groups being better able to withstand the loss of a leader. Most vulnerable are groups that lean heavily on a single, charismatic leader who plays a central role in the organization.

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials

Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Leadership decapitation has ended some groups. The capture of Abimael Guzman and 14 other leaders of the Shining Path in 1992 quickly reduced the group to a shadow of its former self. The group struggled to recover after the capture of Guzman, who exercised near-total control. After the assassination of Fathi Shaqaqi in 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) struggled to find a capable successor and only recovered years later.

However, not all groups fall into these categories. With its deep roots in a conflict that extends back decades, raids and airstrikes have killed a number of Al-Shabaab leaders, yet it continues to carry out deadly attacks, including an October 2017 truck bombing that killed more than 500 Somalis. Al-Qaeda has suffered the loss of a number of key leaders, including founder Osama Bin Laden and leaders of its Yemeni and Syrian branches. Despite these losses from 2011 to 2015, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) managed to hang on and even expand its operations in Yemen until coordinated US-UAE operations in 2016 forced the group to engage in direct combat, which reduced – but did not eliminate – the threat posed by the group in Yemen.

Perhaps no group is more emblematic of resilience in the face of leadership decapitation than ISIL itself. Airstrikes, battles, and military operations have killed many of the group’s leaders within Syria and Iraq and its numerous regional affiliates. Despite this, the group has proven capable of finding replacements. When ISIL’s chief strategist and number two, Mohammed al-Adnani, was killed in late August 2016, the group announced his replacement about two months later. ISIL continues to maintain the ability to launch deadly attacks via its worldwide cells and those inspired by its calls to violence, from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Egypt.

As evidenced above, ISIL does not fit the profile of terrorist groups vulnerable to the effects of leadership decapitation. Its well-known penchant for bureaucracy has allowed slain leaders to be quickly replaced. While the loss of ISIL leaders has likely impacted the organization, it arguably has been affected to a greater degree by the overwhelming firepower directed at the organization from every level, not just its leaders. US strikes have pounded the group’s military positions, financial stores, and its fighters at every level, not just its leader. The redundancy within ISIL’s organization and the lack of a single, charismatic leader mean that finding competent replacements is not a life or death decision for the terror group.

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials

Lt. Col. Rod Coffey and the insurgent flag his unit captured in Diyala Province, Iraq, in 2008. The same banner would eventually be used by the Islamic State.

(U.S. Army photo)

The most frightening aspect of ISIL’s lethality comes from the cells and sympathizers strewn across the world. Central leadership can plan and order these attacks, but cells with organic roots in localized conflicts can also plan and influence their own operations. While ISIL has been reduced to a sliver of its former territory in Iraq and Syria, the threat posed by its worldwide affiliates is unlikely to disappear with Baghdadi.

To be fair, the choice to pursue terrorist leaders is not a purely strategic calculation. Arguments about the effects of leadership on terrorists’ operational capacity mean little to those who have lost loved ones or live in fear because of terrorist attacks. And when dealing with groups that have almost no public presence, targeting leaders is often one of the only options available. It would be unwise to dismiss these other considerations for pursuing a decapitation strike out of hand, just as it would be unwise to assume that killing Baghdadi or any other leader is necessarily a knockout blow.

There is little doubt that ISIL, while still dangerous, is a weakened organization. Recent success in pushing back the group – a refreshing change from 2014 and 2015, when it appeared ready to roll over much of Syria and Iraq – is owed to several factors. A growing international recognition of the threat posed by ISIL, a crackdown on those traveling to and from Syria and Iraq, and overwhelming firepower directed against the group in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere have all played a role in reducing the threat. However, there is little reason to believe that what threat remains of ISIL would disappear with Baghdadi, especially in light of the group’s demonstrated resilience and commitment to terror.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force reveals first base for stealth, thermonuclear B-21 Raider

The Air Force announced Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, has been selected as the preferred location for the first operational B-21 Raider bomber and the formal training unit, March 27, 2019.

Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and Dyess AFB, Texas, will receive B-21s as they become available.

The Air Force used a deliberate process to minimize mission impact during the transition, maximize facility reuse, minimize cost and reduce overhead.

“These three bomber bases are well suited for the B-21,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson. “We expect the first B-21 Raider to be delivered beginning in the mid-2020s, with subsequent deliveries phased across all three bases.”


Ellsworth AFB was selected as the first location because it provides sufficient space and existing facilities necessary to accommodate simultaneous missions at the lowest cost and with minimal operational impact across all three bases. The Air Force will incrementally retire existing B-1 Lancers and B-2 Spirits when a sufficient number of B-21s are delivered.

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials

A B-1B Lancer flying over the Pacific Ocean.

(US Air Force photo)

“We are procuring the B-21 Raider as a long-range, highly-survivable aircraft capable of penetrating enemy airspace with a mix of weapons,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “It is a central part of a penetrating joint team.”

Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, and Minot AFB, North Dakota, will continue to host the B-52 Stratofortress which is expected to continue conducting operations through 2050.

The Air Force will make its final B-21 basing decision following compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes. That decision is expected in 2021 and is part of the overall Air Force Strategic Basing Process.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this Taliban tunnel bomb detonate in Afghanistan

While typically used in medieval warfare, tunnel bombs have made a comeback over the last few years, especially in Syria. This video shared on Twitter on July 16 by researcher Hugo Kaaman shows just how powerful these bombs can be, and this time, in Afghanistan.


Twitter

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Tunnels have seen a resurgence in “popularity” in the last few years, after being a very effective means of warfare utilized throughout history. They are exactly as they sound: bombs placed in sub-terrain under enemy forces. We’ve seen them in every major conflict, but in the middle east, they took a bit of a back burner to the more frequently used roadside IED. There’s an excellent history of the tunnel bomb here.

To see the “inside look,” watch this video uploaded to social media.

Twitter

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army tested its first transformer in 2017

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is experimenting with a hybrid, unmanned, aerial vehicle that transforms in flight and gives soldiers an advantage on the battlefield of the future.


Weighing in at just over half a pound, this UAV tilts its rotors to go from hovering like a helicopter to speeding along like a sleek airplane. The design has many efficiencies, but also provides many challenges to its creator, Dr. Steve Nogar, a post-doctoral researcher with the lab’s Vehicle Technology Directorate.

“In an aircraft, weight is everything,” Nogar said. “There are a lot of vehicles out there where designers take a quad-rotor and staple it to a fixed-wing aircraft. It may have extra propellers and actuators and it’s not very efficient. You have a lot of wasted weight.”

For testing, Nogar has temporarily attached a large paper half-circle to the prototype to slow it down. The final design will be less than 10 inches in length.

“The tilt-rotor design is kind of like the V-22 Osprey, where the motors tilt themselves,” Nogar said.

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials
The future hybrid UAV is less than a foot in length, but for testing, its inventor has added a lightweight paper wing to slow it down. (U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

The Osprey is a multi-mission, tilt-rotor military aircraft designed for both vertical takeoff and landing. The V-22 is more than 57 feet in length. Shrinking that capability to less than one foot has been a challenge due to the complex physics that govern the vehicle’s movement and the associated control methods, Nogar said.

With this hybrid UAV, transforming from hovering to horizontal flight offers speed, agility, and mission flexibility.

“Looking forward, we want to look at perching or landing on something in the environment,” Nogar said. “That means we have to be able to sense the environment.”

Imagine a future drone that knows how to land itself to conserve power while gathering situational awareness. The UAV will need to be able to detect walls, avoid obstacles, and rapidly understand its environment.

Read Also: Russia is designing a transformer to sucker punch the US

“If you’re going to land on something, you need to know very quickly how fast that’s coming up to you as you come in to land,” he said. “We will need to enable the UAV to sense and perceive its environment using visual techniques, such as machine learning.”

The next step is continuing to experiment, refine, and experiment more.

“These vehicles will better integrate with soldiers,” he said. “Soldiers are going to have to be able to interact with these vehicles all the time and they’re going to have to work as a team to achieve their objectives.”

That objective may be finding out what’s over the next hill or scouting out enemy forces.

“We cannot put a lot of sensors on this vehicle,” Nogar said. “It’s basically what we can do with just one camera. It takes a lot more work to do the control and study the dynamics of this vehicle, but we will definitely benefit from the effort once it’s finished.”

Articles

The Navy just commissioned its newest littoral combat ship

The Navy just commissioned its newest littoral combat ship, the USS Detroit, with a ceremony in the city that bears its name.


The Detroit is a Freedom-class LCS and is designed to operate near the coast with different modules that can essentially plugged into the ship depending on the mission.

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials
The future USS Detroit (LCS 7) conducts trials on July 14, 2016. The Detroit was commissioned in a ceremony in its namesake city on Oct. 22. (U.S. Navy Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin-Michael Rote/Released)

The LCS ships can focus on anti-surface, anti-submarine, and anti-mine missions depending on which mission module is installed. The ship always carries defensive missiles to shoot down incoming enemy munitions, and all modules support either an MH-60 helicopter or two Fire Scout unmanned helicopters.

“This ship represents so much. It represents the city of Detroit, the motor city. It represents the highly-skilled American workers of our nation’s industrial base, the men and women who built this great warship; and it represents the American spirit of hard work, patriotism and perseverance,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at the Detroit’s commissioning ceremony.

“The USS Detroit will carry these values around the world for decades to come as the newest ship in our nation’s growing fleet.”

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials
The future USS Detroit (LCS 7) conducts trials on July 14, 2016. The Detroit was commissioned in a ceremony in its namesake city on Oct. 22. (U.S. Navy Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin-Michael Rote/Released)

The Detroit’s anti-submarine mission package and its ability to operate in shallow waters make it especially capable of hunting diesel submarines, a major part of both Russia and China’s area-denial arsenal. Diesel submarines are quieter than nuclear subs and are therefore much harder to detect.

Barbara Levin, the wife of the retired Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, sponsored the USS Detroit.

You can take a 360-degree tour of the Detroit here.

Articles

The top 5 stories around the military right now (August 11 edition)

Good morning.  Here’s the news:


Now: This botched air strike on Lebanon changed Naval Aviation forever 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

MARSOC gets more lethal with this new sniper rifle

The Marine Corps is adopting a new precision sniper rifle to increase the lethality and combat effectiveness of scout snipers on the battlefield.

The Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action rifle that offers an increased range of fire and accuracy when compared to current and legacy systems. It includes a long-action receiver, stainless steel barrel, and an extended rail interface system for a mounted scope and night vision optic.


The Mk13 is scheduled for fielding in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Units receiving the Mk13 include infantry and reconnaissance battalions and scout sniper schoolhouses. This weapon is already the primary sniper rifle used by Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.

Fielding the Mk13 ensures the Corps has commonality in its equipment set and Marine scout snipers have the same level of capability as North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, said Master Sgt. Shawn Hughes from III MEF.

“When the Mk13 Mod 7 is fielded, it will be the primary sniper rifle in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Paul Gillikin, Infantry Weapons team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The M40A6 will remain in the schoolhouses and operating forces as an alternate sniper rifle primarily used for training. The M110 and M107 will also remain as additional weapons within the scout sniper equipment set.”

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials
The M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System

The Marine Corps identified a materiel capability gap in the maximum effective ranges of its current sniper rifles. After a comparative assessment was conducted, it was clear that the Mk13 dramatically improved scout sniper capabilities in terms of range and terminal effects.

The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper Platoon used the weapon for over a year (including during a deployment) in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Feedback from MCSC’s assessment, MARSOC’s operational use, and 3/5’s testing of the weapon system led to its procurement of the Mk13 for the Corps.

The Mk13 increases scout snipers’ range by roughly 300 meters and will use the .300 Winchester Magnum caliber round, a heavier grain projectile with faster muzzle velocity — characteristics that align Marine sniper capability with the U.S. Army and Special Operations Command.

“The .300 Winchester Magnum round will perform better than the current 7.62 NATO ammo in flight, increasing the Marine Sniper’s first round probability of hit,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tony Palzkill, Battalion Gunner for Infantry Training Battalion. “This upgrade is an incredible win and will allow snipers to engage targets at greater distances.”

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials
.300 Winchester Magnum (center) flanked by its parent cartridges.

The Mk13 will also be fielded with an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle.

“This sniper rifle will allow Marines to reengage targets faster with precise long-range fire while staying concealed at all times,” said Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and MCSC liaison.

“The new day optic allows for positive identification of enemies at greater distances, and it has a grid-style reticle that allows for rapid reengagement without having to dial adjustments or ‘hold’ without a reference point,” he said. “With this type of weapon in the fleet, we will increase our lethality and be able to conceal our location because we are creating a buffer between us and the enemy.”

MCSC completed New Equipment Training for the Mk13 with a cross section of Marines from active-duty, Reserve and training units in early April 2018.

“The snipers seemed to really appreciate the new capabilities that come with this rifle and optic,” said project officer Capt. Frank Coppola. “After the first day on the range, they were sold.”

In a time where technology, ammunition and small arms weapon systems are advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, it is extremely important to ensure the Marine Corps is at the forefront of procuring and fielding new and improved weapon systems to the operating forces, said Gillikin.

“Doing this enables the Corps to maintain the advantage over its enemies on the battlefield, as well as to secure its trusted position as the rapid crisis response force for the United States,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy will be deploying its ‘floating hospital’ to help in the coronavirus fight in New York

The US Navy is deploying a hospital ship to assist health care providers in New York who could be strained with resources amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Navy announced that efforts to deploy the USNS Comfort to the state were underway. Cuomo said his discussions with President Donald Trump on the coronavirus were productive, and the plan was approved. The governor activated the state’s National Guard on March 10, as the number of cases in the state jumped to over 2,300 as of Wednesday morning.

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials

“This will be an extraordinary step,” Cuomo said on Wednesday morning. “It’s literally a floating hospital, which will add capacity.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper previously confirmed he ordered the Navy to “lean forward” in deploying two of its hospital ships, the Comfort and the USNS Mercy, during a press conference on Tuesday. The Comfort, based in the East Coast at Norfolk, Virginia, is currently undergoing maintenance; while the Mercy is at port in San Diego, California.

Navy officials stressed that preparations for the Comfort, which have been “expedited,” will take weeks before it is ready to assist. The Mercy is expected to be ready to assist “before the end of this month,” Esper said.

The ships are staffed by 71 civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully-equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.

The two ships will specifically focus on trauma cases if deployed. The plan is to alleviate the burden on traditional hospitals dealing with a high number of patients with the coronavirus.

“Our capabilities are focused on trauma,” Esper said at the Pentagon. “Whether it’s our field hospitals, whether it’s our hospital ships … they don’t have necessarily the segregated space as you need to deal with infectious diseases.”

“One of the ways by which you can use either field hospitals, hospital ships, or things in between, is to take the pressure off of civilian hospitals when it comes to trauma cases, and open up civilian hospital rooms for infectious diseases,” he added.

The extended timeline for the Comfort’s deployment was not only incumbent on its scheduled maintenance or the amount of medical equipment on board. The number of qualified medical staff aboard the ship was a primary concern for the Navy, according to Esper.

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials

“The big challenge isn’t necessarily the availability of these inventories — it’s the medical professionals,” Esper said. “All those doctors and nurses either come from our medical treatment facilities or they come from the Reserves.”

“We’ve got to be very conscious of and careful of as we call up these units and use them to support the states, that we aren’t robbing Peter to pay Paul, so to speak,” Esper added.

Most of the medical staff for the Comfort is based at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Virginia. The ship has made several deployments since 1987, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Drones are changing the way the world prepares for war

The number of countries with military drones has skyrocketed over the past decade, a new report revealed, showing that nearly 100 countries have this kind of technology incorporated into their armed forces.

In 2010, only about 60 countries had military drones, but that number has since jumped to 95, a new report from Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone revealed.

Dan Gettinger, the report’s author, identified 171 different types of unmanned aerial vehicles in active inventories. Around the world, there are at least 21,000 drones in service, but the number may actually be significantly higher.


“The one thing that is clear is drone proliferation is accelerating,” Michael Horowitz, a Center for New American Security (CNAS) adjunct senior fellow for technology and national security, told Insider, adding that it is particularly noteworthy that among the countries that have access to military drone technology, around 20 have armed drones, higher-end systems that are becoming more prolific.

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials

An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan.

(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt(

And the proliferation of drone technology is expected to continue as countries like China, which has emerged as a major exporter of unmanned systems, to include armed drones, and others export drones around the world. “Drone proliferation is inevitable,” Horowitz said, explaining that “current-generation drones are the tip of the spear for the emergence of robotics in militaries around the world.”

Newer systems are appearing at a rapid rate. “I think drones will be a ubiquitous presence on future battlefields,” Gettinger told Insider Sept. 26, 2019, explaining that drone technology is contributing to an evolution in warfare. “They represent an increase in combat capacity, an increase in the ability of a nation to wage war.”

“We are likely to see drones featuring more prominently in global events, particularly in areas that are considered to be zones of geopolitical tension,” he added, noting that “we see this playing out in the Persian Gulf, Yemen, the Ukraine, and other conflicts.”

Drones come in all shapes and sizes and levels of sophistication, and they have become important tools for both countries and non-state actors such as the Islamic State in several different countries, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In recent months, militarized drones have made headlines globally, highlighting the importance of unmanned systems.

Over the past few weeks, for instance, the American MQ-25 Stingray, an unmanned refueling asset expected to serve aboard US carriers, completed its first flight. Russia showed off its new Okhotnik (Hunter) drone flying alongside and working together with the fifth-generation Su-57, an important first step toward manned/unmanned teaming. And, China unveiled a suspected supersonic spy drone and a stealth attack drone during preparations for its National Day celebration.

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials

Russia Su-57.

But, the incident likely the freshest in everyone’s mind is the drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi oil sites earlier this month, when Saudi oil production was temporarily crippled by systems most air defense systems are not designed to effectively counter.

Arthur Holland Michel, who co-directs the Center for the Study of the Drone with Gettinger, previously explained to Insider that the attacks confirmed “some of the worst fears among militaries and law enforcement as to just how much damage one can do” with this kind of technology.

He called the attack a “wake-up call,” one of many in recent years.

The strikes on Saudi Arabia, which the US believes were carried out by Iran, marked the second time in just a few months the US has had to figure out how to respond to a drone-related incident involving Iran, as Iranian forces shot down an expensive US surveillance drone, specifically a RQ-4A Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) drone, in June 2019.

That incident nearly ignited an armed conflict between the US and Iran. President Donald Trump had plans to attack Iranian missile and radar sites in retaliation, but he called off the attack at the last minute due to concerns about possible Iranian casualties.

The US reaction, especially the president’s stated concerns that killing Iranians in response to the downing of an unmanned air asset was disproportionate, highlights the challenges of responding to attacks involving military drones.

“The US and other countries,” Gettinger explained, “will have to develop a framework for thinking about and understanding enemy unmanned systems and how to deal with them and what their responses should be. Drones are becoming a more important feature of militaries, and the US and other countries will have to have a framework for dealing with that.”

Addressing these challenges will likely become more important as the technology evolves with advancements in capability to create drones with the ability to fight like unmanned fighter aircraft, manned/unmanned teaming, and progress on swarming.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The defense budget could cause a partial government shutdown

Congress is hurtling toward yet another government shutdown deadline on Jan. 19 and while the focus for this round of negotiations is on immigration, there is one key issue that will determine whether the deadline comes and goes without an agreement.


Congress must still decide exactly how much funding to provide for defense and non-defense functions of the government. So far this fiscal year, short-term funding bills passed before the few shutdown deadlines maintained last year’s spending levels for federal programs — but Congress wants to increase spending for the new year.

There are limitations on how large the funding increases can be because of the spending caps triggered in 2013 by the 2011 Budget Control Act. These caps on the amount the government can increase spending for defense and non-defense spending from year to year are much lower than lawmakers want.

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials
The western front of the United States Capitol, the home of the U.S. Congress. (Photo: The Architect of the Capitol)

Both Democrats and Republicans want to come to an agreement in order to increase those levels beyond the current limits for next year. Going above the Budget Control Act’s limits can be done with a congressional action, but first Congress must get over the substantial disagreement on the size of the increases.

Republicans want a bulk of the spending increase to go to defense spending instead of non-defense spending. Democrats, on the other hand, want to increase defense and non-defense spending by an equal amount.

The initial offer from the GOP in December was to boost defense spending by $54 billion and non-defense spending by $37 billion for 2018 and 2019. Democrats rejected this, calling for parity between the two by raising both sides by $54 billion.

Despite being in the minority, Democrats have substantial influence on the issue because some Republicans concerned about government spending — such as Sen. Rand Paul — could vote against any bill that substantially increases spending above the caps.

Additionally, Democrats could filibuster any spending bill in the Senate that does not meet their demands.

Sen. John Cornyn, the second-highest ranking GOP senator, said that setting these caps has been difficult so far because Democrats are attempting to attach codification of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program, which prevents the deportation of undocumented immigrants that entered the country as minors, to the bill setting the caps.

Also Read: These are the 7 ways for Congress to deal with North Korea

Despite the complication of the DACA fight, Democrats have additional leverage on the spending cap issue since no party has had the government shut down while controlling both Congress and the White House since 1979.

The most likely scenario in the coming days, according to reports, is that Congress passes a short-term funding extension with new cap levels, giving appropriators — staffers who do technical budgetary work — time to hash out exactly where to spend the money.

“In our minds, the only question is the size of the deal — we had initially ball-parked a $300 billion deal over two years, though ~$200 billion over two years (equal amounts to defense and non-defense) now seems more likely,” said Chris Kreuger, a policy strategist at Cowen Washington Research Group. “The Republicans have offered $54 billion for defense and $37 billion for non-defense, though the Democrats are demanding 1:1 parity (which they are likely to get).”

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea’s transcontinental planes are ’embarrassing’

As the intrigue surrounding the US-North Korea summit gains momentum, theories on where it will be held have prompted an additional question: How will North Korean leader Kim Jong Un travel to it?

While a summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in is expected to be held at the truce village of Panmunjom on the border of North Korea and South Korea on April 27, 2018, the location and date for Kim’s meeting with US President Donald Trump has yet to be announced, though reports indicate it could be as soon as May 2018.


It’s possible that Trump and Kim could also meet at Panmunjom, but some analysts have questioned whether Trump may prefer a different setting, like Switzerland, Iceland, or Sweden.

But an international destination may pose a problem for Kim.

As North Korea’s leader, Kim has taken only one international trip, to neighboring China, via train. Some experts told The Washington Post that Kim may not have an aircraft capable of flying nonstop over long distances.

“We used to make fun of what they have — it’s old stuff,” Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst, told The Post. “We would joke about their old Soviet planes.”

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials
North Korea’s state-sponsored news has shown Kim behind the controls of an aircraft.
(KCNA)

Joseph Bermudez, an analyst at the US-based think tank 38 North, added: “They don’t have an aircraft that can fly across the Pacific — most are quite old.”

The analysts suggested that stopping by another country mid-journey to refuel could highlight the limitations of North Korea’s aircraft — and, by extension, its struggle to keep up with technological advances.

Some aviation experts, however, think North Korea’s fleet may include aircraft that can safely make international trips.

Air Koryo, North Korea’s state-owned airline, has two Tupolev jets — similar to the Boeing 757 jetliner — with a 3,000-mile range, the aviation journalist Charles Kennedy told The Post, adding that they have an “excellent safety record.”

Should North Korea’s aircraft pose limitations, Kim would still have other options, said Victor Cha, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“In terms of his traveling anywhere, it would not be a problem — the South Koreans or the Swedes would give him a ride,” Cha, who’s also a Korea analyst for MSNBC, told The Post. “But it would be embarrassing.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the challenges of being a military family

November is Military Family Appreciation Month.  Of course, our nation owes military families a debt of gratitude: Their sacrifices and stressors should not go unnoticed. We do try to honor them, with thanks and praise, but during this month set aside to appreciate military families, we should consider practical ways we can do more to address the challenges they face. Fortunately, such efforts are underway.


In August, the White House hosted a listening session of military spouses, and the common themes were disruptions in career development and employment.

Ninety-two percent of military spouses are female, but the unemployment rate for military spouses (16 percent) is four times higher than the rate for all adult women in the U.S. (4 percent). About half of military spouses who are now working part-time report that they are underemployed; they would prefer full-time work.

Also Read: 10 career fields for military spouses that aren’t direct sales

Both the private sector and the public sector are making efforts to address the needs of military families.

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials
Welcoming her hero home. (Photo: Lance Cpl. Stephen Stewart/USMC)

First, because military life often requires moving from state to state, varying occupational licensing and a continuing education programs can keep military spouses from working, or slow them down and impose additional costs after a move. Unbelievably, today in the U.S., nearly one in three workers need a license to work. Scaling back these requirements, or offering state-to-state reciprocity, is one way governments can help.  A trio of bills (the Restoring Board Immunity Act, the New HOPE Act, and the ALLOW Act) are currently under Congressional consideration. Each would encourage states to dial back oppressive licensing laws.

Second, private companies can work to foster more workplace flexibility. In industries where this is possible, employers should allow flexible hours, telecommuting and work-from-home options. These flexible workplace practices are helpful to any spouse (or single parent) who has to juggle the lion’s share of childcare duties. This particularly applies to military spouses.

The government can help to foster more workplace flexibility as well, simply by staying out of employment contracts and reducing regulations promulgated under the Fair Labor Standards Act that actually restrict employer’s ability to offer flexible arrangements. In May, the House passed the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would allow workers to elect to take comp time instead of overtime pay. This would be one good step toward greater flexibility. The bill is now with the Senate.

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials
Spouse career fair.

Finally, thirdly, many military spouses have found that the best way to become and stay employed is simply to work for oneself. Many run Etsy shops or otherwise operate their own small businesses. Pursuing a pro-growth economic policy, including tax reforms that make it easier to comply with the tax code and reducing the tax burden that small businesses face, would greatly help these military families. Congress is hard at work trying to pass such tax reforms now.

To their credit, there are already many entities – both public and private – who are working hard to provide opportunities for military spouses. The Small Business Administration has partnered with the Department of Defense to focus on economic opportunity for military spouses. The National Military Family Association and Military Spouse Employment Partnership also work toward this end, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce heads a project called Hiring Our Heroes, which is dedicated not just to helping veterans, but also military spouses, find jobs.

Also Read: Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of

More good news: New technologies—and the growth of tech-related industries—are making more flexible, work-from-home positions available, and some companies, like Amazonare committed to hiring military spouses in these jobs. These efforts are welcome and help combat the bias that some other employers may exhibit toward military spouses, whom they may see as a “flight risk” due to the frequent moving associated with military life.

Our economy is changing rapidly. Thanks to cultural and technological changes, the workplace can be more flexible than ever. By reducing barriers like occupational licenses and outdated labor and tax laws, we can do more to provide better economic opportunities for military families. Our debt to them can never be repaid – but fostering better employment options would be a good start.

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