An explosion inside an Army ammunition factory in Missouri on April 11 left one person dead and four others injured.
The Army Joint Munitions Command, which is tasked with managing military weapons and equipment, confirmed that the explosion occurred in a mixing building at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in the city of Independence, local outlet KY3 News reports.
The man killed in the explosion reportedly worked at the plant for 36 years.
Manufacturing ammunition is “dangerous work, and our employees risk their lives to protect our men and women in uniform,” said Lt. Col. Eric Dennis, commander of the plant, according to KSHB Kansas City. “This is a sacrifice they make to support our country, and I am humbled by the ultimate sacrifice this employee made today.”
An explosion injured six people at the same factory in 2011 in a construction area where the powder is loaded. All of the nearly 1,800 employees were sent home following the most recent unexpected detonation. Investigators are still trying to decipher how the explosion occurred.
Federal investigators fined the 707,000-square foot facility three times in the last decade (2008, 2011, 2012) for workplace safety violations.
The private contractor operating the plant in 2011 was initially charged $28,000 for safety issues, and paid $5,600 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which cited “serious” problems with the handling of potentially dangerous chemicals.
The property holds more than 400 buildings, including nine warehouses. The plant primarily generates and tests small-caliber ammunition.
North Korea’s military parade on Feb. 8 rolled out seven intercontinental ballistic missiles that experts assess can strike the U.S. — and it’s more than the country has ever shown before.
Before the crowd in Pyongyang, where below freezing temperatures reddened the spectators’ faces, North Korea put on its usual display of military might with rows of troops and tanks, but also showed off two new inventions: the Hwasong-14 and the Hwasong-15.
The missiles were both tested in 2017 and have demonstrated they have the range to strike the U.S. mainland. North Korea has used both missiles to threaten U.S. citizens.
The Hwasong-14, a smaller missile, was first tested on July 4, 2017, to the surprise of North Korea experts, some of whom thought that an ICBM capability would continue to elude North Korea for years. North Korea tested it again on July 28, when it flew over 2,300 miles above the Earth before crashing down 620 miles away in the Sea of Japan.
Experts assessed that even though the missile fit the definition of an ICBM by flying more than 5,500 kilometers, it still probably couldn’t haul a heavy nuclear warhead to important U.S. cities, like Washington D.C. or New York City.
But at the end of November 2017, North Korea again shocked critics by testing an entirely new, as of yet unseen design — the Hwasong 15.
The massive missile flew almost 2,800 miles above earth before crashing into the Sea of Japan. This time, experts were nearly unanimous. The larger warhead, with its larger nosecone, resembled the U.S.’s Trident missile, the most powerful warhead the U.S. ever deployed.
The consensus among analysts is that North Korea’s Hwasong-15 ICBM can strike anywhere within the U.S. with a heavy nuclear warhead, or multiple nuclear warheads.
But though the missile has the reach, it may not have the durability. North Korea has never tested an ICBM at full range, and therefore has not demonstrated its ability to build a warhead that can survive reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, let alone its ability to guide such a missile.
On Feb. 7, a U.S. envoy to North Korea said the country could likely master the technology needed to deliver a nuclear blast on Washington D.C. in only months.
North Korea, a paranoid country bent on regime survival as it defies international law, most likely would not display all its missiles at once, for fear that the U.S. would bomb the parade. Additionally, the missiles shown in the parade may not be operational or have been faked for propaganda purposes.
Exactly how many missiles it has in its arsenal is unknown, but North Korea has now told the world it has multiple missiles it can strike the U.S. with.
The recent incident involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) and an Iranian speedboat is a reminder that the South China Sea is not the world’s only maritime flashpoint.
The Persian Gulf is such a hot spot as well — mostly with the many instances where Iranian vessels have harassed American ships, with the closest encounter being within 150 yards. When you are talking about ships weighing thousands of tons, that is getting awfully close. Ships cannot turn and stop on a dime. As a result, an incident like the one involving USS Mahan could very well touch off a war.
First there’s the risk of the warning shots actually hitting the incoming vessel.
There’s also the possibility that a suicide speedboat will hit an American ship. The October 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) took place in port with a small fiberglass boat.
Iran’s “fast attack craft” that have a history of harassing American ships are, in some cases, larger, and pack heavy machine guns and rocket launchers. Those incidents have also produced warnings of a “tactical miscalculation” that could lead to an armed conflict.
Something like the Boghammer, which became notorious for its attacks on tankers in the Iran-Iraq War, displaces about six and a half tons. It has a top speed of 45 knots (or nautical miles per hour). When these speedboats get within 1,000 yards, they are less than half a knot away — and at top speed, an American ship could have as little as 40 seconds to react. A Boghammer could easily carry a murder-suicide bomb similar to that used to attack the Cole.
The damage one of those boats can do is best reflected in the Cole attack. Only this time the damage would be suffered while at sea, not while refueling in a port where assistance is readily available. It cost $250 million to repair the Cole, which was out of action for 14 months, according to MaritimeTerrorism.com.
Understandably, an American ship commander would be very nervous about the possibility of such an attack.
All it would take would be one commander deciding that the Iranian “fast attack craft” posed a threat to his ship; defensively sinking the craft could kick off Iranian retaliation. American and Iranian forces would start exchanging fire in small naval and air actions. The United States would probably win most of those — albeit in some cases, there might be damage to ships or aircraft.
Iran, though, would likely start launching ballistic missiles at Israel, trying to use the same gambit Saddam Hussein did in 1991.
The Iranian-American War would then be on in earnest.
The military profession can be downright scary at times, and that element has given rise to some of the best ghost stories and urban legends out there. Here are few of the most enduring classics from around the services:
1. F.E. Warren’s native tribes
Cheyenne, Wyoming is the home of F.E. Warren AFB, part of the USAF’s Global Strike Command and command of all U.S. ICBMs. But before Wyoming had the power to eradicate mankind, it had the power to eradicate Crow Creek Indians.
Fort D.A. Russell was built to help protect railroad workers from the local native tribes. They were undeniably good at it, massacring many of the Crow Creek, and for the last 100 years, people reported seeing uniformed cavalry troops patrolling the base at night to keep the natives at bay.
The fun doesn’t end there. Warren is supposedly one of the most haunted places in Wyoming – maybe even America. The ghost of “Gus Quarters” is doomed to live on Warren AFB. Legend has it a man named Gus was caught in bed with an officer’s wife. To escape the angry husband, “Gus” jumped out of a second-story window, accidentally hanging himself on a clothesline – and becoming Jody for all eternity.
Troops on the base report unexplained doors and cupboards opening and closing on their own, believing it was Gus Quarters, looking for his pants after all these years.
2. Kadena Air Base’s haunted house
Building 2283 on Kadena is a single family home for field-grade officers that currently sits vacant, not because there aren’t enough O-5s at Kadena, but – legend has it – because the spectral samurai warrior that occasionally rides through the house.
Other sightings at 2283 have included a woman washing her hair in the sink, a curtain opening in front of a tour group, a phone ringing despite there not being a phone line connected to the house, and lights and faucets turning on by themselves (which would surely drive the samurai ghost father of the house insane thinking about the water bill).
Residents of the house have reported bloodstains on the carpet and curtains, as well as an unearthly chill in one of the rooms, the room where a real teenage girl was stabbed to death by her stepfather. Another account alleges a Marine Corps officer bludgeoned his wife in the house.
Conveniently, there’s a day care center next door, and both are across the street from an Okinawan Samurai Warrior’s tomb.
3. Fort Leavenworth’s dozens of haunted houses
Widely considered the most paranormally active site in the U.S. Army, Leavenworth has upward of 36 haunted buildings. One guardhouse, Tower 8 of the Old Disciplinary Barracks that was torn down in 2004, still stands. A soldier who committed suicide with his service shotgun inside Tower 8 will sometimes call the guard control room. Maybe for an aspirin.
After a prisoner uprising during WWII, guards executed one of 14 prisoners every hour but ran out of room on the gallows. So they used the elevator shaft in the administration building as an extension. Now soldiers report hearing screams from the elevator when no one else is around.
As novel as the idea of a centuries-old, haunted, and abandoned prison might be for ghosts, the most haunted area is called the Rookery. The building was once the base commander’s quarters but was turned into family housing – and people still live there.
The rookery is said to house a number of ghosts. “The Lady in White” was supposedly tortured and killed by local tribes while the soldiers were off-post. She screams and chases people she sees in the night. You don’t have to chase us, lady. The screaming was enough.
Also in the Rookery are Maj. Edmund Ogden, who is presumably in command of all the ghosts in the building (and died in 1855), a young girl named Rose, her nanny, and a young man called Robert. Rose whistles around the house while Ogden seems to just walk around all day in spurred boots. It said that Maj. Ogden once asked a team of ghost hunters to leave his house.
4. March Air Reserve Base’s hospital-turned-dental clinic
What is today a dental clinic once housed a children’s tuberculosis clinic – and in the basement below was a morgue. Some of the staff reported seeing apparitions of small children playing in the building at night or hiding objects.
One ghost is less than playful: A teenage girl has been reportedly seen walking around the hospital, her face sliced open, talking to herself and searching for the person who cut her.
5. The Kadena Chicken
The 18th Wing at Kadena sports a yellow patch with a chicken prominently featured with its wings in the air, seemingly surrendering. This urban legend has it that during the Korean War, the 18th Wing’s pilots abandoned their crew chiefs as the base was being overrun. The maintainers were then hung with safety wire by the enemy. The safety wire is still supposedly hanging in Osan.
This is a very old Air Force urban legend. Why would the Air Force keep the wire hanging? Aside from questionable decorations, a better reason not to believe this myth is that the patch has been around since 1931, when the 18th Wing was the 18th Pursuit Squadron.
6. Edgar Allen Poe on Fort Monroe
The famous poet died in Baltimore of a mysterious illness whose symptoms match those of rabies. While he was alive, however, he was stationed at Monroe as an artilleryman. Other ghosts said to reside at Fort Monroe include Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, and Chief Black Hawk.
Abraham Lincoln gets around in his afterlife. It’s good to stay active when when you’re 208 years old.
7. Bitburg Middle School’s ghost Nazis
The Bitburg School is run by DoD Dependents Schools-Europe. Bitburg Middle School was constructed in Bitburg Air Base’s housing in 1956, supposedly on the site of a Nazi airbase. It’s also consistently rated as one of the most haunted places in Germany, sharing that list with a pagan ritual altar and the Dachau concentration camp.
As if it weren’t enough to be full of ghosts, they’re also Nazi ghosts, which is way more frightening. Lights constantly flash on and off throughout the night, windows move on their own, and oh yeah: people are heard screaming at the top of their lungs throughout the building. Only at night.
8. The USS Hornet’s50-member ghost crew
The Hornetis the most haunted ship in the Navy. In 27 years, the ship lost 300 of her men to accidents and suicides. Tourists and sailors alike report strange voices and apparitions of sailors in (outdated) uniforms, roaming the halls of the ship. Radios and other equipment on the vessel are said to turn on and off on their own.
If any reader is interested in seeing the ghost crew of the Hornet, you can now pay to sleep aboard the WWII-era ship was decommissioned in 1970. Now moored in San Francisco, people can tour its most paranormally active areas.
9. Kadena’s (yes, again) Ghostly Gate Guards
The old Gate 3 at Kadena was said to be frequented by a WWII-era soldier covered in blood, asking for a light for his cigarette. That gate was eventually closed and a new one is being built in its place. Which is crazy, because he could easily solve a manpower issue. Would you approach a gate manned by ghosts? Me neither.
He might be looking for any number of Japanese soldiers who were once said to approach the gate in the 1990s. They approached so many times, it was recorded in the 2000 book “Ghosts of Okinawa.” The gate was closed because I can only assume it’s terrifying.
10. Guantanamo Bay’s eternal officer’s club
The Bayview complex at Gitmo was originally built in 1943 as the base officer’s club. Now there are four spirits who are there for eternity to occupy the upstairs Terrace Room.
A “woman in white” is an old woman with long hair and a long white dress. She sits in a chair and looks out into the parking lot. She also switches lights on and off when no one is in the club. It is said the woman lived in an apartment in the club until she was found dead in a bathtub there.
She has a decent view, though.
The wives of base commanders have also reported a man in khakis walking from the living room of the CO’s residence to the bathroom. In 2007, Paula Leary, who was in the house at the time said she believed the ghost just wanted to know there was someone else in the house. The area where the house stands was the site of Marine camps from 1901 until 1920, so it may not just be any khaki chief walking around, but a salty old Marine.
11. Helmand Province’s cursed Russian graveyard
The 2/8 Marines in Helmand reported figures speaking Russian at Observation Point Rock. They found graves at the site, a place in Helmand considered cursed by the locals because of the unending amount of bones that are constantly dug up there.
The Marines’ story is now an episode of SyFy’s “Paranormal Witness.”
“The Rock,” as it came to be known, was the reported site of Afghan mujahideen executing Russian soldiers during the Russian occupation. Because of the bones and the strange sightings, it soon became known as the “Haunted OP.” But it wasn’t just the Marines seeing or hearing things. The UK’s Welsh Guards who came to the OP before the Marines reported strange noises and unexplainable lights in their night vision.
A Rundown of Rumors:
The ghost of an airman suicide from the 1970s haunts the RAPCON. Occasionally crying is heard by airmen, and never civilians.
A USAF Security Forces airman at Ramstein AB locked himself in his closet and committed suicide. Now, his ghost locks unsuspecting airmen in their closets.
Warren AFB’s ICBM Museum also houses a ghost named Jefferey.
U.S. military bases have golf courses so they can be used as mass graves in the event of high casualties.
The clinic at Spangdahlem Air Base houses a ghost named Erich.
On the front lines of the unrest in Hong Kong are the Raptors, an elite subdivision of the Hong Kong Police Force. Their official name is the Special Tactical Squad, but that moniker doesn’t really cover everything the Raptors do, from crowd control and riot control to clearing roadblocks and infiltrating disruptive groups. The STS was created in the midst of chaos and will be there whenever Hong Kong descends back into it.
The Special Tactical Squad was formed in 2014 in the middle of the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, a civil unrest that was a response to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress’ efforts to undermine the democratic system in Hong Kong. The police response to the 100,000 protestors that flooded the city’s streets was underwhelming. They had no apparatus in place to handle such protests. The Raptors were created to contain the widespread protests and were deployed in 2016 during the “Fishball Revolution” and are again deployed on the streets.
Every time the Chinese government tries to impose its will on the city of Hong Kong, its people crowd the streets in massive protests, and the Raptors are called in. The latest protests see upwards of a million people protesting in the streets in 2019.
Around the Police Tactical Unit, which the Special Tactical Squad is a part of, they’re called the “Removal Team,” as they’re usually tasked with removing debris and clearing roadblocks, as well as removing unruly protesters. For the last, the local media call them “The Professional Removal Team.” When the Hong Kong police are overwhelmed, the Raptors special training and gear are able to work over crowds in sizes that regular police forces just couldn’t manage. Now they’re doing much more than responding to civil unrest – they’re actively preventing it.
People close to the organized protests say Raptors officers went undercover in protest groups to undermine the most radical protesters. On Aug. 12, Raptors arrested 15 organizers in a carefully coordinated decoy operation to remove the most violent of rioters. The Raptors are now being comprised of counterterrorism officers, which probably explains the shift in tactics on the ground. Protestors with a violent past can now be arrested in secret.
The Raptors would usually have just done battle with those protesters. Times sure have changed.
A sandy white beach. Swaying palm trees. Cocktails made from coconut juice.
As frigid air and snowstorms whip across most of the U.S., service members may dream of trading their current duty station for an exotic Pacific paradise.
But they might want to think again, according to Bob Cunningham, a former Air Force radar operator whose first duty station was a tiny, oblong blister of land in the South China Sea. He knows it as North Danger Island.
For six months in 1956, Cunningham lived on a remote knob approximately 2,000 feet long and 850 feet wide in the Spratly Islands group located midway between the Philippine Islands and Vietnam. His home was a canvas tent and he manned radio and radar equipment for a secret Air Force project mapping the earth.
The mission was an aerial electronic geodetic survey. Specially equipped aircraft flew grid patterns and triangulated electromagnetic pulses sent between temporary ground stations hundreds of miles apart. The data, computed into highly accurate coordinates, would eventually provide targeting information for intercontinental ballistic missile development.
It was a ‘million dollar experience’ that he wouldn’t give two cents to repeat, Cunningham jokes today.
Not that it wasn’t an adventure, he admits.
Cunningham’s four-man team and all its equipment was helicoptered to the island from the deck of a Landing Ship, Tank (LST), along with the drinking water, fuel and rations the men would need to survive. Resupply occurred every 4-6 weeks by helicopter, supplemented by occasional parachute drops. A radio relay team of six Airmen had already established itself on the island and shared the same copse of trees.
“I was 22 years old. I was the kid on the island so it was a real experience,” Cunningham remembers. “I didn’t have a lot of sophistication psychologically, and that was a real psychological test for human beings, to be going like that.”
He was an Airman 2nd Class, a two-striper, with just over a year of service in the Air Force and some college education. His sergeants had seen combat during World War II and were wise to what the isolated team would endure. Their ingenuity, humor and direct leadership kept young Cunningham and the others on the island from mentally cracking.
To keep a low profile, the Airmen were ordered to stow their uniforms and wear civilian shorts and sneakers, sandals and cowboy hats instead.
The men also kept their pistols and M-1 Garand rifles ready, knowing that pirates and other possible threats roamed the waters surrounding them.
“The Chinese nationalists came by with a gun boat. A big, long vessel. Military. Chinese Navy,” Cunningham said. “And they had this big three-inch cannon on the front on a turret, and they swung that baby in toward our island, and they had some machine gun turrets, and pretty soon we saw boats come over the edge and some officers got on that and they came in to see who we were and what we were doing.”
The Airmen placed palm fronds along the beach to spell out U-S-A-F. The gunboat crew was satisfied and the standoff ended.
On another occasion, Okinawan fishermen came ashore to trade their fish for drinking water.
“They saw our 50-foot antenna that we put up for our radar set, our pulse radio, and so they were curious,” Cunningham said. “They came onboard and they were quite friendly.”
But visitors were the exception. Day after day, interaction was limited to within the tiny community of Airmen.
A feud between two staff sergeants took a bad turn when one threatened to kill the other.
Cunningham’s technical sergeant knew he had to step in and confront the enraged man. But first he warned Cunningham and the other radar operator that the situation could explode and that they might have to use their weapons.
“He said, ‘I’m calling him in here, I’m going to present this to him, our concern,'” Cunningham recalled. “‘If he gets up and breaks like I’ve seen a guy do it, he’ll run right over to the ground power tent where those guys live and he’ll just start shooting people.'”
Fortunately, there was no violence and the conflict was resolved.
“We had to stay up around the clock for a day or so to see what would happen in case we had to call for an SA-16 (amphibious flying boat) to come out with Air Police and come in and capture this guy, and we’re going to have to tie him up to a palm tree or something,” Cunningham said. “We didn’t know what was going to go on.”
The veteran sergeants kept up morale in other ways.
They improved the camp with funny signs, hand-made furniture and a wind-driven water pump. They cooked sea turtles for the men. And they improvised a way to make alcohol from coconut juice and cake mix.
Cunningham remembers the technical sergeant busy at his distillery ‘making moonshine.’ When the sergeant was asked why he was wearing his pistol, he replied that revenuers might come through and he couldn’t be interrupted.
That sense of humor was “what you really needed on a place like that to keep from cracking up,” Cunningham said.
For recreation, Cunningham would walk around the island and photograph the thousands of birds it attracted. He also tried diving off the reef once and became terrified by the absolute darkness.
“I opened up my eyes and it scared the bejeepers out of me,” he said. “It was total black. I couldn’t see anything. I got so danged scared, I came up and I got off and I got back to that reef and I never went back again.”
In the final month, he and the sergeant were the only humans left on the island. Two members of his team were evacuated. The radio relay team was relocated, taking their noisy generator with them. For the two men remaining, the silence at night was now ‘spooky’ – a lone coconut dropping from a tree was enough to send them scrambling for their weapons.
Cunningham’s experience on the reef forever changed how he relates to other people.
“I have an expression,” he said. “‘This guy sounds like a North Danger kind of guy,’ meaning somebody compatible, smart, you can get along with him, he’s got a good temper. Or this guy, I would not want to be with him on North Danger.”
China has reportedly developed an over-the-horizon maritime early warning radar system that its creator claims can detect stealth aircraft far beyond visual range, an advanced capability that could threaten US fifth-generation fighters operating in the area.
Liu Yongtan, the team leader for the radar project, told Chinese media his high-frequency surface wave radar emits “high frequency electromagnetic waves with long wavelengths and wide beams” that travel along the surface of the sea, the Global Times reported June 10, 2019, citing a recent interview with Naval and Merchant Ships magazine.
The radar system, part of China’s ongoing efforts to prevent a sneak attack by enemy stealth assets, can purportedly detect enemy air and naval threats hundreds of kilometers away in any weather condition.
The 83-year-old creator says the radar is also “immune” to anti-radiation missiles, which track the point of origin for electromagnetic waves.
Liu’s radar system, which won him the country’s highest scientific award, has been named China’s “first line of defense.”
F-35A Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
Does it actually work?
Western experts argue that this type of radar, which is not new technology, offers the defending country a chance against incoming stealth assets, but there are limitations that prevent it from being the death of a fifth-generation fighter like the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
“Because of its very long wavelengths, it can detect objects like stealthy aircraft,” Todd Harrison, an aerospace expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Business Insider, explaining that stealthy aircraft are designed to be less detectable to shortwave radar.
Major drawbacks, however, include the low resolution and lack of a real-time target-grade track. “It will tell you there’s something there, but you can’t characterize it,” Harrison explained, adding that the radar “can’t get a precise enough fix on a position to target it.”
Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider that “China might be better informed about where American stealth fighters are operating in the battle space, but still unable to use those radar systems to cue in missiles to actually kill them.”
F-35 Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)
But, the over-the-horizon radar does have the ability to cue other types of radar systems to narrow their field of view and concentrate their radar energy on the position where an object was detected. “You have a better chance of finding it” with the over-the-horizon radar, Harrison explained.
Another big problem with the powerful Chinese radar, though, is that it is vulnerable to attack, meaning they might only be useful in the early stages of a fight.
While they may be immune to counter-radar anti-radiation missiles, these systems are large, can be easily seen from space, and could be targeted with a GPS-guided missile. “It will help you in the initial stages of conflict, but the US will probably put a missile on the antenna sites and take it out of commission pretty quickly,” Harrison said.
The Chinese radar system is also presumably vulnerable to jamming and electronic warfare attacks, a high-end capability provided by US fifth-gen fighters.
China’s new radar system is not perfect, but it does provide early warning capabilities that could alert the country to the presence of incoming stealth assets, strengthening its defenses and potentially giving it a shot.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
DARPA has found a single, hyper-efficient motor that they think could power large UAVs, electrical generators, and robots. The engines are so small and so efficient, that soldiers could carry powerful generators in their rucksacks.
DARPA signed a contract with LiquidPiston for nearly $1 million to develop an engine that is much lighter than current military generators and that could generate the same amount of electricity for half as much JP-8 fuel.
“Today’s diesel/JP-8 engines and generators are extremely heavy,” Dr. Nikolay Shkolnick, a co-founder of LiquidPiston, said in an press release. “For example, a typical 3kW heavy-fuel generator weighs over 300 pounds, requiring six people to move it around. LiquidPiston’s engine technology may enable a JP-8 generator of similar output weighing less than 30 pounds that could fit in a backpack.”
The engine would get its outstanding efficiency through a patented “High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle,” design that is a large departure from piston engines. LiquidPiston holds the patent for this type of engine. See how it works at 0:40 in the video below.
And, with only two moving parts, the engines are much quieter and stealthier than those they would replace.
“Our engine has no vibration at all and it’s a lot quieter,” Alexander Shkolnik, the president of LiquidPiston, told MIT News while discussing LiquidPiston’s smallest engine. “It should be a much nicer user experience all around.”
If everything works out, forward operating bases and UAVs would get much quieter, generators could be delivered to outposts more easily, and the need for convoys in theater would be reduced as fuel requirements dropped.
The U.S. Army has stated that a person was killed in a Black Hawk training exercise at Fort Hood on Tuesday evening.
Army officials say the 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley in Kansas was making use of the HH-60M Black Hawk medical helicopter as part of the exercise when the accident occurred and killed one person south of the Robert Gray Army Airfield, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
The training involved medical evacuation hoists. For now, the Army is withholding details on the person killed until all next of kin have been notified of the death. It’s not clear how many soldiers were in the HH-60M when the incident occurred.
This most recent incident reflects a growing trend of training accidents, which has captured the attention not only of military leaders, who have been warning for years of the consequences of budget cuts, but also a growing number of members of Congress. In a Senate speech Wednesday regarding the annual defense budget bill, GOP Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, noted that in the past three years, four times as many service members have died from training accidents than from combat. McCain has long been an opponent of sequestration, which was enshrined in the Budget Control Act of 2011 and imposes “across-the-board” spending cuts.
“And yet as dangerous that these and other foreign threats are, perhaps the greatest harm to our national security and our military is self-inflected,” McCain said. “I repeat: self-inflicted. It is the accumulation of years of uncertain, untimely and inadequate defense funding, which has shrunk our operational forces, harmed their readiness, stunted their modernization, and as every single member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has repeatedly testified before the committed on Armed Services, put the lives of our service members at greater risk.”
McCain noted that 42 service members died in accidents during training exercises this summer alone, mentioning recent incidents like the USS Fitzgerald, the USS John S. McCain and the Marine Corps Kc-130 crash in Mississippi.
The Navy is seeking longer-range precision weapons for its deck-mounted “5-inch” guns to better destroy enemy targets, defend maritime forces on the move in combat and support amphibious operations.
Every Navy Cruiser and Destroyer is armed with “5-inch” guns to attack land and sea targets from the deck of a ship. In existence since the 70s, the weapon can be used to attack enemy targets or lay down suppressive fire so that maritime forces can better maneuver or reposition while in battle.
However, the 5-inch guns, called Mk 45, have a maximum effective range of only about eight or nine miles, and the current rounds lack precision so many rounds need to be fired in order to ensure that targets are destroyed.
A new Raytheon-developed GPS-guided Excalibur N5 round, however, can pinpoint target out to about 26 nautical miles, Paul Daniels, Raytheon business development, Excalibur, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“We’re more than tripling the max effective range of the Mk 45 five inch guns and providing Excalibur precision with less than 2-meters miss distances at all ranges,” he said. “Think of the area that you can cover as a commander of a ship — that is about 8 nautical miles, 200 squared nautical miles around your ship to more than 2,000 square miles,” Daniels said.
The new round, which recently destroyed a target in a test at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., is being offered in response to a 2014 Navy Request for Information to industry for precision-guided technology for the services’ 5-inch guns.
The initiative to develop longer range precision weapons is entirely consistent with the Navy’s often discussed “distributed lethality” strategy. The idea is to not only better arm the fleet with more lethal and effective offensive and defensive weapons but also enable the fleet to better “distribute” its forces across wider swaths of geography, Navy leaders explain.
Longer range weapons could increase the distances at which Navy forces could operate, be less at risk of enemy fire, and still hold an enemy at risk with precision-guidance technology.
The prospect of dispersing and aggregating forces will allow the fleet to better confuse potential adversaries and make it more difficult for enemy precision weaponry to pinpoint and attack U.S. Navy ships, Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, Director of Surface Warfare, said Jan. 12 at the Navy Surface Warfare Association National Symposium, Arlington Va.
“When we talk about distributed lethality, we are not backing away in any sense from the requirement to ensure the continued defense of our aircraft carriers, ensure the continued defense of our amphibious ready groups, ensure the continued defense of our logistics train,” Rowden said at the symposium.
The extended range of the Excalibur N5, Daniels explained, could prove valuable for amphibious Marine Corps forces in need of fire support while approaching shore.
“It is also a critical capability to support Marines ashore which is naval surface fire support. This is a longstanding capability gap the Marines have had. They want extended range and they want precision to support amphibious operations. Now they can use Excalibur to support their operations ashore,” Daniels explained.
The new Excalibur N5 emerged as a result of making several modifications to an Army 155mm precision-guided artillery round called Excalibur 1B; this weapon, in service now for many years, has been used more than 800 times in combat and successfully helped commanders complete attack missions during the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The round has been particularly effective against terrorist and insurgent targets, including force positions, IED-making facilities and enemy bunkers. Precision is of particular relevance in a counterinsurgency type of combat environment and battles against forces such as the Taliban or Iraqi insurgents. In these types of scenarios, targets often quickly move, shift in close-in urban settings and at times deliberately blend in with civilian populations.
“We are leveraging all the technology and investment that has been developed by the Army and brining that to this Navy Mk45 five-inch gun. We are re-using 100-percent of the guidance and navigation unit from the Army projectile, 70-percent of all parts and 99-percent of the software,” Daniels said.
In order to produce the Excalibur N5 round, Raytheon engineers simple take the front end of the round off the production line of the existing Excalibur 1B round and re-use the technology for the new munition.
“It has all the electronics that make the projectile work. It is engineered so that the electronics can survive the extreme forces of gunfire. We are talking about upwards of 15,000 Gs. The Army has spent a lot of time and money developing a consistent weapon,” Daniels said.
The Army and Marine Corps 155mm artillery shell is configured to fire from a 6-inch barrel, whereas the Navy’s ship-based guns are 5-inch guns. As a result, the body of the Excalibur N5 round has been slightly tweaked in order to accommodate the Navy guns.
For instance, the “canards” or fins at the front end of the round that help guide and correct the weapon’s flight path, called “control actuation systems,” have been slightly modified for the new round, Daniels explained.
The Excalibur N5 could be operational within several years. The explosive in the weapon can detonate using three different methods; point detonate allows the weapon to explode upon impact, delayed detonate gives the weapon an ability to break through up to four inches of concrete before detonating – and “height of burst” detonate mode allows the weapon to use a sensor to determine it is near the desired target and explode in the air, Daniels said.
The weapon often lands on a steep vertical trajectory, allowing the kinetic energy of impact on a target to break the round through up to 4-inches of concrete before exploding, he added.
As part of its development of both variants of the Excalibur weapon, Raytheon has engineered the weapon with a dual-mode seeker which can alternate between GPS and laser guidance technology.
During a recent weapons test, the Excalibur round was launched with GPS guidance and then, at a given point in its trajectory, it used its laser-guidance seeker technology to find a different target location while in flight.
“It handed off from GPS guidance to the laser guidance and destroyed the target at the very first test,” Daniels added. “This is important in a land attack circumstances because may there is an urban environment.”
Laser guidance technology could be particularly relevant in a fast-moving urban combat circumstance wherein targets might quickly move – and the utmost precision is called for.
When it comes to maritime targets, however, the Navy might be interested in what is called “millimeter wave” seeker technology, Daniels said. This guidance technology is able to help the weapon guide its way to a target in bad weather or conditions where a target could be obscured such as rough seas.
“The Navy would like to be able to fire in a maritime environment against things like fast-moving boats in bad weather in rough seas. They would potentially rather not have a laser designator but might prefer a fire and forget, millimeter wave approach. You can hand off from GPS guidance to a millimeter wave seeker,” Daniels explained.
The Excalibur round is also capable of functioning in a GPS jamming environment, although details about how this works are not publically available.
Leveraging Army technology is also a way to minimize costs in a budget constrained environment, Daniels said.
Costs of the round can vary depending upon the quantity purchased, however previous Excalibur rounds have sold for about $ 68,000 per round, sources indicated.
In the early days of World War II the Germans still had an advantage over the British. Even though the Royal Air Force had won the Battle of Britain, its bombers suffered heavy losses when they crossed the channel into occupied Europe.
British scientist believed this was due to advances in German radar technology.
Reconnaissance photos showed that the Germans indeed had a complex radar system involving two types of systems – long-range early warning and short-range precision – that allowed them to effectively guide night fighters to British bomber formations. In order to develop effective countermeasures against these radar systems the British scientists needed to study one.
Operation Biting was conceived to steal a German “Wurzburg” short-range radar.
A German radar installation at Bruneval, France, was identified as the best target to conduct a raid against.
The plan called for C Company, 2nd Parachute battalion led by Maj. John Frost to parachute into France, assault the German position, steal the radar, and then evacuate by sea back to England with their loot. Accompanying the paratroopers would be a Royal Air Force technician who would oversee the dismantling and transport of the radar.
After extensive training and briefings, the raid was set for late February, 1942, when a full moon and high tides would provide the perfect environment for the assault force.
On the last night of the mission window, the conditions were just right and the men of C Company embarked for France aboard converted Whitley bombers of No. 51 Squadron.
The company was divided into five sections each named after a famous British naval officer: Nelson, Jellicoe, Hardy, Drake, and Rodney. Three sections – Jellicoe, Hardy, and Drake – would assault the German garrison at the station and capture the Wurzburg radar. While this was taking place, Nelson would clear the evacuation beach and the area between it and the station. Finally, Rodney would be in reserve guarding the most likely approach of a German counterattack.
The drop was almost entirely successful with only a portion of the Nelson section missing the drop zone a couple miles. The rest of the paratroopers and their equipment landed on target. Frost and the three assault sections were able to rendezvous in just 10 minutes. The Germans still had no idea British paratroopers were in the area.
That didn’t last long though, as the paratroopers assaulted the villa near the radar station. The paratroopers killed the lone German defending the house with a machine gun on the upper floor. But the attack alerted the rest of the garrison in other nearby buildings who immediately began returning fire killing one of the paratroopers. Frost stated that once the firing started “for the whole two hours of the operation there was never a moment when some firing was not going on.”
As the paratroopers battled the Germans, Flight Sgt. C.W.H. Cox, the RAF technician sent along to dismantle the radar, led the engineers to the radar set to begin its deconstruction under heavy German fire. After a half hour of work they had the parts and information they needed and loaded them onto special carts to haul them to the evacuation beach. The men of C Company had also managed to capture two German radar technicians who had vital knowledge of the operation of the Wurzburg radar.
Frost then ordered the force to withdraw to the beach. This was just in time, as a column of German vehicles began to arrive at the radar station. Almost immediately upon departure the paratroopers encountered a German pillbox that should have been cleared by the Nelson task force. Due to a communications breakdown Frost had not learned about the missed drops of a large portion of the Nelson group.
A small portion of the force had arrived and was fighting to hold the beach but the remainder had been moving at double time to reach their objective. After a brief firefight with a German patrol, the remainder of Nelson arrived on the scene and cleared the pillbox allowing the rest of the force to continue to the beach.
Once on the beach, the communications problem became even worse – the paratroopers had no contact with the Royal Navy flotilla assigned to evacuate them. Frost tried to raise them on the radio and when that failed, he decided to fire signal flares. The flares worked, and just in time, as a lookout spotted a trail of headlights moving toward the beach. Three Royal Navy landing craft came ashore and the paratroopers hastily loaded themselves and their prizes onboard before setting out for home. The return trip was without incident and the raiders returned to England to a hero’s welcome.
The British losses were two killed, two wounded, and six men captured who had become separated during the fighting. But the amount of intelligence they returned to England was near priceless. The information provided by the captured Germans and the radar itself allowed the British to advance their countermeasures.
This would prove crucial in the airborne operations at Normandy two years later.
A New York Times article dated March 3, 1942, predicted that the success of the raid had “changed the nature of warfare itself” and that soon these types of commando units and actions would grow to encompass much larger formations such as the airborne divisions that the Allies formed.
As for the men of C Company and Frost, they would see action in North Africa and Italy before being a part of the ill-fated Operation Market-Garden.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who is believed to support sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, will determine if the approximately 9,800 U.S.troops currently deployed there should be reinforced. Trump gave Mattis similar authority over troop levels in Syria and Iraq in April.
A formal announcement on ceding the authority to the Defense Department is expected June 14. The move comes earlier than anticipated; it was expected that any action on changes in U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan would come after mid-July, when the administration’s strategy review is completed.
Giving more authority to the Pentagon allows military leaders more latitude in planning and conducting operations. Options were developed to deploy up to 5,000 more U.S. troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, to augment the international coalition force of about 13,000 troops presently in Afghanistan. About 2,000 U.S. troops there are currently assigned to fight al-Qaida and other militant groups.
Mattis told the Senate Armed Service Committee on June 13 to expect the Trump administration to unveil its Afghan strategy within weeks.
“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon as possible,” Mattis said in testimony.
Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to upgrade and fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.
“It is a dream to fly. It is so smooth,” Maj. Kent Mickelson, director of operations for 394th combat training squadron, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
In a special interview designed to offer a rare look into the technologies and elements of the B-2, Mickelson explained that the platform has held up and remained very effective – given that it was designed and built during the 80s.
Alongside his current role, Mickelson is also a B-2 pilot with experience flying missions and planning stealth bomber attacks, such as the bombing missions over Libya in 2011.
“It is a testament to the engineering team that here we are in 2016 and the B-2 is still able to do its job just as well today as it did in the 80s. While we look forward to modernization, nobody should come away with the thought that the B-2 isn’t ready to deal with the threats that are out there today,” he said. “It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”
The B-2 is engineered with avionics, radar and communications technologies designed to identify and destroy enemy targets from high altitudes above hostile territory.
“It is a digital airplane. We are presented with what is commonly referred to as glass cockpit,” Mickelson said.
The glass cockpit includes various digital displays, including one showing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) information which paints a rendering or picture of the ground below.
“SAR provides the pilots with a realistic display of the ground that they are able to use for targeting,” Mickelson said.
The B-2 has a two-man crew with only two ejection seats. Also, the crew is trained to deal with the rigors of a 40-hour mission.
“The B-2 represents a huge leap in technology from our legacy platforms such as the B-52 and the B-1 bomber. This involved taking the best of what is available and giving it to the aircrew,” Mickelson said.
The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.
The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.
“Taking off from Whiteman and landing at Diego Garcia was one of the longest combat sorties the B-2 has ever taken. The bomber was very successful in Afghanistan and very successful in the early parts of the wars in Iraq and Libya,” Michelson added.
The B-2 crew uses what’s called a “long-duration kit,” which includes items such as a cot for sleeping and other essentials deemed necessary for a long flight, Mickelson explained.
As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.
The B-2 is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.
However, enemy air defenses are increasingly becoming technologically advanced and more sophisticated; some emerging systems are even able to detect some stealth aircraft using systems which are better networked, using faster computer processors and able to better detect aircraft at longer distances on a greater number of frequencies. The Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses, for example, are among the most advanced in the world today. These technological advances, inlcuding the now-in-development Russian S-500 reported to be able to hit targets 125 miles away, have led some to question whether stealth technology itself is becoming obsolete.
The Air Force plans to operate the B-2 alongside its new, now-in-development bomber called the Long Range Strike – Bomber, or LRS-B. well into the 2050s.
B-2 Modernization Upgrades – Taking the Stealth Bomber Into the 2050s
As a result, the B-2 fleet is undergoing a series of modernization upgrades in order to ensure the aircraft can remain at its ultimate effective capability for the next several decades, Mickelson said.
One of the key upgrades is called the Defensive Management System, a technology which helps inform the B-2 crew about the location of enemy air defenses. Therefore, if there are emerging air defenses equipped with the technology sufficient to detect the B-2, the aircraft will have occasion to maneuver in such a way as to stay outside of their range.
The Defensive Management System is slated to be operational by the mid-2020s, Mickelson added.
“The whole key is to give us better situational awareness so we are able to make sound decisions in the cockpit about where we need to put the aircraft,” he added.
The B-2 is also moving to an extremely high frequency satellite in order to better facilitate communications with command and control. For instance, the communications upgrade could make it possible for the aircraft crew to receive bombing instructions from the President in the unlikely event of a nuclear detonation.
“This program will help with nuclear and conventional communications. It will provide a very big increase in the bandwidth available for the B-2, which means an increased speed of data flow. We are excited about this upgrade,” Mickelson explained.
The stealth aircraft uses a commonly deployed data link called LINK-16 and both UHF and VHF data links, as well. Michelson explained that the B-2 is capable of communicating with ground control stations, command and control headquarters and is also able to receive information from other manned and unmanned assets such as drones.
Information from nearby drones, however, would at the moment most likely need to first transmit through a ground control station. That being said, emerging technology may soon allow platforms like the B-2 to receive real-time video feeds from nearby drones in the air.
The B-2 is also being engineered with a new flight management control processor designed to expand and modernize the on-board computers and enable the addition of new software.
This involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.
The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, he added. The overall flight management control processor effort, slated to field by 2015 and 2016, is expected to cost $542 million.
B-2 Weapons Upgrades
The comprehensive B-2 upgrades also include efforts to outfit the attack aircraft with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.
The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.
In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.
The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.
Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.
The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.
The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Mickelson added.
“This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets,” he said.