U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard” - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

U.S. Air Force F-16s belonging to the 31st Fighter Wing rapidly deployed to Decimomannu Air Base, Italy as part of an exercise incorporating elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment.

Several F-16s belonging to the 510th Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, northeastern Italy, deployed to “Deci”, Sardinia, between Jan. 13-16, for Agile Buzzard, a bilateral training exercise with the Italian Air Force.


U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

One of the F-16s involved in Agile Buzzard exercise takes off from Decimomannu Air Base. (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri).

Agile Buzzard was one of the first exercises to incorporate elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment, or ACE.

According to the U.S. Air Force, this new ACE concept calls for forces to operate more fluidly in locations with varying levels of capacity and support. “This ensures U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa are ready for any potential contingencies.” In short, within ACE, combat aircraft take off from their bases and deploy to airfileds where they can’t count on all the “accomodations” they can find at their home station. Over there, they must prove their ability to service aircraft and make them ready for combat.

“Training exercises like Agile Buzzard enhance the wing’s ability to take command and control of a region, as well as deliver lethal airpower more effectively and efficiently anywhere in the world. Additionally they are designed to enhance partner interoperability, maintain joint readiness, and assure U.S. regional allies,” says an official USAF release.

Agile Buzzard was a low intensity exercise: each day a wave made of 3-4 aircraft launched from Aviano, landed in Decimomannu, where they were hot-refueled and armed with Mk-82/BDU-50 500-pound inert dumb bombs, then took off again to engage the Capo Frasca firing range for air-to-ground training before returning to Aviano.

For their mission, the Aviano Vipers carried two AIM-120 AMRAAM, one AIM-9X Sidewinder, an AN/ASQ-T50(V)1 AIS pod, a SNIPER ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod) along with the BDU-50 and two fuel tanks.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines honored for cool heads during aerial fire

The Marine Corps presented the Air Medal to three U.S. Marines on July 24, 2018, at Marine Air Station Miramar, California, for their actions while crewing a CH-53E Super Stallion that caught fire off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during aerial refueling operations.


U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

Capt. Molly A. O’Malley stands during an award ceremony where she and two other Marines received the Air Medal.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)

The awards were presented to Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 462, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16. The Marines were serving in Japan last year and were conducting operations near Okinawa’s Northern Training Area, an area often used for jungle training.

The in-flight fire was severe, with locals reportedly hearing a series of small explosions soon after the crew managed an emergency landing in a privately-owned field near the coast. The pilots acted quickly to get the helicopter back to land and the crew rushed off a number of passengers, allowing everyone to escape without injury before the helicopter burned too badly.

The helicopter itself was almost completely destroyed by the fire. The engine, most of the rotor blades, and the fuselage are visible as just a pile of slag in the Japanese field in images and video released by Japanese media after the crash.

www.youtube.com

Additional helicopters rushed to the scene to secure the crew and passengers and another CH-53 came on station with a helibucket to drop water and control the flames until Japanese firefighters and American first-responders from the nearby base could respond.

The quick actions of the crew and first responders prevented any property damage to anything except the plants directly under the burning helicopter.

This success by the crew and emergency workers had positive consequences beyond protecting the life and health of the passengers and local population. American military aviation in the area is extremely controversial, and nearly all incidents on the island trigger local protests and condemnation from politicians. Limiting the property damage and protecting all human life reduces the amount of backlash.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills pose with their air medals and a CH-53 Super Stallion after their award ceremony.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)

The Marine Corps’ fleet of CH-53E Super Stallions are quickly becoming obsolete as their heavy rate of use in ongoing conflicts across the world — as well as normal operations and training — take a toll. The average CH-53E is 15 years old.

The aircraft are being used at three times the originally expected rate and many airframes have logged over 3,000 flight hours. A Jane’s Defense analysis of the aircraft estimated that the frames will last an average of 6,120 hours.

The aircraft is being replaced by the CH-53K, a very similar version of the helicopter but with a significantly more capability.

See more photos from the award ceremony below:

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

A U.S. Marine receives the Air Medal from Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams during a July 24 ceremony honoring three Marines’ quick actions during an Oct. 11, 2017 in-flight fire.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills stand during an award ceremony as Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams gives his remarks.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills stand in front of Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams during a July 24 award ceremony honoring their actions during an Oct. 11, 2017 fire in their CH-53E Super Stallion.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

David Bellavia, who received the nation’s highest military honor June 25, 2019, for his heroic actions in Iraq, offered rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment at the Pentagon on June 24, 2019, revealing the thoughts and emotions that flooded his brain as he charged into a house filled with insurgents in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004.

Former Staff Sergeant Bellavia and his team were clearing houses in support of Operation Phantom Fury. In one house, insurgents ambushed his squad, pinning them down. Bellavia rushed inside the house to provide suppressing cover fire so that his fellow soldiers could exit the building safely.

Ret. Sgt. First Class Colin Fitts told reporters that had it not been for Bellavia, he probably wouldn’t be here today.


After Bellavia and his squad got out, a Bradley fighting vehicle hit the war-torn house hard, but not hard enough to eliminate the threat. It was necessary for someone to head inside and clear the building of insurgents, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, among other weapons.

“David Bellavia had to go back into a darkened, nightmare of a house where he knew there were at least five or six suicidal jihadis waiting,” Michael Ware, an embedded reporter who was with the staff sergeant and personally witnessed the Medal of Honor moment, told press at the Pentagon.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

Engagements on the first floor.

(U.S. Army)

Supported by one fellow soldier inside and three outside, Bellavia re-entered the house, fighting room-to-room, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding a fifth in the fierce fight.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

Engagements on the second floor.

(U.S. Army)

“A lot of things go through your mind. Some are very rational. Some are completely irrational,” Bellavia explained. “The first thing you’re thinking about you’re scared, you’re life is on the line. The second thing you’re thinking is you’re angry. How dare anyone try to hurt us. How dare anyone try to step up against the US military.”

“You’re angry. You’re scared,” he said, telling reporters that it’s a certain kind of peer pressure that keeps you moving forward. “When you’re peer is asking for help … it’s easy. Peer pressure might make you smoke cigarettes at 13. But, peer pressure can also make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s about who your peers are.”

Bellavia talked a little about the house he cleared, and it sounded horrific. He explained that the scenes when he first entered and when he re-entered the house were very different due to the extreme redecorating the Bradley fighting vehicle did prior to his re-entry.

“The water had ruptured. All of the plumbing inside. Fallujah had been abandoned for months. So, that water was very unpleasant. It assaulted your senses,” he revealed, adding that there were propane tanks lying about, broken mirrors, makeshift bunkers, and insurgents hopped up on experimental drugs in the dark.

“It was tough. The mind is playing tricks on you,” he said, “You don’t know if you are firing at the same individual or if this is a new individual. A person gets dropped, then they disappear.”

Bellavia said he “thought it was a real possibility” that he wouldn’t make it out.

Bellavia is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of the Silver Star he initially received, for “conspicuous gallantry” during his time in the Army. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon June 24, 2019, he said that this honor “represents many different people,” including many who never came home.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the military is starting to crack down on the ‘Tide Pod Challenge’

Recently, a new “challenge” trend has emerged on the internet. This time around, people are eating single-load Tide Pods and, with this reason-defying phenomenon, comes a wave of memes defending the pods and even videos of teenagers actually eating them.


It’s called the “Tide Pod Challenge.” What started out as a joke about how the colors and smells of a Tide Pod are candy-like (kind of like a larger version of a Fruit Gusher) quickly got swept away, following Poe’s law, by idiots. A large majority of people who defend eating them are just trolling. They — and others — understand that eating laundry detergent is f*cking toxic.

And yet, there’re at least a few dumbasses that don’t get the joke and are actually eating the damn things.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

The Duffel Blog released a satirical article about Marine Corps leaders telling Marines to stop eating Tide Pods. Their article was a great piece of satire, joking that the officials feared an uptick in sick Marines as others “pass on troublesome rumors that they can eat Tide Pods to give them more energy on hikes or give them a boost in upper body strength.”

But in at least one Army AIT, they actually are cracking down on Tide Pods. Posted on The Salty Soldier Facebook page, someone sent in proof that their sergeants were taking away their laundry pods.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
(Image via Salty Soldier)

If you do a little digging, you’ll find that there are other users on social media talking about how, usually in Basic or AIT, other privates are eating them. We’re dumbfounded, but don’t be surprised if this Friday’s safety brief includes a reminder to not eat toxic chemicals, no matter what you read on the internet.

Besides, if you eat one and post it to YouTube, your video will be taken down and you’ll basically just poison yourself for nothing. To everyone who thinks this is an actual problem, you can relax knowing that it’s just a terrible joke that will die down sooner or later.

Articles

Here’s the Navy’s plan for light carriers

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Navy to find a way to get more aircraft carriers into the fleet quickly.


As Japan “ran wild” during the first six months of the war, nine Cleveland-class light cruisers were converted into aircraft carriers. The ships served during World War II, with one — USS Princeton (CVL 23) — being sunk during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

The United States Navy later added two more light carriers, the Saipan-class vessels USS Saipan (CVL 48) and USS Wright (CVL 49)

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
A lineup of the major American carriers in World War II. In the back is USS San Jacinto (CVL 30), an Independence-class light carrier. (U.S. Navy photo)

Now, the light carrier could be making a comeback. According to a report from Popular Mechanics, the Navy has received $30 million to come up with a preliminary design for a light carrier. This is being pursued at the behest of Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., listen as retired Gen. David Petraeus testifies at a hearing in Washington, Sept. 22, 2015.

The report noted that the Navy had operated what amounted to “light” carriers in the Cold War. However, these “light” carriers were the fleet carrier designs (the Essex-class and Midway-class vessels), which had become “light” due to the development of the super-carriers, starting with USS Forrestal (CV 59).

The most notable of these “light” carriers, were the three Midway-class ships: USS Midway (CV 41), USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42), and USS Coral Sea (CV 43).

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42), a Midway-class carrier. (U.S. Navy photo)

In World War II, the light carriers helped bolster the air power of the Third Fleet and Fifth Fleet. Mostly, this was by adding a huge complement of fighters. According to “Aleutians, Gilberts, and Marshalls,” Volume VII in Samuel Eliot Morison’s “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II,” an Essex-class carrier usually carried 36 F6F Hellcats, 36 SBD Dauntless dive bombers, and 18 TBF Avenger torpedo bombers.

The usual air group for an Independence-class light carrier was 24 F6F Hellcats and 9 TBFs. Independence-class light carriers displaced 11,000 tons, compared to 30,000 for the Essex.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
USS Cowpens (CVL 25) with aircraft on the flight deck. (U.S. Navy photo)

What could be the light carrier of today?

Popular Mechanics looked at two options. One was essentially to use the America-class amphibious assault ship to operate about 20 F-35Bs from, along with MH-60R helicopters and V-22 Osprey tankers. The other option is to modify the America design to use catapults and arresting gear to operate planes like the F/A-18E/F and F-35C.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) returns to Huntington Ingalls Shipyard, Pascagoula, Mississippi (USA), after completing sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Lawrence Grove)

Either way, these carriers would not have the capabilities of a supercarrier like USS Nimitz (CVN 68) or Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). The air groups would be smaller, and the light carriers would not likely have nuclear power.

However, the lighter carriers could handle a number of missions — including convoy escort and operations like those in Libya or Somalia, freeing up the supercarriers for major conflicts against a country like China or Russia.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 Army weapons soldiers might actually get their hands on soon

Despite all the disruptions of 2020, Army modernization officials have tested new, longer-range and more precise infantry weapon systems. They also announced efforts that could lead to future machine guns, precision grenade launchers and possibly even hand-held directed energy weapons.

Soldier lethality is a key Army modernization priority, one that has gained momentum since the service unveiled a strategy in 2017 to equip combat units with a new generation of air and ground combat systems.

In the short term, the Army wants to field new squad-level weapons to close-combat units and a set of high-tech goggles that projects a sight reticle in front of soldiers’ eyes.

The service announced long-term efforts to develop new belt-fed, crew-served weapons, as well as to begin thinking about what infantry weapons will look like decades from now.

Here’s a look at five weapons-related programs Military.com has reported on this year:

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division used the latest prototype of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) during a trench clearing exercise in October at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The event was part of a larger Soldier Touchpoint, the third major milestone in the development and testing of the IVAS, which will undergo one more STP in the spring before initial fielding next year. (U.S. Army Photo by Bridgett Siter)

1. Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS).

In October, Army modernization officials finished the third soldier touch point (STP) in which troops evaluated the first ruggedized version of IVAS. The Microsoft-designed goggles are intended to provide a heads-up display that offers infantry troops situational awareness tools to help them navigate, communicate and keep track of other members of their unit day and night.

But IVAS is also designed to enhance troops” marksmanship with a tool known as Rapid Target Acquisition. A special thermal weapons site mounts on the soldier’s weapon and projects the site reticle into the wearer’s field of view via Bluetooth signal. Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division involved in the STP said it took some adjustment to learn how to shoot with IVAS, but most said they were easily hitting 300-meter targets from a standing position. If all goes well, the IVAS is slated to be ready for fielding sometime in 2021.

2. Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW).

The Army is in the final phase of evaluating NGSW rifle and auto rifle prototypes, chambered for a new 6.8mm round, that are slated to start replacing the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022.

Textron Systems, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., and Sig Sauer have delivered prototype systems and ammunition that have gone through STPs. Each vendor’s design is unique and fires a different version of the 6.8mm ammunition. The Army plans to select a single firm to make both the weapons and ammunition in the first quarter of fiscal 2022.

The NGSW weapons are so promising that U.S. special operations units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment and Special Forces units are expected to adopt them, as well as conventional units.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
A soldier aims an XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement weapon system at Aberdeen Test Center, Md. Army photo

3. Precision Grenadier.

Army weapons officials announced in November that the service is pursuing a longer-term effort to arm some infantry squad members with a precision, counter-defilade weapons system designed to destroy enemy hiding behind cover. Currently, two infantrymen in each squad are armed with an M4A1 carbine with an M320 40mm grenade launcher to engage counter-defilade targets, but weapons officials have long wanted something more sophisticated.

During the past decade, the Army tried to field the XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement System — a semi-automatic, shoulder-fired weapon that used 25mm high-explosive, air-bursting ammunition. XM25 stirred excitement in the infantry community but, in the end, the complex system was plagued by program delays that led to its demise.

The Army is currently conducting the Platoon Arms and Ammunition Configuration (PAAC) study — scheduled to be complete by 2024 — which will look at the enemies the service will face in the future and help guide weapons officials to a new counter-defilade weapon sometime in 2028, Army officials say.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
1st Lt. Emilio Pacheco, an Expert Infantry Badge Candidate from 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, fires blank rounds from an M2 .50 caliber machine gun during training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., on Oct. 18, 2019. The Army and Marine Corps are looking for a replacement for the M2, known as “Ma Deuce.” Army photo

4. Next-Generation Medium and Heavy Machine Gun.

Army weapons officials also announced in early November that the service wants to eventually replace the venerable 7.62mm M240 and the .50 caliber “Ma Deuce” M2 with next-generation machine guns. But Army officials said that the decision to move forward on such a program will depend on the future performance demonstrated by the NGSW once it’s fielded. The PAAC study will also help to guide decisions on what the next-gen medium and heavy machine guns would look like, according to Army officials.

The Marine Corps is working the Army on the next-gen machine gun effort but is also assessing a .338 Norma Magnum machine gun — that U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is developing — to potentially replace the M240s in Marine rifle companies.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
Soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia live-fire testing a new suppressor from Maxim Defense on M240 Machineguns during Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) 2021 which began in late October. (U.S. Army)

5. Machine Gun Suppressors.

The Maneuver Battle Lab at Fort Benning, Georgia, live-fire tested a promising M240 sound suppressor from Maxim Defense during Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) 2021, which began in late October. Benning officials said this is the first year that a machine gun suppressor has created excitement in the maneuver community.

Other suppressors in past tests have not been able to stand up to the heat and audible roar produced by the 7.62mm M240. Finding a durable, affordable suppressor that can dampen the sound signature of an M240 would make it more difficult for enemies to locate and target machine gun teams from a distance, Benning officials say.

When the AEWE concludes in early March, Battle Lab officials will compile a report detailing the performance of equipment tested. If testing continues to go well, the Battle Lab may recommend that the Maxim suppressor undergo further testing for possible fielding, according to Benning officials.

Looking further into the future, it will likely be a long time until infantrymen are armed with the blaster weapons like those carried by Stormtroopers or Han Solo in the “Star Wars” saga, but Army weapons officials have already started thinking about it.

“We are working on the Next Generation Squad Weapon … but then what’s the next weapon after that?” Col. Rhett Thompson, director of the Soldier Requirements Division at Benning, said during the National Defense Industrial Association’s Armaments, Robotics and Munitions conference in early November.

“Does it fire a round? Instead of a magazine with ammunition, is it some sort of energy capacity … or is it something more directed energy or something else?” he said. “That is really what we are getting at as we get further out there, and some of that is kind of fun to think about.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army tanks are ready for a Great Power War

The US military has made clear its renewed focus on adapting to the “reemergence of long-term, strategic competition” with powerful state actors, most notably Russia and China, that was outlined in the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy early 2018.


The release of the Defense Department’s 2019 budget proposal detailed some of the specifics of those preparations, and the Army appears to have settled on a long-awaited upgrade for its main battle tank.

The budget for the fiscal year will equip 261 M1 tanks, three brigades’ worth, with Israeli-made Trophy active-protection systems, according to Breaking Defense.

Related: What happens to an Abrams tank if hit by a battleship shell

Active-protection systems are designed to fend off antitank missiles and other incoming projectiles. The Trophy system, called Windbreaker, uses four mounted antennas, which offer 360-degree coverage, and fire-control radars to pick up incoming targets. Internal computers then devise firing angles and signal two rotating launchers on the sides of the vehicle to fire ball-bearing-filled canisters. The system has been installed on Israel’s Merkava main battle tanks since 2009.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
How an APS works. (Congressional Research Service)

“If you look at what we’ve done in the last 15 years, it is a light, aviation-centric fight, so we took a fair amount of risk on the heavy force,” John Daniels, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for plans, programs, and resources, told Breaking Defense.

“Now you are at a point where the system is starting to age out,” Daniels said. “If you look at the ages of platforms and how long it takes to rebuild a heavy brigade, you (need to modernize) about one, 1.5 a year to really make a substantive change.” He added the pace of those upgrades would depend on decisions made in 2019 and 2020.

Also read: Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

The 2019 budget proposal requests $182.1 billion for the Army — $5.6 billion would go to weapons and tracked-combat-vehicle procurement. The Trophy system is estimated to cost $350,000 to $500,000 for each tank.

US military officials have said the Abrams remains at the top of its class, but they’ve also warned that foreign militaries are gaining on it. Other militaries have looked to add their own active-protection systems and boost their antitank capabilities to counter adversaries’ versions of the systems.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
A sailor guides a Marine driving an M1A1 Abrams Tank from the deck of a landing craft to Camp Pendleton’s White Beach. (US Marine Corps)

The US has been looking at APS to protect armor for some time, lingering in the design and development stages since the 1950s. In 2016 and 2017, the Army leased and purchased some Trophy systems for testing.

APS has grown in relevance amid ongoing tensions with Russia, which maintains a large tank force — with some APS use — as well as extensive anti-armor capabilities. The US military’s interest in active-protection systems is not limited to Abrams tanks, however.

Related: Army begins plans for the tank that will succeed the Abrams

The Army is evaluating the Israeli-made Iron Fist APS for Bradley fighting vehicles and the US-made Iron Curtain APS for Stryker combat vehicles. Those programs are still in research and development, Pentagon officials told Breaking Defense, with decisions about procurement and funding yet to be made.

Lt. Gen. John Murray, deputy chief of staff, Army G-8, said late 2017 that the Abrams-mounted Trophy system was furthest along in testing, but he noted at the time that safety concerns could be an issue, saying firing and detonating APS projectiles near tanks could complicate coordinated operations between armor and dismounted infantry.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
A US Army Stryker combat vehicle firing a TOW missile. (Photo by US Army Pfc. Victor Ayala.)

In addition to “hard kill” active-projection systems, which use physical countermeasures, the Army has said it is looking at “soft kill” APS, which would use countermeasures like electromagnetic signals to interfere with incoming threats.

Both would be a part of a Modular Active Protection System, which is “a framework for a modular, open-systems architecture” that would allow APS to function once installed. Col. Kevin Vanyo, a program manager for emerging capabilities at the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center, told the Army News Service.

More: This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’

The Army has already started to take delivery of the latest version of the Abrams, receiving six M1A2 SEP v3 Abrams main battle tank pilot vehicles in October 2017. Among its features were an upgraded radio system, enhanced power generation, and turret and hull armor upgrades.

“The Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 is the first in a series of new or significantly improved vehicles that we will be delivering to,” Army armored combat brigade teams, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, a program executive officer for ground-combat systems, said at the time. “It is a great step forward in reliability, sustainability, protection, and on-board power which positions the Abrams tank and our ABCTs for the future.”

Under the fiscal-year 2019 budget, $1.5 billion would go toward upgrading 135 M1A1 Abrams tanks to the M1A2 SEP v3, with delivery of the first six set for July 2020.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Look, we’ve all been super busy dreaming about destroying ISIS with a bunch of “pew pew” and “BRRRRRT!” and we completely forgot to get you a Christmas present.


Just take these 13 funny military memes instead:

1. There are certain skills the military imbues you with (via Air Force Nation).

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
For POGs it’s the ability to quickly get lint out of a Skillcraft pen.

2. Think he can get into the DFAC with that?

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
Must require one hell of a CAC reader.

SEE ALSO: It’s time for the WATM classic: ‘How the Sergeant Major Stole Christmas’

3. Just surprised it only took 10 months (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

4. Seriously, even basic training makes the knees creak (via Team Non-Rec).

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
But hey, you might get 10 percent VA and free ibuprofen for life.

5. With motor pools like these, who needs cots?

(via Marine Corps Memes)

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
The real reason troops wear such spiffy hats is so they’ll always have an improvised pillow.

6. One of these things is not like the others (via Team Non-Rec).

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
Actually none of these dudes match one another, so the Stormtrooper is probably fine.

7. Army Strong, not smart.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
Spelling is something the cadets will have to learn at their units.

8. The best Christmas lights are on their way to Syria:

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
A few minutes after the light show, there’s a killer fireworks display.

9. Must’ve been rough, having to fold all those towels.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

10. This Christmas caroller only knows one song …

(via Save the A-10)

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
… but it’s a classic. BRRRRRT!!

11. She has a lot of wisdom to share.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
But no one knows why she has to share it when you’re already 10 minutes late.

12. You have to kill the time somehow (via Marine Corps Memes).

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

13. Just because they don’t celebrate Christmas …

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
… doesn’t mean we cant get ISIS something nice.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea warns that it’s ready for both war and diplomacy

North Korea is ready for both dialogue and war, state-run news agency KCNA said Feb. 19, 2018.


In an op-ed, KCNA said the US is trying to derail inter-Korean relations by keeping military options on the table.

“It is obviously an expression of a hideous attempt to block the improvement of inter-Korean relations and again coil up the military tension on the Korean peninsula,” KCNA said.

Using the country’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the article also said, “the DPRK is fully ready for both dialogue and war,” and that it would be “naive and foolhardy” for the US to “hurt” North Korea.

The statement came shortly after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told 60 Minutes he would continue diplomatic efforts with North Korea “until that first bomb drops.”

Also read: Why North Korea suddenly stopped its aggression

“We don’t know precisely how much time is left on the clock,” Tillerson said on Feb. 18, adding that the US will keep up its policy of maximum pressure until Pyongyang tells him they are ready to talk.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
An image from the North Korean military parade that immediately preceded the opening ceremonies for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. (Image by Stefan Krasowski)

Tillerson’s messaging reiterated that of Vice President Mike Pence, who told The Washington Post the US approach is one of “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time.”

North Korea’s latest statement seemed to be directly responding to these two interviews, saying the vice president and secretary of state are “vying with each other to build a world of public opinion.”

Related: The world’s minute-by-minute response to the latest North Korean missile test

Pyongyang also seemed particularly aggrieved by the US State Department’s change to its travel advisory January 2018. Travelers to North Korea are now warned to draft a will, designate a power of attorney and discuss funeral plans with loved ones before their visit.

“The Trump group spouted jargons that tourists should write a will before making a trip to the DPRK. If the U.S. dares to ignite a war against the DPRK, there will be left no one to keep a written will and bury a coffin,” KCNA said.

Articles

This plane left the SR-71 Blackbird in the dust

The SR-71 Blackbird was the fastest military jet that has ever taken to the skies. But there was a plane that not only went twice as fast, but it also went much higher.


That speedy plane was the North American X-15.

The X-15 was one of the first true spaceplanes, with a number of flights going beyond Earth’s atmosphere, according to a 2005 NASA release. It was capable of going over 4,500 mph, or nearly Mach 6, and it went as high as 354,200 feet – or just over 67 miles – above the Earth.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
North American X-15A. (NASA photo)

The plane didn’t actually take off from the ground. In fact, it needed the help of a B-52 bomber before it could reach those dizzying heights and super-high speeds. NASA used two of the first B-52s, an NB-52A known as the “High and Mighty One,” for some flights before a NB-52B known as “Balls 8” took over the duty.

Once released from the B-52 at an altitude of 45,000 feet and a speed of 500 miles per hour, the X-15’s Reaction Motors XLR-99 would activate providing 70,400 pounds of thrust, according to a NASA fact sheet. At most, the plane had two minutes of fuel.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
A X-15A with external fuel tanks and a new paint job is dropped from a NB-52 aircraft. (NASA photo)

Among the pilots who were at the controls of this marvel was Neil Armstrong – you’d know him as the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong didn’t get into space with this plane in any of his seven flights, but he did post the 6th-fastest speed among the X-15 sorties, according to an official NASA history.

One of those who achieved the rating of astronaut, Major Michael Adams, received the honor posthumously after he was killed in a crash of his X-15A on Nov. 15, 1967. Adams had broken the 50-mile barrier that the Air Force and NASA used to define entering space on his seventh and final flight, reaching an altitude of 266,000 feet and a top speed of 3,617 mph, according to the NASA history’s list of X-15 flights.

Below, take a look at the video from Curious Droid, which talks about the X-15 – and the awesome career it had.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These pistols are carried by NCOs at the Tomb of the Unknowns

Many military members are familiar with the sight of a shift change at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Only the U.S. Army’s finest can join the Old Guard and walk the carpet as a tomb sentinel, so the highlight of any visit to Arlington is catching the Changing of the Guard, where the guard’s M-14 rifle is famously inspected during the ceremony.

What you might not notice is the duty NCO’s sidearm, holstered but clearly ready for use. This weapon is as clean as the rifle the NCO inspects, with one important difference for the guards.


U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

Firepower.

The M-14 rifles used by the Tomb Sentinels are fully functional, the Old Guard says. While the unit would not discuss further security measures due to the sensitive nature of what they do, it’s clear the rifle isn’t loaded when it’s carried by the men walking the line in front of the Tomb. An M-14 with a magazine is distinctly different than one without. Furthermore, when the rifle is inspected during the Changing of the Guard, the inspection would eject a round from the rifle, were there a round in the chamber.

No one really knows if there are live rounds in the nearby tent or another means for the sentinels to defend themselves in case of an active shooter. But the NCOs are packing.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

Serious firepower.

When an NCO of the Old Guard attends to the Changing of the Guard, the NCO is equipped with a custom, U.S. Army-issued weapon, the Sig-Sauer M17. The weapon was built by the gunmaker specifically for the Tomb Sentinels and comes with a number of beautiful features. There are only four like them ever created, and all are carried exclusively by NCOs in the Old Guard.

The hardwood in the grip of these special pistols comes from the deck of the USS Olympia, a cruiser first laid in 1895 and seeing service in the Spanish-American War and World War I. Marble from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is superheated, converted into glass, and added to the weapon’s sights, making for one of the most unique weapons created for the military anywhere.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

Since things are so tight at the Pentagon in terms of operational security, it’s not known whether the NCOs are carrying ammunition for the sidearms, but since there is a magazine in the weapon, they certainly could be. After the 2014 shootings at Canada’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and subsequent spree on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, they certainly should be.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Saddam Hussein buried Iraq’s air force in the desert

After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 looking for nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, American troops found a lot of bizarre things – toilets and guns made of gold, a Koran written in blood and Saddam’s romance novel. While they didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction, they did manage to find some weapons. Specifically, they found aircraft buried in the sand next to a perfectly good airfield.


U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
Iraqi Freedom

One day in 2003, American forces near al-Taqqadum Air Base in Iraq began pulling scores of Mig-25 Foxbat fighters and SU-25 Frog Foot fighter-bombers out of the sand. The aircraft were missing wings but, for the most part, remained fairly well-kept despite being in the sand for who-knows-how-long. If Saddam wasn’t giving inoperable planes a good burial, one wonders why he would intentionally put his planes in the ground.

The answer starts with the fact that the Iraqi Air Force sucked at defending Iraqi airspace.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

But they were suuuuuuper good at bolting to other countries to escape the enemy.

In the Iran-Iraq War that lasted until the late 1980s, the Iraqi Air Force could reasonably hold its own against the superior U.S.- bought aircraft flown by the Islamic Republic of Iran at the time. But Iranian fighter pilots were very, very good and Iraqi pilots usually had to flee the skies before the onslaught of Iranian F-14 Tomcats. Against other Middle Eastern powers, however, Saddam Hussein’s air power could actually make a difference in the fighting – but that’s just against Middle Eastern countries. The United States was another matter.

Iraqi pilots were ready to go defend their homeland from the U.S.-led invasion, but the Iraqi dictator would have none of it. He knew what American technology could do to his aircraft, especially now that the U.S. was flying the F-22. They would get torn to shreds. He also remembered what his pilots did in the first Gulf War when sent to defend the homeland. They flew their fighters to the relative safety of Iran rather than face annihilation, and Iran never gave them back.

Saddam wanted his air force. So he decided to keep them all safe.

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

(US Air Force)

At al-Taqqadum and al-Asad air bases, the dictator ordered that his most advanced fighters be stripped and buried in the sand near the airfields. In retrospect, this was probably a good decision for the aircraft. Whatever was left unburied was quickly and forcibly dismantled by the U.S. Air Force on the ground during the invasion. In trying to fight off the Coalition of the Willing, Iraq’s air forces all but disappeared.

Saddam hoped that by saving the aircraft in the sand, he could prevent their destruction and when he was ready (because he assumed he would still be in power after all was said and done), he could unbury them and use their advanced status to terrify his enemies and neighbors.

That, of course, didn’t happen.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is where the Air Force will test its new anti-ship missile

The Air Force has picked a base at which to test its new long-range anti-ship missile.

Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the force’s bomber fleet, authorized Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota to be the base for early operational capacity testing of the AGM-158C LRASM, the command said early June 2018.

The B-1 bombers and their crews based at Ellsworth will be the first to train and qualify on the missile, and their use of it will mark the first time the weapon has gone from the test phase to the operational phase.


Aircrews from the 28th Bomb Wing were to begin training with the missile last week, according to an Air Force release.

“We are excited to be the first aircraft in the US Air Force to train on the weapon,” said Col. John Edwards, 28th Bomb Wing commander. “This future addition to the B-1 bombers’ arsenal increases our lethality in the counter-sea mission to support combatant commanders worldwide.”

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”
A LRASM in front of a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, August 12, 2015.
(U.S. Navy photo)

The announcement comes less than a month after the Air Force and Lockheed Martin conducted a second successful test of two production-configuration LRASMs on a B-1 bomber off the coast of California. In those tests, the missiles navigated to a moving maritime target using onboard sensors and then positively identified their target.

The LRASM program was launched in 2009, amid the White House’s refocus on relations in the Pacific region and after a nearly two-decade period in which the Navy deemphasized anti-ship weaponry.

The missile is based on Lockheed’s extended-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, with which it shares 88% of its components, including the airframe, engine, anti-jam GPS system, and 1,000-pound penetrating warhead.

It has been upgraded with a multimode seeker that allows it to conduct semiautonomous strikes, seeking out specific targets within a group of surface ships in contested environments while the aircraft that launched it remains out of range of enemy fire.

It had its first successful test in August 2013, dropping from a B-1 and striking a maritime target. The LRASM has moved at double the pace of normal acquisition programs, according to Aviation Week. The Pentagon cleared it for low-rate initial production in late 2016 to support its deployment on B-1 bombers in 2018 and on US Navy F/A-18 fighters in 2019.

“It gives us the edge back in offensive anti-surface warfare,” Capt. Jaime Engdahl, head of Naval Air Systems Command’s precision-strike weapons office, told Aviation Week in early 2017.

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

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