Here's everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

The Air Force is now finalizing requirements documentation, planning a new round of combat-scenario assessments, and refining an acquisition strategy for its fast-tracked new Light Attack aircraft.


The Air Force plans a new round of tests and experiments for the new aircraft — a new multi-role aircraft intended to fill specific and highly dangerous attack mission requirements amid circumstances where the US has achieved air supremacy.

Following an initial Air Force Light Attack aircraft in August 2017, which included assessments of a handful of off-the-shelf options, the Air Force is now streamlining its effort to continue testing only two of the previous competitors from summer 2017 — Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.

Also read: The Air Force killed a combat demo for light attack aircraft

Senior Air Force leaders had told Warrior Maven that, depending upon the results of summer 2017’s experimentation at Holloman AFB, N.M., the service might send a light attack option under consideration to actual combat missions to further assets is value. Now, given what is being learned during ongoing evaluations, service officials say an actual “combat” demo test will not be necessary.

“At this time, we believe we have the right information to move forward with light attack, without conducting a combat demonstration. The Air Force is gathering enough decision-quality data through experimentation to support rigorous light attack aircraft assessments along with rapid procurement/fielding program feasibility reviews,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Emily Grabowski told Warrior Maven.

Grabowski added that the for the new aircraft, a $2.5 billion effort over the course of the service’s 5-year development plan.

In keeping with the Air Force vision for the Light Attack aircraft, the anticipated test combat scenarios in which for the US Air Force has air supremacy – but still needs maneuverability, close air support and the ability to precisely destroy ground targets.

More: This is the light attack aircraft the Saudis might buy

The emerging Light Attack aircraft is envisioned as a low-cost, commercially-built, combat-capable plane able to perform a wide range of missions in a less challenging or more permissive environment.

The idea is to save mission time for more expensive and capable fighter jets, such as an F-15 or F-22, when an alternative can perform needed air-ground attack missions — such as recent attacks on ISIS.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
F-15 Eagle with Legion pod. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

Light Attack aircraft, able to hover close to the ground and attack enemies in close proximity to US forces amid a fast-moving, dynamic combat situation, would quite likely be of substantial value in counterinsurgency-type fights as well as near-peer, force-on-force engagements.

The combat concept here, were the Air Force to engage in a substantial conflict with a major, technically-advanced adversary, would be to utilize stealth attack and advanced 5th-Gen fighters to establish air superiority — before sending light aircraft into a hostile area to support ground maneuvers, fire precision weapons at ground targets from close range, and even perform on-the-spot combat rescue missions when needed.

Additionally, the Air Force will experiment with rapidly building and operating an exportable, shareable, affordable network to enable air platforms to communicate with joint and multi-national forces and command-and-control nodes, Grabowski said.

Related: F-22s are refining their roles as combat dogfighters

The upcoming experiment, to take place from May to July of 2018 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, is expected to align with combat-capability assessment parameters consistent with those used August 2017.

“This will let us gather the data needed for a rapid procurement,” Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, said in a written statement.

Air Force officials previously provided these parameters to Warrior Maven, during the analysis phase following summer 2017’s experiment:

Basic Surface Attack – Assess impact accuracy using hit/miss criteria of practice/laser-guided bomb, and unguided/guided rockets

Close Air Support (CAS) – Assess ability to find, fix, track target and engage simulated operational targets while communicating with

the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC)

Daytime Ground Assault Force (GAF) – assess aircraft endurance, range, ability to communicate with ground forces through unsecure and secure radio and receive tactical updates

Rescue Escort (RESCORT) – Assess pilot workload to operate with a helicopter, receive area updates and targeting data, employ ballistic, unguided/guided rockets and laser-guided munitions

Night CAS – Assess pilot workload to find, fix, track, target and engage operational targets

At the same time, service officials do say the upcoming tests will more fully explore some additional criteria, such as an examination of logistics and maintenance requirements, weapons and sensor issues, training syllabus validity, networking and future interoperability with partner forces.

A-29 Super Tucano

US-trained pilots with the Afghan Air Force have been attacking the Taliban with A-29 Super Tucano aircraft.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
An A-29 Super Tucano pitch. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)

A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.

Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.

More reading: A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft see first action in Afghanistan

The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.

AT-6 Light Attack

The Textron Aviation AT-6 is the other multi-role light attack aircraft being analyzed by the Air Force. It uses a Lockheed A-10C mission computer and a CMC Esterline glass cockpit with flight management systems combined with an L3 Wescam MX-Ha15Di multi-sensor suite which provides color and IR sensors, laser designation technology and a laser rangefinder. The aircraft is built with an F-16 hands on throttle and also uses a SparrowHawk HUD with integrated navigation and weapons delivery, according to Textron Aviation information on the plane.

Five international partners observed the first phase of the Light Attack Experiment, and the Air Force plans to invite additional international partners to observe this second phase of experimentation, a service statement said.

Articles

China wants to build a US-style aircraft carrier

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA


China has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, that’s designated as a training vessel and has never been on a combat deployment, but new photos suggest that they want to build a true, US-style aircraft carrier.

Mike Yeo of the US Naval Institute News Service reports that China has set out to develop a Catapult-Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant of the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark.

Also read: How Russia plans to imitate US naval power with its aircraft carrier deployment to Syria

Right now, China’s aircraft carrier uses a ski-jump design, where planes hit a ramp to launch of the ship. This greatly limits the maximum weight of the planes, meaning they can’t carry as much fuel or ordnance as land-launched variants can.

Only the US and France operate true flat tops, or aircraft carriers that use either catapults or steam powered launchers that grip and throw the planes off board with such force that no ramp is needed. Therefore, US and French planes launching from carriers can carry much more substantial loads of fuel and bombs for better range and efficacy on missions.

But now photos surfaced in Yeo’s piece suggest that China is trying to imitate these flat top carriers. Here’s a photo of a J-15 with additional nose landing gear (this is what the catapult couples with during launches).

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
A photo from the Chinese language Internet showing the nose gear of a J-15 Shenyang thought to be designed for carrier operations. | USNI News

Below we see Huangdicun Airbase, where it looks like China has tried to emulate a steam catapult, which the US Nimitz class carriers have, and an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS), which the US plans to deploy on the coming Ford class carriers.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
Huangdicun Airbase. | USNI News

Aircraft carriers provide several advantages over land bases, chief among them the fact that aircraft carries allow nations to project power around the globe.

Currently, China is building a second ski-jump style carrier, but it seems it may be planning a third flat top some time soon.

Articles

This Army veteran running for Senate assembles an AR-15 blindfolded in a new ad

Army veteran Jason Kander is running for the US Senate to unseat Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and he just dropped an incredibly effective ad pushing back on criticism of his gun rights positions.


He assembles an AR-15 blindfolded while simultaneously talking about his time serving as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan. “I approve this message, because I would like to see Sen. Blunt do this,” he says, holding up the finished rifle, in what is the political equivalent of a mic drop.

Last week, the National Rifle Association released an ad that criticized “liberal Jason Kander” for a 2009 vote against the defensive use of guns. The spot criticized the Democrat as being weak on Second Amendment rights.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
Missourians for Kander | YouTube

In response, Kander is seen blindfolded in a new ad released Wednesday, pushing back on that view.

“Sen. Blunt has been attacking me on guns. In Afghanistan, I volunteered to be an extra gun in a convoy of unarmored SUVs,” Kander says. “And in the state legislature, I supported Second Amendment rights. I also believe in background checks so that terrorists can’t get their hands on one of these.”

Brandon Friedman, a former Army officer and CEO of public relations firm McPherson Square Group, told Business Insider the spot was “a masterpiece.”

Still, Kander has an uphill battle in the race. His opponent Roy Blunt scored the endorsement of the influential NRA in April, and he currently leads the challenger by three points, according to the RealClearPolitics average of Missouri’s US senate race.

Watch the ad below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

We Are The Mighty joins forces with Article 15 at the Boot Comedy Jam red carpet

The Marines from Camp Pendleton had a night to remember filled with laughs made by some the funniest celebrities Oct. 28. A-list comedians included Adam Sandler, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Leslie Jordan, and more.


“Comedy Boot Jam” was a private troops-only event put on by Boot Campaign and celebrity supporters to celebrate active and veteran service members. We Are The Mighty’s Weston Scott and Article 15’s Jarred Taylor covered the event from the red carpet at the famous Hollywood Improv!

Articles

How Marines used a 3D printer and a little ‘grunt ingenuity’ to make gadgets that help them in combat

Second Lt. Ben Lacount knows that it’s never a good thing to run out of rounds during a firefight. And it’s certainly not a good thing to be surprised that you have.


That’s why he invented the “Lacounter” with help from Navy engineers and a 3D printer that allowed him to cut prototyping time down to a fraction. The device allows shooters to see how many rounds they’ve expended while pulling the trigger so that they’re not in a bind when they do.

The Lacounter even works with belt fed weapons like the M249 and M2 .50cal.

Lacount’s prototype takes advantage of a process known as “additive manufacturing,” and it’s one that could change the face of military logistics forever.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
U.S. Marine 2nd Lt. Ben Lacount presents his winning entry from the Marine Corps Innovation Challenge during a showcase at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, in West Bethesda, Md., Aug. 15, 2017. Lacount created an expended rounds counter for the M16 rifle in the Manufacturing, Knowledge and Education Laboratory, Carderock™s additive manufacturing collaborative space. (U.S. Navy photo by Dustin Q. Diaz/Released)

“My goal for this project was to have a simple, lightweight, low-cost and no battery solution to this issue,” Lacount said, according to a Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock release.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

And Lacount’s not alone.

Captain Kyle McCarley helped come up with a new way to carry the “Bangalore torpedo,” an explosive device used to blow up obstacles like barbed wire. While they are very useful, they are bulky, and take up space. But McCarley used a 3D printer to make a quiver-like pack with elastic straps for the devices that can attack to a normal assault pack.

Then there was Staff Sgt. Daniel Diep, an artilleryman. After noticing that the cable for the Chief of Section Display got damaged from debris that got stuck in the cable – something that took a week and $3,000 to fix – he designed a 3D-printed cable head that cost $10 to make.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fire their M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery Laning

“The neat thing about this cable cap is the cable heads themselves can be additively manufactured, and Marines like myself can take all the old cables, cut them down, and we can put new heads on them after 3-D printing,” Diep said.

But the neatest trick of all is getting the 3D printers closer to the grunts. Captain Tony Molnar and Master Sgt. Gage Conduto have worked that out – not only by bringing the printers to units at FOBs, but also a processing center to recycle plastic, like water bottles often delivered to troops on deployment. This will be a huge boon for explosive ordnance techs like Conduto.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
Spc. Ryan Rolf, a combat engineer from Fullerton, Nebraska, with the 402nd Engineer Company, places a field expedient bangalore packed with C-4 explosive in a barbed wire obstacle during an in-stride breach event at the 2014 Sapper Stakes competition at Fort McCoy, Wis., May 5. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

“I can’t walk down to the Marine Corps machinist with a stinger missile in my hand and say, ‘I need a set of tools made, can you get these back to me next week?'” he said.

But the tech could go even further, than just helping come up with new tools. In fact, it could be a huge game-changer for any forward-deployed unit.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
3D Printing in a laboratory setting. Now, imagine a field-deployable 3D printer set-up, along with something to harvest or recycle materials to use in the printer. (Photo by Jonathan Juursema.)

“This container will benefit the Marine expeditionary units and the Marine Corps and DOD because it can do two things: One, it enhances the expeditionary readiness of forward-deployed units by being able to print parts locally on site using recycled materials, and second, it helps those combat units forward by providing stuff that they can’t do, as well as printing stuff for the local populous during humanitarian disaster relief that we couldn’t normally do and that we’d have to pay someone to do,” Molnar told the Navy News Service.

Marine grunts getting inventive — that’s a very frightening thought … for America’s enemies.

Articles

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
US Air Force / WATM


Flying close to ground troops in combat in hostile and high-threat conditions requires a host of unique attributes for an aircraft — such as flying slow and low to the ground, absorbing some degree of small arms fire and having an ability to quickly maneuver in response to fast-changing ground combat conditions.

These and many more are among factors now being analyzed as proponents of both the A-10 Warthog and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter assess their respective abilities to perform the crucial and highly valued Close Air Support mission. The Pentagon and the Air Force are now conducting a thorough examination of each plane’s capability for this role – including extensive analysis, simulated tests, flights of both aircraft under combat-like conditions and a range of tests, Air Force and Pentagon officials have explained. While many of the details of the ongoing evaluation are not now being discussed publically, the results are expected to bear prominently upon the visible ongoing debate regarding the future mission scope of both the A-10 and the F-35.

While the cherished A-10 is unambiguously combat-tested in the role of Close Air Support, some F-35 advocates have mused that the JSF sensors, maneuverability, high-tech computers, 25mm canon and arsenal of weapons just might better position the 5th generation aircraft for the mission; at the same time, the A-10s titanium frame, built-in redundancy, famous nose-aligned 30mm cannon and wide-ranging precision-weapons envelope make clearly make it the best choice for close air support.

Sure enough, the A-10s performance against ISIS, Congressional lobby and broad adoration among ground troops are among the many factors believed to have influenced the Air Force’s current plan to both extend the life of the current A-10 and also explore requirements options for a future Close Air Support platform. Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior the ongoing requirements and analysis procedure is looking at three options – upgrading the existing A-10 airframe, using the best available commercial-off-the shelf aircraft, or simply engineering an building a newly designed A-10-like Close Air Support airplane.

Many A-10 proponents are convinced that there is no other plane capable of succeeding with the highly-dangerous, revered and essential Close Air Support Mission. Nevertheless, the Air Force does plan to use the emerging F-35 for Close Air Support moving into the next decade. In addition, F-35 advocates argue that the stealth aircraft’s speed, maneuverability and high-tech weapons and sensors give the F-35 a decisive Close Air Support advantage.

F-35 Weapons

In the meantime, the F-35 weapons integration including live fire drops, weapons separation assessments and modifications for future munitions adaptions is progressing as well alongside the existing F-35/A-10 analysis.

The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.

So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.

By the early 2020s, the F-35 is slated to be configured with a next-generation Small Diameter Bomb II

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
US Air Force photo

As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.

Built-in ISR is an asset which could have the effect of greatly helping close-air-support efforts.

Also, F-35 advocates reiterate that the airplane’s high-tech Electro-Optical Targeting System and 360-degree sensors Distributed Aperture System will give the newer aircraft an uncontested combat and close-air-support ability. The F-35s so-called computer-enabled “sensor fusion” might enable it to more quickly ascertain and destroy moving targets by gathering, integrating and presenting fast-changing combat dynamics and circumstances.

Finally, the F-35’s stealth configuration and speed is expected to better enable it to evade air defenses and move closer to emerging ground-targets in many instances — and its air-to-air ability will enable the aircraft to respond to potential air-threats which could appear in the course of a ground-support mission.

AIM-9X Sidewinder Missile

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time earlier this year over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.

The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.

“If you think if a boresight in terms of a firearm… that’s the adjustments made to an optical sight, to align the barrel of a firearm with the sights.  If you think of it in aircraft terms… traditionally air-to-air missiles are fired at targets in front of the them,” Joint Strike Fighter Program Office spokesman Joe DellaVedova, told Scout Warrior.

The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.

“For example, instead of having to position the aircraft directly in front or behind the enemy fighter… a high off-boresight weapon enables the pilot to just look to the left, right or up and down to engage a target, fire it and the missile locks on for the kill,” he explained.

The AIM-9X missile, which can also be fired at surface-to-air and air-to-surface, is currently in use on a number of existing fighter aircraft such as the Air Force’s F-15E and F-16 and the Navy’s F-18 Super Hornet.

Engineered by Raytheon, the newest AIM-9X Block II weapons are built with a redesigned fuse for increased safety and a lock-on-launch capability. The missile is also configured with a data link to support what’s called “beyond visual range” engagements, meaning targets at much farther ranges picked up by sensors or early warning radar. This could provide a fighter jet with an ability to destroy enemy targets in the air while remaining at a safer stand-off distance less exposed to hostile fire.

“The AIM-9X Sidewinder is an infrared-guided, air-to-air missile employing a focal plane array sensor for unparalleled target acquisition and tracking, augmented by jet vane control technology for extreme maneuverability against a variety of high performance threats,” Mark Justus, Raytheon AIM-9X program director, told Scout Warrior in a written statement. “The missile also has proven capability in air-to-surface and demonstrated capability in surface-to-air missions.”

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
A Sidewinder missile. | US Air Force photo

The AIM-9X Block II is the current version of the AIM-9 Sidewinder short range missile family in use by more than 40 nations throughout the world, Justus added.

“The AIM-9X missile has been acquired by twenty international partners. It is configured for easy installation on a wide variety of modern fighter aircraft and we are excited to complete this milestone of the first AIM-9X live fire from the F-35 as we progress through the aircraft/missile integration activities,” he said.

Weapons integration for the F-35 is designed to evolve in tandem with software advances for the aircraft, described as “increments.” Each increment, involving massive amounts of lines of computer code, improves the platform’s ability to integrate, carry and fire a wider range of weapons.

Block 2B, for example, is already operational and builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop.

Block 2B enables the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), JSF program officials have said.

The next increment, Blocks 3i will increase the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

The Air Force plans to reach operational status with software Block 3i in 2016. Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.

F-35 25mm Gatling Gun

Last Fall, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said.

The test took place Oct. 30, 2015 in California, Pentagon officials described.

Related: Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod

“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said.

The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground – a task of growing consequence given the Air Force plan to retire the A-10.

Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.

The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.

“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
A gun test on the F-35 on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. | US Air Force photo

The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.

“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.

The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.

The gun is slated to be operational by 2017.

Small Diameter Bomb II

The Air Force is engineering and testing a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.

The Small Diameter Bomb II, or SDB II, is designed to integrate onto the F-35 by 2022 or 2023; it is engineered todestroy moving targets in all kinds of weather, such as small groups of ISIS or terrorist fighters on-the-move in pick-up trucks.

A weapon of this kind would be of extreme relevance against ISIS fighters as the group is known to deliberately hide among civilian populations and make movements under cloud cover or adverse weather in order to avoid detection from overhead surveillance technologies.

While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, the SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight.

A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.

A tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
Small Diameter Bomb II | Raytheon

Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground.

Also, the SBD II brings a new ability to track targets in flight through use of a two-way Link 16 and UHF data link, Raytheon officials said.

The millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology, Raytheon officials said.

The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air dropped bombs, so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.

MIGHTY CULTURE

MightyScopes for the week of March 25th

Okay everybody, calm down. Noadamus is here. I know you are scared you are gonna f^ck up and ruin your life. Well…. you probably are, but that’s no reason to get down! Mistakes are a part of life. Seems like you would have gotten used to that by now, but hey, everyone learns at their own pace. The good news is this week will provide everyone with plenty of opportunities to practice self-destructive patterns of behavior or creative innovation and radical self-discovery. The bad news is, we will all probably do both at the same time. On the other hand, there is no good or bad, there only is.

Life is a rollercoaster, a really fun rollercoaster that will eventually kill you. Hang on, have fun, and try not to f^ck up more than necessary.

Sincerely, Noadamus.

P.S. Don’t be a No Go at this station.


Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Pisces

If you find yourself in a high-stress position where success depends on your ability to perform a specific set of actions, you will come out on top this week—if you are focused on your intent and workman-like in application of said required actions that is… If not, hang on cause it’s about to get bumpy. Forget about the consequences and only see the process. In doing so, you will swim through this storm like a dolphin. Yeah, I said dolphin. You know they can kick a shark’s ass, right? No? You best write that down, then Major.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Aries

You may find yourself the only calm in the middle of spinning madness. Resist the urge to join in the fray, yeah you might have some fun, but you are on a mission, and this is a distraction. If the chaos forces you to join in, try to be calm and grounded, keep churning those wheels until the issue is in your rearview. Your finances, while slightly unstable, are improving. Keep adding to that retirement account, Gunny.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Taurus

You need space and time to yourself to maintain your inner reserve of calm. This week will not provide you with much of it. If you don’t meditate, you should probably start, today. You will have the energy to handle everything you encounter this week, if you can keep your cool. Which is likely to be challenging, but doable. Stay calm, be precise, and be generous. You got this, boo. Oh yeah, whatever sort of person you enjoy is likely to find you this week, probably a few actually. Even if you are not looking for it.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Gemini

This week will attempt to pin you down and restrict your movement. If you try to resist these forces pulling at you, this week will rip you apart. Instead surrender to the pull; you are going that way regardless. So go with the flow, literally. If you have to roll with a new squad during a patrol, do it and do it with precision. Use the momentum of every new event to propel you forward to the next. Just don’t go believing your own illusions, especially when it comes to relationships. But hey, you are gonna do what ever dumb stuff you were gonna do anyway, so don’t blame me. I tried to warn you.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Cancer

It’s likely you will deal with numerous authority figures this week. If the stress begins to weigh you down, remember you were made to interact with authority. You have an innate understanding of what powerful people really need. So do what is asked of you, while guiding them to what they actually need. Oh yeah, and look good doing it. I mean, damn, you’re pretty/handsome/clever/emotionally mature, and I believe in you. The disruption in your home and family life need not be disastrous. It merely reveals the existence of a worn out pattern; adapt to this new reality, and it will vanish.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Leo

Money or assets which do not belong to you, but are your responsibility, are likely to be a problem. No, no, not problem—leadership challenge, yeah, that’s it. My advice, find said problem, fix said problem, do so quickly and quietly, and don’t become your boss’s problem. I mean, leadership challenge. Oh yeah, if you are fraternizing at work, not only will it end terribly, but everyone at work will know all the details. And I do mean all the details… Besides, can’t you just date outside of work, Tech Sergeant?

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Virgo

If you are attending advanced studies or training, prepare to be occupied. Not just in a bad way, just in every single way you can think of and then a few more ways on top of that. In the relationship sector, just accept people for who they are, they aren’t going to change for you anyway. A problem with your home is likely to cost you more money than it should, but again, just accept it, this week nothing will change for you just because you get mad about it. That actually never works, but this week it hurts even more than usual.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Libra

It hard to be a Libra, trust me, I know. Everyone gets so used to how flawlessly you move through life. You make one tiny little misstep, and they start pointing their fingers at you. So what? Let ’em, they’re just jealous they can’t glide through their mistakes with the kind of grace you can muster. So instead of pretending everything is perfect, allow yourself to be human. You are, after all. Besides, the chaos about to erupt in your home and family life will make your mistake vanish in the wake of required action. Stay safe, balance options, stay decisive.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Scorpio

You’re a little spider spinning your web of illusions and desires. It’s hot, but don’t get caught in your web. This week your relationships are a combination of authoritative diplomacy and exuberance, resulting in success. All except your romantic relationships—that’s a war zone. An incredibly fun and creative battlefield to be sure, but if you don’t see things clearly, you will not be prepared to deal with reality. Don’t live in a dream, Private, wake up. The real world is pretty awesome.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Sagittarius

Sometimes you amaze even me, the great Noadamus. And as your legal counsel (not a legally binding agreement, btw) I must advise you to stay at work as much as possible this week. Hey, I’m not gonna tell you to go home and deal with your home and family problems, or your money and credit issues, or your shady ass internet “business,” because I know you aren’t going to. But if you are going to avoid dealing with said problems, it’s probably best if you remain out of sight as much as possible. You just work your little heart out this week and stay in your car or something. As long as it doesn’t break down from lack of maintenance or anything. All that aside, your luck just won’t quit, so you will probably win the lottery or something as equally lucky (again, this is not legally binding, unless you win; then my take is 7%). You’re welcome.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Capricorn

You may be beginning to feel some fatigue from your relentless pace. Your output is still high, and your creative engine is hammering, but you need to practice some self-care. The illusion you can overcome any abuse you subject yourself to, is just that, an illusion. You can’t finish your project if you break yourself. You have the energy and the mission, so grind away; just take a break and go outside once in a while, Colonel, you’re gonna get the rickets.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Aquarius

I want to say you are going to get away with whatever dumb ass secret caper you are about to set in motion and you might. But you probably won’t. Unless, it’s not a secret. That’s right, you do your wacky scientist stuff, or your conspiracy propagation, or internet multi-level marketing, or whatever, just do it where everyone can see it. Try complete honesty. I know it’s a radical idea, but you can pull it off. When someone asks, just as direct as possible. Unless it’s illegal, in that case, you’re f^cked. Pull out, it’s never too late… until it’s too late.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s looking more like Kim Jong-un’s half brother was done in by VX

A government chemist testified Oct. 5 he found traces of the banned VX nerve agent on two women being tried in Malaysia on charges of murdering the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader.


The testimony was the first evidence linking VX to Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, who are accused of smearing the nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a brazen assassination inside a crowded airport terminal inKuala Lumpur on Feb. 13.

Raja Subramaniam, who heads the government’s Center of Chemical Weapon Analysis, said he found VX in its pure form and VX precursors on Huong’s white jumper and found a degraded product of VX on Huong’s fingernails.

Huong was seen on airport surveillance videos wearing a white jumper emblazoned with the big black letters “LOL,” the acronym for “laughing out loud.”

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
Screengrab from Malaysia’s The Star Online.

The chemist, who is the only Malaysian with a doctorate in chemical weapons analysis, said laboratory tests also detected VX acid, a degraded product of the nerve agent, on Aisyah’s sleeveless T-shirt.

He said VX will degrade once it is exposed to the atmosphere, and even faster when it is in contact with water, leaving degraded products of VX.

“The presence of VX precursors and VX degradation products confirms the presence of VX itself,” he told the court.

Raja also confirmed that he found VX on Kim’s face, eyes, clothing, and in his blood and urine.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
Kim Jong Nam. Photo from The Asahi Shimbun.

Aisyah and Huong have pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, which could bring a death penalty if they are convicted. They have not testified but their defense has said the women were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera TV show.

Raja earlier described VX as the “deadliest nerve agent created” and literature showed that 10 milligrams could be fatal. He said VX is oily and difficult to detect because it is colorless and odorless, and can be easily transported in a water bottle. He said Malaysia’s airports do not have the special equipment needed to detect VX.

Raja also said rubbing VX on the eyes and neck would be the fastest way to kill a person, compared to splashing or spraying the chemical. He said VX doesn’t evaporate quickly, making it a strategic choice because a person could be targeted without affecting the surroundings. It takes six days for a drop of VX to evaporate, he said.

He agreed with the prosecutors’ assertion that Kim didn’t inhale VX because no nerve agent was detected on a nasal swab.

 

 

The trial is to resume Oct. 9, with the judge, lawyers and the two suspects visiting Raja’s laboratory to see VX-tainted samples from the two women before they are formally submitted as evidence. This came after Raja told the court it would be safer to view the samples in the lab because the VX may still be active.

Gooi Soon Seong, lawyer for Siti, told reporters that detection of VX on the women was not enough to convict them.

“If I have the knife, it doesn’t mean I killed the person. They must have other stronger evidence,” he said.

He also said Raja was inconsistent and shouldn’t be afraid to open the VX-tainted samples since he testified VX could easily be washed off and doesn’t evaporate quickly.

Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, Huong’s lawyer, said the defense has another explanation of why VX was present on the Vietnamese and would reveal this later.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
Suspects Doan Thi Huong (left) and Siti Aisyah. Images via gov’t handout.

The VX-tainted evidence from Kim’s body and clothing was presented in court Oct. 4 in sealed plastic bags, and the lawyers and court officials wore surgical masks and gloves as they viewed it.

Earlier witnesses have testified Kim quickly suffered symptoms of chemical poisoning and died from acute VX poisoning within two hours of the attack.

VX is banned by an international treaty as a weapon of mass destruction but is believed to be part of North Korea’s chemical weapons arsenal. Kim was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea’s dynastic rulers but was believed to have been cast out by his father and had lived abroad for years. He reportedly never met current leader Kim Jong Un, who is widely believed to have perceived his older sibling as a threat and targeted him for assassination.

The trial is being closely watched by the Indonesian and Vietnamese governments, which hired the defense lawyers for both women.

MIGHTY TRENDING

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

Snipers from Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain attended the International Special Training Centre’s Desert Sniper Course in July 2018 at the Chinchilla Training Area here.

ISTC is a multinational education and training facility for tactical-level, advanced and specialized training of multinational special operations forces and similar units, employing the skills of multinational instructors and subject matter experts.


The Desert Sniper Course is designed to teach experienced sniper teams skills for operating in desert environments.

“The students that come to this course all have prior experience,” said a U.S. Army sniper instructor assigned to ISTC. “We help them build upon what they already know in order to operate in a desert environment. During the course we teach them concealment techniques and stalking in desert terrain. This culminates with students conducting missions where they put their newly learned skills to the test.”

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

A sniper team from the Netherlands collects ballistic data during a nighttime range session during the International Special Training Centre Desert Sniper Course at Chinchilla Training Area, Spain, July 9, 2018.

(Army photo by 1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek)

Because of the nature of their work, the snipers’ names are not used in this article.

Snipers operating in dry or barren environments must take extra measures to alleviate the effects of heat that can increase the challenges when constructing concealed positions, known as hide sites.

Unique camouflage requirements

“The biggest challenges snipers will encounter during most desert operations are the unique camouflage requirements, the heat and exposure to the harsh environment, and having to engage targets at extreme distances,” the U.S. instructor said.

The first week of the course gave students the opportunity to acclimate to the environment.

“We ease into operations by conducting ranges where they collect data for their rifles and learn about environmental considerations such as heat mirage and strong winds that affect their ability to make long shots,” the instructor said. “From there, they practice building hide sites and stalking to refine the skills they’ll need when conducting missions during week two.”

ISTC’s ability to conduct and train across various countries in Europe provides NATO and partner nations the opportunity to participate in cost effective training close to home.

“Spain is the perfect place to conduct this type of training,” a Spanish sniper instructor. “We have the right kind of climate and terrain to replicate the conditions that a sniper team will encounter when deployed in a desert. We also have the space needed to conduct ranges for long-distance shooting, something that is not easy to find in Europe.”

With snipers from multiple countries, the opportunity to share knowledge helped all those who attended.

“One of the greatest benefits is that our courses bring together knowledge and resources from so many places,” the ISTC operations and plans officer said. “By combining efforts and sharing knowledge, the nations that participate in course like Desert Sniper are able to reinforce alliances and strengthen their capability to work together.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how much it’s going to cost to send more troops to Afghanistan (Hint: It’s a lot)

The nation’s top military officer says the thousands of additional US troops President Donald Trump has ordered to Afghanistan will cost just over $1 billion a year.


Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the US is spending $12.5 billion overall to wage America’s longest war.

About 3,500 more American forces are being sent to Afghanistan as part of Trump’s new strategy. Dunford says the US will “fight to win” by attacking enemies, “crushing” al-Qaeda, and preventing terrorist attacks against Americans. The additional troops will augment the roughly 8,400 Americans currently stationed there.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. (left). DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

Dunford says about $5 billion of the total expense is required to support the Afghan security forces.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the United States should remain in the nuclear deal negotiated during the Obama administration that constrains Iran’s ability to build a nuclear arsenal.

Sen. Angus King of Maine asked Mattis during a congressional hearing if he thinks it’s in the national security interests of the United States to stay a part of the international accord.

Mattis says, “Yes, senator, I do.”

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (left) and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

President Donald Trump has called the deal the worst agreement ever negotiated by the United States.

Trump has repeatedly said that he’s inclined not to certify Iranian compliance after having twice found the country compliant at earlier deadlines. Denying certification could lead the US to reintroduce sanctions, which in turn could lead Iran to walk away from the deal or restart previously curtailed nuclear activities.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says Afghanistan security forces are fully engaged in offensive military operations for the first time during the 16-year-old war.

During congressional testimony Oct. 3, Mattis says the Afghan forces are suffering fewer casualties as they continue to improve.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane
Photo by Michael Vadon

Mattis says more than 3,000 additional US troops are being sent to Afghanistan to reinforce the roughly 8,400 American forces currently stationed there.

President Donald Trump announced in August a plan to end America’s longest war and eliminate a rising extremist threat in Afghanistan.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, lectured Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford at the opening of the hearing. McCain says the Trump administration has failed to inform Congress of the details of the strategy spelled out by Trump.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Beijing isn’t happy about this US cruiser sailing past its outpost

The US Navy challenged China’s excessive claims to the South China Sea on Nov. 26, 2018, by sending a warship past a Chinese military outpost in the disputed waterway.

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville “sailed near the Paracel Islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” US Navy Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for US Pacific Fleet, told CNN Nov. 29, 2018, in a statement that was also provided to Business Insider.

A Chinese vessel reportedly shadowed the US Navy warship during the operation.


“US Forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, including the South China Sea,” Christensen added. “All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

“FONOPs challenge excessive maritime claims and demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law.”

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville.

Beijing responded with a formal diplomatic protest, CNN reported, citing multiple US officials.

China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, and while those claims were discredited by an international arbitration tribunal two years ago, the Chinese military has continued to bolster its presence in the region through the deployment of jamming technology, anti-ship missiles, and surface-to-air missiles.

Two days after the latest FONOP, the US Navy aggravated China again by sending a destroyer and an oiler through the Taiwan Strait. The destroyer USS Stockdale and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos pushed through the closely-watched strait Nov. 28, 2018, drawing some criticism from Beijing.

“We urge the United States to … cautiously and appropriately handle the Taiwan issue and avoid damaging the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and China-US relations,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said Nov. 29, 2018.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Pacific Fleet told Business Insider Nov. 28, 2018.

The US military has been increasingly active, both at sea and in the air, in areas China considers key national interests, as tensions between Washington and Beijing have been rising over the past year.

In addition to US Navy FONOPs, the US Air Force has regularly sent B-52 bombers into the South China Sea, occasionally drawing Beijing’s ire.

While most incidents are uneventful, the US and Chinese navies had a close call in late September, when a Chinese warship challenged a US Navy destroyer, forcing it off course through aggressive maneuvers that US officials called dangerous and unprofessional.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army pilots share their cockpit with autonomous bots

Recently, Army pilots got to tool around with an autonomous helicopter kit that could one day make all Army rotorcraft capable of autonomous flight, completing tasks as varied as take off and landing, flying across the ground and behind trees, and even selecting its own landing zone and landing in it with just a simple command.


US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight

www.youtube.com

The pilots were given access to the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), an optionally-piloted helicopter filled with tech being developed under a DARPA grant. The idea isn’t to create a fleet of ghost helicopters that can fly all on their own; it’s to give pilots the ability to let go of the stick for a few minutes and concentrate on other tasks.

According to a DARPA press release,

During the hour-long flight demonstration, [Lt. Col. Carl Ott, chief of Flight Test for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Aviation Development Directorate] interfaced with the autonomous capabilities of the system to conduct a series of realistic missions, including aircrew tasks such as low-level terrain flight, confined area takeoffs and landings, landing zone selection, trajectory planning, and wire-obstacle avoidance.
Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Lockheed Martin’ MATRIX Technology is created to help pilots by allowing them to focus on complex tasks while the helicopter pilots itself.

(DARPA)

“The Army refers to this as Mission Adaptive Autonomy. It’s there when the pilot needs the aircraft to fly itself and keep it free of obstacles, so the pilot can focus on more of the mission commander type role. But the pilot is able to interact with the system to re-suggest, re-route or re-plan on the fly,” said Ott.

But SARA has a pretty robust bag of tricks. When pilots call on it, the helicopter can land or take off on its own, select its own safe landing zones using LIDAR, avoid obstacles including wires and moving vehicles, and can even fly across the ground and behind obstructions, like trees, to hide itself.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

A U.S. Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter lands during training with U.S. Marines.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rachel K. Young)

Of course, the Army needs the technology from SARA to be ported over to Army helicopters, like the UH-60 Blackhawk, and that’s coming in the next few months, according to Sikorsky. The package, known as MATRIX Technology, should theoretically work on any aircraft, and porting it to rotary aircraft should be fairly easy.

“We’re demonstrating a certifiable autonomy solution that is going to drastically change the way pilots fly,” said Mark Ward, Sikorsky Chief Pilot, Stratford, Conn. Flight Test Center. “We’re confident that MATRIX Technology will allow pilots to focus on their missions. This technology will ultimately decrease instances of the number one cause of helicopter crashes: Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).”
Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

An optionally piloted UH-1H helicopter drops off supplies during a May 2018 exercise at Twentynine Palms, California.

(Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory Matt Lyman)​

The Marine Corps has been doing its own experiments with autonomous rotary flight. Their primary program is the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System on the Bell UH-1H platform, which can take off, fly, land, plan its route, and select landing sites on its own using LiDAR. So, similar to the MATRIX platform.

AACUS comes from Aurora, a Boeing subsidiary, and has already been successfully installed on Bell 206 and Boeing AH-6 helicopters. It uses off-the-shelf hardware components combined with the proprietary algorithms. One big advantage of AACUS is that infantrymen on the ground can directly request flights to their location without necessarily having to route it through a pilot.

As helicopters are cherished assets during a real fight, though, it’s almost certain that requests for aviation will require an officer signing off, whether it’s an AACUS or a MATRIX bird.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Coming from the relatively flat state of New Jersey, Capt. Matthew Munoz recently learned for the first time how to land a UH-60 Black Hawk above 12,000 feet.

As a National Guard pilot, Munoz normally does flight training with sling loads and hoists, or he transports soldiers in air assault courses.

For the most part, those missions allow a large power margin for his helicopter, meaning there is less stress on the aircraft.


But here surrounded by the Rocky Mountains in western Colorado along Interstate 70, it’s a whole new ballgame. The mountainous terrain tests helicopter pilots with risky landing zones on limited, uneven space often strewn with large rocks and trees.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“There definitely is that pucker factor,” Munoz said. “You have that caution and fear in that confined space. And there’s that potential for the rotors of the aircraft to strike an obstacle.”

A student at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, Munoz recently took the site’s weeklong course to hone his power management techniques that may one day help him out of a bad situation.

The only aviation school of its kind in the Defense Department, HAATS teaches about 350 students per year across the U.S. military as well as from foreign militaries, which account for about 20 percent of its enrollment.

The school is one of four Army National Guard aviation training sites in the country. Given its access to over 1 million acres of rugged forest with landing zones from 6,500 to 12,200 feet, HAATS mainly focuses on power management that teaches pilots how to maximize the utility of their helicopters.

The training sharpens pilots heading into combat or to perform missions back home, where they may find themselves flying in high altitudes, hot weather or carrying heavy loads, all of which can sap power from an aircraft.

“It’s important for us to give them the tools they need to make sure that they can complete their mission successfully and not bend or break aircraft in the process,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.

Schoolhouse

Operated by a small 30-member cadre of full-time Colorado Guardsmen, federal employees and an instructor pilot from the Coast Guard, the school relies on pilots to bring their own helicopters that can range from Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks and UH-72 Lakotas.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

What they lack in numbers, the staff makes up with experience. Many of the instructors have thousands of hours of flight experience and multiple combat tours from when they served in line units, Reed said.

Instructors also have a dual role of conducting search and rescue missions when emergencies pop up across the state.

Once they arrive, students head to the classroom to learn about approaches and takeoff sequences, weather and environmental considerations, and then power management.Afterward, pilots typically fly twice a day out in the rugged terrain, practicing the skills they just learned.

Reed considers the training to be “graduate level,” intended for more experienced pilots.

“It would be difficult to take a student fresh out of flight school and put them through this training,” he said, “while they’re trying to learn their aircraft and how to maneuver it.”

With only two years of experience as a Lakota pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Ferguson said he was lucky to be chosen for the recent course.

The Virginia Guardsman plans to use the skills when he is next called upon for drug interdiction operations in the state. High above the ground, Ferguson helps conduct surveillance for law enforcement as they search for suspects or illegal marijuana fields hidden in the forest.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

An instructor pilot from the Coast Guard teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Many times the job requires him to hover at high altitudes so as not to spook suspects and for safety reasons.

“If you get too low, the helicopter hovering over the house becomes pretty obvious, pretty quick,” he said. “So, you got to know how to maintain standoff, how to read the wind, [and] position the helicopter where you need it to be positioned.”

The techniques and finesse he picked up at the HAATS course, he said, gave him a better control touch of the aircraft when it’s using a lot of power.

Crew chiefs

Since they manage the aircraft, crew chiefs frequently join the pilots in the training to hone their skills, too.

By being together, aircrews can improve their teamwork, especially in dangerous landing zones where a crew chief is needed to spot dangers on the ground.

“Having good aircrew coordination between everybody in the aircraft is pinnacle because if you’re not talking to each other, then something is going to get missed,” said Sgt. Robert Black, a Black Hawk crew chief.

One time while deployed to Iraq, Black said he was on a helicopter that landed roughly on the side of a mountain as his crew went to check out a new landing zone during a training event.

“When we came in, we kind of browned out and then touched down a little bit harder than usual,” said Black, who is assigned to the Virginia National Guard.

While no one was injured, Black still saw it as a wake-up call. “If we would have had the training we had here, that probably wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

During the course, instructors will show videos that simulate previous helicopter crashes and discuss how to avoid the issues faced by those crews.

While somber, since some of the crashes have led to deaths, the videos are valuable learning aids.

“They’re all lessons learned,” Black said. “Being able to recognize somebody else’s mistakes and being able to learn from them is a key part of any kind of training.”

Seasoned crew chiefs also share their personal stories with their students.

Instructor Staff Sgt. Greg Yost often draws upon lessons from his time in Afghanistan where he served as a crew chief on a medical evacuation helicopter, which had to fly quickly in hot weather that sometimes took a toll on its power supply.

“If I can’t teach you something here in this course, then I have failed you,” Yost said of what he tells his students. “It is my goal, my duty to impart some kind of knowledge to every student that comes into my classroom.”

Training for combat

Earlier this year, Reed said the school was requested by the 10th and 82nd Combat Aviation Brigades to train up its younger crews ahead of deployments. The units flew several helicopters out to the site and for weeks the school cycled soldiers through.

HAATS even has mobile training teams that travel around the country to prepare aircrews.

At times, instructors hear back from crew members downrange they’ve helped train, who thank them and tell them they were able to apply the skills to real-world missions.

Here’s everything the Air Force wants in a light attack plane

Staff Sgt. Greg Yost, a crew chief instructor, teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Occasionally, crews will even share newly-found techniques with instructors that may help future students.

“More than anything, it validates what we’ve been doing,” Reed said.

While counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East may be waning, Yost believes skills in the course can still be used to mitigate risks in future operations.

For instance, helicopters may require heavier equipment, such as armor or technology, to offset anti-air threats posed by near-peer adversaries.

“As that stuff develops, it will be bolted onto the aircraft,” the senior crew chief said. “It will be adding weight, maybe increasing drag. All these contributing factors will reduce the aircraft’s performance.”

Whatever the mission, it’s no secret what they teach at the site, Reed said, who hopes every aircrew takes advantage of the course.

“We’re trying to spread the word and share it,” the commander said. “Often times we hear about a helicopter crash that’s power related. We want to do everything we can to make sure that all the aviators out there have these tools and make the right decisions.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.