The squadron recently completed two successful sorties where a B-52 released eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range and eight more over the Precision Impact Range Area on Edwards Air Force Base.
“We are primarily looking to see safe separation from the external Heavy Stores Adapter Beam,” said Kevin Thorn, a 419th FLTS B-52 Stratofortress air vehicle manager. “We are ensuring that the bombs do not contact the aircraft, and/or each other, creating an unsafe condition. Additionally we are tracking the reliability of the bomb functioning.”
The PDU-5/B is a new-use or variant of an older Cluster Bomb Unit. The original designation for the weapon was the MK-20 Rockeye II, SUU-76B/B, and/or CBU-99/100. The designator changes depending on the type of filler used in the bomb, said Thorn. Having leaflets as a filler designates the bomb as a PDU-5/B.
According to the Air Force, PDU-5/B canisters can deliver about 60,000 leaflets and were deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom before any Air Force munitions began hitting targets in Baghdad.
The dispenser bomb can be dropped from helicopters and fighter jets, and now the 419th FTS is trying to see if the B-52 fleet can be used as well.
“The PDU-5/B is just another tool that the B-52 uses in its vast and reliable tool box,” said Earl Johnson, the B-52 PDU-5/B project manager. “Without the capability to carry PDU-5s on the B-52 aircraft, the impending shortfall on leaflet dispersal capability will jeopardize Air Force Central Command information operations.”
Johnson said testing the PDU-5/B on the B-52 is complete for now. The program is forecasted to return at a future date to test PDU-5/B releases from the B-52’s internal weapons bay.
Tucked away in a rural corner of western New York is a survivor of D-Day. It is a C-47A Skytrain — an airplane that delivered paratroopers over drop zones around Normandy on June 6, 1944 — that has the distinction of being perhaps one of the few – if not the last – of its kind still in flying condition.
Named Whiskey 7 because of the large W7 painted on its fuselage, the Skytrain was the lead aircraft of the second invasion wave in the skies above France.
“That C-47 is one of our stars,” said Dawn Schaible, media director for the National Warplane Museum, the organization that gives Whiskey 7 a home and maintains it both for flying demonstrations and public viewing.
Skytrains have a storied history. None other than Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander in Europe, called the Douglas aircraft one of the four “Tools of Victory” that won World War II for the Allies along with the atom bomb, the Jeep, and the bazooka.
The museum is proud of the fact that the aircraft is a true C-47, not a DC-3 conversion. The twin-engine, propeller-driven aircraft was built in 1943, one of more than 10,000 produced during World War II.
Skytrains like Whiskey 7 were the standard transport aircraft of the old U.S. Army Air Corps but also saw service with the British, who called the plane the Dakota.
The statistics regarding the Skytrain are impressive. When used as a supply plane, a C-47 could carry up to 6,000 pounds of cargo. It could also hold a fully assembled Jeep or 37-mm cannon.
When serving in its role as a troop transport, the C-47 carried 28 soldiers in full combat gear. As a medical airlift plane, it could accommodate 14 stretcher patients and three nurses.
On D-Day, Whiskey 7 transported paratroopers from the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.
The aircraft was actually one of the few that made it to the drop-zone assigned to the paratroopers: the town of Sainte-Mère-Église.
After D-Day, Whiskey 7 served for the balance of the war. Missions included towing gliders carrying men and equipment during Market Garden, the ill-fated airborne operation in Holland that was the largest airborne battle in history but which ended disastrously for the Allies.
After World War II, a civilian aviation company purchased the plane as surplus and converted it to an airliner. The plane then flew both passengers and cargo for decades.
Purchased by a private collector in 1993, it was eventually donated to the National Warplane Museum where it was restored to its D-Day configuration in 2005.
In 2014, Whiskey 7 participated in the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion when it flew to France so historical re-enactors could jump from the plane.
The group also included Leslie Palmer Cruise Jr., one of the paratroopers the plane carried on D-Day. According to the museum, he was the last surviving member of his unit who jumped from Whiskey 7 when it was above Normandy in 1944.
Now, Whiskey 7 helps educate visitors to the National Warplane Museum about Operation Overlord and World War II.
Located in Geneseo, N.Y., the museum is a labor of love started by a grassroots group of historic aircraft enthusiasts who fly old war birds and restore airplanes. The museum has more than 15,000 visitors a year who come to view exhibits or attend the annual air show.
“We have amazing artifacts here,” said Schaible. “We figure out how we connect those artifacts with people and help them move beyond the idea that it’s just cool stuff. It’s the men and women and the stories behind the aircraft that make them historical.”
Six sailors from HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s largest and most powerful aircraft carrier, were reportedly arrested and taken into custody over drunk and disorderly behavior in Jacksonville, Florida, in September 2018.
The sailors, who were on shore leave, were arrested after locals found them fighting and and urinating in public, the BBC reported.
Three of them were also charged with resisting arrest. One pushed and pulled an officer, one was actively fighting and refused to stop, and another refused to put his hands behind his back and was ultimately stunned by a Taser, according to WJAX-TV.
The group were held overnight before being released back onboard the warship on Sept. 7, 2018, The Sun reported.
HMS Queen Elizabetharrived in the US in September 2018 after leaving the UK on Aug. 18, 2018. It is on its way to carry out F-35 trials at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland with US and British pilots late September 2018.
The HMS Queen Elizabeth passes by the Florida coast, where it is stopping to refuel before sailing north to Maryland. Sept. 5, 2018.
(WJXT News / Youtube)
The British navy acknowledged the incident but declined to provide further comment.
A spokesperson for the Royal Navy told Business Insider in a statement:
“We can confirm that a number of naval personnel are assisting US police with their enquiries — it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.
“The Naval Service places great importance on maintaining the highest possible standards of behaviour from its personnel at all times.”
Sergeant Larry Smith of the Jacksonville Beach Police Department also confirmed that all the arrests were related to alcohol, but that they were “a case of good people making bad decisions.”
Smith told the Sun:
“Our officers went down to the ship to speak to their commanders, and while they were still out on the town on Thursday night, there were no more problems from the sailors.
“It was a case of good people making bad decisions, they got drunk and they fought among themselves.
“It happens. They seem to beat the mess out of each other and knock their teeth out, but once they pick up their teeth off the ground they hug and then are best friends again.”
In company footprints all over the world, America’s finest are about to endure the Valentine’s Day safety brief—COVID-19 edition. We can only imagine what potential threats are being discussed at Battalion and what the subsequential government issued safety standards will be. Here to give you a rise (wink) is our projected list of what to expect.
No, your go-to dancer does not count as “shelter in place” partners. It has come to our attention that many of you have taken up the recommendation of the Dutch and found a COVID “partner” for sexual activity. Despite your belief of being her “only one” we have intel that suggests otherwise.
No, we will not tell your wife you are in “special quarantine” this weekend. Despite your best efforts, we will not cover for any of you claiming quarantine this weekend as a “hall pass.” To the three of you who already tried, please see medical for a rapid COVID test, results of which will be mailed directly to your spouses. Happy Valentine’s Day.
No, we will not clarify what does/does not count as a mask or “face covering” this weekend. For the love of God, please quit sending reference pictures asking if “this” counts. We do not want to know.
Previous contact tracing has led us to temporarily blacklist a local dancer by the name of (bleep). Sergeants Davis, Fong and Private Richard please report to medical following this briefing for a “completely unrelated” and “routine “medical test.
Yes, group gatherings are still against regulations this weekend. Again, we will not clarify the meaning of this.
Your chem gear is to be used for military-related chem incidents…only. We do not want to know why several of you have made loss claims lately.
The Commander’s earlier email about remaining six feet apart was not to be interpreted as a challenge. The proximity suggested in today’s email was in no way a reference or challenge for intimate affairs, please do not reference the email in relation to your chosen activity’s proximity.
Claiming you didn’t know it was him/her because of masks will still be considered fraternization. We’re looking at you Drill Sergeants!
Triple-amputee veteran Bryan Anderson is incredibly independent, despite his physical limitations. He doesn’t see cooking as any harder or easier from anyone else. “It’s just a different way of doing it,” said Bryan. He’s doing it #BryanStyle.
When Japan was looking to replace aging F-1 fighters (dedicated anti-ship aircraft), they were thinking about an indigenous design. The F-1, based on the T-2 trainer, had done well, but it was outdated.
According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Japanese eventually decided to go with a modified version of the F-16C/D, giving Lockheed Martin a piece of the action.
However, Japan didn’t go with a typical F-16. They decided to give it some upgrades, and as a result, their replacement for the F-1 would emerge larger than an F-16, particularly when it came to the wings – gaining two more hardpoints than the Viper.
This allowed it to carry up to four anti-ship missiles — enough to ruin a warship’s entire day.
It was also equipped from the get-go to carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 Sparrow and Japan’s AAM-4. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the F-2 was delayed by issues with the wings, and eventually sticker shock hit the program when the initial versions had a price tag of $100 million each.
In the 1990s, that was enough to truncate production at 98 total airframes, instead of the planned 140.
AirForce-Technology.com reported that F-2s deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for joint exercises in 2007. In 2011, 18 of the planes suffered damage, but most were returned to service. In 2013, the F-2s saw “action” when Russian planes flew near Japanese airspace.
For its long development and its truncated production, the F-2 has proved to be very capable. It has a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour and it carries over 17,800 pounds of ordnance.
Samuel J. Seymour was present at Ford’s Theatre the night — April 14, 1865 — that President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Seymour ended up being the longest survivor witness of this tragically historic moment, living long enough to be interviewed on television. On on February 9, 1956, he appeared on an episode of the CBS show I’ve Got a Secret at the age of 95 — Seymour incorrectly states he is 96, but when you’re that old, you’re allowed to say whatever you want — in which celebrity panelists try to determine each contestant’s secret by asking a series of “yes-or-no” questions.
The panelists — Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan, and Lucille Ball — figure out Seymour’s secret without much difficulty, allowing host Garry Moore to summarize Seymour’s memory of that fateful evening. Moore explains that, at the age of five, Seymour did not understand that the president was shot, and therefore was only concerned about the well-being of the man who fell from the balcony. Seymour died shortly after on April 12 of that same year. Watch the video below.
The C-47 fulfilled a number of roles in World War II and Korea. It was a supply plane, a plane for dropping paratroopers, and a tow for gliders.
But it was in the Vietnam War that the “Gooney Bird” would get its greatest mission — flying three 7.62mm miniguns through the night to devastate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces.
The idea for a side-firing gunship had been floating around military circles since at least 1926. In fact, the technique had been tested successfully in 1927 when 1st Lt. Fred Nelson flew a DH-4 with a mounted .30-cal machine gun and destroyed a target on the ground.
But the Army Air Corps and the Army Air Forces never came around to the idea. It was 1963 before the idea of a side-firing aircraft got another serious test. A C-131B modified with gunsights and a minigun was successful in early tests and the experiment was repeated with a C-47.
The U.S. Air Force AC-47 Dragon aircraft flies missions over South Vietnam in support of allied outposts. (Photo: Public Domain)
The final combat variant of the AC-47 consisted of the cargo plane with three 7.62mm miniguns mounted on the left side — two in modified portholes near the cargo door and one in the cargo door itself. The triggers for the three guns were connected to a button in the pilot’s compartment.
If the threat was too large for the AC-47, the flares it dropped would light up the target for follow-on fighters. The AC-47 would stay in the area, directing the attacks by other aircraft.
The AC-47, dubbed “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” by an officer who saw it at work, was so effective that the Air Force launched Project Gunship II, the program which resulted in the AC-130 still in service today.
Though he was peppered by approximately 40 pieces of shrapnel in the blast, he noticed that a flare — activated by another crewmember just before the blast — was rolling around the cargo area.
The flare had yet to fully ignite, but it was only a matter of time before it would, possibly killing the crew on its own and almost certainly causing the cargo hold of ammunition to go off. Levitow crawled to the flare, held the burning implement against his already wounded body, and moved to the door with it.
He was able to throw it out just before the flare ignited.
In his final year in Congress, 87-year-old Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a legendary Air Force fighter pilot in Korea and Vietnam and a former prisoner of war, is backing a bill to give enlisted Medal of Honor recipients and POWs the same honors as officers in burials at Arlington National Cemetery.
“My fellow POWs who served honorably demonstrated the utmost patriotism, but not all of them were eligible for full military honors at their burial, simply due to their rank. I believe this is wrong,” Johnson said in a statement.
Current rules restrict full honors at in-ground burials at Arlington, including a military escort and a horse-drawn caisson, to officers, warrant officers, senior non-commissioned officers, and service members killed in action.
Eligibility rules for in-ground burial at Arlington, which is running out of space, are the strictest of all the national cemeteries. They may in future be limited to those killed in action and recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart, according to a current proposal under consideration.
Prisoners of war who were discharged honorably and died after Nov. 30, 1993, are also eligible, according to the Code of Federal Regulations. There were no immediate figures available on how many enlisted MoH recipients or POWs may have been denied full honors at Arlington due to current rules.
Most honorably discharged veterans can request Arlington as their final resting place, but the eligibility rules are lengthy. (The list of rules can be found here.)
Arlington National Cemetary.
Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Michigan, is the main sponsor of the Full Military Honors Act, which was introduced in the House in early September 2018. He said he came to the issue at the behest of the family of a deceased constituent, Army Pfc. Robert Fletcher, a Korean War POW who was buried without full honors at Arlington in June 2018.
“America’s POWs and Medal of Honor recipients have sacrificed immeasurably in service to the United States, regardless of their rank,” Bishop said in a statement. “So I was shocked to find out that earlier this year a former POW from Michigan was denied a full honors burial at Arlington National Cemetery based solely on his enlisted rank. This has been an issue for too long, and my legislation will ensure those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty are provided the full military honors they have earned for their end-of-life ceremonies.”
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, co-sponsored the bill. “I’m proud to join in introducing the Full Military Honors Act,” said Walz, who retired from the Army National Guard as a command sergeant major after 24 years. “To help ensure we honor the sacrifices these heroes and their families have made for our country, we must pass it without delay.”
The bill has been endorsed by the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Military Officers Association of America, the National League of POW/MIA Families, the Special Operations Association, the Special Forces Association, and the American Fallen Warriors Memorial Foundation.
At a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel in March 2018, officials warned that space for in-ground burials at Arlington would eventually run out because surrounding communities restrict its expansion.
“We are filling up every single day” at the 154-year-old historic site across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., where an average of 150 burials take place each week, said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries.
Estimates on when Arlington will run out of space vary, but some put the date for closing the cemetery to new burials in the 2030s or 2040s.
Members of the Navy Ceremonial Guard transfer Medal of Honor Recipient Navy Capt. Thomas Hudner to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetary, April 4, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
As of August 2017, there were 5,071 living former POWs in the U.S., according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are currently 72 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, 45 of whom were in the enlisted ranks when they received the award, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
The full honors issue has resonated over the years with Johnson, a retired Air Force colonel and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts.
During the Korean War, he flew 62 combat missions in a F-86 Sabre and was credited with shooting down one MiG-15. In Vietnam, he flew the F-4 Phantom II. On his 25th combat mission in Vietnam on April 16, 1966, Johnson’s aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam. He was a POW for nearly seven years, including 42 months in solitary confinement.
A battered tin cup he used to tap on the walls to communicate in code with other prisoners is now in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. In the prison camps, Johnson was part of a group dubbed the “Alcatraz 11” for their resistance to the guards.
“Any veteran who served honorably as a prisoner of war or whose actions earned them the Medal of Honor has already demonstrated extraordinary dedication to defending freedom,” Johnson said in his statement. “In return, they deserve to have the country they fought for bestow full military honors if they are eligible to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.”
Since the death of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in August 2018, Johnson is the only former POW serving in Congress. Early 2018, he announced that he would retire at the end of the term after serving in the House since 1991.
In his statement upon McCain’s death, Johnson, who was often at odds with the late senator on issues, paid tribute to the former Navy pilot who was with him in the prison camps.
“We have lost a genuine American hero today. John and I were fellow POWs at the ‘Hanoi Hilton,’ and I can testify to the fact that he did everything he could to defend freedom and honor our great nation — not just in that hell on Earth, but beyond those bleak years,” Johnson said. “John’s strength of spirit, commitment to democracy, and love of God and country all shape the inspiring legacy of service he leaves behind. God bless you, partner, and I salute you.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
When Air Force Staff Sgt. John Cox, an air transportation specialist assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, deployed to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, Oct. 9, he assumed he would be helping Puerto Ricans recover from Hurricane Maria; he did not expect to bring home a four-legged addition to his family.
Cox said he had just returned from a six-month deployment in Kuwait when he volunteered to go to Puerto Rico, where he worked with heavy machinery loading and unloading cargo from aircraft.
“We were placed close to the airport in tents in an open field so we could hear the aircraft when they landed,” he said.
Their main job was helping Defense Department personnel transfer water and Meals Ready to Eat from large aircraft onto vehicles and small aircraft for distribution to the people hard-hit by the hurricane, Cox said.
Beef Jerky Wins Hearts
While he was performing a security check of the area, Cox said he came across an abandoned building. Inside, he discovered a scared, emaciated, light-brown dog.
“I brought the dog some beef jerky from an MRE and some water every day, and pretty soon she started following me back to my tent and waiting outside,” Cox said.
When the dog started following him to work every day Cox worried he would get into trouble and decided he should talk to the officer in charge.
Once he introduced the dog, which he’d named Maria, to his leaders, he was given a thumbs-up to having her by his side.
“That’s when I realized I couldn’t leave this dog in Puerto Rico when my deployment ended,” Cox said.
“I drove over an hour to a veterinary clinic and had the dog completely checked and vaccinated, which was a condition I was given to keep her with me,” he said.
Cox said the next hurdle was to find a way to get Maria home — a task that would not prove to be easy because he couldn’t just put her on an aircraft without authorization.
“I researched all the regulations I could find and felt like I hit a wall until I found a local adoption agency that specialized in rescuing pit bulls,” Cox said. “They were able to get her home.”
“I not only made a positive impact on the people of Puerto Rico, but I was able to save an animal,” he said. “I saw her go from near-death to super healthy in a matter of months.”
Cox said he is looking forward to hiking the high peaks with his new hiking buddy once the weather is better.
“My advice to someone who plans on adopting a dog is to prepare to have your hands and your heart full,” he said. “Having a dog is sometimes like having a child, but all the effort will be worth it when you see them waiting for you at the end of the day.”
In the days leading up to the latest NATO summit, President Donald Trump was harshly critical of the contributions made by other NATO members, especially in comparison to the United States. But when called on to start a new mission in post-ISIS Iraq focused on civil-military planning, vehicle maintenance, and explosives disposal, NATO stood up.
Whether this development comes because of meetings among North American and European leaders at recent G7 and NATO summits is unclear. Coming away from June 2018’s G7 summit, President Trump criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as both “dishonest” and “weak.” At the most recent NATO meeting, Trump claimed Germany was a Russian client state due, primarily, to energy partnerships with Russian gas providers.
The 2018 NATO summit was focused primarily on how the alliance would foot the bills for its actions everywhere in the world. The United States demands the members of the alliance increase their contributions to an agreed-upon two percent of GDP, while the U.S. maintains its 3.5-percent contribution.
“Because of me, they’ve raised billion over the last year, so I think the Secretary General [of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg,] likes Trump,” the President of the United States said after the summit. “He may be the only one, but that’s okay with me.”
Another result of the summit was a British pledge to double the number of UK troops in Afghanistan. Canada will also contribute helicopters to the NATO mission in Iraq.
Kandahar, Afghanistan. 12 February, 2002. For the first time since the end of the Korean War, Canadians relieve Americans in a combat zone.
(Photo by Sgt. Gerry Pilote, Canadian Armed Forces Combat Camera)
“We are proud to take a leadership role in Iraq, and work with our allies and the government of Iraq, to help this region of the Middle East transition to long-lasting peace and stability,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Canada currently spends 1.23 percent of its output on the alliance, but its commitment requires it to move up to two percent by 2024, an agreement signed by Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper. Canada’s special forces are also training and assisting Kurdish fighters still battling the Islamic State.
Australian navy helicopter pilots were hit with laser beams from fishing boats during military exercises in the South China Sea in May 2019, an analyst who was observing Australia’s operations said.
Euan Graham, an Asian security expert at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, was observing the Royal Australian Navy’s operation from on board the HMAS Canberra, a helicopter docking vessel, and said that Australia’s helicopters were being targeted with lasers from fishing boats.
Graham posited that the boats where the lasers originated could be Chinese: “Was this startled fishermen reacting to the unexpected? Or was it the sort of coordinated harassment more suggestive of China’s maritime militia?”
Graham noted to CNN that: “It’s no secret that the broader thrust of China’s approach in the South China Sea is to try to make life difficult for foreign aircraft and warships there.”
China claims the South China Sea, despite competing claims and legal disputes from other countries in the region.
He said that it was unlikely to be fishermen using lasers to warn the helicopters away as there was little chance that a helicopter and a boat would be on course to collide.
“That makes sense for collision of vessels, but obviously there is no direct threat from aircraft to vessels in the South China Sea,” he said. “The maritime militia is, I think, not beyond argument as a tactic which is employed deliberately.”
Reports in 2018 said that more than 20 attacks with lasers were made against US military pilots in the East China Sea between September 2017 and June 2018.
Graham told CNN that he did not witness the lasers first hand, but pilots told him that they were repeatedly targeted.
He said in the post for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that the Australian navy was “followed at a discreet distance by a Chinese warship for most of the transit, both on the way up and back, despite the fact that our route didn’t take us near any feature occupied by Chinese forces, or any obviously sensitive areas.”
The HMAS Canberra at sea in 2016.
China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea as its own despite protests and legal battles with other countries in the region. It is a key transportation route for nations in the region, and contains oil and gas reserves. China has staked its territorial claims in recent years by creating manmade islands in the area, some of which are home to airfields.
Graham said said that radio communications between the Chinese and Australian navys was “courteous” during his time with the operation.
Australia’s military was conducting its Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 exercise, which concluded this week. The 11-week operation brought the military to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia to share disaster relief expertise.
Officials from Australia’s military told CNN that they were looking into Graham’s claims.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There are mainly two types of missiles being pursued in this race: hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs) and hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs). Both are being pursued by a number of nations, but China, Russia, and the US are leading the way.
Two types of weapons
HCMs are essentially faster cruise missiles and HGVs are basically replacements for conventional re-entry vehicles that are put on ICBMs.
Of the two, HGVs are the easiest to make, since they only have to overcome one of the three obstacles — material science.
HGVs are put on top of ICBMs. When they reach a maximum altitude, they separate from the missile and glide on top of the atmosphere to their target — in this case, at hypersonic speeds.
Because of their hypersonic speeds, there may not even need to be any explosives on the weapons themselves, since the kinetic energy could be strong enough to cause damage in a limited area — although nowhere near the size of a nuclear blast.
What makes both weapons so threatening is the fact that they are maneuverable, meaning they can change direction at any moment and keep their intended target secret until the last few moments before impact.
Current missiles can be intercepted because their flight paths are determined by momentum and gravity. Most, if not all, anti-ballistic missile defenses, like THAAD and Aegis Ashore, require a projectile to make physical contact for a successful intercept or be close enough so that shrapnel from a proximity explosion could damage an incoming missile.
Because HCMs and HGVs are maneuverable and fly at such high speeds, interception of such missiles is almost impossible.
Dangerous potential results of hypersonic weapons
Widespread proliferation of this technology could have results that increase the risk of conflict and destabilization, especially when these weapons are armed with nuclear payloads.
According to a report on hypersonic weapons that was published by the RAND Corporation, governments may be so concerned with maintaining first-strike capability, since the response time for these weapons is so short, that they may take be forced to take risky actions.
These include devolving the command and control of the weapons to the military instead of the national leaders, wider disbursement of the weapons across the globe, a launch-on-warning posture, and a decision to strike first.
The RAND report shows that at least 23 countries are active in pursuing hypersonic technology for commercial or military use. Currently, the US, Russia, and China are leading the race.
The report suggests that widespread proliferation of hypersonic technology could lead to militaries around the world, particularly those that have tense relations with their neighbors, having capabilities that could be destabilizing.
The RAND Corporation suggests that this could also spur changes or amendments to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a voluntary agreement with 35 nations that aims to prevent the proliferation of missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.
RAND believes that the MTCR should include completed hypersonic delivery vehicles, scramjets, and other hypersonic components to the list of items that cannot be exported. At the very least, a trilateral agreement between the US, Russia, and China could be made to prevent hypersonic weapons from falling into dangerous hands.
RAND believes that hypersonic missiles will become operable on the battlefield in the next 10 years.
Obstacles preventing sustained hypersonic flight
Hypersonic technology allows cruise missiles and nuclear weapons to go as fast as Mach 5 or above — roughly 3,800 miles per hour, or 340 miles every six minutes.
Missiles and rockets have long been able to go hypersonic; space shuttles and ICBMs, for instance, both fly at hypersonic speeds, sometimes as high as Mach 20 or 24 (Mach 25 is the upper limit). However, they only do so for a short period of time.
Technology is now being developed that will allow sustained hypersonic flight, overcoming three different challenges: material science; aerodynamics and flight control; and propulsion.
The problem of material science is relatively straightforward. Because the missile will be flying at such high speed, materials with high melting points are needed so they can absorb heat that would be gathered over a long period of time, so as to prevent the disintegration of the missile.
“You can think of it as flying into this blow torch,” Rich Moore, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, said. “The faster a vehicle flies, the pressure and temperature rises exponentially.”
The problem of aerodynamics and flight control is somewhat related. In order to achieve hypersonic speeds, the body of the missile needs to be constructed so that air resistance is minimal. Furthermore, the shape of the missile must be structurally strong enough to prevent bending and flexing which would affect the flight performance.
“You’re under such high pressures, you are going so fast, that the body itself may not keep its shape all the time,” George Nacouzi, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, told Business Insider in an interview.
Propulsion is probably the most complex challenge after material science. Once an object reaches Mach 5, traditional jet engines cannot generate enough power to maintain the speed or go faster. “It has been compared to lighting a match in a 2,000 mile an hour wind,” said Richard Speier, a political scientist at RAND.
Trying to keep the engine going is extremely complex.
“You have potential shockwaves, the combustion has to be just at the right rate, you have to have the right mixture of fuel and oxidizer,” Nacouzi said of the difficulties.
The result of trying to overcome this problem is a scramjet, an uncluttered, air-breathing engine that uses oxygen from the atmosphere as the oxidizer for combustion. Though scramjets are currently in a testing phase, they have already reached hypersonic speeds.
Dr. Nacouzi believes that out of those three problems, flight control may be the easiest to overcome.