The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is known for hunting hurricanes in our hemisphere. But recently, this unit has been deployed a fair bit away from its normal haunts. Some of its assets are in Sri Lanka and doing a much less turbulent version of their usual mission.
So, with annual, stateside monsoons, why fly halfway around the world to do some research? Well, one reason is that the weather can affect military operations, and the Indian Ocean is a particularly important strategic location for the United States Navy. From there, during Operation Enduring Freedom, carriers, including USS Enterprise (CVN 65), launched air strikes into Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
A WC-130J Hercules in flight.
(USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. James B. Pritchett)
The Hurricane Hunters are carrying out their research mission with the help of the University of Notre Dame, the Office of Naval Research, and the Sri Lankan government. The Office of Naval Research sent the research ship USNS Thomas G. Thompson (T-AGOR 23) to assist in the mission.
Preparing for start-up: A WC-130 on the flight line.
(USAF photo by Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)
As is the case with their hurricane missions, the crews of WC-130 Hercules cargo planes collect oceanographic and atmospheric data on the monsoons using dropsondes and buoys. This also gives the squadron a good chance to train for their mission without flying into actual hurricanes — you can’t exactly call it a “dry run,” but a monsoon is much less intense than a hurricane.
A WC-130 taxis to its parking slot after completing its mission.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)
The 53rd will be making a return trip to Sri Lanka next year to gather more data on monsoons. In the long-term, the data they’re collecting may be of strategic use to the U.S., but it’s also sure to help Sri Lanka and nearby countries, like India, better prepare for heavy rains and flooding.
Most national governments have some sort of official apparatus for pushing its views in other countries. The U.S. has the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Qatar has Al Jazeera, Russia has Russia Today and Russia Beyond the Headlines. China has a few outlets as well, including China Military. We took a quick tour to see what they’re talking about right now.
International Army Games 2018: Obstacle course contest held in Fujian, China
It also has paratroopers participating, and it’s bragging that its team is the only one using only domestically produced weapons and equipment. That domestic production of equipment is an odd flex since it only matters if you think you might lose access to key imports during a conflict.
But while China’s flexes might be odd, don’t count them out on performance. Their special operators have done well for themselves at the Warrior Games in Jordan.
(Studio Incendo, CC BY 2.0)
The White House is lying about Chinese military forces near Hong Kong
China has a bit of a problem in its Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. Widespread protests there have only grown and international news coverage is turning against the central government. A recent Bloomberg report said that America was tracking Chinese troop deployments near the border of Hong Kong.
China can hold the Taiwan Straits against anything, even without new Russian missiles
China has been seeking to “re-unify” for years with Taiwan. If you don’t know, this is a pretty deliberate misnomer. Taiwan was one a part of China the same way that Texas was once part of Mexico. During a brutal civil war, the Communists took control of mainland China while the Republic of China fell back to Taiwan and has defended the island ever since.
The S-400 is the same missile system that Russia turned to to defend Kaliningrad, Crimea, and other important strategic positions. It’s very capable, and even the export version can hit targets over 150 miles from the launcher. It’s simply madness to claim that deployment of such an advanced system on the Strait of Taiwan won’t affect the balance of power there.
China is not a major threat to the U.S. militarily
These arguments have some serious holes. First, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is very much about expanding a sphere of influence that China already has, and it has been using an oversized coast guard to punish neighbors and seize territory in the Pacific. Second, China is under-mechanized and modernized, but it has been rapidly closing that gap for 20 years. And finally, China hasn’t engaged in a war in decades because it wasn’t ready for one. That’s no longer the case.
But, it is still a good sign that Chinese military officers are arguing for peace. It’s most likely a ruse or a tactic to buy time by keeping some Americans hopeful for long-term peace, but if China starts abiding by agreements like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, China and the U.S. could avoid more confrontation and potential conflict.
The U.S. Navy tests a prototype railgun in 2008. China has deployed its prototype weapon.
Chinese scientists are creating new marvels of naval might
FEP is useful on any vessel because it allows smooth, consistent power. But it is especially valuable on warships designed to fire energy weapons and electromagnetic railguns, the kinds of weapons that would make a big difference in a future naval fight. China is aggressively pursuing railguns, recently sending its first railgun-equipped vessel out for sea trials.
China does appear to be behind the U.S. in most naval tech that matters, but it’s moving fast and it has the industrial capacity to mass produce any weapon and platform designs that work in trials. But it also has a tendency to over-tout its breakthroughs. So it’s unclear whether this hinted full-electric propulsion advance really means anything.
Chinese troops are securing U.N. compounds and missions in Africa
China has troops deployed in Africa on a peacekeeping mission and China Military and CGTN.com have devoted resources to trumpeting the Chinese role in securing a base after it was hit by a suicide attack. French, Malian, and Estonian troops were injured in the attack.
China Military wants everyone to know that, “Chinese sentinels used high-powered telescopes to strengthen observation and the snipers occupied the commanding heights to prepare for shooting.” Basically, Chinese troops took over guard towers or similar positions and used scopes and binoculars.
John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, announced on May 5, 2019, that the US would send the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and its associated strike group to the waters near Iran to “send a message” and respond to vague threats.
But the US will be sending the powerful carrier to a job it’s arguably ill-suited for, putting thousands of sailors at a major military disadvantage. And if a conflict were to arise, the sinking of a US aircraft carrier would be in Iran’s sights.
Though the carrier’s deployment to Iran’s nearby waters may have been planned long ago, Bolton has been clear that the ship’s return to the region marks a response to “a number of troubling and escalatory incident and warnings” from Iran.
While Bolton did not get into specifics, a report from Axios said Israel passed the US “information on an alleged Iranian plot to attack” US forces or interests in the region.
The Wall Street Journal cited US officials as saying new intelligence “showed that Iran drew up plans to target U.S. forces in Iraq and possibly Syria, to orchestrate attacks in the Bab el-Mandeb strait near Yemen through proxies and in the Persian Gulf with its own armed drones.”
US aircraft carrier strike groups represent the highest order of naval power ever put to sea, but they’re not the right tool for every job.
Caitlin Talmadge, an associate professor of security studies, said on Twitter that US carriers are “designed for operations on the open ocean.”
As a floating air base with guided-missile destroyers and cruisers sailing nearby for anti-missile defenses from land and sea, the carriers are best off when moving around far from the range of missiles fired from ashore.
The narrow, “confined waters of the Persian Gulf make carriers tremendously more vulnerable to asymmetric air, land, and naval threats,” wrote Talmadge.
Iran’s home field advantage could sink a tanker
In the shallow, brown waters of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow pass through which about a fifth of the world’s oil passes through, Iran’s outdated submarines and missiles see a vastly uneven playing ground leveled out.
“Ideally, a Nimitz class carrier would operate within comfortable range of its targets (based on the range of its air wing) but at sufficient stand-off distance to minimize the risk of enemy threats,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, told Business Insider. “This varies based on operating environment, but is usually between 300 to 400 nautical miles.”
Aircraft carriers do send a message, and have been relied on for such by presidents for decades, but according to Talmadge, it’s kind of empty in this situation.
The USS Abraham Lincoln makes a sharp turn at sea.
In the Gulf wars, or against militants like ISIS, aircraft carriers made plenty of sense.
“Iraq has tiny coast, couldn’t contest US carrier presence, so unusual situation,” continued Talmadge, who pointed out that Iran was a different kind of beast.
But “Iran’s geography military capabilities, particularly presence of significant assets near Strait of Hormuz, make sailing carrier through Gulf a lot riskier, and w/ less benefit given US ability to deploy carriers in Arabian Sea Indian Ocean instead,” she said.
In fact, the Persian Gulf, Iran’s home waters, plays directly into their hands. One of Iran’s favorite and best documented ways to harass the US Navy is to use fast attack boats in a swarming attack.
Swarm boat attacks, would “not be much of a danger in the open sea,” where the carrier had room to maneuver, but could be a problem in the choked gulf.
“Iran has various systems that can be a threat within the Persian Gulf, including anti-ship cruise missiles, fast attack craft and swarm boats, mini-submarines, and even asymmetric tactics like UAV swarms that seek to harass rather than disable the carrier,” Lamrani continued.
Iran’s Ghadir submarine behind a US carrier strike group in a propaganda video.
(Iranian TV via MEMRI)
Aircraft carriers lack onboard defenses against torpedoes, something that an old Iranian submarine could manage. In the noisy brown waters of the Persian Gulf, the US Navy may also struggle to track such small boats.
Furthermore, Iranian media has fantasized for years about sinking an aircraft carrier. In the country’s state-controlled media, the massive ships are often seen as targets ripe for sinking.
With US-Iranian relations hitting a startling new low, the Trump administration’s decision to send an aircraft carrier to Tehran’s home waters seems a risky choice with little apparent payoff.
Accompanying the carrier deployment announced by Bolton was an increase in bombers in the region. As Business Insider reported before, Iran is highly unlikely to attack even small, exposed groups of US troops in the region because the response from nearby US airbases would all but obliterate the country.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the country’s foreign minister ahead of a planned summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim in June 2018.
Lavrov’s May 31, 2018 visit — his first to North Korea since 2009 — was seen as an attempt by Moscow to ensure its voice is heard in Pyongyang’s diplomatic overtures with the United States and South Korea.
Lavrov met Kim in Pyongyang, Russia’s Foreign Ministry tweeted, and extended an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin for the North Korean leader to visit Russia.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to know whether there would be a Putin-Kim meeting in Russia.
Lavrov began his visit to North Korea by meeting with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.
“We welcome contacts between North and South Korea, as well as between North Korea and the United States,” Lavrov said on May 31, 2018, after meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.
The Russian minister called on “all the parties involved to fully realize their responsibility for preventing the failure of such an important but fragile process.”
Moscow is interested in implementing joint economic projects with Pyongyang and Seoul, including railway construction, Lavrov also said.
Russia and North Korea share a small border that is only a few kilometers from the Far East city of Vladivostok and they enjoy relatively cordial relations.
Lavrov’s trip to Pyongyang comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity to organize a historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Kim’s right-hand man, General Kim Yong Chol, in New York late on May 30 2018, to discuss the matter.
Kim Yong Chol, the most senior North Korean to visit the United States in nearly 20 years, dined with Pompeo and the two were due to meet again on May 31, 2018.
“Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight. Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu,” Pompeo tweeted.
Trump previously cancelled the summit scheduled for June 12, 2018, in Singapore, but both sides have since made fresh efforts to hold it as planned.
Washington is seeking the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for certain economic and security benefits for Pyongyang.
Two U.S. Air Force pilots have ejected after a U-2 spy plane crashed around noon local time during a training mission on the West Coast, a service spokesman said.
Lt. Col. Michael Meridith, a spokesman for the Air Force, confirmed the incident on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual conference outside Washington, D.C., but he didn’t know the whereabouts or the condition of the service members. “It did crash,” he said when asked if the plane went down. “Two pilots ejected.”
Meridith said a search and rescue operation for the crew was under way.
The U.S. Air Force press desk later tweeted, “We can confirm a U-2 from @9thRW Beale AFB has gone down in Sutter County, CAA; 2 pilots have ejected; details to follow when available,” referring to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.
But officials walked back their initial statements on the pilots’ condition as the day went on.
“We have no official confirmation on the pilots’ condition,” Beale Air Force Base tweeted later in the day. “We will provide updates when more information is available.”
Air Combat Command around the same time issued a similar statement to correct a previous one that wrongly stated the pilots had “safely” ejected and were “awaiting recovery with aircraft in isolated area.”
The U-2 Dragon Lady is a Cold War-era surveillance plane based at Beale Air Force Base in California. Trainer models of the aircraft hold two crew members.
The Iraqi Security Forces are now much less likely to quit fighting and becoming much more aggressive and consistent in their ongoing combat against ISIS, Pentagon and U.S. Coalition officials said.
Responding to questions about numerous reports citing large desertions of Iraqi troops not wanting to fight, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that circumstance has been rapidly shifting for the better.
Many observers said large numbers of Iraqi soldiers simply refused to fight or put up any kind of defense when ISIS first seized territory in Iraq; that equation has now changed, U.S. officials say.
Warren said recent victories in Ramadi and villages near Makhmour have emboldened and empowered Iraq forces to fight, despite reports that many were still laying down their weapons and taking off from the battlefield.
“Small units confidence and morale is growing and strengthening. The training, advising and equipping that we have done is having an effect,” Warren told reporters.
Citing that the U.S. has trained 20,000 Iraqis over last 20 months to elevate their performance levels and instructed them how to better conduct operations in Tikrit and Ramadi, Warren added that Iraqi force have favorable responded to recent combat success.
“They have tasted victory and they want to taste more of it,” he said.
As evidence of increased Iraqi combat aggression, Warren pointed to a specific M1 Abrams tank crew in Hit, Iraq, which has earned the knickname “beast” for its ceaseless activities against ISIS. The one tank has been systematically and aggressively attacking enemy defenses, maneuvering and blasting enemy IEDs, Warren explained.
Hit is a city along the Euphrates river where U.S. Coalition forces continue to make substantial gains against ISIS, Warren said.
There are still some problems with Iraqi soldiers quitting, particularly in areas around Makhmour, Warren explained.
“Iraqi senior leaders have noticed this (Iraqi soldier quitting) and have fired some commanders. They have been replaced with more aggressive commanders,” he added. “Broadly speaking across the board we are seeing their level come up. As this Army drives closer to Mosul the fighting will only get harder.”
Warren added that Iraqi and U.S. Coalition combat tactics involved combined arms maneuvers on the ground along with air attacks and efforts to dismantle ISIS’ finance operations, cyber abilities and overall command and control.
“An enemy that is shattered and scattered has significantly reduced ability to mass combat power. We believe that by shattering them, fragmenting them and dismantling them, we move ourselves closer to the ultimate goal,” he said.
Although there has been widespread reporting quoting senior U.S. military officials saying there will likely be more U.S. combat outposts in Iraq, Warren emphasized that the U.S. Coalition strategy is grounded in the priority of having Iraqi forces make gains on the ground.
“The Iraqis are the only ones who can defeat ISIS in a way that is a lasting defeat,” Warren proclaimed. “Our intent here is to deliver them a lasting defeat. We believe that by degrading them in phase one and then dismantling them in phase two – we will be set up for phase three which is to defeat them.”
The U.S. Coalition’s recent killing of several ISIS senior leaders has had a substantial negative impact upon ISIS, Warren said.
“Any organization that has lost three of its most senior leaders in a span of 30 days – is going to suffer for it; the organization then turns in on itself. We’ve seen an increase in a number of executions (ISIS killing members of its own group). It creates confusion, paranoia and ultimately weakens the enemy,” Warren said.
Warren expressed confidence in the ultimate defeat of ISIS, in part due to the resolve of a 66-nation coalition that, he said, “understands that this is an enemy that needs to be defeated.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
The F-35’s Distributed Aperture Sensor (DAS) has performed airborne identification and target tracking of a ballistic missile in a test off the coast of Hawaii as part of ongoing development of the 5th-generation aircraft’s ability to conduct airborne ballistic missile defense missions.
Northrop Grumman and the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency conducted a demonstration, using a ground-based DAS and a DAS-configured gateway aerial node to locate a ballistic missile launch and flight path. Target tracking information was sent using advanced data links to relay information between the aerial gateway and ground-based command and control locations.
According to Northrop engineers and weapons developers involved with the test, a sensor on the ground transmitted its tracking information to the DAS-equipped Airborne Gateway, which formed a three-dimensional space track which could be transmitted to San Diego.
“DAS can perform its mission whether airborne in an F-35 or other aircraft, as well as on the ground or in a ship. In this case, the two DAS sensors in the air and on the ground, respectively, were able to individually recognize the ballistic missile event and generate a two-dimensional track,” Northrop experts told Warrior.
Described as multi-function array technology, the DAS system uses automated computer algorithms to organize and integrate target-relevant data from missile warning systems, radar, night vision and other long-range sensors; the array is able to track a BMD target from the air at distances up to 800 nautical miles. Such a technology, quite naturally, enables a wider sensor field with which to identify and track attacking missiles.
“DAS communicated precise BMD data from Pacific Missile Range in Hawaii to a test-bed location in San Diego. Seconds after launch, the DAS sensor categorized the rocket and located a ballistic missile launch,” said John “Bama” Montgomery, 5th Generation Derivatives and Improvements, Northrop Grumman. “This re-organizes, re-imagines and re-shapes the battlespace.”
Although the test was in 2014, it has only now been determined that the F-35 can perform BMD – due to years of analysis and test data examination, Northrop developers said. Such a defensive technical ability is of great relevance currently, as many express concern about North Korea short and medium range ballistic missile threats.
An airborne DAS, networked with ground-based Patriot and THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) weapons, could offer a distinct tactical advantage when it comes to quickly locating incoming missile threats. Air sensors in particular, could be of great value given that, in some envisioned threat scenarios, it is unclear whether there would be enough interceptors to counter a massive North Korean ballistic missile barrage into South Korea. Accordingly, air based detection and target tracking, it seems, could go a long way toward better fortifying defenses – as they might increase the time envelope during which command and control could cue interceptors to locate and destroy attacking enemy missiles.
Using early applications of artificial intelligence, computers and aircraft relied upon advanced algorithms to organize sensor information – which was then transmitted to a pilot.
As a key element of the F-35s much-discussed “sensor fusion technology,” the DAS draws upon a 360-degree sensor field of view generated by six cameras strategically placed around the aircraft. The sensor autonomously fuses data from all of the sensors into a single field of view for the pilot.
“With an automated picture, we can get the pilot everything he needs without him needing to go through every step,” Bama said.
Using F-35 DAS sensor technology, emerging technology can perform BMD sensing functions without needing to rely purely upon space-based infrared systems. Using LINK 16 and other data-link technologies, an F-35 can relay targeting data to other 5th and 4th-Generation aircraft as well as ground stations. Montgomery explained that MDA laboratory-generated detection, tracking and discrimination algorithms were able to provide 3-D tracking information.
An MDA statement said program officials have been evaluating system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.
As part of this emerging technical configuration, it has been determined that the F-35s DAS can perform a wide range of non-traditional ISR functions to include not only BMD but other kinds of air or ground-fired enemy weapons. This includes an ability to detect artillery fire, enemy fighter aircraft, incoming air-launched missiles and, of course, ground launched rockets and missiles.
“DAS provides imagery. Instead of looking through a tube, this is a broader perspective of the combat environment, allowing a pilot to act more decisively. It provides a protective bubble to ensure that no aircraft can approach an F-35 without the F-35 knowing it is there,” Montgomery added.
Weapons developers describe this technical advance in terms of something entirely compatible with ship-based Aegis radar, which is also configured to perform BMD functions. Aegis radar was used to track the ballistic missile target as well.
In fact, F-35 BMD sensor technology aligns closely with the Navy’s now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air (NIFC-CA), an integrated system which uses ship-based Aegis radar, an airborne platform relay sensor and an SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching enemy cruise missiles at distances beyond the horizon.
The concept is to give commanders a better window for decision-making and countermeasure applications when faced with approaching enemy fire. The Navy’s layered ship defense system, involving SM-3s, ESSMs, SeaRAM, Rolling Airframe Missiles and closer-in systems such as Close-in-Weapons System using a phalanx area weapon, can best track and destroy targets when a flight path of an attacking ballistic missile can be identified earlier than would otherwise be the case.
The Navy and Lockheed have specifically demonstrated this system using an F-35 as an airborne sensor relay platform. NIFC-CA can be used both offensively and defensively, as it draws upon the SM-6s active seeker which can discern and attack fast-maneuvering targets.
The Navy is already building, deploying and testing a fleet of upgraded DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with NIFC-CA – as a way to bring an ability to detect and destroy incoming enemy anti-ship cruise missiles at farther ranges from beyond the horizon.
The technology enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.
NIFC-CA has previously operated using an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane as an aerial sensor node; it has also been successfully tested from a land-based “desert ship” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. from an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Should the Navy’s future plans materialize, the system would expand further to include the F/A-18 and F-35C.
NIFC-CA gives Navy ships the ability to extend the range of an interceptor missile and extend the reach sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system, Navy developers told Warrior.
NIFC-CA was previously deployed on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf.
Operating NIFC-CA from an F-35B improves the sensor technology, reach, processing speed and air maneuverability of the system; previous tests have also assessed the ability of the system to identify and destroy air-to-air and air-to-surface targets. A report from earlier this year from the U.S. Naval Institute news quoted Lockheed officials saying an “at-sea” assessment of this NIFCA-CA/F-35 pairing is planned for 2018.
NIFC-CA has previously operated using an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane as an aerial sensor node; the use of an F-35B improves the sensor technology, reach, processing speed and air maneuverability of the system; the test also assessed the ability of the system to identify and destroy air-to-air and air-to-surface targets. A multi-target ability requires some adjustments to fire-control technology, sensors and dual-missile firings; the SM-6 is somewhat unique in its ability to fire multiple weapons in rapid succession. An SM-6 is engineered with an “active seeker,” meaning it can send an electromagnetic targeting “ping” forward from the missile itself – decreasing reliance on a ship-based illuminator and improving the ability to fire multiple interceptor missiles simultaneously.
Unlike an SM-3 which can be used for “terminal phase” ballistic missile defense at much farther ranges, the SM-6 can launch nearer-in offensive and defensive attacks against closer threats such as approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles. With an aerial sensor networked into the radar and fire control technology such as an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane or F-35, the system can track approaching enemy cruise missile attacks much farther away. This provide a unique, surface-warfare closer-in defensive and offensive weapons technology to complement longer range ship-based ballistic missile defense technologies.
Once operational, this expanded intercept ability will better defend surface ships operating in the proximity or range of enemy missiles by giving integrating an ability to destroy multiple-approaching attacks at one time.
NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships called Aegis Baseline 9.
The system hinges upon an upgraded ship-based radar and computer system referred to as Aegis Radar –- designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles, he explained.
Developers said integrated air and missile defense provides an ability to defend against ballistic missiles in space while at the same time countering air threats to naval and joint forces close to the sea.
The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said. Having this capability could impact discussion about a Pentagon term referred to as Anti-Access/Area-Denial, wherein potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline.
Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles.
Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could. The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.
The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.
During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.
More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.
The current upgrades to the Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers can be seen as a part of this broader strategic equation.
The first new DDG 51 to receive Baseline 9 technology was the USS John Finn or DDG 113. The ship previously went through what’s called “light off” combat testing in preparation for operational use and deployment.
The very first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke or DDG 51, is now being retrofitted with these technological upgrades as well.
NIFC-CA technology is also being back-fitted onto earlier ships that were built with the core Aegis capability. This involves an extensive upgrade to combat systems with new equipment being delivered. This involves the integration of new cabling, computers, consoles and data distribution systems.
Existing destroyers and all follow-on destroyers will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies. For example, Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.
In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which, among other things, controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, developers said.
The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a new, massively more powerful radar system.
The new radar, called the SPY-6, is said by Navy officials to be 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.
Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023.
The vehicle taken during the attack in Tongo Tongo, Niger was found on the Malian side of the border in the desert, said Fahad Ag Al Mahmoud, secretary-general of the rebel group known by its French acronym, GATIA.
“Our men are in the middle of digging out the vehicle to get it back in working order,” he said.
He said it was not immediately possible to send a photo to confirm they had retrieved the vehicle, because of the lack of internet in the remote border area.
A coalition of armed Tuareg rebels has been operating against jihadist groups active in the area between Mali and Niger for several weeks.
Four U.S. forces and four Nigerien troops were killed Oct. 4, 2017, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Niamey, Niger’s capital, when they were attacked by as many as 100 Islamic State-linked extremists traveling by vehicle and carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Two other American soldiers and eight Nigerien forces were wounded.
A U.S. military investigation into the Niger attack concluded that the team didn’t get required senior command approval for a risky mission to capture a high-level Islamic State militant, though it did not point to that failure as a cause of the deadly ambush, several U.S. officials familiar with the report said.
The investigation found no single point of failure leading to the attack. It also drew no conclusion about whether villagers in Tongo Tongo, where the team stopped for water and supplies, alerted extremists to American forces in the area.
According to a recent study by the Better Business Bureau, it seems like troops are more likely than civilians to fall for predatory lending schemes and lemon car frauds. In other news, water is wet.
Okay. In all seriousness. I get it. These are serious scams that have been around since long before I was a young, dumb private. As long as there have been troops leaving their parent’s financial safety net and given a taste of real money with little recourse for wasteful spending (i.e. all-inclusive barracks and dining halls,) troops are always going to be troops. And from the bottom of my heart, these f*ckheads who realize this and prey on them regardless are the lowest form of scum.
But can we all stop acting like this is some new discovery? Either let’s educate the troops against these sh*tty spots just off post, have the BBB investigate these clowns to the fullest extent, or do something about it. We’ve all heard the jokes. Sitting around, agreeing that it’s f*cked up isn’t going to change anything.
Anyways, didn’t mean for that to go that serious. Here are some memes to get your weekend started.
Time for another round of memes. This week we’re doing something a little different by highlighting the infamous urinalysis. That’s right, the pee test. They say it’s necessary for a sober military, but it’s really more like a creepy invasion of privacy. What, they don’t trust us?
Urinalysis is the fastest way to get everyone on pins and needles.
You know it’s going to be a long day when it starts like this …
That reaction to urinalysis raises suspicions.
Meanwhile, across the room, there’s downer Dave with a lot on his mind.
And why are urinalysis observers people you rarely see in your unit?
Oh yea, that’s why.
There’s a fine balance between going on demand and holding it.
Researchers from the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory, recently partnered with Texas A&M University to work on artificial intelligence and machine learning as applied to material informatics (and genome).
1st Lt. Levi McClenny, a doctoral candidate in the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and an active member of the U.S. Army Reserve serving as a platoon leader and Black Hawk helicopter pilot in an aviation battalion in Conroe, Texas, recently completed a two-week internship at the lab’s Vehicle Technology Directorate at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
At Texas AM University, McClenny and his adviser Dr. Ulisses Braga-Neto support the development of an AI agent to determine the internal state of various materials and systems using microscopic images and deep machine learning techniques.
Researchers want to understand how materials fracture and break so they can potentially predict when a component will break in an aircraft, for instance, to help with maintenance and operational requirements. The idea is to engineer vehicles that can begin to detect their own deterioration.
Researchers from the RDECOM Research Laboratory, the Army’s Corporate Research Laboratory, recently partnered with Texas AM University to work on artificial intelligence and machine learning as applied to material informatics (and genome).
(US Army photo)
“We are applying machine learning techniques to better understand what is happening at the microstructure level in materials,” said Dr. Mulugeta Haile, research aerospace engineer at VTD. “We want to have a complete understanding of how materials behave during normal usage or in extreme conditions from the day they are put there until they are removed.”
McClenny said coming to the Army’s corporate research laboratory and working in its facilities allowed him to interact with some brilliant and experienced materials scientists that can not only shed some light on the work he’s done, but also pave a way forward.
“The new AI lab is absolutely incredible,” McClenny said. “I was able to use the supercomputer facilities to generate products that I will be taking back to Texas AM with me for future projects that would not be possible without the facilities Dr. Haile and Mr. Ed Zhu put together.”
According to Haile, the new AI/ML lab was conceived to facilitate research in artificial intelligence and machine learning to focus on vehicle technology and maneuver sciences. The lab, not only hosts state-of-the-art GPU accelerated high performance computing resources, it makes these resources highly available and easily configurable to users in an open and collaborative space.
Researchers from the RDECOM Research Laboratory, the Army’s Corporate Research Laboratory (ARL), recently partnered with Texas AM University to work on artificial intelligence and machine learning as applied to material informatics (and genome).
(US Army photo)
“I was able to get these products, as well as develop a plan of action for the microstructure research in the two weeks I was here,” McClenny said. “I was also able to sit down with numerous researchers from the VTD to see their data and see how we could apply machine learning approaches to learn more from it. We always say that models are only as good as the data, and here we can generate some top-notch data.”
The directorate was pleased to host McClenny and found his mix of skills to add to the overall research.
“As a PhD student and an Army Black Hawk pilot, Levi brings to the research environment a unique mix of skills and understanding,” said Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of VTD. “The unique mix of scientist and end user gives Levi a perspective that can be key to enabling the Army Futures Command’s objective of incorporating warfighter feedback into advancing science and technology for the modernization process.”
McClenny said working at the Army’s corporate research laboratory was an incredible experience and absolutely surpassed his expectations. He also said being a member of the military and a researcher offered some unique perspective.
“Throughout all the conversations and ideas, I have tried to remember the ‘why’ for these projects,” he said. “This is important to me, potentially more so than the average researcher, because I can directly impact the soldiers in my own unit, and future units, with this work. The facilities and expertise offered at this facility, not only by Dr. Mulugeta Haile, my mentor, but others in the group like Dr. Dan Cole and Dr. John Chen, really helped to expand my understanding of why we are researching the topics we are.”
The Army is engineering high-tech autonomy kits designed to give “robot” tanks and other armored combat vehicles an ability to operate with little or no human intervention, bringing new tactical and operational dimensions to the future of ground combat.
Unmanned systems, utilized in a fast-evolving, high-threat ground combat operation, could enable robot vehicles to carry supplies, test enemy defenses and even fire weapons — all while manned vehicles operate at a safer distance.
“A kit of hardware and software can be installed into different ground platforms to increase the level of autonomy,” Osie David, Chief Engineer for Mission Command, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The technology kits, which can integrate on a small unmanned ground vehicle or a wide range of larger combat vehicles, use emerging computer algorithms, on-board processing and artificial intelligence to gather and organize sensor information.
“Ground combat autonomy is the hardest level of autonomy possible. You are talking about shifting terrain and changing enemy movements,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Robot vehicles, often referred to by Army weapons developers in the context of “manned-unmanned” teaming, are a fast-growing element of the developmental calculus when it comes to future combat platforms.
Having unmanned assets operating in tandem with manned assets in combat introduces a range of new tactics available to commanders. If robot “scout” vehicles could operate in a forward position to identify enemy threats or test defenses, manned tanks might be able to operate at lighter weights, making them faster and more maneuverable in combat.
In fact, senior Army weapons developers have told Warrior Maven that virtually all future combat vehicles now in development will likely be engineered with various new levels of autonomy.
Using things like embedded infrared optical payloads, unmanned vehicles can use machine-learning technology to process key combat details, independently organize them and then send information to a human in the role of command and control, David explained.
AI enables computers to instantly draw upon vast data-bases with millions of pieces of information to perform real-time data analytics before sending useful information to combat commanders.
The advantage is that combatant commanders can quickly receive integrated intelligence or sensor information from a range of sources, analyzed and condensed to enable faster decision-making.
“Instead of sending bits of information back up to a command post, the autonomy kits can enable sensors to perform detection and object identification in real time…and then push that information up to a human,” David said.
Also, advanced integrated sensors, fortified by AI and greater levels of autonomy, can connect aerial and ground assets to one another — to ID and hand off-targets, send real-time video of nearby enemy activity or pass other intelligence data to vehicle crews.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Melissa K. Russell)
It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wing man” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transport ammunition or perform long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.
In fact, Army modernization strategy documents specifically cite autonomy enabled platforms, speed and maneuverability as fundamental to future armored warfare.
“As the armored BCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers, and mortar indirect fire platforms. Far-term initiatives aim to solve the absence of the armored BCT’s ability to deploy rapidly. The Army assesses the feasibility and application of autonomous or semi-autonomous sub-systems, manned and unmanned teaming, and autonomy enabled combat platforms,” the Army documents read.
CERDEC and other Army entities are working on these projects with the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center to prototype, test and advance these technologies. The current effort is an extension, or next-generation iteration, of a previous TARDEC effort described as “leader-follower” algorithms. This technology, evolved and successfully tested in recent years, enables an unmanned tactical truck or vehicle to precisely follow a manned vehicle in front of it.
(DoD photo by Cherie Cullen)
The concept with “leader-follower” algorithms is to free up vehicle crew members such that they can focus on other pressing, threat-conscious tasks without needing to expend all their energy navigating the vehicle. These newer kits, however, bring the concept of autonomy to an entirely new level, enabling unmanned systems to maneuver quickly in response to fast-changing ground combat circumstances — without needing human intervention.
The current “autonomy kits” effort is a new Army program, slated to gain traction and begin testing this year, Army developers said.
“TARDEC will decide which platforms are used. Some sort of tank is being evaluated, as well as smaller platforms,” David explained.
David explained that the autonomy kits are now being worked on for the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program — a future combat vehicle effort planning to engineer new platforms for the 2030s and beyond.
“We are closely tied with them (NGCV program) and we are looking to see how we can insert this kit onto these future platforms,” he explained.
The kits are also being engineered to help ensure that combat vehicles can continue to function in the event that GPS communications are jammed or destroyed by enemy forces. Gyroscopes and accelerometers, for instance, can help ground forces navigate in the absence of GPS, David explained.
“These technologies are focused on how you actually navigate and detect your position in a GPS denied environment where there is challenging terrain or an enemy is jamming you,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.