On June 17, 2019, the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that it will scale back its compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal – that the United States withdrew from in 2018. According to Iran’s Tasnim News Service, the government will increase stocks of enriched uranium and the heavy water required to make more enriched uranium at its Arak heavy water site.
Heavy water is used in nuclear reactors to slow down neutrons so they are more likely to react with uranium-235, where the element will capture neutrons in a fissile manner. uranium-238 cannot sustain a nuclear reaction, but uranium-235 can. Heavy water reactors create plutonium as a waste material, plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons.
Iran has been making consistent nuclear advances since the reviled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in office.
The Islamic Republic also announced it would begin enriching uranium again as a result of the U.S. leaving the 2015 deal. This means Iran will begin creating more of the uranium-235 required to sustain nuclear reactions, using the heavy water in its reactors. Under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpiles of medium-enriched Uranium and reduce its stock of low-enriched Uranium by 98 percent. It also agreed to limit its centrifuge production and use while limiting its future enrichment to uranium at on 3.67 percent.
Iran also agreed to limit the possibilities of nuclear proliferation by converting other sources of uranium enrichment and heavy water production to other purposes.
The Arak Heavy Water Facility.
Until now, other global powers have agreed with Iran ending its participation in some areas of the deal. Those powers are still signatory to the agreement. The most recent developments, the continuation in heavy water production and the increased production of enriched uranium, were not agreed upon by the other signatories to the deal. Iran warned the world in May 2019 that it would take these steps unless the sanctions on Iran were lifted as per the terms of the agreement.
It has been true to its word in all areas regarding the deal – and its dismantling – so far.
The Russian defense contractor Rostec just showed off a stealth camouflaged helmet that they claim can change colors quickly and even display moving images to better conceal Russian troops.
“The specialized electrically-operated material covering the helmet prototype is able to change color depending on the camouflaged surface and environment,” Rostec said in a press statement of the helmet displayed Aug. 21, 2018, at the Army-2018 Forum in Moscow. “The material can display dynamic changes of color intensity and simulate complex images, for example, the motion of leaves in the wind.”
Rostec said that the stealth camouflage coating can be “applied to the base, like ordinary paint, and does not require great accuracy in terms of thickness and uniformity.”
In this case, it was applied to a helmet designed for Russia’s third-generation Ratnik-3 combat suit, which Russia Today previously dubbed the “Star Wars-like” suit, but Rostec says it can be applied to practically anything, even armored vehicles.
The Ratnik-3 combat suit.
The third-generation Ratnik-3 suit “comprises five integrated systems that include life support, command and communication, engaging, protection and energy saving subsystems,” TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet, previously reported.
In total, the suit comes with 59 items, including a powered exoskeleton that supposedly gives the soldier more strength and stamina, along with cutting-edge body armor and a helmet and visor that shields the soldier’s entire face.
The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea.
It should be noted, however, that there do not appear to be any video yet of the helmet changing color, but that doesn’t mean the stealth coating doesn’t work.
“I haven’t seen the system working myself of course, but I doubt they’d be displaying it if it didn’t at least do something resembling what they claim,” Sim Tack, chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, told Business Insider.
It’s “not something we expect to see on the battlefield too soon, but as armies move towards more advanced infantry systems including exoskeletons and that type of technology, [it] could be a part of that,” Tack added.
“Even if Russian industry was able to perfect stealth camo and exoskeletons, it would likely be too expensive to fit to ordinary Russian troops, with small numbers of Russian special forces — spetsnaz — the likely recipients,” Popular Mechanics’ Kyle Mizokami wrote on Aug. 20, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Fort Carson’s newest weapon is also its most revolutionary, allowing ground-pounding units to strike targets hundreds of miles behind enemy lines and giving commanders an unprecedented view of enemy movements.
All without risking lives.
Meet the Gray Eagle, a hulking drone with a 56-foot wingspan that packs four Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and can stay aloft for a full 24-hours with its thrumming diesel power plant. Fort Carson has authorization for a dozen of the drones and they will soon be ready for war.
“We are reaching full-operational capability,” said Col. Scott Gallaway, who commands the post’s 4th Combat Aviation Brigade.
The Gray Eagle is similar to drones in use by U.S. intelligence agencies and the Air Force. But how they’re used by the Army will be different.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, armed drones have targeted insurgents and been flown by operators half a world away.
The Army envisions its drones as a way to give combat commanders the capability of striking deep, with drone operators sticking close to the battlefield. While the Air Force relies heavily on officers to fly drones, the Army will lean on its enlisted corps to do most of the flying.
Gallaway said the drones are a tool for a “near-peer competitive environment” – a battle against a well-armed and organized enemy.
The Army has gone to war with drones for nearly two decades. But those drones have been toys compared to the Gray Eagle.
The biggest was the Shadow – with 14-foot wings. It had a range of 68 miles, compared to the Gray Eagle’s more than 1,500 mile range. The small one was the Raven – with a 4-foot wingspan and a range of 6 miles.
Those drones gave commanders a limited view of the battlefield for short periods of time. They’re unarmed, but tactically useful when confronting nearby enemies.
The Gray Eagle, with sophisticated cameras and other intelligence sensors aboard, is strategic, Gallaway said.
“It gives us reconnaissance and security,” he said.
Training with the Gray Eagle at Fort Carson, though, is challenging.
The 135,000-acre post has limited room to use the drones, and it is difficult to simulate how they would be used in war without vast tracts of land. On Fort Carson, the drones look inward to the post’s training area and aren’t used to spy on the neighbors, Gallaway said. The drones, though armed in battle, don’t carry missiles in training.
The small training area denies operators experience that will prepare them for combat.
To overcome that, the post is asking the Federal Aeronautics Administration to create a corridor between Fort Carson and the 235,000-acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site east of Trinidad. That would give the drone’s operators experience with long-distance flights while keeping the drones safely separated from other aircraft with a dedicated flight path.
“We want to be able to operate out of Piñon Canyon,” Gallaway said. “We see it as fundamentally important to our readiness.”
The need for that kind of room to fly also speaks to the Gray Eagle’s game-changing battlefield role.
The drone can sneak behind the lines and gather intelligence on enemy movements, sharing the enemy’s precise location with computers mounted on American vehicles across the battlefield.
It can also be used to target enemy commanders, throwing their units into chaos with a precision strike.
“We see them as a combat multiplier,” Gallaway said.
The drones can also be used in new ways the Army is beginning to explore. Pilots aboard the aviation brigade’s AH-64E attack helicopters can view the drone feed in their cockpit and control the Gray Eagle in flight.
“Manned-unmanned teaming brings synergy to the battlefield where each platform, ground or air, uses its combat systems in the most efficient mode to supplement each team member’s capabilities in missions such as overwatch of troops in combat engagements, route reconnaissance, and convoy security,” Lt. Col. Fernando Guadalupe Jr. wrote in the Army’s Aviation Digest.
Translated: Using drones, the Army can overwhelm an enemy like the Martians in War of The Worlds.
Gallaway, an attack helicopter pilot, said he’s been watching the rise of drones in warfare for years.
It will change warfare. And America is in the lead.
The M1A2 Abrams main battle tank is arguably the best in the world. Yeah, Russia is generating some hype for the Armata family of tanks, but the Abrams is combat-proven and very hard to kill.
How hard? Well, in his 1994 non-fiction book, Armored Cav, Tom Clancy recounted a tale of how an M1A1 Abrams got stuck in the mud during the ground war of Desert Storm. It was then set upon by three tanks, Iraqi T-72s specifically. A round fired from roughly a thousand yards away bounced off, and the Abrams responded by blowing the T-72 that fired it to bits. A second round fired from 700 yards, bounced off, and the offending T-72 was blasted. The third T-72, at a range of roughly 400 yards, fired a round, which left a groove in the armor of the Abrams. It, too, was destroyed by a shot fired through a sand berm. These were, supposedly, Russia’s state-of-the-art tanks.
Then, when help arrived, and the tank couldn’t be freed from the mud, a platoon of Abrams tanks tried to destroy it. After several rounds, they detonated the onboard ammo, but the blow-out panels functioned as designed. Then, when the tank was retrieved from the mud, they discovered that it was still functional. The only issue? A sight was out of alignment.
So, what would it take to reliably destroy an M1 Abrams? Well, someone at quora.com asked what would happen if an Abrams was hit by a round from a 16-inch gun on an American Iowa-class battleship.
The 16-inch armor-piercing rounds fired from the battleship weigh in at 2,700 pounds. The 120mm rounds fired at that Abrams stuck in the mud? They’re about 20 pounds. Do a quick bit of math and you’ll see that the Iowa‘s main gun round is 135 times as heavy as an Abrams’ main gun round. The Abrams may be the world’s toughest tank and can take a ton of abuse, but not this level of abuse.
To put it simply, a main gun round from the Iowa-class battleship will destroy the Abrams easily. In a way, this speaks well for the Abrams – one can’t really imagine anything short of an Iowa‘s main gun being able to destroy one.
Civilians might think of military hair regulations as one standard look (see: jarhead), but there’s actually some variance among the branches. The “high and tight” sported by soldiers and Marines is much too short for your average airman.
Just ask Air Force captain Mark Harper.
In 2005, Harper deployed to Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq as Officer In Charge of the Joint Combat Camera team. Though he deployed with the Air Force, it was a joint environment, so Harper found himself reporting to an Army colonel and supervising about 40 grunts.
The first day he reported to Army HQ, those soldiers jumped on the chance to give him a hard time about his hair (which is probably a good thing — you only haze the people you like, right? Right?).
“I learned my schedule was intense and I wouldn’t be able to get someone else to cut it, but I wasn’t going to endure this mockery again, so I thought, ‘How hard can this be? I’m just going to cut it myself…'”
The U.S. Marine Corps air and ground attack operations will be fortified by a new high-tech, heavy-lift helicopter designed to triple the payload of previous models, maneuver faster and perform a wider range of missions by the early 2020s, a Pentagon announcement said.
The Navy and Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky will now build the first two CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopters as part of a new $300 million Low-Rate-Initial-Production deal.
CH-53 helicopters, currently operating from Navy amphibious assault ships, are central to maritime and land assault, re-supply, cargo and other kinds of heavy-lift missions.
The new “K” model CH-53 helicopter is engineered to lift 27,000 pounds, travel 110 nautical miles, before staying 30 minutes on station and then be able to return under high hot conditions. The existing “E” model CH-53 can only carry 9,000 pounds.
“This contract will benefit our Marine Corps’ ‘heavy lifters’ for decades to come. Future Marines, not even born yet, will be flying this helicopter well into the future,” U.S. Marine Corps. Col. Hank Vanderborght, Naval Air Systems Command program manager for Heavy Lift Helicopters program said in service statement.
The idea with the helicopter is to engineer a new aircraft with much greater performance compared to the existing CH-53 E or “Echo” model aircraft designed in the 80s.
Higher temperatures and higher altitudes create a circumstance wherein the decreased air-pressure makes it more difficult for helicopters to fly and carry payloads. “High-Hot” conditions are described as being able to operate at more than 6,000 ft at temperatures greater than 90-degrees Fahrenheit.
An on-board refueling system is engineered into the helicopter to extend mission range in high-risk areas too dangerous for a C-130 to operate, developers said.
The requirement for the “K” model CH-53 emerged out of a Marine Corps study which looked at the combat aviation elements of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force, or MAGTF.
Engineers with the “K” program are using a handful of new technologies to achieve greater lift, speed and performance with the helicopter, including the integration of a new, more powerful GE 38 turboshaft engine for the aircraft.
“Fuel consumption of the engine is 25-percent improved. On a pure technology level it is about a 25-percent improvement in fuel efficiency,” Dr. Michael Torok, Sikorsky’s CH-53K program vice president, told Scout Warrior in a previous interview.
The helicopter is also being built with lighter-weight composite materials for the airframe and the rotorblades, materials able to equal or exceed the performance of traditional metals at a much lighter weight, said Torok.
“Technology allowed us to design a largely all-composite skinned airframe. There are some primary frames titanium and aluminum. Beam structure and all the skins are all composite. Fourth generation rotorblades are a combination of new airfoils, taper and a modification of the tip deflection of the blade. It is an integrated cuff and the tip geometries are modified to get additional performance,” Torok added.
The helicopter will also be configured with Directional Infrared Countermeasures, or DIRCM, a high-tech laser-jammer designed to throw incoming missiles off course. DIRCM uses sensor technology to identify and thwart fast-approaching enemy fire such as shoulder-fired weapons.
The CH-53 K uses a split-torque transmission design that transfers high-power, high-speed engine output to lower-speed, high-torque rotor drive in a weight efficient manner.
“With the split torque you take the high-speed inputs from the engine and you divide it up into multiple pieces with multiple gear sets that run in parallel,” Torok said.
The K model will be a “fly by wire” capable helicopter and also use the latest in what’s called conditioned-based maintenance, a method wherein diagnostic sensors are put in place to monitor systems on the aircraft in order to better predict and avert points of mechanical failure.
Israel has begun construction on a massive underwater barrier with the Gaza Strip which it is calling “impenetrable.”
Israel and the Gaza Strip are both located along the Mediterranean Sea, and are separated by several land borders. But no barrier has ever been erected at sea.
Israel’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that building of the “impenetrable” barrier has begun at Gaza’s northern border, along the beach of a small agricultural community, or kibbutz, called Zikim. The barrier is designed to withstand harsh sea conditions for many years, according to the ministry.
A defense official said the massive barrier will consist of three security layers, which include a layer below sea level, a layer of armored stone, and a top layer of barbed wire. An additional fence will surround the entire area.
Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the “one-of-a-kind” security project will “effectively block any possibility of infiltrating Israel by sea.”
Leiberman added that the barrier serves to limit militant group Hamas’ strategic capabilities as tensions continue to flare along the border. At least 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 injured during violent clashes with Israeli soldiers early May 2018. On May 29, 2018, more than 27 rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza into Israel.
The decision to build the barrier was prompted by a thwarted attack by Hamas militants at sea in July 2014, during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Four Hamas naval operatives, referred to as frogmen, swam ashore at Zikim beach and attempted to cross into Israeli territory. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the men were armed with automatic weapons and explosives, and sought to carry out a terror attack. The four men were later killed in combined sea, air, and land attacks by the IDF.
The IDF posted aerial footage of the thwarted attack:
Izumo (foreground) sails with USS Ronald Reagan during a bilateral exercise in the South China Sea in 2019 (U.S. Navy photo)
At the Japan Maritime United Isogo shipyard in Yokohama, JS Izumo DDH-183 has entered into the process of being converted to a genuine aircraft carrier. Currently designated as a helicopter destroyer, Izumo does not have the capability to operate fixed-wing aircraft from her deck. In the first of two main stages of her conversion, coinciding with her regular 5-year refit and overhaul programs, Izumo will receive upgrades to accommodate Japan’s new F-35B Lightning II fighter jets.
Following the surrender of the Japanese Empire in WWII, the Imperial Japanese Navy had only three aircraft carriers left in its fleet: Hōshō survived the war as a training carrier, Junyō had been damaged during the Battle of the Philippine Sea and was awaiting repairs, and Katsuragi could not be equipped with enough fuel, aircraft, or pilots by the time she was completed in late 1944. Hōshō and Katsuragi would ferry Japanese servicemen back to Japan until 1947 when all three surviving carriers, along with three unfinished carriers, were scrapped.
Article 9 of Japan’s post-war 1947 Constitution renounced war as “a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.” As a result, a Japanese Navy could not be formed as a military branch for power projection. Rather, Japan created the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force as a branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in 1954. Though the JMSDF is tasked with the naval defense of the Japanese islands, Japan’s partnership with Western countries during the Cold War led its focus on anti-submarine warfare to combat the Soviet Navy.
In 2007, Japan launched two Hyūga-class helicopter destroyers. With their flat-top decks, the Hyūgas were often called Japan’s first aircraft carriers since WWII. However, they were only capable of operating rotary-wing aircraft from their decks and had no launch or recovery capabilities for even VTOL fixed-wing aircraft. Doctrinally, the Hyūgas were used as flagships for anti-submarine operations.
Launched in 2013, Izumo is the lead ship in her class and the replacement for the Hyūgas. Displacing 27,000 long tons fully loaded, Izumo and her sister ship, Kaga DDH-184, are the largest surface combatants in the JMSDF. Like the Hyūgas before, Izumo is a helicopter destroyer that carries rotary-wing aircraft and is tasked with anti-submarine operations. However, in December 2018, the Japanese government announced that Izumo would be converted to operate fixed-wing aircraft in accordance with new defense guidelines.
Japan’s updated defense policy called for a more cohesive, flexible, and multidimensional force in response to growing Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and the completion of the Shandong, China’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier.
Estimated at million, the modifications to Izumo include a cleared and reinforced flight deck to support additional weight, added aircraft guidance lights, and heat-resistant deck sections to allow for vertical landings by F-35Bs. At this time, no specifications have been released regarding a ski-jump, angled flight deck, or catapults.
The first stage of modifications will be evaluated in a series of tests and sea trials following completion. Final modifications in stage two of the ship’s conversion are expected to take place in FY 2025 during the next overhaul and further evaluation. Izumo‘s sister ship, Kaga, will also be converted to an aircraft carrier, though no timeline has been released for her modifications.
The conversion to accept fixed-wing aircraft will provide Izumo and Kaga increased interoperability with allies. As aircraft carriers, they would be able to support not only Japanese F-35Bs, but also American F-35Bs and V-22 Ospreys. During a meeting on March 26, 2019 with General Robert Neller, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, the Japanese government asked for guidance and advice on how to best operate F-35Bs from the decks of the future carriers; General Neller said that he would, “help as much as possible.”
On the creation of the new carriers and their joint capabilities, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya is quoted as saying, “The Izumo-class aircraft carrier role is to strengthen the air defense in the Pacific Ocean and to ensure the safety of the Self-Defense Force pilots. There may be no runway available for the US aircraft in an emergency.”
The conversion of the helicopter destroyers into aircraft carriers has received some opposition both domestically in Japan and abroad. Some people fear that the new capabilities will be a catalyst for future Japanese military expansion and aggression. Already, the JMSDF is the fourth largest world naval power by tonnage, behind only China, Russia, and the United States. However, the Japanese government remains adamant that the modernization efforts are only meant to bolster the country’s self-defense capability against growing threats from China.
The U.S. Navy’s Fleet Week has kicked off with a parade of ships, including patrol, destroyer and assault vessels that pulled into New York Harbor.
The U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton military base held a salute to the ships on May 24. The USS Kearsarge amphibious assault ship carried out a seven-gun salute to Fort Hamilton, which replied with a 15-gun salute.
“New York has always had a close relationship with the military,” U.S. Coast Guard Anthony Giovinco, U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran and chief of staff and secretary of the United Military Veterans of Kings County Memorial Day Parade, said in a statement. “The sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are treated very well here. This is a tradition that is important to me. It brings back fond memories of the years I spent in the military.”
The USS Kearsarge was accompanied by vessels including the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Lassen; the Ticonderoga-class cruisers USS Monterey and USS San Jacinto; and Canada’s Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Glace Bay, among others.
“Fleet Week New York is a way for the general public to view and experience the maritime sea services while allowing us to show our appreciation for our Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen,” U.S. Army Spc. Tanner Butler, who is assigned to Fort Hamilton, said. “I feel, that since 9/11, it is really important for the people of New York to experience these things and to remember that our fellow Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen are there for us.”
New York City residents can inspect the vessels while service members are allowed to roam the city and enjoy perks such as free subway rides and baseball tickets. About 4,000 sailors,Marines and Coast Guardsmen are anticipated to participate this year. There will be a special screening of the 1986 film Top Gun in New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air Space Museum.
“Fleet Week New York, now in its 29th year, is the city’s time-honored celebration of the sea service,” the Navy said in a statement. “It is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. The weeklong celebration has been held nearly every year since 1984.”
In 2013, the Navy canceled Fleet Week due to spending cuts amid a sequester. The event would have cost the Navy an estimated $10 million, while the New York City metropolitan area lost an estimated $20 million in revenue.
Bakka was a military working dog assigned to Korea where he worked with handlers on a U.S. air base, but a leg injury ended his career when he was a 7-year-old, too old to be a good candidate for surgery. So, the Air Force put him in the queue for adoption, and a recent handler stepped up to try and get Bakka to his home in Boise, Idaho.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dustin Cain was deployed to Korea for a year and was paired with Bakka, a young German Shepherd. But Cain, knowing that he’d be returning to his family stateside in a year, was apprehensive about developing a deep bond with Bakka as his duties as a handler would be coming to an end.
But it’s hard to keep your distance from a great dog, especially when every work day is focused on conducting missions with the dog and ensuring its welfare. And so the end of Cain’s tour in Korea was bittersweet. He was returning to his family, but he would have to leave Bakka behind. But, Cain explains in the video, he did hold out hope to be reunited with the dog in the future.
And so, when he learned that Bakka was getting a medical retirement and needed a safe home, he cleared it with his family and invited the dog to Idaho, an over 5,000-mile trip. Luckily for the pair, the military is increasingly pushing to pair dogs with their handlers after service, and other organizations like the American Humane Society move mountains to help get the dogs to their new forever homes regardless of distance.
This allows a retired dog to reunite with a handler it’s likely already emotionally bonded to, but it also helps ensure that former military working dogs are cared for by people who understand their needs. The dogs are usually bred for service and trained from youth to perform work and protect their handlers, so not all domestic situations are good for them.
And that’s why it’s so great that Bakka and Cain were able to find each other. Bakka was not only headed to a home with a loving family, but he was greeted by a handler he already knew. He even hopped into the back seat and took the normal position he had held on patrols with Cain.
If you want to help make reunions like this happen, there are all sorts of nonprofits that are working to pair retiring dogs with their former handlers, including the American Human Society which helped get Bakka and Cain together. And they could use your help, because, while military working dog handlers are supposed to get the first chance to adopt working dogs, that doesn’t always happen.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggested that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, the costly stealth jet considered to be pinnacle of US military aviation, “would have no chance” if pitted against a drone that is remotely piloted by a human.
At the US Air Force’s Air Warfare Symposium in Florida, Musk said there should be a competitor to the F-35 program, according to a tweet by Lee Hudson, the Pentagon editor at Aviation Week.
Musk responded in his own tweet, saying that the “competitor should be a drone fighter plane that’s remote controlled by a human, but with its maneuvers augmented by autonomy.”
“The F-35 would have no chance against it,” he added.
The F-35, variants of which are used by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, has had its critics since its inception. Lawmakers have scrutinized it over multiple delays in production and its price tag, which at 6.5 billion, makes it the costliest weapons program in US history.
The Defense Department in October announced a billion contract that includes delivery of 478 F-35s, according to CNBC.
Problems with the F-35 surfaced soon after it joined the fleet. Over 800 flaws riddled the software, according to a recent report by the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, which also said the 25 mm cannon on the Air Force’s F-35A, the most common variant, displayed an “unacceptable” level of accuracy.
The F-35 was also unable to meet a branchwide goal set by the previous defense secretary, James Mattis, in 2019. Mattis wanted 80% of F-35s and other stealth aircraft to be “mission-capable” 80% of the time.
Dodging enemy gunfire in close-quarter urban combat, seeking to destroy enemy fighters hiding behind walls, rocks and trees and firing ammunition especially engineered to explode at a particular, pre-planned point in space – comprise the highly sought-after advantages of the Army’s XM25 “airburst” weapon.
However, despite the initial promise of prototypes of the technology in combat in Afghanistan as an emerging way to bring a decisive advantage to soldiers in a firefight, the future of the XM25 is now uncertain due to ongoing Army needs, requirements, weapons inventory assessments, and budget considerations, service officials told Scout Warrior.
The Army’s XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement airburst weapon system, in development for several years, was used to destroy Taliban fighters hiding behind grape-growing walls in Afghanistan during a Forward Operational Assessment of the weapon several years ago. Extensive analysis and adjustments to the weapon followed this operational combat evaluation, Army officials explained.
Part of the calculus regarding a production decision about the weapon relates to the possibility of the weapon “misfiring,” several news reports said. Army officials did not comment on this, however a 2015 news report in the Economist said a US soldier was slightly injured during training with the XM 25 when it misfired. It does now, nonetheless, appear as though this problem was pervasive or persistent with the weapon – but it could be a factor amidst ongoing plans for the weapon’s future.
Army and Pentagon weapons developers and budget planners are now deliberating plans for the weapon, which could be formally produced and deployed within the next several years – or passed over due to fiscal constraints.
While the XM25 would clearly be useful in a major force-on-force engagement or great power conflict, airburst attacks have particular value in a counterinsurgency type-fight wherein enemies seek to use terrain, building, rocks, ditches or trees to protect themselves from being targeted.
By attacking with an “airburst” round, soldiers do not have to have a linear view or direct line of sight to an enemy target; if they know an enemy is behind a rock or tree (in defilade) – the weapon can explode above or near the location to ensure the target is destroyed.
The weapon uses laser-rangefinder technology to fire a high-explosive airburst round capable of detonating at a specific point near an enemy target hidden or otherwise obscured by terrain or other obstacles, Army developers have explained.
Program managers had been seeking to expedite development of the system, refine and improve the technology, and ultimately begin formal production by the fall of 2014, however its current trajectory is now unclear.
“The XM25 brings a new capability to the soldier for the counter-defilade fight, allowing him to be able to engage enemy combatants behind walls, behind trees or in buildings,” former XM25 program manager Col. Scott Armstrong previously explained in an Army statement.
Air Mobility Command has grounded the C-5 Galaxy cargo planes operating at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware after a nose landing-gear unit malfunctioned for the second time in 60 days.
The stand-down order, issued July 17, affects all 18 C-5s stationed at Dover — 12 of them are primary and six are backup aircraft, according to a release.
The Air Force has 56 C-5s in service.
“Aircrew safety is always my top priority and is taken very seriously,” Air Mobility Command’s chief, Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, said in a release. “We are taking the appropriate measures to properly diagnose the issue and implement a solution.”
An Air Mobility Command spokesman told Military.com that both malfunctions involved C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft. On May 22 and again July 15, the planes’ “nose landing gear could not extend all the way,” the spokesman said. The C-5M was introduced in 2009 and is the latest model of the C-5.
Air Force personnel will perform inspections “to ensure proper extension and retraction of the C-5 nose landing gear,” Air Mobility Command said. The halt applies only to C-5s at Dover, and Air Mobility Command said it would work to minimize the effect on worldwide operations.
The C-5 is the Air Force’s largest airlifter. It has a 65-foot-tall tail and is 247 feet long with a 223-foot wingspan. The first version, the C-5A, entered service in 1970, and several models have joined the fleet since then.
The C-5M was given more powerful engines, allowing it to carry more cargo and take off over a shorter distance. It can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, its range is more than 8,000 miles.
In recent years, budgets cuts and sequestration compelled Air Force leadership to begin taking C-5Ms out of service.
Everhart, the Air Mobility Command chief, said in March that total C-5 inventory had fallen to 56 from 112 a few years ago.
But the Air Force has made moves to reverse that deactivation, saying it plans to move at least eight mothballed C-5Ms back into service, using newly allocated funds, over the next four years.
That return to service would partially overlap with an upgrade project for the active fleet of airlifters that is slated to wrap up in 2018.
“I need them back because there’s real-world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” Everhart told lawmakers at the end of March.