The Israeli military has bought some copter drones that can carry some serious firepower – up to and including 40mm grenade launchers.
According to a report from DefenseOne.com, the Israeli Defense Forces are buying a number of TIKAD drones from Duke Robotics. The company, founded by Raziel “Razi” Atuaran — an Israeli special forces veteran who still serves as a reservist — is also pitching this drone to the U.S. military.
“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in,”Atuar explained. “Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt.”
Sick of seeing civilians and fellow Israeli troops get killed, Atuar sought a way to deal with enemy forces in urban areas that would greatly reduce the risks. One way to do that is not to send a person in to clear a building, but to instead send a robot.
The use of a helicopter drone to carry firepower isn’t a new idea. A viral Youtube video showed how a typical drone one buys from Amazon can be rigged to carry a pistol.
But accuracy from such a platform is dubious at best. Payload from a drone can be an issue. The Israelis have used an off-the-shelf drone to haul a sniper rifle that had a maximum of five minutes of flight time. That’s not very useful in a pitched urban fight.
The TIKAD drone, though, fixes those problems by setting up a gimbaled platform that can hold up to 22 pounds. This provides a stable platform that ensures accurate fire.
The Israelis have not revealed how many TIKAD drones they are buying. The company, though, has moved to Florida, where U.S. Special Operations Command and Central Command are both headquartered.
You can see a jury-rigged armed drone using a pistol — an example of how not to arm a drone — below.
We think of drone warfare as a post-9/11 phenomenon, but they’ve been around a lot longer than that. Here are a few high points in the history of pilotless aerial war machines:
1849 — Austrians launch nearly 200 pilotless balloons mounted with bombs against the city of Venice.
1862 – Both sides of the American Civil War use pilotless balloons for reconnaissance and bombing sorties.
1898 – The U.S. military fits a camera to a kite during the Spanish-American War, producing the first ever aerial reconnaissance photos.
1916 — The Royal Flying Corps took over 19,000 aerial photographs and collected a staggering 430,000 prints during the five months of the Battle of the Somme. (This visual analysis upturned the horse as the dominant technology of military reconnaissance.)
1943 — The GB-1 Glide Bomb was developed to bypass German air defenses. It was a workable glider fitted with a standard 1,000 or 2,000-pound bomb. Made with plywood wings, rudders, and controlled by radio, the GB-1s were dropped from B-17s and then guided by bombardiers to their target below. One hundred and eight GB-1s were dropped on Cologne, causing heavy damage.
1945 — Operation Aphrodite was one of the most ambitious drone projects in the Second World War. The plan was to strike concealed German laboratories with American B-17 “Flying Fortresses” and B-24 bombers that were stripped down and crammed with explosives. A manned crew would pilot these planes before parachuting out once they crossed the English Channel. At that moment, a nearby “mothership” would take control, receiving live feed from an on-board television camera. Despite the inventiveness of the U.S. Air Force and Navy, Aphrodite was a military failure. It even claimed the life of Joseph Kennedy Jr, after his B-17 exploded over the English countryside.
1946 — “Pilotless Aircraft Branch” of the U.S. Air Force was established to develop three types of drones for use as training targets. Of the three, the airborne-launched Q-2 was the most important, becoming the “father” of a class of target drones.
1964 — The U.S. first began to consider sending drones to replace its U-2s in spying missions over Cuba. Lightning Bugs flown by U.S. Strategic Air Command were subsequently used for surveillance in so-called “denied areas” across an increasingly widening Cold War battlespace including Cuba, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China.
1968 – Drones used extensively over North Vietnam for surveillance, marking a shift from being “targets” to remote “sensor” platforms that could check out the landscape below.
1973 — The Philco-Ford Corporation developed a laser designator that could be attached to a Ryan BGM-34B Firebee drone, with the aim of creating a “strike drone.”
1989 – DARPA seed money funds development of the GNAT, which was equipped with GPS navigation that allowed for autonomous missions of up to 48 hours, and also housed infrared and low-light cameras in a moveable sensor turret under its nose.
1994 – CIA bypasses acquisition rules to rapidly field the GNAT-750 and begins flying top secret missions over Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the CIA director at the time, “I could sit in my office, call up a classified channel and in an early version of e-mail type messages to a guy in Albania asking him to zoom in on things.”
1995 — Predators – the follow-on version of the GNAT-750s — were shown in an aviation demonstration at Fort Bliss. Impressed by the drone’s capabilities, the U.S. Air Force soon established its very first UAV squadron, the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Indian Springs Auxiliary Airfield in Nevada, later named as Creech Air Force Base.
2000 — After the CIA’s Predator drone spotted who it believed was bin Laden at Tarnak Farm, Afghanistan, research went into shortening the kill-chain: getting Tomahawk missiles to fly from a submarine in the Arabian Sea to southern Afghanistan would take six hours to go through military protocols. The Predator’s Hellfire was the solution. At Indian Springs, Nevada, a program was born under the Air Force’s “Big Safari” office, a classified division in charge of developing secret intelligence programs for the military. In 2001 tests were made to turn the hunter into a killer.
2001 — The armed Predator program was activated days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, with Predators reaching Afghanistan by September 16th 2001, and armed Predators reaching the country on October 7th. About the same time President Bush signed a directive that created a secret list of High Value Targets that the CIA was authorized to kill without further Presidential approval.
2002 — The agency’s Predator unleashed a Hellfire missile at a “tall man” and his lieutenants in February near the city of Khost, believing the man to be none other than bin Laden. But the analysts had acquired the wrong target. This time, it was innocent civilians gathering up scrap metal. All were killed.
2003 — Drones’ cameras and sensors linked to the global telecommunications system. Now a drone can be piloted—and its live feed viewed and its missiles aimed—from anywhere in the world. The drone pilots are now insulated from the risks of combat.
2010 – The most prolific year of drone strikes on President Obama’s watch. CIA authorized to strike targets beyond approved kill list — individuals with a suspicious ‘pattern of life’ or daily behavior.
2011 –RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drones used to monitor Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, and that intel is used to plan and conduct the raid that results in his death.
On a muggy summer day in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a Marine Corps instructor stood on a ledge overlooking a swamp. He looked out at his students, and his eyes found Master Sgt. Aretha Boston — the only airman in the platoon.
He called her forward, and Boston walked up to the ledge.
“Just as soon as I extended my hand, he grabbed it,” Boston recalled. “And before I knew it, he was pulling me into the swamp.”
For Boston, 11th Medical Group command staff superintendent, it was another of many surprises at the Marine Corps Staff NCO Academy Advanced Course. The opportunity to attend the course was a surprise in itself.
Most surprising, though, was how well she performed. At graduation time, Boston took home three of the most prestigious awards at the school: the class Gunnery Sergeant Award (voted on by instructors), the Honor Graduate Award (voted on by her classmates), and the Distinguished Graduate Award (for measured academic excellence).
In some ways, though, it was a fitting chapter in a storied career that almost never was.
Coming from a small town in Florida, Boston’s life plan didn’t involve joining the military. Her mother, though, had different ideas. She insisted that her daughter enlist.
Master Sgt. Aretha Boston, 11th Medical Group command staff superintendent, poses for a portrait Oct. 24, 2018, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Boston.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Noah Sudolcan)
“To be completely honest, in the beginning I was angry,” Boston said. Despite her misgivings, at the age of 17 and straight out of high school, she begrudgingly agreed and enlisted in the Air Force to become a dental technician. Years later, she said she views it as “by far the best decision my parents could have made for me.”
Boston’s first base was 7,479 miles from home: Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. She was away from her family, the only airman basic in the dental clinic and learning a whole new lifestyle. Over those first few months, she learned the technical portion of her job, but she said she struggled with the challenge of conforming to military discipline.
“I acted out a lot,” Boston said. “I didn’t want people to tell me to do something. I was very stubborn.”
After serving a year in Korea, she moved to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Dealing with the culture shock coming from Korea, she said she found it hard to connect with people.
Her first Christmas break in Florida started with a call from her first sergeant asking why she wasn’t at bay orderly — an extra duty to help clean the dorm common areas. Thinking she had the week off, she said it all seemed unfair.
“The first shirt sat me down and told me, ‘Listen, I’ve been told you’re a stellar airman, but you have a terrible attitude,'” she said. When he told her that an unchecked bad attitude could end up getting her kicked out of the military, she said she decided to make some changes.
“That was my turning point,” she said. “From then on, I did the best I could to be the best airman.”
The new attitude paid off. Several years — and promotions — later, everything was going well. But Boston said she craved something different. A new challenge. Something to separate herself from her peers. She was comfortable, standing on the solid ground of a well-constructed military career, but she was contemplating a big jump.
Air Force Master Sgt. Aretha Boston, middle left, poses with her Marine Corps classmates during the Marine Corps Staff NCO Academy Advanced Course in the summer of 2018.
She found out the Air Force offers the chance for master sergeants to attend a sister service academy. She applied. Then she got accepted. The class started in the summer of 2018, and when she arrived, there were only six airmen in a sea of 120 Marines.
“(Marines) operate completely different from (airmen),” Boston explained. “Everything ties into fitness. Leadership, strategy planning — it always goes back to fitness.”
Physical training was every day, which she said was taxing on both her body and mind.
Those challenges culminated when, after a long morning run, the instructor pulled her into the swamp. With Marines cheering from the side, Boston remembers the feeling of being engulfed by the freezing water. After she and the rest of her class swam to the other side, a long obstacle course lay ahead of them.
Like all the other obstacles in Marine Corps senior NCO training, along with the hurdles of her early career, Boston faced them head on.
“It was pretty motivating to think she was an airman coming over to the course, doing something unprecedented,” said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Walker, Boston’s classmate and Marine Corps Aviation Logistics Squadron 14 warehouse managements division warehouse chief.
Walker said it would be natural to see a decrease in academic productivity in the individual taking on the busy role of class gunnery sergeant. But he said Boston had no such trouble. In fact, she still managed to excel beyond her peers – even the ones wearing Marine Corps insignia.
“She literally did everything you would expect from a Marine, pushing forward, even outside of class.” Walker said. “She carried herself as a professional the entire time and represented the Air Force well.”
Managing an infantry squad is similar to a sports coach shifting players around to positions that best fit their strengths and talents. Since Marines aren’t created equal, capitalizing on those strengths and building up weakness is why the U.S. military is such a juggernaut today.
On special occasions, a Marine infantry squad patrol is comprised of a platoon leader (if he decides to go), a squad leader, three fire team leaders, three SAW gunners, and six riflemen.
This all, of course, depends on how your squad is made up — we’re even going to throw in a Company Gunny for sh*ts and giggles.
The Defense Department says it’s to make the human more effective in combat. Because as anyone who’s ever lost their mobile phone knows, having all your numbers stored under names like “Josie Drunk Girl” and “Do Not Answer” makes your memory soooooooo much better.
But the list goes on. According to Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, the new technologies the Pentagon wants to develop will allow commanders to identify and analyze enemy defenses.
Further technological innovations would include wearable electronics, exoskeletons, greater use of drones and manned aircraft working together, and mother ships that would send out mini-drones to execute military missions, all of which could incorporate AI.
The announcement comes not just against the urging of America’s tech mogul community, but also amid skepticism from within the Defense Department’s own ranks, presumably until Deputy Secretary Work actually told a packed conference at the Center for a New American Security the DoD wants to be able to “kick the crap out of people who grew up under an authoritarian reign,” at which point, I imagine they erupted in cheers and then partied like a group of tailgating Buffalo Bills fans.
For years the news has been full of stories about the use of Predator drones to take out bad actors in hot spots around the globe, but how much do you really know about these unmanned aircraft? Take WATM’s quiz and find out if you’re ready to join the Air Force pros in a trailer near you.
The foreign-policy establishment has had a collective case of the vapors over the call – and the President-elect’stweets, worrying about a war over them.
But could America and Taiwan defeat a Chinese attempt to invade Taiwan?
To pull off an amphibious invasion, you need amphibious sealift to carry a lot of troops. To give you an example of what it might take just to get a foothold, the Allies needed to place five divisions of troops on Normandy. That’s about 85,000 troops.
Today, the United States has the largest amphibious sealift force in the world, and combined with maritime pre-positioning ships, it could probably carry almost two Marine Expeditionary Forces. That’s two divisions and two air wings — about 100,000 troops.
China’s current amphibious sealift, according to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, consists of four Yuzhao-class landing platform docks, a total of 27 landing ship tanks, and 11 medium landing ships. That’s a total of 42 major ships carrying 15,600 troops.
Or, roughly one Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
It’s not enough for China to take Taiwan even if Beijing were to sail unopposed – and the PLA would be opposed.
And the Taiwan Straits are a little too wide to try a Million Man Swim. Not to mention the fact that to use merchant ships or ferries, you need to grab a port.
So, an amphibious attack is not likely to work. But what China does have is submarines.
Combat Fleets of the World reports China has about 70 subs on active service, ranging from antique Romeo-class vessels to modern Shang-class attack submarines. There are also a number of older subs — mostly Romeos and Ming-class vessels — in reserve.
As an island nation, Taiwan will be heavily dependent on maritime trade. The United Kingdom is in a similar situation, and the “U-boat peril” was the only thing to ever really frighten Winston Churchill.
That said, in such a situation, Taiwan and the United States would be working to break such a submarine blockade quickly – and they would have help. Japan and South Korea might not idly sit by as the Chinese start a fight that could disrupt trade in the Taiwan Straits (which, as it turns out, is a major sea lane both countries need).
American, South Korean, and Japanese ships would be very good at anti-submarine warfare, but the Chinese have a lot of subs. The fight could be a close thing, and we would see the 2016 version of the Battle of the Atlantic rage in the Western Pacific.
“USA wonder why Russia would want to carry the S-300 to Syria,” read the meme’s text. “Because you never really know what kind of assistance terrorists might get.”
“All jokes aside, #Russia will take every defensive measure necessary to protect its personnel stationed in #Syria from terrorist threat,” said the embassy’s tweet.
U.S.-Russian relations have diminished significantly in the last week. The veiled threat is the latest in a series of provocative actions and statements Russia is making concerning U.S. involvement in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Monday that the U.S. would be suspending talks regarding the Syrian conflict after Russia’s failure to abide by a mutually agreed ceasefire in September.
Diplomatic failures regarding Syria are forcing the Obama administration to reconsider its options in the five-year-long conflict, including “staff level”discussions that could include military strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a key Russian ally. Russia responded to reports of the talks by warning that removal of Assad would cause “terrible tectonic shifts” in the Middle East.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced its deployment of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to its naval base in Tartus, Syria, Tuesday. A statement from the ministry claimed that the missile system, which can target both ballistic missiles and aircraft, was deployed in order to ensure the safety of the naval base.
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On the night of April 1, 1980, two CIA officers flew Major John T. Carney Jr., a U.S. Air Force Combat Controller, to a small strip of road in the South Khorasan Province, Iran.
This location would live in special operations infamy forever, by its code name – Desert One.
Maj. Carney installed infrared lights, a strobe for use as landing lights, and tested the ground, which was hard-packed sand. By this time, Iranian students had held 52 American diplomats and other embassy personnel hostage for 149 days.
The U.S. military was going to get them out.
This final, very complex mission was supposed to take two nights. Colonel James Kyle, commanding officer at Desert One and planner for Eagle Claw called it “the most colossal episode of hope, despair, and tragedy I had experienced in nearly three decades of military service.”
On the first night, three Air Force C-130s would bring 6000 gallons of fuel in bladders to Desert One. Then three EC-130Es would carry 120 Delta Force operators, 12 U.S. Army Rangers, and 15 Farsi-speaking Americans and Iranians. Three MC-130E Combat Talon aircraft would also carry supplies.
All would enter Iran from the Southern coast of the Gulf of Oman. Eight Navy Sea Stallion helicopters would fly in from the USS Nimitz, refuel, and carry the Deltas to Desert Two, a location 52 miles from Tehran. All would hide during the day.
The second night commenced the rescue operation.
The CIA was supposed to bring trucks to Desert Two and drive the operators into the capital. Other troops were to cut the power to the area around the embassy as the Rangers captured the abandoned Manzariyeh Air Base. This would give arriving USAF C-141 Starlifter aircraft a suitable place to land. Maj. Carney would command the Air Force combat-control team to provide ground control to the temporary airfield.
An Army Special Forces team would hit the foreign ministry to free the top three diplomats who were held separately. Meanwhile, Delta Force would storm the embassy, kill the guards, move the hostages to the stadium across the street where the helicopters would pick everyone up, and take them to the air base where the Starlifters would take them home.
U.S. forces, fuel, and supplies were delivered as planned. Everything else was a debacle. Ranger roadblock teams securing the deserted road blew up a tanker smuggling fuel and detained a civilian bus and its passengers.
On the way to Desert One, one of the Sea Stallions had to be abandoned on the ground because of a cracked rotor blade. Its crew was picked up by one of the other Sea Stallions.
The other six ran into an intense sandstorm known as a haboob – a windy mix of suspended sand and dust, moving at up to 60 mph. One of the remaining Sea Stallions had to return to base because of the storm while the rest took an extra 90 minutes getting to Desert One, one sustaining damage to its hydraulic system.
This left five total helicopters. The mission minimum was four – U.S. Army Col. Charles Beckwith, commander of the Delta Force, requested the okay to abort this mission, which President Carter granted.
Back at Desert One, the evacuation began in haste. The extra 90 minutes on the ground expended more fuel than planned.
When one of the Sea Stallion helicopters attempted to move into a position to refuel, it blew up a cloud of dust the road collected in the previous three weeks. Unable to see properly, the RH-53 crashed into the EC-130 carrying troops and fuel, killing eight, five of the 14 Airmen in the EC-130, and three of the five Marines in the RH-53.
All five remaining helicopters were left on the ground in the subsequent evacuation (two of them are still in active service with the Iranian Navy). The bodies of all eight Airmen and Marines were found by the Iranians the next day.
The failure of communications between branches during Eagle Claw is the reason each services’ special operations commands now fall under USSOCOM. Many further changes in structure resulted after intense scrutiny, research and a Congressional Committee.
Plans for a second rescue operation continued under the code name Project Honey Badger, but ended with the election of President Ronald Reagan and the hostages’ subsequent release.
Reagan sent Carter to greet the hostages as they arrived in Germany. When asked what he would do differently during his Presidency, Carter remarked “I would have sent one more helicopter, which would have meant that we could have brought out all the hostages and also the rescue team.”
Bruce Laingen, hostage and former charge d’affaires to the embassy in Iran on the operation:
“While no day hurts more — than today and always — than the day when these brave men lost their lives in an attempt to reach us, no day makes us more proud as well, because of the way in which they stood for that cause of human freedom. For that, all of us (former hostages) will be forever grateful.”
The men who died at Desert One:
Capt. Harold L. Lewis Jr., U.S. Air Force, Capt. Lyn D. McIntosh, U.S. Air Force, Capt. Richard L. Bakke, U.S. Air Force, Capt. Charles McMillian, U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Joel C. Mayo, U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Dewey Johnson, U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. John D. Harvey, U.S. Marine Corps, Cpl. George N. Homes, U.S. Marine Corps.
Their remains were not recovered, but a memorial dedicated to their memory stands in Arlington National Cemetery.
There’s nothing like a trial-by-combat to see if a new weapon is really worth its salt, so Russia has been using the Syrian Civil War to test out a lot of its new military technology.
In 2015, Russia’s Klub cruise missile made its combat debut, and Moscow has sent some of its most advanced planes to the war — including the Su-34 Fullback, the Su-35 Flanker, and the Tu-160 Blackjack — to carry out missions in support of Bashir al-Assad’s regime.
Now, it looks like the Russians are including the R-77 air-to-air missile among the systems being used in what has become an operational testing ground. The missiles have been seen on Syrian Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrums, a fighter that the Soviets and Russians have exported to a number of countries in the region.
The R-77 — also known as the AA-12 “Adder,” or “AMRAAMski” — is an active-homing radar-guided missile. It’s comparable to the earlier versions of the U.S.-made AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile. The Adder has a range of roughly 70 miles, and a top speed in excess of Mach 4. The Adder can be carried by just about any Russian aircraft, from the Su-35 Flanker to the Mig-21 Fishbed. It entered service in 1994.
The AIM-120 AMRAAM has a top speed of Mach 4, and entered service in 1991, although it was being delivered as early as 1988. Early versions of the missile had a range of 45 miles, but the latest variant has a range of over 100 miles. The AMRAAM has been mounted on a wide variety of combat aircraft, including upgraded F-5s for the Singaporean Air Force; the F-22; the F-35; the Tornado F.3; the JAS.39 Gripen; F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets; and even the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Russia’s move to improve its air-to-air capability is certainly intended to stymie any U.S.-led contingency plan of creating a no-fly zone over the war-torn region.
With reportsswirling that retired Marine Gen. James Mattis is a leading contender to be selected as Secretary of Defense for President-elect Donald Trump, some people think it would be unprecedented for a former general to serve as Pentagon chief.
But General of the Army George C. Marshall might have something to say about that.
Marshall is perhaps best known for the “Marshall Plan” he put together as Secretary of State under President Harry S Truman to help rebuild Europe after World War II. Marshall had served two years in that post before leaving to become president of the American Red Cross.
But when the Korean War started in June 1950 and became a near-disaster, Truman fired then-Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson over the military’s lack of readiness. He then nominated Marshall to take over.
Marshall was technically prohibited from serving as Secretary of Defense. As a General of the Army, he was by law on active duty, and per 10 USC 113, nobody who was a commissioned officer can serve as Secretary of Defense without having been retired for seven years.
Congress, though, waived that provision to allow Marshall to serve.
Marshall spent a year in the Pentagon, not only working to get the military into fighting shape for the Korean War, but also rebuilding bridges that his predecessor had burned with the Joint Chiefs of Staff (particularly the Navy), and also with the State Department.
Within two months of Marshall becoming SecDef, the United States and allied forces had nearly reached the Yalu River in Korea. When the Chinese Communists intervened and pushed the allied forces back, Marshall would play a crucial role in President Truman’s decision to relieve General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as overall commander in Korea, despite his initial reluctance to see that happen.
Within a year, Marshall resigned as Secretary of Defense and was succeeded by his deputy, Roger A. Lovett. He would die eight years after leaving the Pentagon.
Famous for has program to save a war ravaged Europe, Marshall’s service as Secretary of Defense is a nearly-forgotten footnote in his long career.