President Donald Trump signed a bill August 18 authorizing the construction of a privately funded Global War on Terrorism Memorial in Washington, DC.
In signing the “Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act” passed by the House and Senate, Trump did not designate a site but authorized a memorial somewhere on “federal land in the District of Columbia,” the White House said.
Trump also authorized the non-profit Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation to raise funds and oversee the project.
The bill to establish the memorial was sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, an Army veteran of the Iraq War, and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia.
On the House side, the bill’s sponsors were Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, and Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; both are Marine Corps veterans of the Iraq War.
In a statement, Ernst said “I am thrilled the President has signed into law this important legislation authorizing the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation to begin creating a place of remembrance for those who served, their loved ones, and all impacted by this war.”
Manchin said “I’m proud of the work done by my colleagues in approving the first step towards building a memorial that commemorates our sons and daughters who answered the call to fight.”
Both Manchin and Ernst said the likely site for the memorial would be the National Mall. “This authorization is the first step in a process that will culminate with the design and construction of a Global War on Terror[ism] Memorial on the National Mall without using any federal funds,” they said.
The Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation has on its advisory board retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, the former commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, and retired Army Capt. Florent Groberg, a Medal of Honor recipient for valor in Afghanistan.
In a statement following Trump’s signing, the foundation said the bill exempted the memorial from the 10-year waiting period under the Commemorative Works Act of 1986, and authorized the foundation to oversee the fundraising, design, and construction of the memorial.
“Today’s historic signing is dedicated to our three million brothers and sisters who have deployed in the Global War on Terror, especially to the ones we have lost, and those who face great obstacles since their return home,” said Andrew J. Brennan, a West Point graduate and Afghanistan veteran who started the foundation and serves as executive director.
“We’re looking forward to building a sacred place of healing and remembrance for our veterans and their families, and want to thank our partners and advocates who worked tirelessly on Capitol Hill to pass this bipartisan legislation,” he said.
Taliban officials have denied a report that its leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, died after contracting the coronavirus.
Foreign Policy magazine, citing unnamed Taliban officials, reported on June 1 that Mullah Akhundzada contracted COVID-19 and possibly died while receiving treatment abroad.
Foreign Policy quoted Mawlawi Mohammad Ali Jan Ahmad, a senior Taliban military official, as saying that Mullah Akhundzada was “sick” after contracting the virus but was “recovering.”
But three other Taliban figures in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban leadership is believed to be based, told Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity that they believed Akhunzada had died of the illness.
Foreign Policy said the coronavirus has stricken a number of senior Taliban leaders in Quetta and in Qatar, where the militant group has a political office.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid on June 2 denied that Mullah Akhundzada or any other senior leaders had contracted the disease or died.
In a tweet, Mujahid accused Foreign Policy of spreading “propaganda” and said Mullah Akhundzada was well and “busy with his daily activities.”
Sayed Mohammad Akbar Agha, a former Taliban military commander who lives in the Afghan capital, Kabul, told RFE/RL that the report of Mullah Akhundzada’s death was “untrue.”
But a Taliban official in Quetta told RFE/RL that he could neither confirm nor deny the leader’s death.
Mullah Akhundzada took over leadership of the Taliban after his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016.
The reclusive leader is a former Taliban chief justice and heads the militant group’s religious council.
An Islamic scholar, he is said to have strong religious credentials, and has been responsible for issuing fatwas, or Islamic decrees, to justify military and terrorist operations.
Taliban officials told Foreign Policy that Mullah Akhundzada had not been seen for the past three months and had not made any voice recordings.
Some Taliban sources in Quetta told Foreign Policy that Mullah Akhunzada went to Russia for treatment.
Foreign Policy reported that many of the Taliban’s senior leaders in Quetta had caught COVID-19, including Mullah Akhunzada’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network.
The network, a Taliban faction, is believed to have been behind some of the deadliest attacks on Afghan and international forces and civilians in Afghanistan.
With the top two leaders out of action, Foreign Policy reported that the Taliban was now being run by Mullah Mohammad Yuqub, the eldest son of the Taliban’s founder and spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Mullah Omar’s death was revealed in 2015, more than two years after he had died in Pakistan.
Mullah Yuqub is a graduate of a seminary in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.
Believed to be in his early 30s, he is said to have the backing of a considerable number of field commanders and the Taliban’s rank-and-file.
Experts say that Mullah Yuqub supports the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February that is aimed at negotiating an end to the 18-year Taliban insurgency.
It is unclear how a possible change in the Taliban leadership would affect that deal, which calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which is committed to negotiating a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing arrangement with the Kabul government.
A convoy of stranded Islamic State fighters has generally dispersed throughout Iraq and Syria, depriving the US of the ability to strike them in one place, The Washington Post reports.
The convoy of terrorists came to be after a complex peace deal was struck between ISIS, the Lebanese government, the terrorist group Hezbollah, and the Assad regime. ISIS agreed to evacuate an area near Lebanon in return for safe passage to area it controls near the Iraqi-Syrian border. The US military expressed anger at the deal, pledging to strand the convoy in the middle of the desert and kill as many fighters as possible without endangering the lives of women and children.
“If they try to get to the edge of ISIS territory and link up with ISIS there, we’ll work hard to disrupt that,” Operation Inherent Resolve commander Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told Pentagon reporters Aug. 31. Townsend’s spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon similarly told The New York Times, “If we do identify and find ISIS fighters who have weapons — and like I said, we can discriminate between civilians and ISIS fighters — we will strike when we can. If we are able to do so, we will.”
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve commanding general, speaks with Airmen, Marines, and coalition personnel thanking them for the many contributions in support of OIR during an all-call. USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Andy M. Kin.
The fighters, however, appear to have dispersed to different parts of Iraq and Syria, though some parts of the convoy remain marooned in the desert. A section of the fighters have found their way to towns in Iraq, which also was angry about the safe passage given to the terrorist group. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi recently called the peace deal an “insult to the Iraqi people,” adding “honestly speaking, we are unhappy and consider it incorrect.”
The Iraqi Security Forces are currently in the midst of ISIS clearing operations throughout the country after a series of battlefield victories in Mosul and Tal-Afar. The terrorist group still controls some territory and will likely be defended by some of the freed ISIS fighters.
The United States Navy will be sending an aircraft carrier to visit Vietnam in 2018, part of a series of steps to promote “regional and global security” in Asia. This will mark the first time an aircraft carrier has visited the Southeast Asian country in more than 50 years.
The Bangkok Post reported that President Donald Trump and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had discussed having a carrier visit Vietnam when the two met in May during a visit from Phuc to the U.S. The Thai media outlet also reported that Vietnam has been taking a hard line among the Association of South East Asian Nations regarding China’ construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea.
China has long claimed dominion over the entire South China Sea, marking its claims with a so-called “nine-dash line.” The claims have been disputed and were rejected by an international tribunal in 2016. China, though, boycotted the process.
A combat trooper’s most important piece of gear is his weapon. And fortunately for the U.S. military, American arms makers have been for years at the cutting edge of weaponology, merging technology with practicality, durability, and accuracy to field some of the best arms in the world.
We all know that the choice of what to ultimately put in the hands of America’s warfighters is a tradeoff between a lot of different factors — and there are strong opinions on either side of the debate. Just strike up a conversation with a bar table full of gun nuts over .45 ACP versus 9mm and let the fur fly.
But those of us “people of the gun” still harken back to some of the iconic weapons in U.S. military history and like to think about how things might be different if the U.S. were to bring some of them out of mothballs and hand them back to the troops fighting America’s wars.
So here’s our list of six weapons (largely) consigned to history that we’d consider bringing back to the armory:
1. The M1 Carbine
You might not know it, but more M1 Carbines were produced during World War II than M1 Garands — about 500,000 more — and it became the standard issue long gun for paratroopers and support troops like mortarmen and artillerymen.
Beloved for its short, 36-inch length and 6-pound weight, the M1 fired a fairly accurate .30 caliber rimless round that zinged at about 2,000 feet per second at the muzzle — that’s getting close to the speed of a standard mil spec 5.56 round. The M1 feeds from either a 15- or 30-round magazine, making it a killer in close quarters. So why not ditch the .300 Blackout and go retro?
Really, all you need to say about the BAR is “thirty-ought-six.”
End of discussion.
Designed by John Browning in 1917 for the trenches of Europe, the BAR sits in a nether world of not quite a machine gun, not quite a rifle. Fed from a 20-round magazine, the BAR’s .30-06 round packs nearly 3,000 feet-per-second at the muzzle and can reach out well over 1,000 yards.
Sure it weighs a whopping 16 pounds, and never mind that a BAR gunner in World War II was estimated by some to have an average lifespan of about 30 minutes. But with the popularity of the Mk-17 SCAR and it’s .308 round these days — not to mention the Marine Corps outfitting some of its designated marksmen with SR-25 .308 ARs — maybe the BAR should be given another chance.
3. Stoner 63/M63
Sure, the Stoner 63 was a maintenance headache, but its ground-breaking modular technology paved the way for predecessors like the Sig Sauer MCX and the early concept of the FN SCAR family of special operations rifles.
Chambered in 5.56 and designed primarily by Eugene Stoner, the father of the M16, the M63 was manufactured in a range of variants, including a light machine gun version with a 20-inch barrel fed from an open bolt to an assault rifle variant that fired from a closed bolt. Either fed from a standard 30-round magazine or a belt-fed drum, the Stoner 63 weighed anywhere from about 8 pounds to 12 pounds.
Manufactured in limited quantities in the 1960s, the Stoner 63 became a favorite of SEAL teams operating in Vietnam, before it was removed from the inventory in the 1970s in favor of the M249 SAW.
4. M79 Grenade Launcher
The M79 grenade launcher was America’s first attempt to meld the range of a mortar with the portability of a rifle grenade. The innovative “high-low propulsion system” kept recoil low while also reducing weight.
The single-shot, break-action M79 fired a 40mm grenade with a variety of warheads, including a specially-designed one for close-in combat (the regular 40mm grenade needed at least 30 meters to arm) and was used extensively in Vietnam. It was used and modified by special operations forces — including the SEALs and Special Forces — since its development in the 1960s and was eventually replaced by the M203 and later M320.
But the M79 still had fans in more recent conflicts, with some arguing it had better range (about 400 meters) than the newer, Heckler Koch-built M320. It was even featured in the arsenal of bin Laden raid SEAL Mark Owen, which he dubbed the “pirate gun.”
5. 1911 Pistol
Ahhh, the M1911.
Literally one of the most revered guns in U.S. military history, the M1911 is one of the most comfortable and powerful semi-automatic handguns ever developed. It’s a favorite among competitive shooters (particularly more modern double-stack versions) and is still fielded in limited quantities to Marine Corps special operations troops — though that could change with greater adoption of the Glock 19 throughout SOCOM.
With his powerful .45 ACP round and a magazine-fed, seven-round capacity, the M1911 served as the standard American military sidearm for about 75 years. The M1911 was ditched in the 1980s in favor of the lighter, higher-capacity 9mm Beretta M9, but with the Pentagon looking to replace that pistol, many are wondering whether the 1911 should make a comeback.
6. Thompson Submachine Gun
Originally dubbed the “Annihilator” by its inventor, the Thompson is believed to be the first firearm to be formally designated a “submachine gun.” Operating a straight- or delayed-blowback action like a pistol, the Thompson fired the .45 ACP round like the M1911 and could be loaded with a 30-round “stick” magazine or a 100-round drum. Though it was developed as a trench sweeper for World War I, the Thompson saw most of its action in World War II.
In all, about 1.5 million Thompsons were reportedly manufactured during World War II, but the gun suffered from a hefty 11-pound weight and is notoriously difficult to control in rapid fire. The Thompson was all but scrubbed from the U.S. inventory in the 1970s in favor of newer submachine gun designs firing 9mm ammunition like the HK MP5.
White House national security adviser John Bolton says that he has discussed Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Bolton, who met with Putin in Moscow on June 27, 2018, told CBS’s Face The Nation that “President Putin was pretty clear with me about it and my response was we’re going to have to agree to disagree on Ukraine.”
Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump are scheduled to hold their first one-on-one summit in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.
On June 29, 2018, Trump declined to rule out recognizing Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Asked by reporters on Air Force One whether reports about him dropping Washington’s longstanding opposition to the annexation were true, Trump said, “We’re going to have to see.”
As if Avengers: Endgame wasn’t dramatic enough, health officials in California are now warning moviegoers who attended the midnight screening of the flick at the AMC Movie Theater in Fullerton on April 25, 2019, that they may have been exposed to measles.
According to the Orange County Health Care agency, a 20-something woman, who did not know at the time that she had measles, was in the audience for the April 25, 2019 show. She was later diagnosed as the first confirmed case of measles in Orange County.
Since the highly contagious virus can stay in the air for up to two hours after the infected person has left, the agency advises anyone who was at the theater between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. to check their vaccination history and keep an eye out for common measles symptoms which include a runny nose, fever, and a red rash.
Officials are also reminding people who think they may have the measles to call their doctor before going to the physician’s office to prevent infecting others.
After learning about the possible exposure, one of the movie theater employees, Carlee Greer-McNeill, told NBC Los Angeles that he never thought to feel unsafe at his job or anywhere in Orange County. She said, “If you know you have the measles, please don’t come to a movie theater, let alone a public place.”
Currently, the U.S. is in the middle of the worst measles outbreak since 1994, with 704 cases reported so far this year across 22 states. California, in particular, has been hit hard by the infectious disease, with 38 confirmed cases. The Health Care Agency urges people to get vaccinated if they aren’t already. “The MMR vaccine is a simple, inexpensive, and very effective measure to prevent the spread of this serious virus,” Dr. Nichole Quick, Interim County Health Officer, said in a press release.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
As the US military builds up its forces in the Middle East, America’s top diplomat has been privately warning the Iranians that the death of even a single US service member at the hands of Iran or one of its proxies would trigger a military response, The Washington Post reported on June 18, 2019, citing US officials.
In May 2019, the US detected signs of possible Iranian aggression targeting US forces and interests in the Middle East. The US responded by deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the US Central Command area of responsibility.
White House national security adviser John Bolton issued a statement on May 5, 2019, saying that the military assets deployed to the region were meant “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
Two days later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unscheduled trip to Baghdad, where he delivered the warning that one American fatality would be enough to trigger a counterattack, The Post reported. Pompeo, a former US Army officer, has been a major player, together with Bolton, in shaping the US “maximum pressure” strategy directed at Iran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
More US military assets have since been moved into the region, and more are on the way in the wake of suspected limpet mine attacks on tankers that the US blames on Iran. US military leaders revealed on June 18, 2019, that the US does not plan to carry out a unilateral military response to the tanker attacks.
Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said any military action taken in response to the tanker attacks would “require an international consensus,” something the US military has been trying to secure through the release of evidence it says points to Iran’s culpability.
“If the Iranians come after US citizens, US assets or [the] US military, we reserve the right to respond with a military action, and they need to know that,” the country’s second-highest-ranking general told reporters. “The Iranians believe that we won’t respond, and that’s why we’ve been very clear in our message.”
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)
Iran is “lashing out against the international community,” but the Iranians “haven’t touched an American asset in any overt attack that we can link directly to them,” he added.
“What happens if Americans are killed? That changes the whole thing,” a senior Trump administration official told The Washington Post. “It changes everything.”
Pompeo, who appears to be taking the lead on the standoff with Iran amid a reshuffling of senior leadership at the Pentagon, visited US Central Command on June 18, 2019, the same day acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan withdrew his name from the nomination for defense secretary and said he would be stepping down.
“We are there to deter aggression. President Trump does not want war,” Pompeo said. “We will continue to communicate that message while doing the things that are necessary to protect American interests in the region.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Kim Jong-un returns to North Korea after his summit with President Donald Trump, he may find his liquor cabinet running low.
On Feb. 22, 2019, officials in the Netherlands seized a shipment of 90,000 bottles of Russian vodka that they believe were bound for North Korea, Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad reported.
The bottles of Stolovaya vodka were reportedly found in a shipping container, nestled underneath an airplane fuselage, on a vessel bound for China.
But Dutch officials told Algemeen Dagblad that they have information leading them to believe that the shipment was really intended for Kim and his military commanders, which would be a violation of United Nations sanctions against the country.
“We do not want to release more information than necessary about our control strategy,” customs official Arno Kooij told the paper. “But what I can tell you is that, based on the information available, we suspected that this particular container was subject to the sanctions regime for North Korea.”
Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump at the 2018 North Korea–United States Singapore Summit.
The UN bans member countries from trading luxury goods to North Korea, where nearly half of the population is malnourished, according to estimates from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
But Kim is believed to regularly flout these rules.
In 2018, a South Korean lawmaker estimated North Korea had spent billion on luxury goods from China since Kim took power in 2011.
“Kim has bought lavish items from China and other places like a seaplane for not only his own family, and also expensive musical instruments, high-quality TVs, sedans, liquor, watches, and fur as gifts for the elites who prop up his regime,” lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun said in a statement, according to Reuters.
An investigation has been launched to determine where exactly the shipment was headed.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Army will soon begin to produce new high-tech, crew-served thermal weapons sights able to automatically adjust range, see through adverse weather, detect targets with a lightweight laser range finder and use a wireless targeting link between weapons and a soldier-worn helmet display, service officials said.
Designed for the M2 .50-cal, M240 machine gun and Mk 19 grenade launcher, the system brings higher-resolution thermal imaging technology and increases field of view, developers explained.
“This is the first time the soldier will have a system which combines a true day and night capability with a laser range finder to adjust for the ballistics of the various ammunition types for the crew served weapons,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
BAE Systems was recently awarded an Army contract to develop the technology, called Family of Weapons Sights – Crew Served (FWS-CS), in a deal worth up to $384 million.
Using a wireless link, gun-mounted thermal sights send a targeting reticle from the gun to a soldier head-worn display, allowing soldiers to hit targets without needing to physically “look” through the gun-sights themselves in a certain physical position — such as crouching, lying down or standing exposed in a vehicle-mounted gun-turret, the Army official explained.
A wireless helmet mounted display is designed to provide a more natural firing position as well as allow soldiers to remain more protected, a BAE systems statement said. Crew-served weapons, such as the .50-cal machine gun, are often used to “blanket” enemy areas so that troops can maneuver while under attack or deliver suppressive fire.
A wireless link allowing soldiers to remain in a standing position or different configuration than what is otherwise needed to look through the sights naturally lowers the risk of exposing soldiers to enemy fire.
BAE Systems’ FWS-CS system is also engineered to improve targeting speed and precision. It uses a 12-micron sensor technology to provide soldiers with greater clarity and range, developers said.
“FWS-CS also, for the first time, incorporates a high-resolution day camera and laser range finder into the weapon sight, allowing the user to engage targets with a range correct reticle,” John Koltookian, technical director at BAE Systems, told Scout Warrior.
With an initial development order of $10.5 million, work will be performed at the company’s facilities in Hudson, New Hampshire and Austin, Texas.
This crew-served weapons technology is engineered to function alongside a similar Army program called Family of Weapons Sights – Individual (FWS-I); in similar fashion to the FWS-CS, this system uses a wireless link to connect thermal sights on an M4 rifle with an individual soldier’s night-vision goggles display.
A key advantage of this technology is, by design, to allow soldiers to target and attack enemies without having to “shoulder” the weapon and bring it up to their face.
FWS-I is already in Low-Rate-Initial Production and slated to be operational by 2018, service officials said.
The Air Force plans to arm its fleet of drones and fighter jets with high-tech laser weapons able to incinerate enemy targets from the sky, service officials said.
Aircraft-launched laser weapons could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.
Lasers use intense heat and light energy to precisely incinerate targets without causing a large explosion – and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“The promise of directed energy is that electricity is cheap. Plus, you get the speed of light working for you so incoming missiles are easier to shoot at,” Zacharias said.
Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.
Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, was slated to take place last year at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., service officials said. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.
The first airborne tests are expected to take place by 2021, Air Force officials have said.
The developmental efforts are focused on increasing the power, precision and guidance of existing laser weapon applications with the hope of moving from 10-kilowatts up to 100 kilowatts, Air Force leaders said.
Air Force weapons developers are also working on the guidance mechanisms to enable laser weapons to stay on-track on a particular target, Zacharias added.
Zacharias explained that much of the needed development involves engineering the size weight and power trades on an aircraft needed to accommodate an on-board laser weapon. Developing a mobile power-source small enough to integrate onto a fast-moving fighter jet remains a challenge for laser technology, he added.
“The other part is all the component technology. You are going to give up fuel or some armaments. It is not just getting enough power on board it is getting the aiming technology. Its dealing with turbulent air flow on a high-speed platform,” Zacharias said.
Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.
Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.
Air Force Special Operations Command has commissioned both Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.
A key advantage of using laser weapons would include an ability to melt or incinerate an incoming missile or enemy target without necessarily causing an explosion.
Another advantage is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapons system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts explained.
Drones Fire Lasers
Air Force drones will also one day fire high-tech laser weapons to destroy high-value targets, conduct precision strikes and incinerate enemy locations from the sky, senior service officials told Scout Warrior.
When it comes to drones, there does not yet appear to be a timetable for when fired lasers would be operational weapons – however weapons technology of this kind is moving quickly.
Zacharias also said future laser weapons could substantially complement existing ordnance or drone-fired weapons such as a Hellfire missile.
Laser weapons allow for an alternative method of destroying targets, rapid succession of fire, reduced expenditure of dollars and, quite possibly, increased precision, service officials have explained.
For instance, a key advantage of using laser weapons would include an ability to melt or incinerate an incoming missile or enemy target without necessarily causing an explosion. This would be of particular relevance, for example, in air attack such as the current campaign against ISIS over Iraq and Syria.
ISIS fighters are known to deliberately blend in among civilians, therefore making it difficult to pinpoint enemy targets without endangering innocent civilians. Precision attacks without an explosion, therefore, would provide a useful additional tactical option.
Zacharias said laser-armed drones could likely provide an impactful part of an on-the-move arsenal of weapons.
“You might want to put lasers on board so you have a distributed package when you have a bunch of different platforms carrying different parts – of weapons, sensors and even fuel in one very expensive fighter package. It is like having distributed satellite. You could have distributed fighter packages as well,” Zacharias said.
Firing laser weapons would certainly provide a different option than a 100-pound, explosive, tank and building-killing Hellfire missile.
Although firing lasers from drones is expected to be more complicated than arming fighter jets or aircraft with lasers, the existing development of laser weapon technology is quite likely to inform drone-laser development as well.
As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a drone will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.
While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacarias explained.
“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.
Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.