The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will travel with the agency’s Mars 2020 rover mission, currently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet.
“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars.”
U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Texas echoed Bridenstine’s appreciation of the impact of American firsts on the future of exploration and discovery.
“It’s fitting that the United States of America is the first nation in history to fly the first heavier-than-air craft on another world,” Culberson said. “This exciting and visionary achievement will inspire young people all over the United States to become scientists and engineers, paving the way for even greater discoveries in the future.”
Started in August 2013, as a technology development project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Mars Helicopter had to prove that big things could come in small packages. The result of the team’s four years of design, testing and redesign weighs in at little under four pounds (1.8 kilograms). Its fuselage is about the size of a softball, and its twin, counter-rotating blades will bite into the thin Martian atmosphere at almost 3,000 rpm – about 10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth.
“Exploring the Red Planet with NASA’s Mars Helicopter exemplifies a successful marriage of science and technology innovation and is a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained, and controlled flight was possible here on Earth, another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world.”
Since the US-led effort against ISIS has destroyed almost all of the terror group’s territorial sovereignty in Syria, 2,000 or so US forces remain in control of the country’s rich oil fields— something that Iran, Syria’s government, and Russia openly oppose.
But unfortunately for Russia, pro-Syrian government forces, and Iranian militias, there’s not much they can do about it.
Russia has advanced weapons systems in Syria, pro-Syrian militias have capable Russian equipment, and Iran has about 70,000 troops in the country. On paper, these forces could defeat or oust the US and the Syrian rebels it backs, but, in reality, it would likely be a losing battle, according to an expert.
US forces at risk, but not as much as anyone who would attack them
“They have the ability to hurt US soldiers, it’s possible,” Tony Badran, a Syria expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. But “if they do that, they’ll absolutely be destroyed.”
According to Badran, even if Russia wanted a direct fight against the US military in Syria, something that he and other experts seriously doubt, the Syrian government-aligned forces don’t stand much of a chance.
“I think the cruise missile attack in April 2017 showed, and the ongoing Israeli incursions show, the Russian position and their systems are quite vulnerable,” said Badran, referring to the US’s April 2017 strike on a Syrian airfield in response to a chemical weapons attack in the country. Though Russia has stationed high-end air defenses in Syria to protect its assets, that did not stop the US when President Donald Trump’s administration decided to punish the Syrian air force with 59 cruise missiles.
Russia has just a few dozen jets in Syria, mostly suited for ground-attack roles with some air supremacy fighters. The US has several large bases in the area from which it can launch a variety of strike and fighter aircraft, including the world’s greatest fighter jet, the F-22.
Iran has a large inventory of rockets in and around Syria, according to Badran, but an Iranian rocket attack on US forces would be met by a much larger US retaliation.
“It’s vulnerable,” Badran said of Iran’s military presence in Syria. “It’s exposed to direct US fire, just like it’s exposed to direct Israeli fire.”
If Iran fired a single missile at US forces, “then the bases and depot and crew will be destroyed after that,” said Badran, who added that Iranian forces in Syria have poor supply lines that would make them ill-suited to fighting the US, which has air power and regional assets to move in virtually limitless supplies.
Badran noted that before the US entered the Syrian conflict, ISIS fighters, whose training and equipment pales in comparison to the US’s forces, had good success in disrupting Iranian-aligned militias’ supply lines “even though they’re under bombardment.”
“Imagine what it would be like” if Iranian militias had to fight against the full power of the US military, Badran added.
Syria’s military has struggled for years to take territory from Syrian rebels, some of whom do not receive any funding and backing from the US. With Syria’s government focused on overcoming the civil war in the country’s more populous east, it’s unlikely they could offer any meaningful challenge to US forces in the country’s west.
The US defending itself is a given and Russia, Iran, or Syria would be too bold to question that
“Everybody poses this question as though the US is Luxembourg,” Badran said, comparing the US, which has the most powerful military in the world, to Luxembourg, which has a few hundred troops and only some diplomatic or economic leverage to play with while conducting foreign policy.
For now, the US has announced its intentions to stay in Syria and sit on the oil fields to deny the government the funds to reconstruct the country. Syria’s government has ties to massive human rights violations throughout the seven-year-long civil war and its ruler, Bashar Assad, clings to power in the face of popular uprisings.
While the US has failed to oust Assad or even meaningfully decrease the suffering of Syrian people, it remains a force incredibly capable of defending itself.
China is recruiting a lot more carrier-based fighter pilots, a clear sign of the Chinese navy’s ambitions.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy’s annual pilot recruitment program ended in early July with 20% more recruits than last year, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Furthermore, recruiters witnessed a 41% increase in enrollment in the carrier-based fighter pilot program, an important development as the country pushes ahead with plans to build a fleet of aircraft carriers.
China just unveiled its first homemade aircraft carrier
China only has one operational carrier at the moment. A second aircraft carrier is expected to enter service soon, and a third is under construction.
China’s sole aircraft carrier — the Liaoning — began as the discarded hull of an unfinished Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser, which China purchased, refitted, and transformed into its first flattop.
The second carrier, currently unnamed, will be China’s first indigenously produced aircraft carrier, although it is essentially a slightly improved derivative of its predecessor.
The third carrier, which China began building in 2018, is expected to be China’s first step toward a modern aircraft carrier.
The Pentagon assesses that this vessel will “likely be larger and fitted with a catapult launch system,” featuring a design that “will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations.”
Chinese military analysts expect China to continue to build up its carrier fleet as it strives to rival American military might.
Wang Yunfei, a naval expert and retired PLA destroyer naval officer, told the South China Morning Post earlier this year that China ought to have at least six aircraft carriers by 2035.
“The country needs to keep developing until it is at the same level as the United States,” he said.
The US has a total of 11 nuclear-powered carriers that are much more capable than anything China currently has and likely will have for the foreseeable future. Not only does the US still have a technological advantage, but the US Navy also has decades of experience with aircraft carrier operations.
As China builds up its fleet, it will inevitably need more capable carrier-based pilots, of which the Chinese navy has traditionally had a shortfall.
“China has been training more pilots for aircraft carriers for some time now, and this upward trend will continue to guarantee warship operations,” a Chinese military analyst told the Global Times this weekend.
The expert, the state-affiliated newspaper paraphrased, explained that “China will not only have more carriers in the future, but the sizes will be bigger, enabling them to carry more aircraft, thus requiring more pilots.”
Chinese carrier-based fighter pilots presently fly the J-15 “Flying Shark,” a heavy, unreliable aircraft not particularly well suited for carrier operations, but China is looking into better alternatives as its carrier program advances.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats warned about threats from space at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats on Feb. 13, 2018.
“As if we don’t have enough threats here on earth, we need to look to the heavens — threats in space,” he said.
“The global expansion of the space industry will extend space-enabled capabilities and situational awareness to nation-states and commercial space actors in the coming years. The primary concern relates to satellites and anti-satellite capabilities.”
Right now, the U.S. military is heavily reliant on GPS and signals sent between satellites in space. Col. Richard Zellmann, commander of the 1st Space Brigade, a unit within the Space and Missile Defense Command, said that up to 70% of the Army’s combat systems depend on signals sent from space.
In his prepared statement, Coats said Russia and China, having recognized the value of space-based communication and reconnaissance, “will continue to expand their space-based reconnaissance, communications, and navigation systems in terms of the numbers of satellites, the breadth of their capability, and the applications for use.”
To make matters worse, Russian and Chinese anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities are becoming increasingly advanced. Those capabilities include (ASAT) missiles, satellites capable of performing kamikaze-style attacks, jamming technology, and “directed-energy weapons” that could “blind or damage sensitive space-based optical sensors, such as those used for remote sensing or missile defense.”
China and Russia continue to at least publicly promote diplomatic efforts to prevent the militarization of space. But as Coats pointed out, “many classes of weapons would not be addressed by such proposals, allowing them to continue their pursuit of space warfare capabilities while publicly maintaining that space must be a peaceful domain.”
Coats estimated that Russian and Chinese ASAT weapons will probably “reach initial operational capability in the next few years.” If those weapons were to take out American satellites, American warfighting capabilities would be seriously hampered.
In the words of Zellmann: “When you start taking away those combat multipliers, we need to go back then to the days of the industrial-age army where you have to have three times as many people as the adversary does.”
The treaty states: “…each Party shall eliminate its intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, not have such systems thereafter, and carry out the other obligations set forth in this Treaty.”
According to a report by the New York Times, Russia has operationally deployed one battalion equipped with the SSC-8 cruise missile. A 2015 Washington Free Beacon report noted that American intelligence officials assessed the missile’s range as falling within the scope of weapons prohibited by the INF Treaty (any ground-launched system with a range between 300 and 3,400 miles).
The blog ArmsControlWonk has estimated the SSC-8’s range to be between 2,000 and 2,500 kilometers (1,242 and 1,553 miles) based on the assumption it is a version of the SS-N-30A “Sizzler” cruise missile.
While it looks like the Russians could be holding onto some banned systems, the U.S. scrapped three systems falling under the INF Treaty.
1. The BGM-109G Gryphon cruise missile
Forget the name, this was really a ground-launched Tomahawk that was deployed by the Air Force. According to the website of the USAF Police Alumni Association, six wings of this missile were deployed to NATO in the 1980s. Designation-Systems.net noted that the BGM-109G had a range of 1,553 miles and carried a 200-kiloton W84 warhead.
2. The MGM-31A Pershing I and MGM-31B Pershing Ia ballistic missiles
The Pershing I packed one of the biggest punches of any American nuclear delivery system and could hit targets 740 miles away. With a W50 warhead and a yield of 400 kilotons (about 20 times that of the bomb used on Nagasaki), the Pershing Ia actually was too much bang for a tactical role, according to Designation-Systems.net.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, this missile had longer range (1,100 miles), and had a W85 warhead that had a yield of up to 50 kilotons. While only one-eighth as powerful as the warhead on the Pershing I and Pershing Ia, the Pershing II was quite accurate – and could ruin anyone’s day.
According to the State Department’s web site, all three of these systems were destroyed (with the exception of museum pieces) by the end of May, 1991.
On July 17, Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart ordered all 18 of the Air Force’s C-5 cargo planes at Dover Air Force Base to halt operations and undergo inspections after two of the aircraft had landing-gear malfunctions in less than a 60 day period.
Two days later, Everhart extended the stand-down to all 56 of the Air Force’s C-5s, ordering them all to undergo maintenance assessments.
The ball-screw assembly on the C-5 Galaxy, the largest plane in the Air Force, was causing problems with the landing gear’s extension and retraction, according to Air Force Times.
The C-5’s nose landing gear uses two ball-screw drive assemblies working together to extend and retract, according to the Air Force. If one of the assemblies doesn’t work, the gear can’t operate. (The Dover stand-down came a little over a year after the C-5M Super Galaxies stationed there achieved the highest departure-reliability rate in their history.)
Inspections revealed that the parts needed to fix the malfunctions are no longer made. But, Everhart told Air Force Times, maintenance personnel were able to get the needed parts from the aircraft “boneyard” belonging to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona.
As of September 1, 38 of the Air Force’s 56 C-5s were back in service. By Sept. 4, three of them had been sent to support hurricane relief efforts in Houston.
“Returning the C-5 to service so quickly is a maintainer success story. I can’t say enough about our maintainers’ ingenuity, hard work, and pride,” Everhart told Air Force Times, adding that his command was looking at adaptive techniques, like 3D-printing, to supply parts and predictive maintenance to catch malfunctions before they happen.
The Air Force’s “boneyard” in Arizona (there is more than one “boneyard“) provides long-term storage for a wide array of mothballed or unused aircraft — more than 3,800 as of mid-2016. Though they languish under the desert sun, low humidity in the air and low acid levels in the soil make it a good place to keep aircraft.
It’s not unusual for the Air Force to pull parts, or even entire planes, from the sprawling facility.
In summer 2016, the Marine Corps announced that it planned to refurbish 23 F/A-18C Hornets stored at the base in response to a shortage of usable aircraft. In October 2016, after a 19-month restoration process, the Air Force returned to service a B-52H Stratofortress bomber that had been mothballed at Davis-Monthan.
WATM’s Ryan Curtis hits the streets with stunt driver Jim Wilkey, a Vietnam War vet whose Hollywood credits include “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” “Rush Hour,” “Inception,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and “The Dark Knight Trilogy.’ Jim’s experience in the Navy working with a wide range of equipment gave him the knowledge to get started as a stuntman and stunt driver.
Follow along as Jim (bravely) lets Ryan get behind the wheel and try his hand at the stunt course.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) successfully completed a Live Fire With A Purpose (LFWAP) exercise, Dec 6, 2018.
LFWAP is a reinvigorated missile exercise program conducted by the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), designed to increase the proficiency of the Combat Direction Center watch team by allowing them to tactically react to a simulated real-world threat.
SMWDC, a supporting command to strike groups and other surface ships in the Navy, is responsible for training commands and creating battle tactics on the unit level to handle sea combat, Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), amphibious warfare and mine warfare. SMWDC is a subordinate command of Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Its headquarters are located at Naval Base San Diego, with four divisions in Virginia and California.
Two IAMD Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) led teams aboard Abraham Lincoln through LFWAP. They’ve spent the last month working closely with Combat Systems Department to plan a simulated threat, train them on response tactics and execute a safe live fire.
“The most challenging aspect of these exercises is getting the ship’s mindset to shift from basic unit-level operations to integrated, advanced tactical operations,” said Lt. Cmdr Tim Barry, an IAMD WTI instructor aboard Abraham Lincoln. “On the opposite side of that, the best feeling is seeing the watch team work together, developing confidence in themselves and their combat systems.”
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln fires a RIM-116 test rolling airframe missile during Combat System Ship Qualification Trials.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kyler Sam)
LFWAP is an important evolution that departs from scripted events to focus more on scenario-driven events. Watch teams have the opportunity to use their pre-planned responses and the commanding officer’s orders to defend the ship from dangers that mirror potential threats on deployment.
“This isn’t a pass or fail event; it’s a validation — a means for sailors to develop confidence prior to deployment,” said Lt. Lisa Malone, the IAMD WTI execution lead from SMWDC. “This is the ‘Battle Stations’ for Combat Systems. We want them to come out of this with a new sense of teamwork, a feeling of preparedness and an excitement for what the future will bring.”
LFWAP allowed Abraham Lincoln to react to a sea-skimming drone in real time. The lead for this evolution was Abraham Lincoln’s Fire Control Officer, Ens. Ezekiel Ramirez.
“To show everyone we’re ready to defend the ship and our shipmates is best feeling ever,” said Ramirez. “Today, we put the ‘combat’ in Combat Systems.”
After detecting the target using radar, Combat Systems used the ship’s Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) to engage it.
A Close-in Weapons System fires during a pre-action Aim Calibration fire evolution aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremiah Bartelt)
“This training has really brought us all together and made us work more cohesively; we feel like a real unit now,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Matthew Miller, who fired the RAM that brought down the drone. “We’ve worked hard this last month and had this scenario down-pat, and to see that drone finally go up in an explosion was the perfect payoff.”
LFWAP is another example of how Abraham Lincoln is elevating Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12’s operational readiness and maritime capabilities to answer the nation’s call.
The components of CSG-12 embody a “team-of-teams” concept, combining advanced surface, air and systems assets to create and sustain operational capability. This enables them to prepare for and conduct global operations, have effective and lasting command and control, and demonstrate dedication and commitment to become the strongest warfighting force for the Navy and the nation.
The Abraham Lincoln CSG is comprised of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 2, associated guided-missile destroyers, flagship Abraham Lincoln, and the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55).
A group of Mossad agents were tasked with smuggling thousands of Jewish refugees in Ethiopia, known as Beta Israelis, from Ethiopia to Israel in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Thousands of Ethiopian Jews were stranded in Sudan, a Muslim-majority nation hostile to Israel. The agents had to smuggle the refugees across Sudan, then sailed across the Red Sea or airlifted to Israel.
And because Sudan and Israel were enemies, both the Ethiopian Jews and Mossad agents had to keep their identifies hidden.
An unidentified senior agent involved in the mission told the BBC:
“A couple of Mossad guys went down to Sudan looking for possible landing beaches. They just stumbled across this deserted village on the coast, in the middle of nowhere.
“For us it was a godsend. If we could get hold of this place and do it up, we could say we’re running a diving village, which would give us a reason for being in Sudan and furthermore for roaming around near the beach.”
Arous tourist village, located on the Sudan’s east coast, consisted of 15 bungalows, a kitchen, and dining room that opened out to a beach and the Red Sea.
The Sudanese International Tourist Corporation built the site in 1972 but never opened it because there was no electricity, water supply, or a road nearby.
Posing as employees of a Swiss company, Mossad agents rented the site for $320,000 (£225,000) in the late 1970s. They secured deals for water and fuel, and smuggled air-conditioning units and water sports gear into Sudan to build the diving resort.
An undated brochure of the resort boasted of “attractive, air-conditioned bungalows with fully-equipped bathrooms,” “fine meals,” and a variety of water sports gear available to rent.
Mossad agents posed as the resort’s managers, and female agents were put in charge of day-to-day operations to make the hotel look less suspicious. They also hired 15 local staff — none of whom knew the true identities of their managers and colleagues.
Hotel guests included Egyptian soldiers, British SAS troops, foreign diplomats, and Sudanese government officials — none of whom, too, knew of the true identity of their hosts.
Gad Shimron, a Mossad agent who worked at the resort, told the BBC: “We introduced windsurfing to Sudan. The first board was brought in — I knew how to windsurf, so I taught the guests. Other Mossad agents posed as professional diving instructors.”
He added: “By comparison to the rest of Sudan, we offered Hilton-like standards, and it was such a beautiful place, it really looked like something out of the Arabian Nights. It was unbelievable.”
The diving storeroom, which was out of bounds, contained hidden radios that the agents used to keep in contact with their headquarters in Tel Aviv.
The Mossad agents would leave at night for their rescue operations from time to time, telling local staff that they’d be out of town for a few days.
They would then drive to a refugee camp hundreds of miles away where Beta Israelis were waiting, and bring them back to a beach near Arous. They then transferred the refugees to Israeli SEAL teams, who took them to a waiting navy ship, and on to Israeli territory.
After one of the operations almost got busted, Israel decided to send jets to covertly airlift the Ethiopians to Israel instead.
The agents abandoned the resort in 1985 after years of running it. The military junta in charge of country at the time started scouring the country for Israeli spies, and Mossad’s head in Israel ordered the agents to leave.
The Mossad agents evacuated the resort in a hurry, while guests were still staying at the hotel, an unidentified agent told the BBC.
“They would have woken up and found themselves alone in the desert,” they said. “The local staff were there, but no-one else — the diving instructor, the lady manager and so on, all the Caucasians had disappeared.”
The agents transferred at least 7,000 Ethiopians to Israel over the course of their operations at Arous.
Travel writer Paul Clammer wrote in his his 2005 guide to Sudan: “Arous Resort was closed when I visited… Though the colourful, relatively fresh paint gave them a cheerful look, the whole place was in disarray: Beach bungalows had toppled roofs, quads were rusty and jet skis left unattended, all suggesting the place was abandoned in a hurry.”
Arous’ website, referenced in some travel guides, is now defunct. Business Insider tried calling two phone numbers linked to the resort on April 19, 2018, but the lines were dead.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Saudi Arabia’s state media on Aug 6, 2018, tweeted a graphic appearing to show an Air Canada airliner heading toward the Toronto skyline in a way that recalled the September 11, 2001, terrorist hijackings of airliners that struck the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
The graphic warned of “Sticking one’s nose where it doesn’t belong!” and included the text: “As the Arabic saying goes: ‘He who interferes with what doesn’t concern him finds what doesn’t please him.'”
Last week, Global Affairs Canada tweeted that it was “gravely concerned” about a new wave of arrests in the kingdom targeting women’s rights activists and urged their immediate release. Saudi Arabia has expelled Canada’s ambassador and frozen all new trade and investment with Ottawa in response to the criticism.
The tweet came from @Infographic_ksa, an account that had just hours earlier tweeted another graphic titled “Death to the dictator” featuring an image of the supreme leader of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival.
Saudi Arabia has long stood accused of funding radical Muslim Imams around the world and spreading a violent ideology called Wahhabism. Under the leadership of its new young ruler, Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has undertaken several sweeping reforms looking to reduce the funding for and spread of radical ideology as well as to elevate human rights.
But a surge of arrests appearing to target prominent women’s rights activists who previously campaigned to abolish Saudi Arabia’s ban on driving for women has caused international alarm and prompted the tweet from Canada.
The Saudi account deleted the tweet featuring the graphic with the plane and later reuploaded one without the airliner pictured.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The day after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, newspapers captured the shock and horror. New York Post / Source: Newseum
The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks happened exactly 19 years ago Friday.
For many people, the attacks were the biggest news story of their lifetime. Almost all who experienced it can remember where they were when they heard of the attacks.
Many people who remember that day also recall the following morning, when newspapers around the world captured the horror, shock, and sadness people felt.
The Newseum, a museum in Washington, DC, that chronicled the history of media, archived more than 100 newspapers from September 12, 2001, the day after the attacks. The front pages of these newspapers, bearing headlines like “ACT OF WAR” and “AMERICA’S DARKEST DAY,” underscore the impact the attacks had on the American psyche.
Here is what newspapers looked like the day after September 11, 2001.
The Air Force is progressing with a massive technological overhaul of its warzone-tested C-130 aircraft, giving the platform new radios, digital avionics, collision avoidance technology and reinforced “wing-boxes,” service officials said.
The Air Force remains vigilant about its C-130 fleet to ensure the airframes, wingboxes, avionics and communication systems remain safe and operational well into the 2030s and beyond. This is particularly true of the older 1980s-era C-130Hs, Air Force developers explained.
“The thing that causes the greatest risk to the airplane is the life of the wing. We monitor the wing of the aircraft and as the wings get past their service, life we bring the airplanes back in and bring in new structures — with the primary focus being the center wingbox which is the area where the wings mount to the fuselage,”Col. Robert Toth, Chief of Tactical Aircraft, Special Operations and Combat Search and Rescue Division, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
As for when a C-130 is in need of a maintenance upgrade to preserve and maintain service life, the Air Force uses an assessment metric referred to as “equivalent baseline hours.” The wing-boxes are changed once the aircraft reaches a certain “severity factor” in its operational service time. This is necessary because the wear and tear or impact of missions upon and airplane can vary greatly depending upon a range of factors such as the altitude at which a plane is flying, Toth said.
“Low-level flight may be three to four times the severity factor of flying at a higher level,” he said.
Also, by January of 2020 the entire fleet of C-130s will need to comply with an FAA mandate and be equipped with systems that will relay aircraft position to a greater fidelity back and forth between the airplane and the air traffic management authorities, he added. This will allow them to sequence more aircraft closer together and enhance an ability to move commerce.
Avionics Modernization Program, Increment 1 involves adding new 8.33 radios to the aircraft to improve communication along with initiatives to upgrade cockpit voice recorders and digital data recorders. C-130s will also receive new collision-avoidance technology designed to prevent the planes from hitting terrain or colliding with one another mid-air. Inc. 1 is currently ongoing and is slated to complete by 2019.
AMP Inc. 2 involves a larger-scale effort to integrate digital avionics throughout the airplane. Inc. 2 will require nine-months to one year of work and be completed by 2028, Toth explained.
“This will allow us to bring the airplane from analog to digital, integrate a glass cockpit and use touchscreen displays. We will get away from the old systems of avionics where we had dial-driven instrumentation to where it is all digital. This makes us able to process a lot more information,” Toth said.
As part of the C-130 modernization calculus, the Air Force will consider retiring some C-130Hs and replace them with newly-built C-130Js; the service has authority to acquire an additional 20 C-130Js, Toth added.
“We continue to evaluate where it makes sense to retire and older airplane and instead put that money into buying new airplanes,” he said.
AC-130 gunships make up a small portion of a fleet of roughly 500 C-130 planes throughout the Air Force and Special Operations Command, Toth explained.
The cargo planes are used to airdrop supplies, equipment, weapons and troops in forward deployed locations.
As a propeller-driven aircraft, the C-130s are able to fly and land in more rugged conditions and withstand harsh weather such as obscurants. The propellers make the aircraft’s engines less susceptible to debris flying in and causing operational problems for the engines.
“It really allows you to do that tactical movement of equipment and personnel to take the airplane to the last tactical mile. A lot of our transport strategic airlifters are meant to go to a hard runway to a hard runway somewhere and then they turn over the cargo to be moved to the forward areas to a C-130 or a vehicle. The C-130 allows you to take that cargo and land on a smaller runway or an unimproved airfield,” Toth added.
C-130s are used for domestic, international and warzone transport including homeland security, disaster relief and supply deliveries, among other things.
“There are probably missions that have yet to be dreamed up for the C-130,” Toth said.
The fleet consists of 135 more modern C-130J aircraft and 165 older C-130Hs which have been around since the 80s, Toth explained.
Also, MC-130Js are specially modified airlifters engineered to transport Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Army Rangers.
“They are essentially a C-130J further modified with defensive systems with radar countermeasures and infrared radar and advanced sensors for specialized missions. They also can perform in-flight refueling,” Toth explained.
Without an immediately adjacent staging area from which to launch an invasion American and its allies will have to build up forces in the region once a fight comes. This means that for the first time since World War II, American troops will have to invade a country from over the horizon.
The Fifth Fleet, based at NSA Bahrain, would have the initial task of fighting off Iranian naval forces. With Tehran’s limited power projection this would be the largest impediment to building up forces near Iran.
With the natural bottleneck at the Strait of Hormuz, this is likely where the Iranian’s would make their stand. Iran’s conventional navy has little means of dealing with the powerful American fleet. Bested by America before, they would likely suffer a second ignominious defeat.
The real naval threat comes from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Navy. The IRGC has procured numerous agile speedboats armed with ship-killing missiles. Manned by fanatical defenders of the Islamic Republic of Iran their mission is to swarm a hostile force, unleashing a barrage of missiles, and hoping to score a victory with sheer numbers.
While the U.S. Navy will not emerge unscathed, their force of destroyers and patrol ships will utterly destroy the threat. Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems will deal with many of the missiles, though there is likely to be extensive damage to some ships. Navy and Marine Corps aircraft will blow the boats not caught in the hellfire out of the water.
Those aircraft will also be actively engaging the Iranian Air Force as the battle for air superiority begins. Heavily outnumbered the planes will also have to rely on the anti-aircraft capabilities of the Navy ships below.
The Air Force will divert planes already operating in the area while other squadrons proceed to friendly bases within range of the fight. The Air Force’s B-52 and B-2 bomber forces will also begin flying strikes against critical Iranian infrastructure, particularly Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
While this fight rages over the Persian Gulf, ground forces will begin deploying to fight. The 82nd Airborne will have the Global Response Force wheels up in 18 hours though they will not immediately jump into action. The rest of the division will soon follow.
The Marines will look to I Marine Expeditionary Force to be the backbone of their fighting capability. Elements of the III Marine Expeditionary Force will bolster this force.
As the buildup of ground forces continues, and as the Navy eradicates Iranian naval resistance, Marine Raiders and Navy SEALs – supported by Marine infantry – will assault and reduce Iranian naval forces on several islands in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. This will clear the way for the invasion fleet to strike.
Launching from bases in Kuwait and Bahrain the invasion fleet will then steam towards the port of Shahid Rejeai, adjacent to the city of Bandar Abbas. Striking here will allow for the capture of a large port facility while simultaneously conducting a decapitation strike against the Iranian Navy headquartered at Bandar Abbas.
Prior to the landings at the port itself, Army Rangers supported by a brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division will conduct a parachute assault on Bandar Abbas International Airport in order to establish an airhead.
The remaining two brigades of the 82nd will secure the flanks of the invasion against counterattack by conducting parachute assaults onto critical road junctions and bridges.
At dawn, the Marines will spearhead the assault. The Marines’ armor will be critical in supporting the light infantry forces as they storm ashore to capture facilities for follow-on armor. Staged on numerous ships offshore Navy and Marine helicopters will carry troops in air assaults against positions while others land ashore in landing craft and AAVs.
By evening, armored units aboard roll-on/roll-off ships will be unloading in the ports while Marine units will have driven forward to link up with the paratroopers. Light infantry and Stryker forces will be airlanding at the recently secured airport.
With the beachhead established the invasion force will launch a massive sustained drive on Tehran. While an armored thrust storms up highway 71, the 101st Airborne, held in reserve until now, will conduct an air assault from NSA Bahrain onto Bushehr airport to open the way toward Shiraz, an important military city.
The Iranian military, long-suffering from embargoes and sanctions lacks the technology and wherewithal to put up serious resistance. Iranian armor will lay smoldering in the wake of American firepower.
The largest threat will come from the irregular forces of the IRGC and the Islamic militias, or Basij, which are prepared to defend Iran to the death. However, after years of counterinsurgency operations American forces will be ready to defend against such threats.
Light infantry and Special Forces will capture Shiraz eliminating a serious threat and providing a logistical support base for continued operations. Other special operations forces will be operating throughout Iran to bolster friendly forces.
The long supply line from Bandar Abbas to the front lines will mean the 82nd Airborne will be busy capturing more air bases to bring in more troops and sustain the prolonged ground assault.
Eventually, all necessary forces will be positioned around Tehran for a final push to destroy the Ayatollah’s regime. Thunder runs and air assaults will criss-cross the city as American and allied forces seek to drive out the last remnants of resistance.
With the Ayatollah deposed and victory declared American forces will settle in for a nation-building campaign while a new government gains its strength.