Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

The Vice Chief of Naval Operations told the force there needs to be an intense and concentrated effort to speed up weapons and technology acquisition for the specific purpose of countering massive military gains by both Russia and China.

“We need to scale up in a wildly unpredictable environment, as we see the reemergence of true existential threats. We face a new era of great power competition,” Vice Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, told an audience at the annual Navy League Sea Air Space Symposium.


Moran emphasized that, although threats like Iran and North Korea are still quite relevant, major power competition – with rivals such as China and Russia – needs to take center stage as the Navy seeks to both expand in size and sustain a technological advantage.

“We need to act with a sense of urgency,” Moran stressed.

In the context of talking about urgency, Moran specified fleet growth and “agile” acquisition; he said the service was on a “good vector” to reach its goal of 355 ships.

He also made the point that the Navy must further accelerate rapid acquisition with quick integration of new technologies on existing platforms as well as fast-tracked innovation to stay in front of adversaries.

“We cannot afford to play cat and mouse games with contracting requirements,” Moran told the audience.

Among many things, these kinds of Pentagon efforts tend to involve terms we often hear in the weapons development world such as “open architecture,” “common standards,” and rapid integration of fast-evolving commercial sector innovations.

This, Moran said, includes keeping pace with applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI), networking systems and new offensive and defensive weapons, Moran said.

Networking and AI

The Navy has been trying to move quickly with AI in recent years; among other things, fast-evolving AI technology relies upon new methods of collecting, organizing and analyzing vast amounts of combat-relevant data. Algorithms are increasingly able to access vast databases of historical data and combat-relevant information to inform decisions in real time.

The Navy, for example, is using AI to expand and cyber-harden its growing ship-based ocean combat network, called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES).

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

Nodes on CANES communicate using an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to flex, prioritize traffic and connect with satcom assets using multiband terminals, senior Navy developers have told Warrior Maven.

CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.

CANES is being installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers and submarines, and the service has completed at least 50 CANES systems and has more in production, Navy developers told Warrior.

Upgraded CANES, which relies upon hardened cyber and IT connectivity along with radio and other communications technologies, is being specifically configured to increase automation – and perform more and more analytical functions without needing human intervention, Navy developers say.

LCS & AI

Surface ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, rely upon a host of interwoven technologies intended to share key data in real time – such as threat and targeting information, radar signal processing and fire control system.

CANES connectivity, and AI-informed analysis, can be fundamental to the operation of these systems, which often rely upon fast interpretation of sensor, targeting or ISR data to inform potentially lethal decisions.

The LCS, in particular, draws upon interconnected surface and anti-submarine “mission packages” engineered to use a host of ship systems in coordination with one another. These include ship-mounted guns and missiles along with helicopters, drones such as the Fire Scout and various sonar systems – the kinds of things potentially enhanced by AI analysis.

Chinese & Russian Threat

While Moran stopped well short of citing specific Russian and Chinese weapons systems, he did say that each of these potential adversaries are increasing in size and fielding new high-tech weapons at an alarming rate.

“We dominated technology after WWII. We dominated the maritime domain after fall of Berlin wall. We dominated innovation throughout the 20th century. We cannot cede space to authoritarian competitors. We have to be ready to win the peace again,” Moran said.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
Vice Chief of Naval Operations – Vice Adm. Bill Moran

Also, it goes without saying that both Russia and China have 5th-gen stealth fighters, advanced ground weapons, nuclear weapons and anti-satellite weapons – all of which are potential threats to the US Navy. Alongside these efforts, both China and Russia are making rapid progress with expanding their respective naval forces and high-tech weapons.

Chinese Naval Threat

A 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission released an open-source expert assessment of Chinese military progress; the review contained a 70-page chapter on Chinese military modernization. (Although the report is from a few years ago, it offers one of the most comprehensive and available assessments, which is still of great news relevance.)

China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to the Congressional report.

Several reports in recent years have cited satellite photos showing that China is now building its own indigenous aircraft carriers. Ultimately, the Chinese plan to acquire four aircraft carriers, the reports say. China currently has one operational carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning.

The commission cites platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region.

These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer. These ships are being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

The Chinese are also developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.

Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.

The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.

China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.

The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines, and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.

The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.

Russian Threat

On the overall Naval front, a report in recent years from Globalfirepower.com has assessed the Russian Navy as having 352 ships, including one aircraft carrier, 13 destroyers and 63 submarines. The Black Sea is a strategically significant area for Russia in terms of economic and geopolitical considerations as it helps ensure access to the Mediterranean.

Russia is also attracting international attention with its new Air-Indpendent Propulsion submarines; recent reports say the first one, is now complete. An article from Strategic Culture Foundation cites the submarine as Kronstadt, a fourth-generation diesel-electric attack submarine.

“AIP (battery power) is usually implemented as an auxiliary source, with the traditional diesel engine handling surface propulsion. Conventional submarines running on AIP are virtually silent. Unlike nuclear boats, they don’t have to pump coolant, generating detectable noise. It makes them highly effective in coastal operations and areas where enemy operates many anti-submarine warfare assets.” according to a report from the Strategic Culture Foundation

The AIP or anaerobic technology allows to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, the report says.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Soviet pilot defected with a top-secret fighter 42 years ago

1430 Hrs. Local, Sept. 6, 1976. Sea of Japan near Hakodate Airport, Hokkaido Prefecture.

Jet fuel burned faster than he calculated as he pressed lower under the overcast, down to the gray black waves only 150-feet above the Sea of Japan. He hauled the heavy control stick left, then corrected back right in a skidding bank around a fishing vessel that came out of the misty nowhere in the low afternoon cloud cover. White vapor spiraled long “S”s from his angular wingtips in the violent turn nearly touching the wave tops.

That was the second fishing boat he had to bank hard to miss at nearly wave-top level. Rain squalls started. The huge Tumansky R-15 jet engines gulped more gas by the minute. This plane was not made to fly low and subsonic. It was built to fly supersonic in the high altitude hunt for the now-extinct American B-70 Mach 3 super-bomber that was never put into service.


He had to find the Japanese Self-Defense Force F-4 Phantoms that were no doubt in the air to intercept him. If they didn’t shoot him down first, they would lead him to Chitose Air Base where he may be able to land safely. If his fuel held out. But the Japanese Phantoms were nowhere to be found.

So, he hauled the stick back into his lap and the big, boxy Foxbat clawed through the clouds in its last, angry climb before succumbing to a fuel-starved death.

Eventually, he found an airport. Hokodate Airport. A 6,000 foot runway. Not long enough for his MiG-25 though. He’d make it work. On final approach to Hokodate he nearly collided head-on with a 727 airliner. It was better than ditching where he’d lose his biggest bargaining chip. His top secret airplane. He managed a rough landing, running off the end of the runway, climbing out of jet, and firing his pistol in the air when curious Japanese began snapping photos of the incident from a roadway.

It was, as I recall, the biggest thing that had ever happened in my life. I was 15 years old then.

We raced to the hobby shop on our bicycles to consult with the older men who owned the store. What would this mean? Was it real? Would there be a model of the MiG-25 released soon? We poured over the grainy newspaper photos, the best we had ever seen, again and again. We could not believe it, but it was real. The most exotic, highest flying, fastest, most secretive fighter plane on earth had just fallen into American hands. We got our first look at the mysterious MiG-25 Foxbat.

Flight Lieutenant Viktor Ivanovich Belenko, an elite MiG-25P pilot of the Soviet Air Defense Forces, had defected with the most secret operational combat aircraft of the era.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

U.S. analysts initially the believed the MiG-25 was a highly maneuverable air superiority fighter with sophisticated lightweight jet engines. The reality was the MiG-25 had massive, heavy engines and was made of mostly simple materials using vacuum tube technology

(The Koku Fan)

What happened in the aftermath of his defection 42 years ago influenced aircraft design, dispelled myths about the Soviet Union, angered one nation and offered relief to another while leaving a third in an awkward diplomatic bind. It was one more minor tear in the tapestry of the Iron Curtain as it slowly unraveled around the edges, like a loose thread that continues to pull out longer and longer.

“What did they think and [what do we] think now? Traitor! Military pilots consider it a huge disgrace for the Air Force of the USSR and Russia.” That is what the administrator of the most active social media fan page for the Russian Aerospace Forces told TheAviationist.com when we asked them what Russians think of Viktor Belenko today. While the Iron Curtain has come down, the hardened attitudes about Belenko betraying the state remain. The Russians still hate Viktor Belenko for stealing their most prized combat aircraft at the time.

In the U.S., “secret” units have been operating Russian MiGs and Sukhois quietly over the American west for years. But Belenko’s defection in 1976 with a Foxbat, the NATO codename for the MiG-25 (the Russians don’t call it that), was an intelligence coup that not only provided technical data and benchmark insights for decades to come, it also provided a core-sample of Communist life in the Soviet Union.

According to Belenko, things were bad in the Soviet Union. In the 1980 chronicle of Belenko’s defection, “MiG Pilot: The Final Escape of Lieutenant Belenko”, author John Baron wrote of rampant alcoholism within the ranks of the Soviet air force. Living facilities at bases in the eastern Soviet Union were poor since some of the bases the MiG-25 operated from had not yet been upgraded to accommodate the larger ground crews needed to maintain the aircraft. Food quality for enlisted maintenance crews was so bad the men refused to eat. While food for officer/pilots like Belenko was much better, when Belenko reached the United States after his defection he mistakenly ate a can of cat food and later remarked that, “It was delicious. Better than canned food in the Soviet Union today!”

But Belenko entered a netherworld when he defected from Russia. While U.S. President Gerald Ford granted Belenko asylum in the U.S. and the Central Intelligence Agency gave him a stipend and built a life for him as a pilot and consultant in the U.S., neither side could fully trust the turncoat. When Belenko arrived in Japan he was given the book by Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch”. Despite his oath of military service to the Soviet Union, Belenko feared and was repulsed by the deep social injustice of Communist Soviet Russia. He had seen people inside the Soviet Union suffering like Denisovitch from poverty, hunger, and oppression. Belenko wanted out. And so, he stole his Foxbat, flew it to Japan and never looked back.

In a footnote to Belenko’s defection with the MiG-25P Foxbat, I did get my scale model airplane kit shortly thereafter. The Japanese hobby brand Hasegawa had sent photographers to Hokodate Airport to photograph the MiG-25 before it was concealed, examined by the U.S. and Japan, and shipped back to the Soviet Union in pieces. Within months of the MiG-25 landing in Japan, Hasegawa released a 1/72nd scale plastic model kit of the MiG-25 complete with decals for Viktor Belenko’s aircraft. It sold for U.S.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

Japanese hobby brand Hasegawa obtained photos of the MiG-25 at Hokodate Airport before it was covered and quickly produced an accurate 1/72nd scale plastic of the aircraft.

(The Squadron Shop)

Viktor Belenko continues to live in the United States according to most sources. He was photographed in a bar in 2000 where he was recognized, photographed and spoke openly to people about his experience defecting from the former Soviet Union. In 1995, he had returned to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and safely returned to the U.S. afterward. Belenko told an interviewer he had enjoyed going on fishing trips in the U.S. with test pilot and fighter ace General Chuck Yeager.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

Viktor Belenko adapted well to life in the U.S., flying for the U.S. military and enjoying U.S. culture. He even got married in the United States.

(SeanMunger.com)

There have been other famous defections by military pilots, including a shadowy attempted but apparently failed defection with a Soviet Tu-95 “Bear” heavy bomber. Author Tom Clancy rose to prominence on his breakout fictional novel “The Hunt for Red October” about a Russian captain defecting with a Soviet nuclear powered missile submarine. One of his fictional characters in the book even refers to the Belenko defection saying, “This isn’t some pilot defecting with a MiG!”. But fictional accounts aside, now that the Iron Curtain has long since come down it is unlikely we will ever see a defection from any country like Viktor Belenko’s.

Featured image: Photos of the then-secret MiG-25 Foxbat were taken from a nearby road before it could be covered.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This ‘Front Porch Project’ of military families in quarantine is everything

When military spouse Ashley Salas heard about the “front porch project,” she knew it was something she had to do. “As soon as my friend showed me this idea, I decided to go for it,” Salas said on her company Facebook page. “I reached out on my neighborhood page and had people message me their address. I had 76 families. 76!!!!”

The idea behind the project is simple: photograph families on their front porch in this era of social distancing and quarantine. Salas plotted a route and off she went.


“I went house to house… jumping in and out of my car, about 1 minute per house, and took a photo for them to cherish because you know what? THE WORLD IS SCARY right now,” Salas shared on Facebook. “We are quarantined to our homes. We are asked to social distance from each other. We are asked to be safe, wash hands, and take this seriously.

We can all do our part and stay home as much as possible. Wash your hands. Keep your distance… but always love your neighbor.”

The results are magnificent. Some sweet, some hilarious, all incredible memories for these families and Salas.

What a memory I’ll cherish forever. And when it was over, I cried… so many emotions, but this night gave me so much joy for everyone.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Ashley Salas Photography

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Our spirit animals

The toilet paper, the wine, the screaming dad. Pretty sure we can all relate to this one.

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The T-Rex

“Wash your hands!” one signs admonishes. And of course, the T-Rex, with “I can’t!”

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The health care worker

Talk about pulling at our heart strings. The FaceTime with the loved one in scrubs is particularly moving right now.

Ashley Salas Photography

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The deployed dad

Deployments are hard enough without a pandemic.

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The rockband

The family that plays together stays together! And mom has a giant glass of wine to handle the “music.”

Ashley Salas Photography

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#RealLife

I don’t think anyone is paying attention to screen time at this point.

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The birth announcement

We can’t think of a better way to announce a pregnancy!

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The rule followers

These cuties make social distancing look adorable.

Ashley Salas Photography

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World’s okayest mom

Two kids both smiling and alive? Looks like she’s killing it to me.

Ashley Salas Photography

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It’s getting windy in here

Don’t mind me, I’m just weeping in the corner.

We love everything about this project! To see all 76 of the front porch families, visit Ashley Salas Photography on Facebook.

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of March 3

Military memes are some of the best things on the internet. Here are some of the best military memes available.


1. Every military career should have a deadpan narrator (via Pop smoke).

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
Also, things are almost never good. They are sometimes rewarding, but very rarely good.

2. None given, none expected (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
Now we want to know what that code means.

3. Everyone should bring a friend with three years remaining when they go to meet the career counselor (via The Salty Soldier).

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

ALSO SEE: Watch China launch planes from its only aircraft carrier

4. Ummm, families, you’ve been sent a template. You’re supposed to put your soldier’s rank, their last name, and their first name (via The Salty Soldier).

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

5. Getting punished for Course 15 isn’t a big deal for people already at their personal peak rank (via @texashumor).

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
So keep your Course 15. And 14. And any others you come up with.

6. For reals? Did you take a particularly hard hit on your head this week?

(via Team Non-Rec)

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
Just wait till he reverses the direction on his rifle as well.

7. Think about how apathetic the original terminal lances were when the Marine Corps was much smaller (via Team Non-Rec).

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
That apathy must’ve been more concentrated than the salt in their cammies.

8. Gonna be honest, we would give everything to a properly tuxedoed penguin (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
Little bow tie and everything.

9. That bar owner is gonna have to work hard to get open in time for lunch chow (via Military Memes).

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

10. “Wait, we’re done? I can leave? Already?”

(via Air Force Nation)

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

11. Yeah, it’s pretty magical (via Air Force Nation).

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
That’s why everyone should buy their own jet.

12. The chipping paint and rust is just seasoning (via Coast Guard Memes).

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
Dropped meat: It’s what’s for dinner.

13. “What? I closed the door and stuff.”

(via Shit my LPO says)

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the “Hercules of the American Revolution”

Peter Francisco was born into a wealthy family in June, 1760, on an island in the Azores archipelago of Portugal. When Francisco was just 5 years old, he was abducted by pirates. The future patriot was ripped from his home and carted off to a nearby ship. Approximately six weeks later, a dock worker saw a boat maneuver up the James River in Virginia. There, the pirates dropped off the young Francisco and left as quickly as they’d arrived.

Nobody’s entirely sure why the abductors snatched him up only to later drop him off without seeking payment, but historians have their theories. Some say that Francisco’s father orchestrated the kidnapping in order to spare Peter from the wrath of his family’s political enemies.

Whatever the case, locals took the abandoned Francisco to a nearby orphanage soon after he arrived. There, he was taken in by Judge Anthony Winston. He took the young boy back to his plantation to learn English. Due to his dark, Mediterranean complexion, however, Francisco lived near the slaves and never received a proper education.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

Francisco spent many of his early years working on Judge Winston’s plantation, learning how to be a blacksmith. Winston invited Francisco to join him at the Second Virginia Convention in 1775, where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry were all in attendance. After several days of intense debate between loyalists and patriots, Patrick Henry delivered his famous quote,

“Give me liberty or give me death.”

As the teenage Francisco watched through a window, he chose liberty.


Nearly a year and a half later, Francisco finally convinced Winston to allow him to join the Continental Army. At just 16 years old, Francisco was officially a member of the 10th Virginia Regiment and stood six feet, six inches tall and weighed 260 pounds — truly a giant of his era.

Soon after, Francisco fought in several famous battles, including Brandywine and Valley Forge. During the Battle of Stony Point, George Washington recruited 20 elite troops to be first in line to assault the British fort. Francisco was selected as one of those men.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
The Continental Army defeated British troops at Stony Point with a well-planned nighttime attack.

Francisco was tasked with scaling a 300-foot wall and reaching the fort’s flagstaff. Of the 20 who led the charge, 17 were either killed or wounded — a large slash across the abdomen put Francisco among them. Despite his injury, he killed his adversaries and reached his destination. He lay, wounded, at the base of the flag as the British surrendered. From then on, Francisco was known as the “Hercules of the American Revolution.”

During the Battle of Camden, Francisco noticed a 1,100-pound cannon in a field next to some dead horses. According to legend, he managed to lift the canon and take it, saving it from falling to British hands. For this courageous act, the U.S. Postal Service design a stamp in Francisco’s honor.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
Stamps were expensive even in 1975…

As Francisco continued to fight the war, he continuously remarked on the tiny size of the swords with which they fought. Eventually, Washington gave Francisco a six-foot broadsword — not unlike the sword famously used by William Wallace in his own battles against the English.

By the time Francisco was done serving, he had been wounded six times, but never stopped fighting. He was later elected by the Senate to work as the sergeant-at-arms.

Later, Francisco died from appendicitis. He was 71-years-old.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How forensics experts help in counterinsurgency warfare

A relatively new weapon to combat the enemy is being used in Afghanistan and Southwest Asia. It’s been around a little more than a decade and fits into the counterinsurgency warfare necessity of being able to identify who the enemy is by person versus just identifying an enemy organization.

The Afghanistan Captured Material Exploitation Laboratory is aiding combat commanders in their need to know who is building and setting off the enemy’s choice weapon — Improvised Explosive Devices. With this positive identification of enemy personnel, coalition units working within NATO’s Resolute Support mission can then hunt down the enemy for detention or destroy if need be.


“The commanders are starting to understand it more and seeing the capability and asset it provides,” said Kim Perusse, incoming ACME lab manager at BAF.

Perusse said commanders are embracing it and wanting more forensics exploitation.

Personnel from ACME deploy from the Forensic Exploitation Directorate which is part of the Defense Forensics Science Center located at the Gillem Enclave, Forest Park, Ga. DFSC also contains the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, and the Office of Quality Initiatives and Training.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

Shown is an RFT2 device which consists of a CWC-11 A/0 receiver module with a custom switching circuit. The RFT2 functions as a receiver and switch of IED’s initiators.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

The DFSC’s mission is to provide full-service forensic support — traditional, expeditionary, and reachback — to Army and Department of Defense entities worldwide; to provide specialized forensic training and research capabilities; serve as executive agent for DOD Convicted Offender DNA Databasing Program; and to provide forensic support to other federal departments and agencies when appropriate, its website stated.

ACME provides forensic/technical intelligence, analysis, and exploitation of captured enemy material. The findings are then provided to coalition forces and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to counter the IED threat, attack the counterinsurgent networks, advise the Afghanistan government’s exploitation labs, and provide prosecutorial support to the Afghan justice system, an ACME slide presentation stated.

ACME capabilities include latent print examination; explosive/drug chemistry; electronic engineering; explosive triage; DNA; firearm/toolmark analysis; weapons technical intelligence analysis; and, provide assistance to the Afghan Ministry of Interior, National Directorate of Security, and Afghan National Security Forces.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

Triage, the first stop for all evidence, tests an unknown substance on the HazMatID for any hazards.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

As part of employment with DFSC, FXD, personnel must deploy every 18 months to a deployed lab for six months, as there are currently two, one here and one in Kuwait.

The Forensic Exploitation Laboratory — CENTCOM in Kuwait supports military operations in Iraq and Syria, and is located at Camp Arifjan.

ACME’s primary mission “is to allow the commanders on the ground to understand who’s within the battlespace,” said Lateisha Tiller, outgoing ACME lab manager.

Whether this is people coming onto the coalition locations as part of employment or those building the IEDS, forensics exploitation results in positive identification of such individuals.

“Our mission is to identify nefarious actors that are in the CJOA [Combined/Joint Operations Area] right now,” Tiller said.

“We don’t want them putting IEDs in the road, and blowing up the road, blowing up the bridge. We want that type of activity to stop,” Tiller said. ” ‘How do you stop it?’ You identify who’s doing it; identify the network of people who’s doing it. Eliminate them from the battlespace” as evidence collected is then shared with military intelligence, she said.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

X-rays are taken of all evidence in Triage to ensure no hazards such as Trojan horses are observed. This x-ray shows a pressure plate containing a hazard.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

“It’s never just one person; identify the network,” she said. By taking people out, the network “eventually is going to dismantle itself.”

“The secondary mission is the Rule of Law,” Perusse said. “Helping get the information out to the Afghans to potentially prosecute those nefarious actors that we may identify” through biometrics, chemistry, firearms, and toolmarks.

The conclusive findings and evidence — criminal activity analysis reports — is then shared with the Afghan laboratories as they work to build a case against alleged personnel who could be tried in an Afghan court.

The reports are also shared with military intelligence — U.S. and NATO — and also sent to the Justice Center in Parwan to assist in the prosecution of the enemy. The JCIP is located in the Parwan Province where BAF is located too in east-central Afghanistan.

The justice center was a joint U.S.-Afghan project to establish Afghanistan’s first national security court. Established in June 2010, the JCIP exists to ensure fair and impartial justice for those defendants alleged of committing national security crimes in the Afghan criminal justice system. Coalition forces provide technical assistance and operate in an advisory capacity.

The reports are accepted in the Afghans courts because the Afghans understand and trust the findings of ACME. “Building that alliance is absolutely part of the mission,” Tiller said. “The lines of communication are definitely open.”

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

The evidence room is the hub of the lab that distributes and stores the evidence while located at ACME.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

Because of this fairly new application of forensics to counterinsurgency warfare, the Afghans initially didn’t understand it, the lab managers said.

“They didn’t understand forensics. They didn’t trust it,” Perusse said. “Especially DNA, it was like magic to them.”

But as she explained, the U.S. also took a long time to accept DNA as factual and evidential versus something like latent prints. Latent prints are impressions produced by the ridged skin, known as friction ridges, on human fingers, palms, and soles of the feet. Examiners analyze and compare latent prints to known prints of individuals in an effort to make identifications or exclusions, internet sources stated.

“Latent prints you can visualize, DNA you can’t,” she said.

The application of forensics exploitation as part of the battle plan started in the latter years Operation Iraqi Freedom, the lab managers said. OIF began in March 2003 and lasted until December 2011.

This type of warfare — counterinsurgency — required a determination of who — by person — was the enemy in an effort to combat their terrorist acts.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

A latent print examiner develops a latent print on the neck of a plastic bottle with Superglue Fuming and Rhodamine 6G processing, then visualized with a forensic laser.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

“I think there was a point where the DOD realized that they weren’t utilizing forensics to help with the fight,” Tiller said.

The operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were not big units fighting other big units, with mass casualties, but much smaller units engaging each other with an enemy using more terrorist-like tactics of killing.

Forensics told you “who you were fighting. You kind of knew the person in a more intimate way,” Tiller said, adding, it put a face on the enemy.

Forensics exploitation goes hand-in-hand with counterinsurgency warfare, Perusse said. “They’re (Taliban/ISIS) not organized like a foreign military were in the past” but instead have individuals and groups fighting back in a shared ideology, she said.

Because of the eventual drawdown in NATO troop strength in Afghanistan, the ACME labs at Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar Province, and Camp Leatherneck, Helmand Province, were closed and some assets were relocated to BAF’s ACME in 2013.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

A DNA analyst prepares DNA samples for analysis on the Lifetech 3500XL Genetic Analyzer.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

The evidence is collected at the sites of detonation by conventional forces — explosive ordnance personnel, route clearance personnel — through personnel working in the Ministry of Interior’s National Directorate of Security, and other Afghan partners, Perusse said.

From January 2018 to December 2018, the ACME lab was responsible for:

  • 1,145 cases processed based on 36,667 individual exhibits
  • 3,402 latent prints uploaded; 69 associations made from unknown to known
  • 3,090 DNA profiles uploaded; 59 unique identifications made from unknown to known
  • 209 explosive samples, 121 precursors, 167 non-explosives/other, and 40 controlled substances analyzed
  • 55 firearms/toolmarks microscopic identifications

Adding credibility to ACME was that it became accredited by the International Organization of Standard in 2015. Both lab managers said they believe that ACME is probably the only deployed Defense Department lab accredited — besides the FXL-C in Kuwait — in the forensics field.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

Forensic chemist conducts a single-step extraction to prepare the samples for analysis by Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

The International Organization for Standardization is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations comprised of members from 168 countries. It is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards and facilitates world trade by providing common standards between nations. It was founded in 1947.

Tiller and Perusse said this accreditation is quite meaningful, personally and professionally.

Interestingly, both lab managers offer extensive deployment experience to the ACME lab.

Tiller has deployed four times for FXD — three times to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait — for a total of 26 months. Likewise, Perusse has 28 months of deployment experience too with FXD, with now four deployments in Afghanistan and one to Kuwait. And, because of mission requirements, no rest and relaxation periods — vacations — are allowed during their deployments. The reason is because most positions are one-person deep and the mission cannot continue without all sections working collectively, they said.

Currently, there are 17 people working at the BAF ACME lab.

FXD’s mandatory deployment policy can be viewed as positive and negative depending on a person’s particular situation.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

An electronic exploitation examiner uses the Advanced Aggregate Data Extractor test equipment to perform testing on an RFT2 device. The AADE produces the following tests: Filter Analyzer, Emissions Analyzer, Peak Harmonic Distortion and Bit Error Rate.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

As Perusse points out, there are plenty of other places to work that do not require mandatory deployments which require forensic skills such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Homeland Security to name several.

So those who do work at ACME do so because they want to be.

“There is nowhere else in the world where you’re going to get a [final] forensic result of the quality that you’re going to get from the ACME as quickly as you do,” Tiller said, which often brings immediate gratification to one’s work.

Whether it’s producing a DNA profile or finding a latent print on some material, finding this evidence within two days is a big reason why people at ACME find their work rewarding.

“It happens nowhere else,” Tiller said, describing it as the “ultimate satisfaction,” knowing the evidence produced will ultimately save lives.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

Shown are incoming ACME lab manager Kim Perusse (left) and outgoing ACME lab manager Lateisha Tiller. Tiller has deployed four times for FXD for a total of 26 months. Perusse has 28 months of deployment experience with FXD, with four deployments in Afghanistan and one to Kuwait.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

As Perusse put it, there is no place like ACME’s lab in Afghanistan.

“We are in war zone. We are around everything, we get IDFed,” she said, referencing the periodic indirect fire of mortar attacks at BAF. She said it is much different type of deployment than at the Kuwait lab where examiners can “have more freedom to include going into the city and shop at the mall.”

“There’s a reason why we’re doing this,” Perusse said, of identifying the enemy, which leads to saving lives and helping the NATO coalition.

“It’s very powerful to be able to see that and be with the people who are going out the field and risking their lives,” she said of those who look for and submit items for evidence.

As Tiller redeploys back to her normal duty station in Georgia, she knows ACME will continue in experienced hands with Perusse who will now take over as lab manager for a third time.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-1 bombers are preparing to return to the Middle East

The Lancers are coming back.


B-1B bomber aircrews anticipate returning to the Middle East in coming months and have been training for the evolving battle spaces in Iraq and Syria, as well as Afghanistan, according to officials at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.

“We’re working real hard inside of our training network,” said Col. Karl Fischbach, commander of the 7th Operations Group. “The ranges that we have were set up really well to simulate the environment, and we’re going to attend the next Red Flag [in January] and Green Flag [exercises] in the [upcoming] year, and really focus on what we need to get ready for the CentCom operation.”

Military.com sat down with a variety of leaders from Air Force Global Strike Command’s 7th Bomb Wing — responsible for producing combat ready aircrews in the Air Force‘s only B-1B formal training unit — during a trip to the base, and took a ride Dec. 19 in the B-1B over training ranges in New Mexico.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, taxis on the flightline July 26, 2017, at Andersen AFB, Guam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Smoot)

“We’ve always had a pivotal role in what our Air Force is doing — Dyess Air Force Base has always been right there,” Col. Brandon Parker, 7th Bomb Wing commander, said during a roundtable interview.

More: The B-1 bomber’s anti-ship missile can slay multiple targets

The non-nuclear-capable aircraft, known as the “Bone,” left the Central Command area of responsibility in early 2016, and was replaced by B-52 Stratofortress bombers at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, that April.

Officials at the time said the B-1B’s return stateside was crucial to upgrade the fleet with the latest Integrated Battle Station, known as the IBS upgrade, which so far has been incorporated into more than half of the 62 total aircraft.

Specifically, the 9th Bomb Squadron here hasn’t been back to CentCom since February 2015, according to Lt. Col. Erick Lord, the squadron’s commander.

Rotations for the long-range, large payload bomber between the Pacific and Middle East could be fluid: Bomber units from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, (currently assigned to Pacific Command) may rotate into the Middle East, while crews from Dyess take over their mission in the Pacific, or vice versa.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
A B-1B Lancer takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 27, 2011, on a mission in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Marc I. Lane)

It would also mark a significant shift in having a single platform in two theaters, spreading the Lancer fleet during a time when the Air Force finds itself busier than ever.

“Every one squadron, they live to go do what we’re going to do even if it means being away from home — they want to deploy. It’s what we do, especially if you’re in a fighter or bomber [unit],” Lord said. “We’re the smallest Air Force we’ve ever been, and the demand for airpower continues to increase, and the two don’t match.”

Officials would not speak to how this changes, or splits the mission, for the B-52 — capable of carrying nuclear weapons — going forward.

PREPARE FOR EVERY UNKNOWN

Even as the air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria steadily winds down, it still requires “surgical strikes,” or precision-guided bombs on target as the battlespace continues to shrink, said Maj. Charles “Astro” Kilchrist, chief of training for the 9th.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has increased airstrikes in Afghanistan.

Empowered with more independence and authority under the Trump administration, the U.S. military this year has turned to a number of technologies for the war in Afghanistan, from the largest conventional bomb to the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.

It’s also given ground commanders more authority to execute missions beyond self-defense against Taliban fighters.

Also Read: This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

For B-1 crews, being involved in both Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel means they prepare for everything and anything, even the unexpected call of a bomb run.

“It’s always really difficult to get into the fog and friction of war,” Fischbach said. “But our instructors built some pretty varsity scenarios to get our experience level and prep ready to go.”

Lord added, “We’ll train to the most stringent [rules of engagement] and then we’ll develop training scenarios that walk people down the rabbit hole, that force them to make mistakes” so they can be identified before they’re made.

“Because busting ROE will get you sent home,” he said.

Kilchrist, also a B-1B pilot, said that aside from the experiences acquired at Red Flag — an integrated, multi-force training game within a simulated combat environment — and Green Flag — a coalition exercise consisting of close-air support and air-to-surface training — programs to get prepped and ready for combat have been upgraded and modified.

“We’re tailoring our training to accomplish those things … and we’re integrating more than ever with F-16 units out of Fort Worth … to do mission commander upgrades, with [Joint Terminal Attack Controllers] from all around the country,” he said.

“We’re really bringing all these things into the fold to increase our aperture for training and give us the best possible simulation of what combat in different theaters are going to be like,” Kilchrist said.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
B-52s pounding North Vietnamese targets during Linebacker II.

That includes the Pacific, he noted, where B-1s took over for the B-52s in 2016, marking the first time the B-1B has been housed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, since 2006.

“What my job is to show the new guys, ‘Hey, we can go to Afghanistan tomorrow, or we can go to PaCoM tomorrow, but you’ve got to be ready for both,’ ” he said.

Parker, speaking broadly to the Bone’s mission set, added, “At the end of the day, we got to be able to range targets, and do it in a way that’s very lethal. Variety of weapons, different sort of battlespaces … we’re making sure we’re ready.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers light up the sky in night fire exercise

As the sun went down leaving a peach hue above the Baltic Sea, U.S. soldiers, partner, and ally countries prepare weapon systems that would soon be shot off into the night sky.

Soldiers with C Battery, or the “Catdogs”, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment participated in the multinational air defense night fire exercise June 18, 2019, Utska Poland. The night fire is part of Tobruq Legacy 2019, Tobruq Legacy is a 21-day exercise that focuses on multi-national partnerships with shared understanding and demonstration of Air Defense capabilities by the United States Army and 11 different partner and allied countries.


The silence of night was broken as the Slovakian army fired missiles into the sky leaving behind a trail of fire and smoke. The U.S. Forces waited to the east of the firing line eager to demonstrate the capabilities they bring to the table. During the night fire U.S. soldiers showed mission readiness by demonstrating the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger Missile System and the FIM-92 Stinger Missiles.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, prepare to fire the FIM-92 Stinger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

The Avenger Missile System is a rugged camouflaged military vehicle whose stature can be imposing with 4 missile ports in each of the two guns fixed to the turret. The AN/TWQ-1 Avenger Missile System has been around for many years, while the FIM-92 Stinger Missile system is fairly new technology. This was the first live test for the FIM-92 as firing teams took turns engaging moving targets.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, radio in that the final missile was fired from the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

“Firing the missile is probably the greatest feeling there is,” said Spc. Matthew Lashley, an Avenger crewmember in C Battery. “Once you pull the trigger everything goes away with a loud bang, and it’s just a great experience shooting a live missile.”

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, are smothered with smoke as they fire the new FIM-92 Stinger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

The FIM-92 is a handheld weapon system commonly used to engage aircrafts and it proved itself to be an adequate weapon system throughout the day and night, as it was visibly more effective than the Avenger system.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, work to fix the missile control apparatus for the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

The goal for the exercise is to work side-by-side with partner nations and find a way to utilize all of the technology and fire power available should these countries have to partner to defend against an attack from potential adversaries.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, work to fix the missile control apparatus for the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

“It should make our potential adversaries nervous,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Bryan, a 1st platoon squad leader and team chief. “If I saw multiple nations coming together in a huge exercise that was successful such as this one, I would be nervous, because it shows we have the capabilities and firepower to do what we need to do.”

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, watch as the missile they fired from the FIM-92 Stinger missile system flies towards their target as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

The exercise was able to demonstrate how effective and devastating ADA can be as missiles engaged targets hundreds of meters away lighting up the night sky. The final missile burst over the Baltic Sea as the last vehicle for the night drove off the range in the early hours of June 18, 2019, and zipped down the road back to the Logistics Support Area where the vehicles were staged for the next day.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force’s massive expansion could be aimed at China and Russia

The US Air Force set out to return to Cold War numbers by growing nearly 25% and taking on hundreds more planes to form an additional 74 squadrons, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced on Sept. 17, 2018.

The US Air Force, which typically acquires aircraft only after long vetting and bidding processes, will attempt the radical change in short order to fulfill President Donald Trump’s vision of a bigger military to take on Russia and China.

In the US’s new National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration redefined the US’s foremost enemies not as rogue groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda, but China and Russia.


While the US has fought counter insurgencies against small terror groups and non-state actors nonstop since Sept. 11, 2001, the resurgence of an aggressive Russia now at war in Ukraine and Syria, and the emergence of China now unilaterally attempting to dominate the South China Sea, has renewed the US military’s focus on winning massive wars.

The US Navy has announced similar plans to grow its fleet size by nearly a third and shift tactics to better challenge Russia and China.

But now the Air Force plans to grow in all directions at once, with more space, cyberwarfare, logistical support, drones, tankers, and combat aviation all at once.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

(US Air Force / Twitter)

What the Air Force wants

This chart shows how many new squadrons the Air Force wants and how they’ll be distributed. The Air Force announced a goal of 386 squadrons, up from 312. Depending on the airframe, a squadron can have 8-24 planes.

For the bomber squadrons, which include nuclear capable bombers like the B-52 and B-2, that number will grow only slightly and likely include the mysterious new B-21 Raider bomber, which no one has ever seen outside classified circles.

In the fighter jet department, it’s likely F-35s will comprise most of this growth. Aerial tankers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, likely drones, will also see a big bump.

The Air Force hopes to build the force up to 386 squadrons by 2030, but has not provided any information on how it plans to fund the venture. The US Air Force has requested 6 billion for next fiscal year, already a six percent bump over the previous year. While Wilson promised to streamline acquisition, which famously can take years and cost billions, there’s real doubts about how fast the organization can move. The US Air Force started working on the F-22 in 1981. It first flew in 1997 and first went into combat in 2014. The F-35 started in 2001 and just last year experienced its first combat in Israel’s service.

Additionally, the move would require the Air Force to bring on about 40,000 new people at a time when the force has a near crippling problem with retaining top talent.

“We are not naive about the budget realities,” Wilson said at the Air Force’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference. “At the same time, we think we owe our countrymen an honest answer on what is required to protect the vital, national interests of this country under the strategy we have been given, and so we believe this is, if not the perfect answer, it is an honest answer to that question: What is the Air Force we need?”

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

(China Defense Blog)

Growing China threat

Currently, China’s military is in the midst of building up a tremendous air force and navy while also threatening some of the US’s core interests and most promising technologies.

The biggest US Air Force defense projects involve stealth aircraft, like the B-21 and F-35. As of yet unpublished research on China’s military reviewed by Business Insider found Chinese fighter aircraft now number around 1,610 compared to about 1,960 US fighters.

China has made strides towards quantum radars designed to negate the US stealth advantage as well as a stealth fighter of its own, the J-20.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force, Army aircraft kill 220 fighters in Ghazni battle

U.S. Air Force fighters and Army helicopter gunships have attacked and killed more than 220 Taliban forces in Ghazni over the past several days after militants launched a massive attack on the Afghan city less than 100 miles from Kabul.

“Ghazni City remains under Afghan government control,” Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for Operation Resolute Support and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, told Military.com on Aug. 14, 2018.


Afghan forces are conducting clearing operations in the city, but hundreds of civilians have fled, trying to escape the fierce fighting, The Associated Press reported Aug. 14, 2018.

“The Afghan National Army’s 203rd Corps, the Afghan National Police’s 303rd Zone and Afghan Special Security Forces are rooting out the remnants of the Taliban within the city,” O’Donnell said. “What we observed, as these Afghan-led operations drove a large portion of Taliban from the city over the last day or so, was the retreating Taliban attacking the more vulnerable surrounding districts, which Afghan forces are reinforcing.”

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

Residents of Ghazni City walk past gates and monuments in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, April 20, 2018.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Jerry Griffis)

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that insurgents had been driven from Ghazni and said the Taliban destroyed a telecommunications tower on the city’s outskirts during the initial assault, cutting off landline and cellphone links to the city, the AP reported.

O’Donnell said the Taliban who remain in Ghazni “do not pose a threat to the city’s collapse … however, the Taliban who have hidden themselves amongst the Afghan populace do pose a threat to the civilian population, who were terrorized and harassed.”

U.S. Special Forces and 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade advisers are providing advice to Afghan forces on how to effectively conduct clearance operations and combined-arms integration, he added.

“U.S. airpower has killed more than 220 Taliban since Aug. 10, 2018,” O’Donnell said. “In addition to the initial strike on Aug. 10, 2018, U.S. forces conducted five strikes Aug. 11, 2018, 16 strikes Aug. 12, 2018, 10 Aug. 13, 2018 and none Aug. 14, 2018.”

AH-64 Apache helicopters from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Combat Aviation Brigade provided close-air support for Afghan forces, he said, adding that Brig. Gen. Richard Johnson, deputy commander of the 101st and commander of Task Force South East, advised Afghan leaders in an operational command-and-control center.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the fastest manned aircraft ever

The Cold War was a great time for NASA and the U.S. Air Force. It seemed like they were able to do pretty much whatever they wanted in the interest of just seeing if they could do it. But the X-15 was much more than just a power play. Even though the Air Force already had the perfect spy plane, capable of flying across the planet at Mach 3, they still decided to up the game just a little further and came away with some important discoveries, discoveries that led to the creation of the Space Shuttle.

Not to mention the world’s speed record for manned, powered flight – Mach 6.7.


The craft had to be drop launched from the wing of a specially modified B-52 Stratofortress but could reach the very edge of space, setting altitude records for winged aircraft. Once dropped from the wing of the “mother ship” the X-15 launched its XLR-99 rocket engine to propel the craft at hypersonic speeds. It was a unique plane because it was designed to operate in an environment where there was less air than other aircraft.

It was the world’s first spaceplane, thus it used rocket thrusters to control its altitude at times. It could switch back and forth between conventional flight controls as needed for exoatmospheric flight as well as landing the craft.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

There were three different X-15 airframes. One suffered from a landing accident in 1962 that injured pilot John McKay. As a result of this flight and the damage suffered to the airframe, the fuselage was lengthened, it was given extra drop tanks for fuel beneath the wings and was given an ablative coating to protect its pilot from the heat of hypersonic flight.

A second one was lost in 1967, just minutes after its launch. The craft had taken a video of the horizon at the edge of space and began its descent to the world below. As the craft descended, it entered a hypersonic spin. Even though its pilot, Michael J. Adams, was able to recover the plane at 36,000 feet, it then went into an inverted dive at Mach 4.7. The plane broke up under the stress and Adams was killed.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

Pilots who flew the X-15 to its highest altitudes were eventually given astronaut wings by the U.S. Air Force, considering the craft broke the USAF threshold for the edge of space at 50 miles above the surface of the earth. The craft would also make faster and faster hypersonic flights until Oct.3, 1967 when William J. “Pete” Knight took the craft to its maximum speed of 4,520 miles per hour.

Aside from these two achievements, the X-15 also had a number of notable firsts, including being the first restartable, throttle-controlled and man-rated rocket engine. It also tested the first spaceflight stellar navigation system and advanced pressure suits. The X-15 program was a direct ancestor of the modern Space Shuttle program, and without it, many notable achievements would not have happened.

Articles

DARPA is building a drone to provide ‘persistent’ surveillance virtually anywhere in the world

DARPA is on track to unveil a working prototype of its “Tern” drone system in 2018 that could eventually give the Navy and Marines persistent surveillance and strike targeting “virtually anywhere in the world.”


If it’s implemented, the Tern program would see fully-autonomous drones on small-deck ships throughout the world that can take off and land vertically. Once in flight, they transition to wing-borne flight at medium altitude and become the eyes and ears for its ship for long periods of time.

Also read: Hundreds of enlisted airmen line up to fly drones

Among the things the Navy wants is a drone that can provide surveillance capability and strike targets, but with greater range than a traditional helicopter. It also would likely be used to gather signals intelligence from foreign adversaries — one of the main missions for US submarine forces.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
DARPA

Tern, short for Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node, is a joint program between the Office of Naval Research and DARPA, the Pentagon’s research and development arm. The agency just funded a second Tern test vehicle for the next year that’s being built by Northrup Grumman.

If all goes to plan, Tern will move to ground-based testing in early 2018, before being tested at sea later in the year.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
DARPA

“We’re making substantial progress toward our scheduled flight tests, with much of the hardware already fabricated and software development and integration in full swing,” Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said in a statement.

“As we keep pressing into uncharted territory—no one has flown a large unmanned tailsitter before—we remain excited about the future capabilities a successful Tern demonstration could enable: organic, persistent, long-range reconnaissance, targeting, and strike support from most Navy ships.”

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
DARPA

Tern isn’t the only drone program DARPA is working on. The agency has also been working on something called “upward falling payloads,” a program that would station drones in water-tight containers around the world’s oceans until they are called to the surface.

Here’s a concept video of how Tern is supposed to operate:

Articles

White House budget saves A-10 Thunderbolt from retirement

President Donald Trump’s defense budget includes a proposal to fully reverse plans to retire the much-beloved A-10 fighter jet, according to documents released Tuesday.


While the final budget will by no means be identical with the president’s proposed budget, the new documents Tuesday indicate the president places a strong priority on keeping A-10 fighter jets in the game, which will come as good news to ground troops who often rely on the jet for close-air support.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder

The budget overview states that “this budget fully funds the entire fleet of 283 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. Fleet strategy and viability will be assessed as the Air Force determines a long term strategy.”

While the A-10 was supposed to slowly be sidelined beginning in fiscal year 2018 on paper, it appears the budget is proposing the exact opposite, though during the close of the Obama administration, then-Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James said in October that the service is thinking about keeping the A-10 around for a longer period of time.

The A-10 has seen extensive use in Iraq and Syria to fight against Islamic State militants, and the fighter jet has turned out to be so useful that the Air Force put out a $2 billion contract to replace the fleet’s wings.

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats
A-10C aircraft from the Maryland Air National Guard stationed at Warfield Air National Guard base in Baltimore, Maryland flying in formation during a training exercise. | U.S. Air Force photo

In the past, Air Force leadership has pushed hard to mothball the A-10, in order to devote those resources to the F-35, which has seen incredible cost overruns and delays as the military’s most expensive weapons system in history.

And although Congress has thwarted this attempt multiple times, Air Force officials have still been looking to replace the A-10 with other aircraft like the A-29 Super Tucano, the AT-6 Wolverine and the AirLand Scorpion. The Air Force intends to test these three jets in July.

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